Interview With Arjen Luccassen
MuzikMan: When did you start playing guitar Arjen?
Arjen: I was 15. Before that I played in a playback glamband, mimicking songs by Alice Cooper, Sweet, Slade and David Bowie, wearing my mother’s wig and make-up
MuzikMan: What and who were some of your major influences while developing your talents?
Arjen: I grew up listening to the Beatles, they are still one of my main influences. JC Superstar was my biggest influence as far as rock operas are concerned. Later on in the 70′s bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, ELP, etc. They all had a major impact on me. When I heard Ritchie Blackmore on Made in Japan, I knew I had to learn how to play guitar for real.
MuzikMan: The latest project The Human Equation is an ambitious project, how did you get all of the guests to perform on it? It must have been a logistical nightmare?
Arjen: Oh, yes absolutely. Especially with musicians of bands like Dream Theater and Opeth who are touring the world almost constantly. Luckily, I have a manager now and she took care of most the logistics. Now I’m becoming more and more known all over the world, so it becomes easier to convince musicians and they are even starting to contact *me* now.
MuzikMan: Did everyone send you their parts in files over the Internet or on CD? That seems to be a common way to do things now.
Arjen: Right, it is, but it is not my way. Because this album is about emotions, I really wanted the singers to stand next to me in the studio so we could work on the songs together, so I had them all flown over, except Devin Townsend and Mike Baker.
MuzikMan: How long did it take to complete the project from start to finish?
Arjen: About a year for 24/7, a bit faster than usual because of the help of my manager and the new computer recording possibilities. I’m also getting more experienced. Which doesn’t automatically means it’s getting better as well of course. However, the sales so far are very promising; the album is entering charts in various countries
MuzikMan: Do you intend on taking the album out on the road? If so, how will you be able to recreate all the various parts on stage?
Arjen: No. For one it will not be possible to get these singers together for a couple of weeks (including rehearsals) because they are all very busy in their own bands. It would also be far too expensive, with a band of about 20 musicians, rehearsals, hotels, food, airfare and all.
MuzikMan: Can you tell us what can kind of equipment you use? What is your favorite guitar?
Arjen: I mainly use Line 6 equipment for guitar. For rhythm, I use a Gibson Explorer and for solos and for clean stuff a Fender Stratocaster. Acoustic guitars are Martin and Ovation. Most of my keyboards are old analog bastards, like the Hammond, Solina, Minimoog and many other synths. I played an Ibanez bass with Trace Elliot amp on this album. My recording system is ProTools.
MuzikMan: What would you tell an aspiring artist to do if they wanted to create a recording like The Human Equation?
Arjen: Forget all the rules and restrictions and follow your feelings. No concessions or compromises, not to record companies, press, other musicians or not even to the fans. Don’t try to be fashionable or copy other bands that are successful at that time.
The recording equipment is not decisive, it’s the feeling you put into it, not the money. I haven’t bought any new equipment for years and I know nothing about technical stuff. Use your ears, don’t believe the ads in music mags or the opinions of all those so-called sound experts.
MuzikMan: Do you feel by having several well-known artists on the album performing it will give you a worldly acceptance of your music? I think it’s already there, but this must help your reach considerably, do you agree?
Arjen: Of course. If people (both fans and press) hear that musicians of bands like Iron Maiden, Marillion, Dream Theater, Opeth, Uriah Heep, Hawkwind etc. participate on my project, they take it seriously and they will check it out. However if it’s a bad product, it won’t help at all. The press will destroy it and the people won’t buy it.
MuzikMan: After completion of the album do immediately get into “go on tour mode” or are you already thinking…okay, what’s next?
Arjen: After completion, I am sucked into a terrible black hole without inspiration. Luckily, I am doing promotion for about two months to fill up the hole, and then I hope the new ideas will come seeping in again. The next album could be anything, I just know that it won’t be an Ayreon album, I definitely need a vacation from Ayreon now!
MuzikMan: What are you listening to lately that really impresses you?
Arjen: I’m listening to many different things every day. The last week I’ve been listening to the likes of Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta, Placebo, Gary Jules, Snow Patrol etc.
MuzikMan: Inside Out Music seems to be a real hands-on Label that really cares about the artists they work with. How do you like working with them?
Arjen: They care about the music and the artist and they are there when I need them. They have a great distribution net all over the world so my albums are in most shops in most countries. In addition, I am hearing no more complaints about journalists not getting any promos. Ads are in all the magazines etc. and I’m in good company, the other Inside Out artists are excellent.
MuzikMan: Do you feel being a progressive rock artist limits your acceptance in the music buying community?
Arjen: Quite the contrary, I have the most loyal fanbase one could wish for. True, my music is not on TV and radio because it’s not fashionable. But fashions are here today and gone later today. Any new boy band CD will be copied or downloaded from the net, my fans still buy the actual album. Okay, I might not sell millions of albums, but I’m not complaining because I can make the music I want to till the day I die.
MuzikMan: With the advent of new technologies and the continuing growth of it allow the artist to reach a worldwide audience even without a label, and it certainly has changed the parameters for success, your thoughts?
Arjen: My aim is to reach as many fans as possible with my music, and the advent of technology and the internet gives me that opportunity. I must admit that when my album was already all over the net one and a half month before its release (the day after the promos were sent out to the press) I was afraid that everyone would be downloading it and not buying it. Now I am surprised that it sells like crazy all over the world and it’s even entering charts in various countries. I guess downloading is a bad thing when you make a bad album, or when you offer nothing extra to the fans like in my case a beautiful package and a DVD with lots of behind-the-scenes material.
MuzikMan: Closing comments, any tour dates planned?
Arjen: No tour dates. I just would like to thank the people who bought my albums for being so open-minded. My music is not easy because it has many different styles and emotions. It takes you from one extreme to the other, from a folky acoustic part to an electronic part and from a classical or prog part to a heavy metal part. Like the ads say, it’s not just music, it’s an adventure!
July 31, 2004