Vocals: Arjen Lucassen
Instrumentalists: Arjen Lucassen
“Strange Hobby” is a collection of Arjen’s recorded versions of songs that have influenced his musical development. To make the album even more “strange,” the booklet contained no information about who was responsible for the recordings. The album, mastered at Abbey Road Studios, was a complete mystery. As Arjen explains, “From the start I intended to keep it a secret, who made this album. I just wanted to do that…it may not be smart from a commercial point of view, but it was fun.” Strange Hobby was released in 1996 by Transmission records. The original release is out of print, it is now considered a collector’s item. The album was recently re-released on a new label, and is available here.
1. Arnold Layne
2. Norwegian Wood
3. Pictures of Matchstick Men
4. I Am A Rock
5. Boris the Spider
6. In the Room of Percussion
8. See Emily Play
9. For No One
10. I Want You
11. Bus Stop
12. Flowers in the Rain
13. The Letter
14. Ride a White Swan
15. Sloop John B.
16. Daydream Believer
17. Catch the Wind
18. Ice in the Sun
The interview below is from De Telegraaf, and was published in 1996 when the album was released.
Interview – De Telegraaf
What do you mean, ‘Strange Hobby’? Is it strange for a musician to record the music that once influenced his music and that still has a place in his heart? Still, Arjen Lucassen named his side project ‘Strange Hobby’ and to make it even more strange; the booklet didn’t say who was responsible for the disc. The album mastered at Abbey Road Studios was a comply mystery, with the crème of rock and surprising arrangements.
In the end former Vengeance-guitar player Arjen Lucassen appeared to be responsible for this album. After the break-up of his once very successful hardrock band he came up with the Ayreon project, rock-opera’s (‘The Final Experiment’ and ‘Actual Fantasy’) in their purest form.
“Ayreon proves to be extremely successful. In Japan, in Europe, just incredible.” I’m talking to a grinning Lucassen. He has reason to grin. The success he has with his fantastic Ayreon albums is unusual for a Dutch project. The profit from the first Ayreon album enabled him to build a complete studio. “I’m living in a fairy-tale.” he says. “A beautiful home, my own studio, the music that I want to make…it really is incredible.”
The ‘Strange Hobby’ album was meant to freak out for a change. But on his own way. “I might have been a bit too driven, also in creating this album. All those vocal lines, all those choirs, I did them myself. It has to be recorded perfectly, so I never stop until it is.”
The guitar player has been so driven, that he didn’t realise that he might have overdone it. Song after song has been recorded perfectly, and that 18 times! “This might be my only disadvantage,” he confesses, “when I’m making music I don’t know how to slow down. Besides, you shouldn’t forget that songs in those days normally had a duration of about two minutes. I couldn’t make an album with only ten songs in this case….”.
About ‘Strange Hobby’ as a side project
“After I finished the second Ayreon album I really felt like freaking out. On the Ayreon discs everything is produced superbly. Every detail, no matter how minor, has been designed, has been thought about. I wanted to break free from that for a while. I wanted to run and dance through the room while recording. That’s what I did.”
“From the start I intended to keep it a secret, who made this album. I just wanted to do that; it seemed fun. I heard names man, Prince, Status Quo, Barry Hay, even Paul McCartney. Well, it may not be smart from a commercial point of view, but it was fun.”
“That I was able to master this disc at the Abbey Road Studios, actually was a gift from the director of my record company. A great guy. When I told him what my dream was, he got on the phone and immediately booked the studio. That was magic. How many times do you think I crossed that famous cross-over? Half of the songs I recorded there, were originally recorded there once. The man who did the mastering even worked on the ‘Beatles Anthology’-series. He didn’t know that I made this stuff, but he liked it. Though I had warned him that the songs were really distorted.” (grin)
“I really like doing the things I do now. I don’t feel a need to become bigger. I think Ayreon holds everything that defines me; all musicality within me is united in Ayreon. As long as I keep selling enough copies to be able to make another one, I’m more than happy.”
By the way, besides working on the third Ayreon album, Arjen is busy writing for…Vengeance! Yes, the band has reunited, though Lucassen will not be part of the band. He writes and produces the material for their new CD ‘back from flight 19’, which will be released in September. “And that will be the end of my contribution. I won’t go on stage, not for a fortune. I just don’t feel like it anymore.” Too bad, because Vengeance still proves to be very popular. After the already confirmed European shows, the band will probably tour in Japan…
Unfortunately this album went of out print a few years ago. It is now a collector’s item. You may be able to find copies on the internet through the auction sites like eBay.