Cast (in order of appearance):
Peter Daltrey - The Voice
Fish - Highlander
Sharon den Adel - Indian
Damian Wilson - Knight
Edwin Balogh - Roman
Anneke van Giersbergen - Egyptian
Jay van Feggelen - Barbarian
Arjen Lucassen - Hippie
Edward Reekers - Future Man
Robert Westerholt, George Oosthoek - Death
Ed Warby - All Drums
Robby Valentine - All pianos, synth solo IIa, IIIa (disc one) and IV (disc two), mellotron on VIa (disc two)
Clive Nolan - Synth solos on IIIc (disc one)
Rene Merkelbach - Synth solos on V (disc one) and VII (disc two), harpsichord on II (disc two)
Ton Scherpenzeel - Synth solos on Vc (disc two)
Roland Bakker - All hammonds
Thijs van Leer - Flute on IIIc, IV (disc one) and II & III (disc two)
Ernö Olah - Violins
Taco Kooistra - Celli
Jack Pisters - Sitar
Arjen Lucassen - Electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass guitar, minimoog, mellotron & keyboards
Produced by A.A. Lucassen
Mixed by Oscar Holleman and A.A. Lucassen
Recorded at the Electric Castle, drums at RS29, vocals Fish at The Farm, Scotland.
Artwork: All paintings were especially made for this album by Jef Bertels,
lay-out and image handling by John van den Oetelaar at Fat John's Kitchen.
|Disc One:||Disc Two:|
|I)||Welcome To The New Dimension (3.05)||I)||The Garden Of Emotions (9.40)|
|II)||Isis and Osiris (11.11)||a) In The Garden Of Emotions|
|a) Let The Journey Begin||b) Voices In The Sky|
|b) The Hall Of Isis And Osiris||c) The Aggression Factor|
|c) Strange Constellations||II)||Valley Of The Queens (2.25)|
|d) Reprise||III)||The Castle Hall (5.49)|
|III)||Amazing Flight (10.15)||IV)||Tower Of Hope (4.54)|
|a) Amazing Flight In Space||V)||Cosmic Fusion (7.27)|
|b) Stardance||a) I Soar On The Breeze|
|c) Flying Colours||b) Death's Grunt|
|IV)||Time Beyond Time (6.05)||c) The Passing Of An Eagle|
|V)||The Decision Tree (We're alive) (6.24)||VI)||The Mirror Maze (6.34)|
|VI)||Tunnel Of Light (4.05)||a) Inside The Mirror Maze|
|VII)||Across The Rainbow Bridge (6.20)||b) Through The Mirror|
|VII)||Evil Devolution (6.31)|
|VIII)||The Two Gates(6.38)|
|IX)||"Forever" Of The Stars (2.02)|
|X)||Another Time, Another Space (5.20)|
All Songs written and composed by A.A. Lucassen, except:
Fish wrote lyrics for the 'Highlander' on II, V + VI (disc one)
J. van Feggelen wrote lyrics for the 'Barbarian' on III (disc one)
A. van Giersbergen wrote the melody-line for the 'Egyptian' on VI (disc one)
P. Daltrey wrote the lyrics for I (disc one) and IX (disc two) and all narration.
With the initial run of Counting Out Time columns we got criticism that although being an originally Dutch site, we didn't feature any Dutch artists in our column, despite the fact that there are some artists and bands who deserve a place in our list of milestones. With this two-part feature we've made a start to -gradually- improve on the lack of Dutch artists in this section.
An advantage of writing an article about from your own small country is that there is generally a lot of material available in numerous magazines and websites, so this article is interlaced with quotes from the man behind Ayreon himself: Arjen Lucassen, all taken from numerous interviews in magazines and a conversation I had with him recently.
In this first part we will focus on Arjen Lucassen's history and all the personnel involved in the making of Into The Electric Castle whereas the second part will deal with the actual album itself, its story and music and what happened afterwards.
The history of Ayreon
Arjen Anthony Lucassen was born in Hilversum, the Netherlands, in 1960. He moved to The Hague, where he spent his childhood. He started playing the guitar at the age of 14, shortly after discovering the music of The Sweet. He played in a highschool band called The Flying Potatoes, which played covers of The Sweet and Slade.
During his studies he played in several short-lived cover bands, which resulted in Arjen becoming more and more skilled as a musician, but because of his music he completely neglected his school work, causing him to get kicked off school, and sent to an institute for difficult kids. "The school was at the Sweelinck Square and it looked like Colditz because of the continuously shaded windows. It was horrible out there, I got into a class filled with scum, and they were all taller (!) and older than I was. They really kept me on a leash in there and I finally finished my education. But if that was a good thing or not, I can't tell. Well, I am where I am now, so I guess it was okay."
Having set his mind on becoming a rock star Arjen auditioned as a singer for the band Bodine at the age of 22. "Of course I didn't think I was a great singer, but I wanted to present myself as a guitar player. That was in the days of the twin guitars, like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I learned to play their entire set list within two months, loaded my gear in my dad's car and had him drive me to the audition. Getting there I just started playing along with them and at the end of the rehearsal they told me I was in. But they gave me the advice to practice with simple notes and rhythms, because all I could do was play fast. Again I started doubting myself, man I was a dork. So I practiced really hard for the next year. It still was kind of boring with Bodine, they all were about ten years older than I was. That meant no partying after the shows and we didn't make big money either. We just weren't able to save up a penny at all. So I got on welfare because I didn't have time to work because of the rehearsals and interviews. The shows were super of course, fans screaming for you and enough beautiful girls, that was what I was looking for at that time."
With Bodine Arjen recorded the albums Bold as Brass (1982) and Three Times Running (1983)
Then Arjen made the surprising move of leaving Bodine for the band Vengeance, an upcoming band that had actually played with Bodine as a support act! "The band got a record deal with CBS (now a division of Sony), but then their guitarist left. When they had played as a support act for Bodine, I was very impressed with especially Oscar [Holleman - guitars] and Leon [Goewie - vocals], and then they called me if I knew a guitarist for them and ha! I certainly did!! The band was so much younger and more adventurous than Bodine, so that's why I moved over to Vengeance - and within a year I had of course taken over the whole matter."
Vengeance became one of the most successful Dutch bands of the eighties and they released 7 albums between 1984 and 1994. Decreasing success causes the band to be put on ice in 1994, although the success of Ayreon prompted them to record another album, Back From Flight 19 in 1997.
Arjen had also recorded a solo album in 1993, under the name Anthony: Pools Of Sorrow, Waves Of Joy. His main reason for this rather poppy album was his desire to sing. Both press and audience seemed unimpressed. After the decreasing popularity of Vengeance and his failed solo album Arjen was all but written off for most people, however, that was all to change very soon...
1995 saw the release of the album Ayreon, The Final Experiment, subtitled 'a rock opera by Arjen Anthony Lucassen'. The album featured an impressive line-up of Dutch musicians, most of whom Arjen had already worked with at some point in his career, among which were Barry Hay (The Golden Earring), Edward Reekers (Kayak) Leon Goewie (Vengeance), Ian Parry (Vengeance, Elegy), Jay van Feggelen (Bodine) and Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come)
The album got very mixed reviews. While a hard-rock magazine like Aardschok hailed the album as the new future of rock&roll, Hollands premier prog magazine, the now defunct SI Magazine called it a collection of Dutch artists attempting to resurrect their careers that have come to a dead end.
The bombastic hard rock opera found an audience though, and the album reached some sort of cult status. The over the top story dealt with an experiment where people from the future try to contact a blind minstrel in the 16th century in order to have him warn the people for a catastrophe that eventually destroy life on earth, some 400 years later. Even though this was yet another 'save the world' scenario, it got picked up by people - there were people who found (unintentional) similarities between Ayreon and Jesus Christ. Production company Endemol (responsible for the majority of Dutch crap TV shows and seemingly popular musicals) even approached Arjen for a musical version of the story, to perform for large companies, however, he would need to change some of the lyrics then... "I can already see myself: The world comes to an end, and I'm singing Sail Away To Avalon at Shell... They offered me a lot of money to do it, but I won't do it - it would be selling my soul"
Even though The Final Experiment was meant as a one-off project, Arjen's next album was also released under the moniker Ayreon. "The first album wasn't even Ayreon, it was an album by Arjen Anthony Lucassen and it was titled Ayreon. However, it turned out to be a huge success, so the record company said something like 'you have to call the next album Ayreon as well', which was completely ridiculous, because Ayreon was the name of the album, not the artist - it would be the same when The Who would all of a sudden call themselves 'Tommy'. For months we fought about this, but finally I gave in and decided to call the ongoing project 'Ayreon'. I remember that in Japan [where Vengeance had been especially successful] there was a lot of confusion about this, they didn't understand at all, was it 'Arjen A. Lucassen'? was it a solo project, or was it a band called 'Ayreon'? was it a record 'Final Experiment'? They didn't understand at all, and actually, I didn't understand it myself either - I just muddle along you know."
The next album was Actual Fantasy. Not a concept album this time, but separate songs. "The Final Experiment was a huge success, so I got a little arrogant and thought that I could do it all by myself this time, with more electronic music, with a drum computer, without any known singers, without a concept or story, but when I released it, it sold a lot less than the previous album."
Arjen realised the audience weren't exactly waiting for any innovative music from him, they rather had something more in the vein of The Final Experiment.
"I realised I had to come up with a record that was superb, or otherwise my musical career would be over, so with that starting point I made Into The Electric Castle, it had to be something incredible, with big names and a concept. (...) My basis for Into The Electric Castle was it to be a reaction to Actual Fantasy. Actual Fantasy was drum computer, everything went through the computer, all synth parts, all sequencers, the vocals were very cold, more an instrument than vocals, and the guest singers couldn't do what they wanted on the album, they had to keep themselves to the vocal melodies I had written. With Into The Electric Castle I wanted to create an 'honest' album: real drums, no samples, no computers, no Q-base. "
Arjen succeeded in finding an impressive list of artists for his project, let's have a look at everyone involved in the project:
The Cast & Crew
Peter Daltrey's long career began in the mid-Sixties when he joined the fledgling R&B outfit The Sidekicks. After three years the band changed it's name to Kaleidoscope and released several successful albums, before splitting up in 1972.
Since then Peter Daltrey has released four solo-albums, while regained interest in Kaleidoscope has resulted in a recent re-release of all their albums.
Arjen: "In my twenties I got interested in sixties music en searched for all those bands, well-known as well as unknown. That's how I found that Nuggets-series with all those psychedelic bands. It had a track from the English band Kaleidoscope, titled Jenny Artichoke. I thought it was their only material, but still tried looking for more. That of course is fun, a search for more of their music. Finally I stumbled on their album somewhere in England, which made it even better. It was a vinyl for about 80 Dutch guilders. "Woow, let's buy it!" It was exactly the music I liked. In the Record Collector I read that the solo albums by Peter Daltrey had been released in Japan. I phoned that record label and asked them if they could get me in touch with him. I ordered his records right away. Two weeks later I got a letter from him in which he said that I was the first one to buy his disc, he didn't even had it himself! So I contacted my hero and I sent him all my CD's. He wrote back that he thought it was pretty good and that it was great that I liked his music. We have stayed in touch after that, I even played guitar on one of his albums. After I wrote him I was working on Into The Electric Castle and was looking for singers (Donovan, Kate Bush) he said: 'I owe you a favour.' It seemed a great idea to have him do the narration. I told him that that was what I wanted, explained it to him and within two weeks a pile of paper arrived! Then he took a plane to come over here for a weekend, and he even did some interviews here."
Born as Derek William Dick in Dalkeith, Scotland, Fish traded his forestry work for a successful career with Marillion. After four studio albums, with as a possible highlight the concept album Misplaced Childhood and eight years of almost constant touring, Fish left Marillion to pursue a solo career. In 1990 he came with his first solo album Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors.
Fish is currently working on his 7th solo album Field Of Crows.
Arjen: "He is an actor, he is very good at that and is a great improviser. When he is singing as well as other times. I was scared for his voice, with all that partying, like with soccer teams who visited him for a complete week. At that time he hardly had a voice left, so I thought: what is this going to be! but he is such a good actor, in his singing too. Fish is no Ronnie James Dio or Steve Walsh (Kansas), who can really hit a note. But he has a very intrusive way of telling whatever he has to tell. That is exactly what I needed on my album, someone with an expression like that and on top of that the Scottish accent. He didn't miss a note either."
Sharon den Adel
Sharon Den Adel is lead singer with the successful gothic prog metal band Within Temptation.
Arjen: "I had actually never heard of Sharon den Adel. I had never heard of her band until she mentioned in Aardschok magazine that I was one of the persons influencing her music. I was really flattered by this. After that I heard them play at the Dynamo and went to meet them backstage. I thanked her for her kind words and she told me she had really enjoyed the first Ayreon disc and that I shouldn't forget about her if I ever planned to do something like that again. Because Sharon's voice is different from Anneke's [van Giersbergen] I decided to have them both sing on the album. Sharon said 'yes' after the first telephone call."
Englishman Damian Wilson is a familiar name in prog world. He has an incredibly varied career, he recorded three albums with symphonic rockers Landmarq, then two albums with melodic metal band Threshold and then came with a very acoustic, orchestrated solo album Cosmas. He then moved on play a leading role in the musical Les Miserables, a role that he landed on by accident. After this two-year tour with the musical company he moved on to sing in the Rick Wakeman Ensemble. He released his second solo album Disciple in 2001. He was voted "Best Vocalist" by readers of the Classic Rock Society in 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998. Damian has appeared on every Ayreon album since Into The Electric Castle, including the side-project Star One, he will also be one of the four vocalists to join Arjen on his European tour in September 2002.
Arjen: "Damian has the clearest voice I have ever heard and there is no way of tiring him! I never had someone like that in my studio, someone with a voice that strong, it is incredible. I have had very strong singers, like Leon Goewie, but after eight hours of shouting he really needed a rest. But Damian didn't. He is an extremely energetic man, hard to keep under control. After singing his parts he insisted on checking out the Dutch nightlife. I will spare you the details on this..... but he sang all his vocals in just one day, even though he had the largest share of the vocals on the album. Considering that he didn't even have time to practice his vocal lines and lyrics before he got here, because he was playing a role in the musical 'Les Miserables' at the time, that is a remarkable job."
Arjen: "There is Edwin Balogh, known from his bands Omega and Tamas, but now working on solo-projects and busy in the production area. He offered his talents himself. I didn't think it would work in the beginning. as I thought his singing was too theatrical. But when he visited me he grabbed a guitar and just started playing some songs, from U2 and others. He proved to have a raw and melodic voice that would fit his role perfectly. I hired him immediately. Edwin really wanted to live inside his role. Here in the studio he actually became the Roman that he played. He was grunting in the microphone, that's about how angry he got. He even grew a little beard, as the Romans used to do in those days, though no one would see it. He is a very emotional guy, who can sing ballads as well as melodies."
Anneke van Giersbergen
Anneke van Giersbergen joined Dutch band The Gathering after they had already released two albums. With Anneke the band moved more and more away from their metal roots, and more into a mellower, melodic territory, creating a unique sound. The band recently released an EP, to celebrate their 12.5 years of existence.
Arjen: "Anneke didn't want to sing in the project at first. She was working hard with The Gathering and she didn't think it was okay towards her band. But she was the perfect person to me to sing the Egyptian's role, so I kept nagging and nagging to convince her. I sent her the music and finally she said yes, under the condition that her role would be a minor one."
Jay van Feggelen
Jay van Feggelen used to sing in the Dutch blues rock band Bodine, but had already left when Arjen joined that band.
Arjen: "Why this man isn't a celebrity all over the world is a big puzzle to me. He has a very bluesy voice, like Paul Rodgers, and for all those years that I have been a fan of Jay, his voice hasn't lost a bit of power.
"I personally really love Jay van Feggelen's lyrics. I asked him to write some of the lyrics. He is someone who immediately feels what you mean when you tell him your ideas. In the beginning I wanted him to be a gangster-type but he convinced me to play the role of a barbarian because he is a huge fan of Conan. With his unusual vocal sound he gave everything a bluesy atmosphere."
Originally Arjen asked the legendary singer Donovan for this part, but he refused and advised Lucassen to ask Jon Anderson. Regrettably, Anderson's e-mail address bounced, so Arjen was set back to zero.
By accident, Lucassen found a guy named Mouse, singer from Tuesday Child, a Dutch band from The Hague, Lucassen's original home-town. Lucassen convinced Mouse to come along and listen to the Lennon-esque part of the Hippy, despite Mouse's doubts about the symphonic nature of the project.
Arjen: "He seemed pretty arrogant, like 'okay, I'll do it and this and that is my price', which was even more than some others got. But I really liked his voice, so I agreed and he did his parts. Few weeks later, I called him and explained who would be part of it as well, and probably his manager egged him on that he should ask more. So, when I received the contract, there were all sorts of restrictions that we hadn't agreed on. Man, I started sweating..! Again, I prefer cats, you see. I took a red marker and put big cross through the contract. I send him a cheque and paid him, adding the words 'don't contact me anymore'.
"The same night, I went into the studio, set myself in front of the mike and did it all over again myself. And I was really satisfied, although I am not a top singer.
"I can really empathise the role of the Hippie, I mean, I have long hair, I love the sixties' so there you go."
Arjen and Mouse reconciled shortly after the album was finished, and in the end Mouse appeared on the next Ayreon album The Dream Sequencer.
Edward Reekers joined Kayak in 1978 and played on their last four albums before their break-up. Reekers had actually left the band before they disbanded, and released a solo album The Last Forest in 1981. Since 1985 he has worked mainly as a backing vocalist, voice actor and commercial singer. He has dubbed many cartoons and also done the voice-over for commercials and TV-programs. Edward Reekers is the only guest vocalist to appear on every Ayreon project.
Arjen: "Edward Reekers' abilities weren't really surprising for me anymore, since he was a singer on the previous two Ayreon albums too, so I know what he can do. He is a very melodic singer and he is the kind of singer that only needs one take to get his vocals on tape, just the way I wanted them. "
Robert Westerholt and George Oosthoek
For the section where "Death" pays a visit to the company, Arjen had imagined a menacing grunt. Eventually he actually had two different vocalists performing the Death's Grunt as a duet: Within Temptation founder and guitarist Robert Westerholt and George Oosthoek of Orphanage.
Ed Warby played drums with Dutch metal bands Elegy and Gorefest. Since Into The Electric Castle Warby has continued to work with Arjen, drumming on both Flight of the Migrator and the new Star One project. He will also play the drums on the upcoming European tour.
Arjen: "Ed Warby is a real virtuoso on drums. I was looking for a drummer like the Dream Theater guy, but he would also have to swing like Bonham (Led Zeppelin). Led by an advice from Oscar Holleman I asked Ed, whom I only knew from Gorefest. Within two days all the drums were on tape and Ed was happy that he could do something different on his drums for a change. No samples and other tricks, but just hitting it with only two microphones recording everything. I think that was the most important move for the album."
Dutchman Robby Valentine has had a classical piano training from the early age of six. Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody changed his perception of music and he went for rock instead of classical music. He played in various bands before having a massive hit with in the Netherlands his solo single Over and Over again.
Arjen: "I wanted Robby Valentine to play a bit of piano on the album. He's a true virtuoso. He has a lot of success with his albums in Japan. This guy was so incredibly good that after I heard that part I asked him to do more and to play some synth solos too. And even though it was more than 10 years ago since he did synth solos, the result was perfect. I played some guitar parts for him and he made complete symphonies out of them, really incredible. This man is an underestimated, true genius."
Although being probably one of the biggest names in the prog scene of the nineties, there is surprisingly little known about keyboardplayer Clive Nolan, even though his credentials are enough to dedicate a whole CoT chapter to: He joined Pendragon 1986 and has since then founded the bands Shadowland (3 albums), Strangers On A Train (two albums, a third one in the makes for ages), Arena (with ex-Marillion drummer Mick Pointer - 7 albums, the eighth in the works) and also released the projects NO (with IQ keyboardist Martin Orford), Casino (with the late Geoff Mann) and two projects with Oliver Wakeman, on the latter of which Arjen Lucassen returned a favour and played some
Arjen: "At his shows I was really impressed by his solos on those keyboards at the top of his rack, yup... the minimoog. Via Hans [van Vuuren] I was able to contact him and asked him if he knew what sound I meant. He knew immediately, I sent him the tape with the part that I wanted him to play and he sent back the solo a while later. Clive regretted that his contribution was so small. He wants a bit more space on my next album. He was really startled when I asked him how much he wanted for his role. Because normally anyone who knows him just assumes he does things like that for free. He was so confused that he didn't want anything. I just sent him a bunch of discs."
Rene Merkelbach has played keyboards with tons of artists, including Within Temptation, Ian Parry and Gorefest, but also for several commercials and even the fairy-tale theme park "Efteling". He is also known under the name Skizzo and has appeared on all Ayreon projects, apart from The Dream Sequencer.
Arjen: "I have worked with Rene Merkelbach many times before on several projects. He is great keyboard solo player and very reliable, both as musician and as a person to deal with. The only thing that gets to my nerves is that his guitar imitations on keyboard are just too close to the real thing!"
In 1972 Ton Scherpenzeel founded the band Kayak, a band which started playing music in the vein of Yes, but later on got a more unique sound. Between 1972 and 1981 the band released 9 albums with various different line-ups, and to various degrees of success - The band was disbanded in 1982.
After a short project called Europe and a solo album, Scherpenzeel joined Camel in 1984 and played on the album Stationary Traveller. The collaboration with Latimer & Co was somewhat short lived, partly because Scherpenzeel does not fly, so he could not joint the band for any oversees tours. He does however play on the live album Pressure Points and returned to play with Camel on the 1991 Dust and Dreams album.
In 1999 Dutch band De Kast invited Kayak to their TV-program "Vrienden van Amstel Live" to perform their biggest hit Ruthless Queen. This is the last little push the band need for a long-awaited reunion, and since 2000 they have recorded another two albums as Kayak, including most of the original line-up.
Arjen: "He is a top musician and a super friendly guy. Hans [van Vuuren] already knew him from the CD-releases of the Kayak albums. I phoned him and told him I was a fan of Kayak. After that I sent him my music which he appeared to like. Of course it was in the line of Kayak's Merlin-album. When I asked him to play a solo he told me that that really wasn't his specialty. Ton prefers orchestrations and melody lines for the singers, but I told him I had seen him with Camel, freaking out on that Prophet V synthesizer. After that he agreed and he played a super fast great solo for me at home. He did all this for free."
Arjen: "I asked Vengeance's Roland Bakker to play the Hammond on this album. I have worked with him since the last Vengeance album 'Back from flight 19'. Even though he had some problems adapting to my style of music in the beginning he just kept working for it and in the end did a wonderful job. So I guess it is only goodbye for now!"
Thijs van Leer
Thijs van Leer's career started in 1967 when he joined the cabaret group of Ramses Shaffy. In 1969 he started his own band, the Thijs van Leer Trio, which changed its name to Focus when Jan Akkerman joined the band. Focus is probably *the* most successful Dutch prog band ever, possibly even the most successful Dutch band, period.
Focus was disbanded in 1978. In 1985 Van Leer and Akkerman reunited and recorded another album under the moniker Focus, but their collaboration ended soon afterwards. In 2001 Van Leer made the surprising announcement of a new album and tour by Focus, this time however with none of the original members...
Arjen: "In the beginning I had Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) in mind to play flute on the album. However, he just left for a holiday and planned to go on tour right after that. Thijs van Leer of course was a great second choice, but it was a giant task to convince him. (I had to phone his wife, his manager and his band first!), he was interested in participating because he had heard the first Ayreon album before and liked it a lot, and asking him was really worthwhile.
The man is really good. I don't like it if people are arrogant, but when you see him playing you know why. He can improvise as well as playing from written notes. The other classical musicians I hired were not very good at improvising. The collaboration with Thijs, in the end, exceeded my expectations. A day later I got a fax saying that he thought my music - even before the final mix - was at a great musical level and that he was open for further musical dialogs!"
Ernö Olah and Taco Kooistra
Not wanting to use any samples on his album, Arjen started looking for a violinist to play on his album. Eventually he ended up with the first violinist of the Metropole Orchestra.
Arjen: "That was Ernö Olah, you can see him on TV a lot, with the orchestra, a fantastic Gypsy character. And through him I found Taco Kooistra, a cellist, but I can't remember where he is from, he is not from the Metropole Orchestra though."
Arjen: "He is an incredible guitarplayer, a very fast guitar player. He used to be in a band called Avalon. And I happened to know that he played sitar as well and I had this one part in Isis and Osiris where I wanted to have a sitar, so I called him up for that part."
Oscar Holleman has been guitarist with Bodine and was founder of Vengeance. He dropped out of Vengeance because he just couldn't handle the rock & roll life that Vengeance was more and more becoming, and set up his own studio, with the intention to start recording his own music.
Ten years later he still hasn't recorded any of this music, mainly because he has become one of the most successful producers in Holland, having produced albums and singles for virtually all the new Dutch rock talent of the late nineties', including After Forever, Within Temptation and Krezip.
Holleman produced Arjen's solo album and he co-produced and co-mixed The Final Experiment together with Arjen, which was recorded in Holleman's garage at the time. On Into The Electric Castle Oscar helped Arjen mixing the album.
Arjen: "Oscar and I go way back. It is fantastic that we made it big together, I recorded the first Ayreon album at in his garage, and without him I could never have done it. I spent three months there and with his help I managed to create the album as it is now."
Jef Bertels is a Belgian painter, who lives in a small town near Leuven, who was actually only known locally before Arjen hired him. He has his gallery in his house, where he also teaches.
Bertels has also painted the cover for The Dream Sequencer.
Arjen: "Actual Fantasy had a very modern cover, so for this record I wanted something more fantasy-like, so I started checking out art galleries. Then my brother phoned me up that he had found this Belgian painter at some art gallery, so he sent me some brochures and it immediately appealed to me, so I phoned the guy up, told him what I needed and went to visit him in his gallery in Belgium. And this guy was an amazing character, completely out of this world - didn't even *know* what a computer was, and his paintings were exhibited throughout his entire house. I was there with John van den Oetelaar, who did the rest of the layout of the booklet, and with every painting I saw I went like 'oh, fantastic, wow, unbelievable' while John kept nudging me like 'shut up, don't do that', because he already saw the price rising.
So I explained to Jef what I wanted, that it needed to be an electric castle, that there had to be a garden of emotions, a rainbow bridge, there had to be two gates, a tower of hope, voices in the sky etcetera. I explained everything I wanted in that cover. So he came back to me with a sketch, and alone was already stunning. And final painting itself was simply fantastic, I have actually bought it off him, with a beautiful frame and all. And I remember when I received the painting I spent the rest of the afternoon just watching it. I love it when there is so much small detail, just like with music, that you discover new details each time you listen to it."
Next Week: Part 2, about the recording sessions, the story of the Electric Castle, the impact and the aftermath.
Written by Bart Jan van der Vorst