Interview with Arjen Lucassen ~ Star One
by DPRP’s Menno von Brucken Fock
Arjen Anthony Lucassen is one of Holland’s most popular artists in progressive rock and symphonic metal today. As a youngster he was guitarist in Bodine and later in Vengeance and started to use keyboards at the end of his career with that band. A love that would never die, because on all his Ayreon albums, as well on his other projects like Ambeon, Stream Of Passion and Guilt Machine, the keyboards play an important role. Even with his ‘symphonic hard rock’ project STAR ONE he couldn’t resist using different keyboards like the Hammond organ and of course the mighty Moog. Influenced by legendary bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Hawkwind, Arjen decided to create Star One. A fantastic album called Space Metal (2002) turned out to be the fruit of his brainwaves and for the first time in years Lucassen could be seen live on stage with a fantastic band to support that album. Fortunately there were recordings of the shows and one of the shows was filmed (Rijssen, The Netherlands) and the live document that resulted from this tour was called Live On Earth (2003) with both Star One songs as well as Ayreon songs.
This Autumn, some eight years after Space Metal, Arjen has produced its successor: “Victims Of The Modern Age”. An album musically in the same vein as Star One’s debut, but with even heavier guitars and more powerful drums. The line up is impressive: Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Dan Swanö and Floor Jansen (ReVamp) as vocalists, Peter Vink on bass guitar, Ed Warby on drums and Arjen plays all keyboards and guitars. Solo’s by Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) and Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever).
On a clear autumn-day I travelled to the province of Brabant to have a face to face interview with the tall multi-instrumentalist, who happened to have turned 50 a few weeks before and of course I had to tease him with this respectable age (having reached this age years ago myself) ….
MENNO: Well Arjen, welcome to the realm of wisdom! I gather there was a huge party to celebrate your ‘becoming of age’?
ARJEN: (Grinning) No, are you kidding me? I never have had much interest in my own birthdays and personally I would rather have kept it a secret, but my mom, nearly 80 now, persuaded me to organize a small intimate party. You know I actually forgot my birthday more than once? A few years ago, I was working an album with Oscar and I was in my studio recording vocals, someone came barging in telling my mother was on the telephone. I replied, a bit annoyed, that I had no time and that I would return the call later. The person standing in the doorway looked puzzled and spoke to me with this strange, seemingly doubtful tone of voice: “but uhhhhhh….your mom says it’s your birthday….!” I jumped up and cried out “Oh Shit!!” (laughs out loud) So for this occasion Lori and I invited family and some of our dearest friends to our home, you know, with all kinds of tasty snacks and a buffet. Actually it has been quite nice, but for me it was a big concession because I usually hate parties!
MENNO: You didn’t take a break after The Guilt Machine?
ARJEN: No, not at all! Before Guilt Machine was finished I already had some parts and pieces for the new Star One album and, you know, once the inspiration is there, I just have to go on and I reluctantly leave my studio because I find it very hard to stop working. Last week Lori and I were supposed to be going to Sweden, have a bit of a holiday and she would be able to take care of the last bits of business before she would leave to settle in here with me permanently. But… no go! The record company already made some important appointments and that would mean walking with an I-phone attached to your ear the whole day, so in the end we decided to stay here and postpone our trip. Frankly I must admit I would like a break and surely Lori needs one. She has been working like hell these past months to make this “Making of Victims Of The Modern Age” film: she filmed all the interviews and all the artists performing in my studio and spent a huge amount of hours editing etcetera until she came up with a very nice 36 minutes film. Problem is in this business: once you have an album put out, you got to pay attention to all the media so that’s not a suitable time to go on holidays and as soon as that’s over, there’s the next album to think about; each album I create takes about a year from start to finish.
MENNO: Does this mean you are now in effect working on your next album already?
ARJEN: Yes (smiling); believe it or not but that’s how it works for me. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s got to be a solo album this time. You see, I’m fifty now and a lot of singers that age cannot perform like they used to when age catches up with them. Now I don’t consider myself a true singer, but I want to make this the best album I can possibly come up with, with me as vocalist. Of course there will be bass, guitars and keyboards too and a lot of the stuff will probably be instrumental… like Pink Floyd for instance. If you listen to Wish You Were Here, there’s not an awful lot of singing on that album is there? I probably could do the drum parts myself too but I’d rather leave those to a real pro (grins). The last two attempts to make a solo album failed miserably -both the last Ayreon and The Guilt Machine albums were originally meant to be solo albums- so this third time has got to be a success.
MENNO: What’s that with you and keyboards? Didn’t I understand you meant to do a ‘guitar orientated album’ with Star One, and the first thing I hear are keyboards?
ARJEN: (smiling). Oh sure, that was the PLAN….. but you know, when I walk into my studio there’s that awesome Moog staring at me and that Hammond! I’ve waited 35 years to get my hands on a Moog and it’s almost a divinity for me so now I just cannot imagine me making music without using those instruments. Although most of the tracks are in effect based on guitar riffs, I couldn’t get around (looking very passionate) using the analog keyboards. I’m so thoroughly fond of the sound of a Hammond too, maybe I like it even more than a guitar!
MENNO: Does this mean you were already trying to implement keyboards in your “Vengeance days”?
ARJEN: Oh yeah, absolutely! Back then I was trying to push the band more towards a Rainbow-sound (melancholic look while mentioning Rainbow Rising) but my bands mates, especially the singer didn’t want a shift in that direction at all: they were completely into that Judas Priest, AC/DC and Iron Maiden style. I’ll never forget what happened at Parkpop (a big festival in the Netherlands); there we were, performing live in front of some 400000-500000 people, with big television cameras recording and all! We were about to do a rather proggy song called Cry Of The Sirens, a track with a few symphonic sections and extensive lyrics. Our singer is about to announce this next song, looks at the set list and shouts out loud: oh gosh no! That f…ing song? (Arjen grins and sighs). On that moment I thought: Lucassen my man, not to worry, your time will come! And indeed, once that singer left the band we recorded The Last Teardrop and guess what: a whole lot of keyboards on that album!
MENNO: As usual you composed the music first and then the lyrics. How did you decide on the subjects?
ARJEN: Well, I’m not much of a reader but I like to watch movies. I hesitated whether I’d use time-travels (for instance movies like Back To The Future) as my subject of choice but in the end I chose to use a different kind of films: the post-apocalyptic and dystopian movies. To contemplate about the question ‘what if there are no human beings left’ is very intriguing and I decided to have a go at the contents of those movies. At first I watched them just for fun and a second time I went looking for a starting point for a song title or lyric. When I listened to the finished music for It All Ends Here, I immediately thought of Blade Runner for instance. With Space Metal I’ve attempted to sort of explain a whole movie but for Victims Of The Modern Age, I decided to pick just one aspect of a movie and go into that more profoundly.
MENNO: I know you always compose the music first but surely you have a sort of vocal melody in your head when you are composing?
ARJEN: That’s correct. As a ‘guide vocal’ I use my own singing but it’s all words and sounds without meaning, absolute rubbish. At a later stage I write the ‘real’ lyrics. As Lori, my partner, is teacher English by profession, her help has been more than welcome. Although she didn’t write the actual lyrics like she did for The Guilt Machine, she re-wrote several parts of the lyrics I had written, to make them ‘grammar-proof’, so indeed she made an important contribution again by checking everything I wrote.
MENNO: You spent a lot of time searching for the ultimate sound didn’t you? Why not use a “Direct Injection” technique like Steve Hackett did on his last album Out Of The Tunnels Mouth? He recorded that album practically in his living room!
ARJEN: Honestly I didn’t. I do have some experience with this technique as I used it on my last album to some extent. For Star One I wanted to go back to that real old fashioned way of recording with amps, speakers and mikes and … lots of NOISE (grinning). I had to get that over the top bombastic heavy guitar sound because looking back on Space Metal, I think most of the songs like Eye Of Ra were quite alright but the sound was definitely not. So I borrowed and hired every amp, mike and speaker I could get my hands on, until I found that sound I had been looking for. It turned out to be a large speaker with 3 microphones in front of it, positioned very carefully. I don’t think I’d ever had been able to come up with this kind of sound using a computer and software!
MENNO: Most of the time in your career there quite a lot of contrast between two subsequent releases. Although The Guilt Machine has got a number of rather heavy pieces, the music seems to me to be more complex and not as straight forward as Victims Of A Modern Age?
ARJEN: To me Victims Of The Modern Age is totally different album than On This Perfect Day. The Guilt Machine is all about long tracks that tend to build up to a sort of a climax, while Victims Of The Modern Age brings my message right through: no nonsense, heavy guitars right away as if to say ‘hey you listeners, this is serious heavy stuff’! You know sometimes I hear ‘awesome album, but I had to listen to this album several times’ and I think (grinning) ‘damn, why didn’t you dig my music straight away!’ But on the other hand, and I’m sure you know that too, if you need to listen to a record more often before you can really appreciate it, most of the time this album ends up higher on your list of all time favorites. Anyway, for this album I deliberately chose the direct approach: more simple and shorter songs with a high level of accessibility. I’ve accomplished this by writing far more spontaneously instead of endlessly contemplating how to build up a song structure and what kind of intro it should have. For instance the riff in Earth That Was, came spontaneously in the studio while I was experimenting with the sound. Instead of working on such a riff for days, I recorded it immediately and used it practically as it came out of the speakers that day. Lyrically there’s also a big difference between Victims and On That Perfect Day. Not only because those lyrics were written by Lori, but they had a profound emotional sense and were somewhat moody, while my lyrics were based on films, so not as threatening or gloomy as if these films are not reality. From our polls we did on the website we could tell these lyrics were much easier to understand because the responses often came within seconds after we posted the riddle.
MENNO: Did you use other instruments on Victims Of A Modern Age?
ARJEN: I guess not. Only another amp, speaker and microphones. In fact the instrumentation has been very basic: the seven string electric guitar, keyboards, bass, drums. Mostly I also use violins, a cello and flutes but this time only on CD2 there’s an acoustic guitar on Lastday. The recording technique however has been different. For instance for the first time in my life I used eight channels of my mini-moog instead of just the one: by modifying a tiny bit each time I got eight different recordings, each one slightly out of tune but put together they are providing a massive bombastic sound. In fact a modular Moog like Keith Emerson uses, is also some 10 signals on top of each other. (Arjen goes into his studio and demonstrates what he means: the two recordings at the far ends of the tuning put together are sounding horrible and out of tune: adding the other six, changes the perception and indeed the result is a sound similar to Emerson’s sound on Tarkus!)
MENNO: As we are in your studio now, there’s quite a bit of story behind this particular studio isn’t there?
ARJEN: That’s correct. As many of you know I used to work in “The Electric Castle”, a very nice studio in a separate building from the house my ex-wife and I used to live. Because of the location I didn’t have to worry about noise or causing any discomfort for my neighbors. I had this incredible view over pastures, garden, horses and a lot of ‘nature’. After our divorce I moved here, in an area with a lot of houses per square acre so the only place to create a studio within a minimal distance had to be the garage, which is in fact within the outside walls of this building. The only way to do it was to build inner walls inside of the garage only in contact with the concrete foundation and well insulated, a very costly business. Fresh air through an air-conditioning system and unfortunately no nice view, nor daylight. It took me quite a while to get used to going in that ‘dark cave’ with those big curtains on the walls. But nowadays I feel quite comfortable working in there for many hours, most of the time standing up (Arjen shows me a big desk with several computer screens on them of which he can adjust the height electronically): since I got used to standing most of the time, my back problems are over!
Arjen now presents pieces of his new album through his studio speakers and headphones, which sound an awful lot better than the download on my computer system. I hear six different vocal recordings by Floor to provide the massive ‘choir’ in the choruses and I hear the sole power in the singing of Russell Allen and the incredible drumming by Ed Warby.
MENNO: talking about drums: I assume the drums were recorded elsewhere?
ARJEN: Correct. The drum tracks were recorded in the Sandlane studio in Gilze, a village nearby; an extremely well equipped and consumer friendly studio that really stole my heart: I’m truly very satisfied about this choice! Ed (Warby) had to use the first day for the sound check and to make sure everything was working as it should and then (Arjen shivers) he recorded all his tracks (12 songs!) in just two days. This man is super-natural! Every time I think, that he would not be able to pull a stunt like this and over and over again he surprises me… it’s truly unbelievable! Another thing is that I didn’t have to use a software program like “Beat Detective”, in fact I wouldn’t use it with Ed anyway because I really wanted to have that ‘human feel’ with subtle accelerations or in other pieces some slowing down. With Chris Maitland I had to use this program once because on a specific track I used a sequencer and I had no choice than to put everything in its right place. You know there’s also software to correct vocalists who regularly (pointing at himself) or occasionally sing out of tune. It’s very tempting to use this kind of software if you have recorded a really awesome take and just on one or two moments the singing isn’t a 100% in tune: than one might consider to ‘help’ just a little bit. Actually this is quite horrifying isn’t it? Maybe that’s why many music lovers cherish the seventies and perhaps even more the sixties: because of the absolute freedom to experiment, to be spontaneous and the purity and honesty of that music. So (lifts a warning finger and mumbles) “be careful what you wish for….it might come true”(quote from Saga’s Generation 13 – MvBF).
MENNO: Just like with Space Metal there’s an ordinary jewel case with ‘just the one CD’ and a more luxury package with a second CD, in my opinion a very interesting package. Your own decision or the record company’s?
ARJEN: No, this was my own idea. The record company doesn’t interfere with my plans at all although once I have the finished product ready, I always ask for their advise. I know for a fact we don’t sell any jewel cases via our web shop and if you ask me, I wouldn’t buy one either, I’d go for the 2CD with more artwork and in this case five extra tracks and a documentary filmed by Lori about the ‘making of Victims’, with a length of 36 minutes, as I already told you! In my mind as well as out of my own experience, when listening to an album, I usually lose interest after 45-50 minutes, so it’s a deliberate choice to have selected the songs on CD1that actually ended up on that album. It’s also a deliberate choice not to speak of ‘bonus tracks’ but about ‘CD2’: I couldn’t live with the thought of putting Black Sabbath’s former vocalist Tony Martin on a bonus track now could I? You know, I almost managed to get Joe Lynn Turner to do a track as well but because of a sudden offer from Brazil to go on tour there, he couldn’t meet my deadlines as he went off in the same period I would have had him here in my studio to record…. Otherwise I would have had a former Deep Purple and Rainbow vocalist as well! (laughs) Another reason to put those 5 tracks on a separate CD was, that in my opinion those tracks are a bit different from the tracks on CD1. As you said in your review for iO Pages, the music on CD2 is slightly more progressive and there are also other vocalists as on CD1.
MENNO: About the artwork: you have decided upon using the art of Chris Dessaigne once more?
ARJEN: Yes, for three reasons. 1) I was so very pleased with the artwork of the Guilt Machine album; 2) he’s a fan of my music and 3)he happens to like the same kind of movies I’m fond of. I thoroughly checked al his existing works and once I found what I wanted, but needed him to have make some adjustments, I discovered that’s he’s a real artist, not someone who designs a cover according just to your wishes… I think we discussed the final artwork for the cover about thirty times! Like most people who work with me, he must have ended up hating me for my perfectionism! Anyway, finally we agreed to use existing artworks for the different films which have been a source of inspiration for the songs as well as several images of his own choice. For the cover he reworked an older artwork he did, based on an existing monument in remembrance of the holocaust, that you can find in Berlin. The ratios however have been changed drastically. Of course I contemplated about using this kind of image considering the delicacy of the subject but in the end there were two considerations: firstly, based on the totally changed proportions, it would be hard to recognize the monument at all and secondly – although the holocaust has been a truly horrifying event- the movies I used for the lyrics on this album were partially based on the assumption ‘what if mankind gets extinct’; so in my opinion there’s an obvious link.
MENNO: Looking at the line up, you chose the same cast of vocalists as on the Space Metal? Are you thinking about performing live again?
ARJEN: Well, at first I thought: I definitely am going to use different vocalists because I probably will not be able to top the Space Metal album, using the same line up. I discussed this plan with Gary (Wehrkamp, from Shadow Gallery – MvBF) and he convinced me to change my mind. He said Arjen, Ayreon is your project with a changing set of vocalists, why not consider Star One being a real band? So he strongly suggested I would ask the same people as were involved in Space Metal. Then I began to wonder that if I wouldn’t have Russell (Allen, Symphony X – MvBF) in my studio, who else has a powerful voice equivalent to his? Right, no one! okay, perhaps I could have tried to get Robert Plant to do it, but then again, his vocal is not as powerful as it used to be…. Then I asked myself: who is able to replace Damian? Exactly, no one because this man has a unique voice. Same conclusion with Dan Swanö, because his voice has a tremendous depth, while he is also capable of singing in different styles. And Floor? Well, do you know any female singers -other than perhaps her sister Irene- that even come close? No, you probably don’t (Menno agrees by nodding enthusiastically). Another consideration has been: all four are good friends of mine and very, very pleasant people to work with; the kind of people who immediately say ‘yes’ when you call them. So indeed, I decided Gary was right and I started working with the same vocalists as before and I really must say: all of them performed on a level that went way beyond my expectations!! I’m truly blessed to have been able to work with these artists. As far as live shows are concerned: of course I’ve been thinking of the possibility to go out on the road once more and in fact I did ask each and every one of the musicians involved if they would be interested. They all replied they would try their very best to make it work if it would come to a tour, even Dan (who has a bigger role on the current album!) who declined to go on tour to promote Space Metal, has told me he was eager to tour with us this time. One has to be realistic however. Russell will be going on tour with Symphony X shortly, Floor is constantly touring with ReVamp, Damian with Threshold and Dan too has several projects going. For a tour you need to make preparations and time to rehearse so a minimum of about 6 weeks is necessary to make it work and that’s a long time considering the full schedule of most of the people concerned!
MENNO: Although I’m not too thrilled by ReVamp I still think Floor Jansen is one the best if not the best female vocalist in the metal genre, certainly in the Netherlands and perhaps even worldwide. Still you have used her potential only to a modest degree wouldn’t you say?
ARJEN: My approach to this metal album has been that the male vocalists are the foundation: Dan with his deep voice, Russell with his impressive power and Damian with his unique clear sound. The very best way to use Floor’s voice is in all choruses, just like on Space Metal. However, because I agree with you on Floor’s potential I chose to give her one ‘lead’ is well in a duet with Russell in a track you described as ‘poppy’. This song is meant to be the “Intergalactic Space Crudsaders” on the Victims album.
MENNO: Yeah, I’ve seen Russell and Floor in a duet at a X-mas metal concert: blew me away! I noticed also that “good old” Peter Vink is playing bass again? Is his bass playing so much better or different than yours or were there different reasons?
ARJEN: (smiling) Well, when Peter was playing with Q65 I was five or so, but the way he played his bass in the progressive group Finch made him my idol in the Netherlands at least: that aggressive, clear sound! Outside of the Netherlands I would also have mention celebrities like Phil Lynott and Geddy Lee. Peter has always been and still is my example, he has always been my hero! It was Peter who produced my first demo when I was 17 and for a moment it looked like he was going to play in Bodine but unfortunately that didn’t work out. That would have been something: together with the great Peter Vink in Bodine! Many years later we did play together in a cover band called The Renegades (named after the album and single Renegade by Thin Lizzy) and since the early days of my career we have worked together many times. He actually lives for his bass and is very well informed indeed. He set an axample for me in that perspective too! It was him who had me listen to Rammstein and even today he tries to persuade me to listen to Manowar but this time he didn’t succeed to convince me…. yet! I guess I could have played the bass myself but you know, with Peter there’s this little but important extra. Besides, he is one of my best friend and one of the invited on my 50th birthday party.
MENNO: in contrast to the many contributors on your Ayreon albums, you only invited Gary Wehrkamp (guitar) and Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) on keyboards for the solo’s? did you make that choice because of a possible tour or were there other reasons?
ARJEN: Joost has become one of my best friends; he’s got a great sound and since Space Metal he grew from a gifted and multitalented youngster to a full grown and well established top-musician. He is really something and to be honest this wasn’t even a matter of choice, it was pure logic! With Gary it was a combination of factors. He contributed solo’s to a number of albums already and in my opinion these solo’s sound awfully nice: they are modern and old fashioned at the same time and both melodic as well as aggressive. He’s a good friend too and it’s a wonderful feeling to be among friends and to work with people I trust and who are truly fond of my music! This whole experience enhanced the feeling that you’re working with a band instead of a project and that has been very nice as well. Gary also agreed to go on tour if there was to be one. The only worry I have, is that I don’t think he’s used to play a seven string guitar and I certainly don’t want him to do just a few solo’s!
MENNO: Suppose there was to be a tour and Gary couldn’t make it, would you ask Lori to join you then?
ARJEN: I honestly think she wouldn’t even want to. She has been extremely busy with editing that ‘making of’ film and she’s constantly very busy working on the website and doing a great deal of the management. I’ve seen her busy behind that computer almost day and night and because of that, she’s not really in a ‘guitar-mode’. To be able to play with easy and self-confidence, you need to practice and have the perfect attitude.
MENNO: Well, to finalize this interview I would like very much your brief analysis of each track of the two CD’s….. please?
ARJEN: “Down The Rabbit Hole” is a synthesizer piece as an antithesis to “Lift Off” on Space Metal. The title is quote from the movie Alice In Wonderland. I kind of liked the idea of going ‘down to the rabbit hole’ instead of ‘lifting off to space’ (grins). The instrumentation is only analogue synths with Solina strings and mellotron and this track is an intro for “Digital Rain”. The lyrics of this song have been inspired by The Matrix. For me personally this is the most impressive song because it has it all: melody, power, intensity, a star role for Sir Russell and with these qualities it’s a perfect opener. It’s also very suitable to get the message through that I mean serious business….. heavy shit man! (laughs). As I already told you, the riff for “Earth That Was” came spontaneously while experimenting with the sound. At first this was to be a ‘Rammstein meets AC/DC’ like tune, but because I missed the keys, it changed quite a bit when it was finished. The lyrics are based on an English TV series called Firefly. This was a sort of ‘western in space’ but I’m afraid the larger public couldn’t understand the weird kind of humor, so the series were discontinued after twelve episodes…it’s a shame! Victim Of The Modern Age is slightly different and a bit odd because of the Middle Eastern melody: a bit like Kashmere and Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. The lyrical content came from the classic movie A Clockwork Orange. Even back then a pretty intensive film. “Human See, Human Do” is the ” Set Your Controls” on this album: a nice double bass drum as in Rainbow’s Kill The King (headbanging and singing like Dio with ‘Danger, Danger’). Just a nice jump-along tune with lyrics based on the original version of Planet Of The Apes starring Charlton Heston. In “24 Hours” I’d say there’s a reference to Black Sabbath, but it’s also quite varied with a little piece in the vein of Rammstein, but also a bit of ‘Ayreon’ in this keyboards driven interlude. I think this is my personal favorite. The lyrics were derived from the movie Escape From New York with among other Kurt Russell. Manhattan has become a sort of prison within the city of New York with fences all around.
“Cassandra Complex”, as you wrote in your review, is slightly more pop music, for me personally not the all time favorite but the fans may think differently because is has the same sort of feel and potential as “Intergalactic Space Crusaders”! In this case the lyrics come from a film starring Bruce Willis, created by ex-Monty Python Terry Gilliam: Twelve Monkees. A very strange movie! “It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive” begins with an extremely heavy Rammstein-like riff: I was tuning down my guitar (the E string down to D) and then you’re able to play chords by just putting one finger down and you can do such amazing stuff then! When I started working on that song, I eventually came up with completely different vocal melodies and very melodic choruses, so in the end there was not much Rammstein left (faking to be very unhappy). Lyrics were inspired by the film Children of Men, about a society where women are no longer fertile. “It All Ends Here” is the ‘epic’ on the album and perhaps the most ‘hevay’ song I ever did. Like I mentioned earlier, the lyrics were based on Blade Runner. I’m glad in turned out be a varied song as well and it’s the one I’m doing my only guitar solo on the album!
MENNO: And what about CD2?
ARJEN: Well, the only ‘new’ movie I have used to write the lyrics for “As The Crow Dies”, is The Road, about the extinction of the world population with among others Viggo Mortensen. A very depressing movie but with a great impact. It’s a rather straight forward track sung by the singer of a Swedish band Cloudscape, Mike Andersson. A loyal fan who has been emailing me for some years and I thought it would be a nice idea to work with him for this occasion. “Two Plus Two Equals Five” is a quote from the famous book by George Orwell. This track is sung by my Dutch friend Rodney Blaze, who already sang an acoustic song on my first Ayreon album. He helped me out with some of the guide vocals for Russell I couldn’t possibly do myself, because in some instances I needed to make it clear what kind of performance I expected from Russell. In this story mankind gets indoctrinated to such a level that he is not only stating that 2 +2 equals 5, but actually starts to believe it too! For the chorus I asked Dan Swanö to do a shameless imitation of the Sisters Of Mercy, which he did impeccably (laughs out loud, mimicking the way Dan had been singing). “Lastday” is the one truly odd track on the whole album. It’s got a most peculiar build-up, it’s the only acoustic song and it’s got odd meters. Because I’m singing it (smiling) it’s even more strange, but…. it’s Ed’s (Warby) favorite! “Closer To The Stars” has definitely been written with Tony Martin (ex Sabbath) in the back of my head. Tony was supposed to have been working with me on the Ayreon album The Electric Castle but he was way too expensive in those days. I sort of ‘met him’ again via Facebook and to my pleasant surprise we had an agreement in no time. He really liked the song but he insisted on writing his own lyrics. In the end he we-wrote only parts of them and adjusted some of the vocal melodies and as you wrote in your review for iO Pages, he did a formidable job! The lyrics by the way, were inspired by the movies I love most of all: Gattaca; in this film practically every living thing is genetically manipulated. A veteran like yourself will surely know Knife Edge. I don’t know about you but it’s absolutely one of my favorite E,L&P tracks. Years ago there was this initiative by ‘Classic Rock presents Prog’. Back then they asked about ten different artists to record a cover of one E,L&P song. I happened to be one of those artists. At the end of the day we all recorded a song but when it came to final stage of that album, it turned out they could not obtain the applicable rights to release it. What a waste!! So, because I was utterly disappointed not to be able to use this song, I thought it would be a great idea to put it on CD2, also because it fits perfectly well, even lyrically! I did make some adjustments compared to the original recording though….
MENNO: So, instead of a well earned holiday, you’re working on your solo album already for the next year?
ARJEN: (laughing) Yeah I guess so. As said, Lori and I definitely need a short break but the working on the next album has already started. I’ve been planning a solo album for about ten years now and this time I will do it! It’s a huge challenge for me because I need to prove those people wrong who are saying that I’ve become a major artist because of the top musicians I’ve hired in the past. It will be an album that will also be a challenge for the listener too: the music will be unpredictable and varied like on the White Album by The Beatles (humming tunes like Back In The USSR, Yer Blues and Revolution 9). It’s got be a truly adventurous album!
Interview for DPRP by
Menno von Brucken Fock
Sir Russell Allen
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – guitars, Hammond, Mellotron, Minimoog, Solina strings
Ed Warby – drums
Peter Vink – bass
Joost van den Broek – keyboard solos
Gary Wehrkamp – guitar solos
Special guest vocalists
|Live On Earth
|Victims Of The Modern Age