Ayreon - Translating the Human Code

Interview by Dark Starr

 Ayreon and Arjen Lucassen are one and the same in many ways. The whole concept and songwriting began in his fertile mind. He has over the course of creating the various albums released under the Ayreon banner recruited some of the finest musicians around, but Ayreon remains his baby. I had the chance to chat with Lucassen about recruiting musicians for his musical motifs, music in general and a lot more.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Can you catch the readers up on your history - both personally and in terms of Ayreon?

ARJEN LUCASSON: I'm 47 and I've recorded over 40 CDs now, so answering that question is going to take me weeks, haha! Anyway, I've just released my 7th Ayreon album and it has entered the charts in 14 countries all over the world, so I'm doing fine, thanks!

WC: Where does the name Ayreon come from and what's the significance of it?

AL: Though I do like the similarity of the sound of my name Arjen and the project name Ayreon, this is purely coincidental. Yet no one seems to believe that! Originally I 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 me it was pronounced differently (it should be 'A -RIES'). I had to change it because the syllables for it had to fit the meter of the songs. I wanted the name to sound old fashioned because of the medieval influences on the first album, so I used the old-English sounding 'AY' (Aylesbury, Ayshire). But I also wanted it to sound modern because of the futuristic parts (2084) so I used 'ON' (electron, neutron, cyclotron etc.)

WC: Your music seems to straddle the line between metal and progressive rock. It's also very symphonic. I know artists are not crazy about having their music pigeon-holed, but how would you describe your sound?

AL: Adventurous.

WC: How do you co-ordinate so many big names to appear on your discs?

AL: The logistics are quite challenging indeed, but luckily my manager takes care of that.

WC: "The Human Equation" had something like 11 lead vocalists.Doesn't that pose logistics problems?

AL: See the previous answer.

WC: Who do you see as your influences?

Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple)
Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)
Edward van Halen
Steve Vai
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)

WC: What's ahead for you?

AL: The future! Seriously though, I rarely plan ahead, so I couldn't tell you...

WC: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?

AL: Oh yes, many. See the list of influences before. Only most of them are dead!

WC: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?

AL: Yes of course, how can one not agree? Those are the grim facts.

WC: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

AL: I don't play live anymore, so I don't care, haha! I guess as long as they trade them and don't sell them, it's okay.

WC: These next three we tend to ask of everyone. The first two sort of showcase musician as music fan. First, what was the last CD you bought,or what have you been listening to lately?

AL: The last CD I bought was Arid, a Belgian band with a great singer. I listen to different music everyday.

WC: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

AL: Hmm....I guess that must have been Agua dé Annique, Anneke van Giersbergen's new band.

WC: Now, this one some love, some hate. Feel free to not answer if you don't care to. What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

AL: Basically my whole carreer in all the bands I've been in! That's why it really hurts me to watch Spinal Tap, way too close to

WC: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?

AL: This one goes to eleven, mate, just listen to the sustain! Cheers,Arjen.

Ayreon's Official Website