Frequently Asked Questions about Arjen Lucassen
Does Arjen choose the singers/musicians to guest-star on his projects himself?
Absolutely. He once made a long list of all his favorite singers he grew up listening to and tried contacting all of them. This had limited success (most of the singers on his list are already dead) because many high-profile vocalists are simply unapproachable. In addition to his list of favorites, Arjen is also constantly searching for new vocal talents. “A singer doesn’t have to be technically brilliant at all. Either a voice does something for me or not, I can’t really explain why. I also think it’s important that a vocalist likes my music; there has to be a two-way appreciation in order to get the right feeling. Nowadays I’m in a luxurious position where singers are actually contacting me!”
Does Arjen write his own stories?
Yes. Arjen likes to come up with his own concepts rather than adapting pre-existing stories. His general way of working is to let the music inspire him to come up with a story. So the concept and the lyrics are only written AFTER he’s already composed the music. Usually Arjen writes the lyrics and melodies; the only exception is when he thinks that the singer can do a better job. Then he lets the singer write their own lyrics or melody.
Does Arjen’s music have a message?
The Final Experiment appears to have a message: we should really take care of ourselves and of the Earth, otherwise the Earth and life as we know it will collapse. But in general, Arjen really doesn’t like messages in music. “I don’t want to hear opinions; I want to enjoy music. I want to give people (and myself!) the possibility to escape reality for a while. I don’t want to force my personal opinions upon the people, that is not my job, although there is enough to read ‘between the lines’ if you want to. But the obvious message in Final Experiment wasn’t deliberate; it sort of ‘sneaked’ into the story. Which doesn’t mean that I am not behind it, although I do hope that mankind will last a bit longer than 2084!”
Has Arjen considered (insert singer’s name here) for his albums?
The list of vocalists that Arjen would like to have on his projects is almost endless! There are still so many singers Arjen would like to work with. Of course his first choices are the singers he grew up listening to; he considers it such an honour and a pleasure to record with them.
Arjen: “I get many (good) suggestions from fans. But then I often need a certain voice for a certain part, so it will also depend on the story and the parts which singers I would need. And I want the voices to be as different from each other as possible.”
Is the Star One DVD a limited edition?
The Star One DVD is part of box set containing the live 2CD with the DVD as a bonus. It was released worldwide in April 2003. It is not a limited edition. It is a so-called ‘special edition’ because of the bonus DVD and the special packaging.
Please be aware that the 2-CD jewel case version does not contain the bonus DVD. The DVD is only part of the box-set edition. Check your version before you buy ‘Live on Earth’ in the store.
Only in Argentina and Brazil was the DVD released separately from the CDs.
How did Arjen learn to play those instruments?
Arjen never had any musical education, apart from learning a few chords from his friends to get him started. He cannot read or write music; it’s all in his head. He doesn’t consider himself to be a great instrumentalist, however he does know how an instrument should sound, how to mix them and what they should play to get the best results. That’s why, apart from the drums, he plays most instruments himself.
How does Arjen write his songs?
“For the heavy stuff (like Star One) I start with a guitar riff, but for Ayreon I usually start with a chord sequence or/and a melody. During the course of approximately a year, I record these ideas simply on a little cassette player whilst singing the melody. Then I copy and paste all these little parts together in my head and subsequently work them out in the studio (with drum samples). At this stage all these lovely little song ideas often (unintentionally) grow into huge monsters!
I then put the songs in the right order; I have to do this before I write the lyrics. At the very end, when I know who will sing the parts, I make the vocal melody fit the style of the singer (so not the other way around). At that time the music has inspired me to come up with a concept/story and I finally write the lyrics.
After that, I record the guide vocals (either myself, my wife or a friend) and send the demo songs to the drummer and the singers. First I record the drums in another studio (I don’t have the facilities myself). Then I play all bass, guitars and keyboards (in that order) myself at the Castle.
Next I record the singers; they either come to my studio or I come to a studio of their choice. I always want to be present when recording a singer. The singers have absolute freedom to sing the songs the way they want; I found out that often this gets the best results. Of course there are some singers who like to stick to the melody I give them.
After all this, I record other instrumentalists: flute, cello, violin, sitar etc. Then I play my solos. I also invite keyboard players (and so far other guitar players two times) to play some solos. I’m practically never present when they do, they either send me a tape or sometimes even digital files via the internet. They can do whatever they want, as long as they impress the hell out of me!”
How old was Arjen when he first picked up a guitar?
He started playing guitar at the age of 15. “My first guitar had just one string for a long time, so all I could play was Smoke on the Water, over and over again…”
How tall is Arjen?
Arjen is 2.02 meters tall. This roughly translates to: 6’7″
And the answer to the obvious (and frequently asked) question: Does he play basketball… is no.
I can’t find any Ayreon CDs!
It is possible that in some countries some of the Ayreon CDs are no longer available. Have your local store contact the distributor for more information.
I want to promote Arjen’s music, where can I get promos?
Arjen does not have any promos himself nor any other promotional material he can give you. Any emails sent to him requesting physical promos will not be answered.
If you want promos you have to contact the labels: InsideOut Music Germany or InsideOut Music America for Europe and America. Contact Hellion for Brazil, Icarus Music for Argentina, and IronD for Russia. For Guilt Machine contact Mascot Records. For Ambeon contact Centertainment.
I’m a singer and I want to send Arjen some of my material!
As you may have heard, Arjen wants to give unknown talented vocalists the opportunity to be discovered and guest-star on one of his future projects. In the past he has run “open auditions” asking fans to submit samples of their vocal abilities. While you are welcome to inform Arjen of your vocal talents, there are no open auditions being offered at this time. If you would like to get on Arjen’s radar, you can send him links to your singing. Do not send mp3s, or URLs to mp3s via email. Emails with attachments will be automatically deleted. Send a link to the place where Arjen can hear your music. Send any physical CDs etc. to Arjen’s snail mail address only! (Details in the contact section of this site).
Arjen listens to all demos he receives, but with his busy schedule cannot guarantee that you will get a reply.
Is Arjen a genius?
“I am definitely not a genius! I have had the pleasure to work with some geniuses, so I know what I’m talking about. Unlike them I have to work really hard to achieve the level I finally reached, and it took me about 30 years to get there. I am however a big music fan, which I think is even more important than being a genius. I want to create the music that I would like to listen to myself. I think my talent and strength lies in the fact that I see the big picture; I know how things should sound, how to use and combine singers and instrumentalists and how to create a certain atmosphere, not just musically but also lyric wise and visually”.
What are Arjen’s favorite CDs?
“I divided them into 3 categories: Prog Rock, Rock and Pop. I decided to choose the albums that influenced me so obviously most of them are from my youth.”
- Prog Rock:
Pink Floyd – Wish you were here
Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
ELP – The Atlantic Years
Triumvirat – Spartacus
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dream
Hawkwind – Hall of the Mountain Grill
Camel – Moonmadness
Rick Wakeman – 6 Wives of Henry VIII
Kansas – Power
The White Noise – An Electric Storm
Rainbow – Rising
Led Zeppelin – III
Queen – II
Rush – Hemispheres/2112 (I can’t choose…)
Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous
Alice Cooper – Love it to Death
Deep Purple – Made in Japan
Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell
Van Halen – 1
The Who – Tommy
The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
T.Rex – Electric Warrior
The Sparks – Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing
The Waterboys – This is the Sea
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Deja Vu
Kate Bush – The Whole Story
Webber/Rice – JC Superstar
Kaleidoscope – White Faced Lady
Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence
The Sweet – Desolation Boulevard
What are Arjen’s main musical influences?
Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple)
Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)
Edward van Halen
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
Cozy Powell (Rainbow)
Keith Emerson (ELP)
Rick Wakeman (Yes)
Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
Geddy Lee (Rush)
John Lennon (Beatles)
Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow)
Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
What does Arjen think of all these new Rock Operas?
Arjen set a trend with his Ayreon albums. Many laughed when he recorded his first rock opera ‘Ayreon – The Final Experiment’ in 1995, and most record companies were hesitant to sign him. But especially after the highly successful release of his third Ayreon CD, the rock opera ‘Into the Electric Castle’, many musicians and producers have followed in his footsteps and new rock operas with multiple singers are beginning to surface all over the world. Arjen comments: “Yes, I’ve noticed! I regard it as a compliment. Though I think that many of these projects are too one-sided for me personally and often the singers sound alike. I like to incorporate many different styles, atmospheres and vocalists. Which carries a risk that some people might find my music inaccessible. Well, it certainly isn’t background music, you have to become part of it to be able to fully enjoy it”.
Whatever happened to the Into the Electric Castle movie?
There was a definite plan to make a movie of ITEC. It was to be 3D animated movie entirely made on the computer with the original album as the score. The famous fantasy painter Boris Vallejo was going to design the characters. It was going to be made in the Czech Republic by a Czech/American producer called Miroslav ‘Mark’ Svoboda. They came to Holland, Arjen approved the screenplay and all the contracts were signed. You can feel a ‘but’ coming up… but Arjen hasn’t heard anything for a long time now. First it was going to be an inexpensive movie of a six-figure amount of dollars. But then Warner got interested and the budget went up to a seven-figure amount. Since then nothing has been heard from them. Arjen’s brother Gjalt (yes, him) has contacted the artist Boris Vallejo but hasn’t heard anything anymore either. Very strange and disappointing…
What is Arjen’s favorite Ayreon CD?
Arjen: “Each time I play an Ayreon CD, I think: this is my best, I will never make an album as good as this one anymore! So I think I would need to hear all the albums after each other in one day in order to answer that question correctly. And then the order in which I play them would have influence on my judgement as well I guess. And of course I couldn’t be objective at all, I know the story and the emotions behind every album too well. They all have something special for me, and they are all so different. And also it would depend on my mood. In other words: I couldn’t say!”
Where does the name Ayreon come from?
Though Arjen does like the similarity of the sound of his name Arjen and the project name Ayreon, this is purely coincidental. Yet no one seems to believe that!
Originally Arjen called the minstrel of the first Ayreon album ‘Aries’, because he was an orphan and they named him after his star sign. But then, when Ian Parry (an English singer) had to sing ‘A-RI-IES’, he told Arjen it was pronounced differently (it should be ‘A –RIES’). Arjen had to change it because of the syllables for it had to fit the meter of the songs.
He wanted the name to sound old fashioned because of the medieval influences on the first album, so he used the old-English sounding ‘AY’ (Aylesbury, Ayshire). But he also wanted it to sound modern because of the futuristic parts (2084) so he used ‘ON’ (electron, neutron, cyclotron etc.)
Why is Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) thanked in the Into the Electric Castle booklet?
Arjen: “After Actual Fantasy I wrote letters to about 50 singers/musicians if they wanted to guest on Ayreon, and (besides those who agreed) I only got a few answers. Among them were Donovan, Phil Mogg (UFO), Stephen Duffy (ex-Duran Duran) and Steven Wilson. Steven liked Actual Fantasy (especially productionwise), and Strange Hobby even more. He wrote me a detailed review/letter on my material and I really appreciated that. Unfortunately my music was/is too prog for him. And he didn’t consider himself to be a good enough singer/guitarplayer. Obviously I disagree.”
What is Arjen’s favorite food and drink?
Food used to be Arjen’s favorite pass time. Strange, unusual and exotic foods were his favorites. Since he lost his sense of smell in 2007 (due to a viral infection — google “viral anosmia” to find out more), food no longer has any flavor. So these days he mainly follows a healthy vegetarian diet. He does eat meat, but only from animals that have been ethically raised. When he could taste, his favorite cuisines included Mexican and Indonesian (his mother used to live in Indonesia). He still enjoys mayonnaise and (strong) mustard, and tries every variation of these that he is able to find. His favorite beverages include water, various teas, milk replacements (soy, rice, oat milk), and a sip of dry sherry each evening.
What books does Arjen read?
Arjen hasn’t read a book in his life! He does read magazines and comic books, but gets all his story telling inspiration from old television series, movies, and science documentaries.
What are Arjen’s favorite movies?
Alien, Stargate, 2001, Donnie Darko, Ed Wood, Being John Malkovich, The Omen, The Thing, Blade Runner, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Midnight Run, The Full Monty, the list is endless…
What are Arjen’s favorite television series?
Blake’s 7, House of Cards, Babylon 5, FarScape, X-files, Sherlock Holmes (feat. Jeremy Brett), Firefly, StarTrek: Enterprise, Dexter, Six Feet Under