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Ayreon

Interviewed by Mark Johnson

Interview with Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon from 2012

MSJ:

Well, you made it! The second solo album is finished and it is a masterpiece. Congratulations!

Thanks for the big compliment, I'm honored! Yes...I must admit I'm kinda proud of it myself.  
MSJ: I know it is early, but how well is the album being received? From your Facebook page things look like they’re going pretty well.   
Way above expectations. I really didn't expect people to enjoy this eclectic album, so many different styles! But the reviews and sales are amazing. The album even entered the charts in Holland (#2!) and Germany.
MSJ: Ok, Rutger Hauer, your hero from “Blade Runner,” how did you  introduce yourself? Via e-mail or phone? Was he receptive immediately? 
I sent a mail to his website. To my surprise, he answered it himself. I think he must have Googled me or something, to find out if I wasn't some amateur.  He wanted to hear the music and read the lyrics first.  In the end he wrote all his own text himself. We've been Skyping for about three weeks, an amazing experience. It's such a great feeling when your idols don't disappoint!
MSJ: Tell us about the concept and album for those who may not have heard it yet.
Lost in the New Real tells the story of Mr. L, a man dying of cancer that was cryopreserved in the early 21st century and revived sometime in the undetermined future. In this future world, cancer and other diseases have been eliminated, and the social fabric of humanity has changed drastically: computers have developed emotions and most social interaction takes place in virtual reality. The line between what is considered "real" and what is not has blurred beyond recognition. The 15 songs comprising the album follow Mr. L's emotional journey as he, with the help of a psychological advisor (the narrator), is confronted with various serious and comical aspects of this "new real" and tries to decide whether or not he can find a meaningful place within it.
MSJ: “Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin” is an excellent song. Which band is your favorite? 
I'd say the Beatles' psychedelic period, then all three  Floyd incarnations (Barrett, Waters and Gilmour), the first 5 Zeppelin albums and a lot of Plant's solo albums (Fate of Nations) and Purple's Mark II with Ian Gillan and of course Ritchie Blackmore. Maybe even Rainbow more than Purple, especially Rainbow Rising.
MSJ: Which is your least favorite cover version of a song ever!
Pick any William Shatner song!
MSJ: With “Welcome to the Machine,” I know you’re a Pink Floyd fan, but where did you get the inspiration for those drums? (Un-believable!)
Cheers! I tried to make a Rammstein version of a Floyd song  Hope I didn't rape the original too much...to make it better wasn't possible, so I just made it quite different!
MSJ: “Parental Procreation Unit” is scary stuff. Do you have kids? Who should get a permit, if you were in control?
Scary stuff indeed. No, I don't have kids. And I'm sure I wouldn't get a permit in the New Real! For being an anti-social recluse. Hmm... I'd say anyone, rich or poor, who realizes all too well what a big responsibility it is to raise a kid properly, would get a permit from me.
MSJ: So, in your personal opinion, “Is There a God?”
I wouldn't know. I'm attracted to science. Actually science shows us how much we still don't know or understand about the (origin of) the universe. At this time we can only make educated guesses based upon what we “do” know.  
MSJ: You not only brought “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” out of retirement from the CD case shelf, you spruced it up with a wonderful keyboard and drum display paint job. The song sounds better than the original. Have you seen BOC play it live? With the lasers?
Oh yes, of course! In fact BOC was one of the first live shows I ever saw back in the early 70's...lasers and all!
MSJ: Pretend you’re Sir Paul Mc Cartney, and tell us how you would  explain your first impressions upon hearing  “When I’m A Hundred Sixty Four.”  (Feel free to embellish). 
Paul: "Damn, they stole my song title and now they are mocking it! Oh wait...the song is kinda nice and catchy though...love that mandolin. Hmm..think I'll get in contact with this highly talented  artist and ask him if I can sing on his next  album!"
MSJ: With all that you’ve done over the years on the Net, you must have  some interesting “E-Police” encounters you can talk about.
Oh, the E-Police would be hunting me down like a pig for all the downloading I do! But then again, if they see my walls of honestly acquired CDs and DVDs I'm sure they'll forgive me. 
MSJ: How much help did Hauer provide in the concept for “Don’t Switch Me Off?”
The lyrics of all the songs were already written and recorded before Rutger was involved, but he (re) wrote all his own words for the narration.
MSJ: Ah, the “Battle of Evermore” is a classic and one of my all-time favorites. It’s often imitated but never duplicated. But you came up with a vastly different sound. Where did your inspiration come from for your version?

I got a Facebook message from this Belgian girl called “Elvya Dulcimer,” and she sent me a link to her playing the hammered Dulcimer. I heard about this instrument, but I never actually heard it so I checked out her link and liked what I heard. Coincidentally I had just been listening to “Battle of Evermore,” so I asked her if she could play that song on the Dulcimer (instead of the mandolin parts). A week later she was in my studio recording it, and it turned out she's an excellent singer as well, so she could do the Sandy Denny parts! To make it even more different I added drums with a “When the Levee Breaks” feel to them. Hope I did the original some justice!

MSJ: It’s not the “The Space Hotel,” but will you participate in one of  Branson’s Virgin Galactic flights into  space?
If I would have the money...sure!  
MSJ: So when do you begin filming a “Yellowstone Memorial Day” video?  (You know you have do it). 
As soon as Roland Emmerich agrees to direct it!
MSJ: “Where Pigs Fly” is hilarious. Not only do you have a great imagination, but a great sense of humor.
 Thanks for the compliment, Mark! Yes, I had fun with those lyrics. In fact I couldn't stop once I got started! I had to throw away a lot of unused verses.
MSJ: I hope we get to hear the rest someday…

“Some Other Time” is a good cover of Parson’s classic. Is I Robot your favorite album of his?

Yes, together with his first album Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The Raven” is my favorite track though!

MSJ: Maybe someday…William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy in a new space epic?
They are both over 80 now! I think we should allow then to enjoy their retirement. Just don't make them sing!
MSJ: What’s next? (Please let it be Guilt Machine II…this time with Marcela and Jasper singing together).
I never plan ahead. I let my inspiration guide me into the next project.  But I know a lot of fans are waiting for a next Ayreon, and it's about time now after 5  years... Would love to do another Guilt Machine one fine day though!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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