Star One

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By Carl Begai

Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen has returned to form with his progressive metal opera project’s ninth album, The Source. In 1995 he introduced his “more is more” mindset with The Final Experiment, setting the tone for each future production stamped with the Ayreon name, garnering a loyal cult following and high expectations from those fans. It was the third album, Into The Electric Castle released in 1998, that laid a solid foundation for Lucassen’s multi-vocalist epics, and The Human Equation in 2004 that put him on the metaldom map as a creative force to be reckoned with, or respected at the very least. There have been a few missteps along the way depending on who you talk to – 01011001 from 2008 and The Theory Of Everything from 2013 are not the easiest albums to get into – but the fans are responding well to The Source. In fact, the constant comparisons to The Human Equation and Into The Electric Castle suggest that Lucassen may have struck musical gold once again.

“I know what you mean,” Lucassen agrees. “I had that feeling a twice before because everything came together so easily. The cast came together, the music came together, the story was easy, which are things I had with The Human Equation and Into The Electric Castle. Sometimes that happens and I just try to steer things in the direction they need to go.”

The ease with which the material The Source came together could have and probably should have been a bit frightening for Lucassen. How many musicians have boasted about new music coming together effortlessly only to be carved by the press once it goes out to the public?

“I’m insecure as hell about that,” he admits. “I start with 50 ideas and I hate most of them, really (laughs), because I figure they’re not good enough. The ones that I do like, I’ll play them to Lori (Linstruth / girlfriend, ex-Stream Of Passion guitarist) and she’ll be like “Well, yeah, okay…” So, I’m completely insecure until the very last moment, which is what makes me a perfectionist. That’s what makes me work so much harder, especially when I hear other stuff like the new Opeth or the new Devin Townsend. That’s when I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, my stuff doesn’t even get close to that…’ (laughs). The reactions to The Source have been so good that the insecurity is gone, and usually it’s always there.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Whether or not change is good there’s no escaping the fact it’s inevitable, and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen is no exception to the rule.

As the master(mind) of the Ayreon empire, Star One and Guilt Machine, the towering Dutchman is known for assembling ensemble casts featuring some of the metal world’s finest voices and players – as well as discovering the occasional unknown talent – to create his now trademark epic metal operas. Lucassen composes all the music for all his projects, plays the vast majority of it (with a little help from his friends), arranges the often monstrous vocal parts and does some singing himself, yet in the end he has always been – no matter how important to the proceedings – a cog in the wheel. His latest sci-fi based conceptual outing, on the other hand, puts Lucassen front and center and behind the microphone on his own. A strange place for him to be unaccompanied but as he tells it, a hell of a lot of fun.

“I think everyone is a surprised by that,” Lucassen says of taking on all the vocal duties. “It was a big challenge for me. I’ve always liked singing. The problem was I’ve worked with some of the most amazing singers in the world. When you’ve worked with people like Bruce Dickinson and Jorn Lande, that humbles you. I could never do what those guys do. They’re amazing, having such power and technique, and I don’t have that at all. When I’m in the studio with these guys singing a melody to them you hear my little squeaky voice, and then Russell Allen sings it back like a monster (laughs). I do like the sound of my voice, but technically speaking I’m not a fantastic singer. By this point I know my limitations, though, and these songs were written for my voice so I enjoy singing them.”

As for doing away with the trademark legion of voices in favour of putting himself in the spotlight, Lucassen makes it clear that his ego had nothing to do with the decision.

“I wanted to get back the feeling I had when I started Ayreon. I wanted to make something without anyone’s expectations hanging over me. Continue Reading