The Dutch composer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen aka AYREON has unveiled his highly anticipated new video for ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’ taken from his upcoming ninth studio titled ‘The Source’ out APRIL 28th.
The 13 minute mini-epic features an array of musical guests with vocals from: James LaBrie,Tommy Karevik, Tommy Rogers, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue, Tobias Sammet, Hansi Kursch, Michael Mills, Russell Allen, Michael Eriksen and Floor Jansen.
This week we met Arjen in London to discuss the project…
So pre-sales are going through the roof… Would you like to speculate why people like the Ayreon product so much…
“ Well we did a good job. We did a great job this time.”
Firstly, I have the best singers in the world. I am sounding very arrogant now… It’s not about myself it’s about them. So… I got the best singers in the world. I got the best guitar players in the world. It’s very cool to do these “guess the singer” contests on facebook. We ask “Who is the singer?” Especially when you’ve got such big names… So we had half a million people guessing James LaBrie, for example. So that went great… Some people were like “I can’t wait, you’re teasing us —” So then we came with this 13 minute track. [You can hear it below] which has all the singers in it. [The Day That The World Breaks Down] this has all the styles that I included — that song is really representative of the album.”
”And we made this beautiful video clip with it — and there’s some behind-the scenes-material — and there’s this commentary of me … everything fell into place. Not only with recording the album, writing the album but also now with hyping it. So I think people are very excited about this.”
“ And then we did the pre-sale for the Ayreon live shows [the ‘Ayreon Universe’ event 15, 16, 17 November in Tilburg, NL ] that sold 9,000 tickets in one day.”
“ And the pre-sale for “The Source” is the biggest we have ever had. Just signing them will take a week of work. As the fans say, “The hype is real…” And I feel that by showing a song of 13 minutes I am not hiding anything. I am are saying, “Hey! If you like this song you’re gonna like the album.” I think we’ve been very honest and very open about everything.”
Your work seems very organized and closely held — do you ever allow your guests to follow their fantasies and fly free, that is, do you allow them to improvise?
“ There’s so many different styles on Ayreon and each different style needs a different singer. And I already hear it in my head when I come up with these little ideas… It’s like “this has to be Russell” [Russell Allen ] like, or “This has to be Floor” [Floor Jansen .] And there are so many different emotions in my music that it also needs different singers to come and convey those emotions. So basically it has nothing to do with the marketing … but it does work.”
“And it’s true that when I started Ayreon I was a control freak. Everything had to be done my way.”
“But then I worked with singers like Bruce Dickinson [Universal Migrator] singers like Fish [Into the Electric Castle] and I learnt so much. They don’t stick to what I tell them to do… they do their own thing. And they’re the talents. And it’s like “Oh woa!” And you learn from that. You learn to broaden your horizons. Definitely also the instrumentalists I work with are the same. They’re just geniuses … I give them free reigns — that’s why I learn. I think my strength is I know how to get the best out of musicians. I see the big picture. I am not a good performer myself. I’m not the best writer or whatever but I do see the big picture.”
“ My projects usually start with little ideas. These come up when I’m jogging or whatever. I record these on a little cassette player or little mini-disc and that’s how I get down the ideas that are floating around.”
“ Then I put them on my computer and I often throw away half-of-it. And I start arranging, start recording. And at that point I have no idea of what it’s going to be. Because the moment I decide that, I limit myself. And then, at some point, I let the music inspire me to come to a story. The story usually is not there yet… because I still think that the music is more important than the story — the music has to stand on its own — and then the story will provide like an extra dimension. It’s then that I pick the singers. Who fit the story. Who fit the lyrics. And the music.”
“ Then I start writing the lyrics based upon the singers. Which is also weird — people think that’s weird. But I really base the character on the singer. A good example is that on “Electric Castle” I have Fish who plays the Highlander. But there was no Highlander in the story so I thought let’s get a Scottish man in there! ”
There has been some criticism that The Source is short of female vocalists … I noticed that there are not so many female characters in this story. Was that intentional – how did it come about?
“ The reason for that is that the album I did before this [The Diary – The Gentle Storm] was a project with Anneke van Giersbergen and it was a very female project. Because she was singing it, it was a love story, it was love-letters from one to another and although I came up with it, it’s not something I could write but I did it because it’s Anneke. And who is more feminine than Anneke I ask you? You can’t get more feminine than her. So it was a really feminine project and at some point I thought, “I gotta do something really masculine.” So I went back to Sci Fi.”
The title “The Day That The World Breaks Down” sounds bang up-to-date – although your story is set thousands of years ago and light years away it resonates with us today. Is it supposed to be, on some level perhaps, a satire and a social criticism?
“ I offer escapism and I don’t want to teach people anything…”
“ Although, you’re right, The Source is about now. It’s reference what’s happening on Earth. Sci Fi is the greatest way of taking it to another dimension without teaching people or attempting to confront them with what’s happening to us here on Earth. I often think, if aliens landed here, would it unite the world? And I think that it would. ”
Is the Source benign — an influential spiritual power like music, but benign — or is it malignant. Like fire?
“ There’s no good and bad in my story. There has never been. I don’t like that. I am much more a Star Trek person than I am a Star Wars. The title says it all, I’d rather explore than be involved in warfare. I’m an observer more than a judge. ”
“ The machines in the story are not good or bad they’ve just been instructed to solve the problems on planet Alpha and simply their deduction is “well, what is wrong with this planet? It’s the humans…”
“ In 2050 it’s going to reach the stage of technical singularity [here on our Earth.] Things are developing exponentially . But I don’t judge technology. I embrace technology. And I use it. I wouldn’t think of going back to recording on old tapes…”
Is The Source a cutting edge project, technically speaking?
“ Not really. It’s quite the opposite. I’ve gone back more to the old instruments. I love the natural instruments … although it’s not a principle. I’m not against digital or sampling. Not at all. But you don’t get the sound — just yet — from these plug-in devices.”
What have you taken – if anything – from the works of JEFF WAYNE, THE WHO AND MOODY BLUES? Have you ever found an influence and inspiration in those artists ?
“ Well the 1970’s are my formative years… “War of the Worlds, Jeff Wayne” is my example. That’s how it all started. And I think he was one of the first — with different singers — Tommy was also good but it was just Daltrey until they had guests in the film.”
“ The Source is huge. I’m not gonna hide it. I’m gonna claim it. It’s clearly there for all to see. And the lucky thing is I’m not a huge fan of just one thing — one sound. I like the Seventies, but my taste is so varied — so I take ideas from so many places, folk, electronica, Donovan to Tangerine Dream. Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple & Rainbow. ”
Do you like your art being described as Progressive Metal?
“ I don’t think of myself in that category. I think Dream Theater is definitely progressive metal but I think I am Prog and I am Metal. At some points Prog. At some points Metal. But never is it ProgMetal. I think. ”
You asked about 30-40 people to collaborate with you on this project… If you could choose a living legend and a legend from the past to collaborate with … and you could choose anyone … who would you ask?
“ I think Robert Plant. He’s the man. He’s a personality. He still does what he wants and what he likes. Although it would be a hard choice between him and Dave Gilmour. ”
“ John Lennon. That’s the voice of voices. Oh my God, what a singer. Such power.”
Congratulations on another huge work and we wish you every success.
Arjen Lucassen was talking to @neilmach 2017 ©