Arjen Lucassen is one of those creatives that lives and breathes his music. Composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and mastermind behind Ayreon, he presents his latest album The Source. It’s a prequel to the vast Ayreon universe created over his previous eight albums, and is written as a vinyl double album that is full of epic song writing and complex compositions to match. It’s a story that goes hand in hand with the music; you can’t have one without the other.

TEO picked the mind of Arjen and found out a little about the man who doesn’t like to ever rest, how he is constantly creating and how on earth he’s going to manage putting on three live shows.

TEO: There’s much excitement for your forthcoming album The Source, looking back on the creation process, how do you feel?
Arjen:
I’m pretty confident, actually—usually I’m not. You finish an album and think it’s the best you’ve ever done but then you have to wait three months until it’s released, and the album gets very shitty in those months! But this time we put the first song, ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’, on YouTube and the reactions were so overwhelmingly positive and there were a few hundred thousand views in a few weeks. So far, so good!

The Source is an elaborate story. When did the idea first spark?
Well it’s my eighth Ayreon album and all Ayreon albums are basically connected. When I started, I didn’t know they would be connected but the whole Ayreon universe started developing itself and this album is a prequel to the story. This time I worked a bit differently; usually I finish the whole album and then start looking for artwork but this time I first looked for artwork and it inspired the story and music. I had a whole focus of how it should sound so it was a good choice.

Wow. Have you ever thought about writing a book?
I don’t think my stories are good enough without the music. The music is still the most important thing and I think the lyrics and the story add an extra dimension—I’m not sure they’re good enough to stand on their own. And besides that I’m very ashamed to admit that I’ve never read a book in my life!

I’m going to assume that you would’ve been writing and composing almost every day.
Yes, oh absolutely. When I work on a project like this, I work on it for 365 days: a whole year, no weekends off, no holidays, no other projects—just this. I have to be really focused and think about it day and night

Which song do you hold most dear on the album?
Well, my first choice would be the first song I released, ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’, which is a 12-minute song and it features all the singers and all the styles on the album. So, it’s really representative of the album and I think if you like that song you’re going to like the album. But ‘Everybody Dies’, that’s a bit of a different song that I’ve never done before and maybe that’s why I like that one.

Your music has been described as opera rock, or progressive rock/metal. Whatever the labels, what musical elements would you say define your style?
A lot! People say progressive metal but I think that’s limiting. Besides metal, there’s rock of course: hard rock, classic rock, folk, celtic, industrial stuff, electronics with synthesisers, and it’s got classical influences. So, that’s basically it! I do have limits to my taste, I’m not very big on funk, or soul and hip hop. You won’t find that in my music.

You’re known to not promote your records with live shows but this year you’re playing three shows in Holland, which fans are obviously stoked about, considering how fast you sold 9000 tickets!
Yeah, these live shows are the first time Ayreon will ever play live in its 22 years of existence. I toured the world for 15 years in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, which wasn’t really my thing; I see myself as more of a composer and producer. I’m kind of like a recluse; I like to be at home in my studio just creating stuff. Basically, I started the Ayreon stuff just so I didn’t have to play live anymore. So, it will be an ‘Ayreon: Best Of’, and we’ll play at least two songs off each album.

This is a major effort, how many people will you end up having on stage?
I have 16 singers! It’s going to be a big thing. There will be about 10 musicians, a classical band and the basic band of course, so there’re a lot of people involved. It takes two years to set something like this up and we’ve already been working on it for a year, so I’m sure it will fill up all my time until September.

Find our review of The Source here.

The Source will be released on the 28th of April 2017. Pre-order your copy here.

Photos: Lori Linstruth

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