With extra initiatives to his title than you’ll be able to shake a wizard’s wand at, Arjen Lucassen is Holland’s most prolific prog export. Tasks akin to Star One, Guilt Machine and, most notably, Ayreon, with their well-known visitor singers, have made Lucassen well-known in his house nation. At all times the ‘title’ behind his albums, Lucassen has by no means actually ventured into purely solo territory. He’s since deemed his 1994 solo album, Swimming pools Of Sorrow, Waves Of Pleasure (launched underneath the title Anthony) a flop, making this yr’s Misplaced In The New Actual the primary album to be launched underneath his full title: Arjen Anthony Lucassen.
It’s a contemporary spring morning when Prog visits Lucassen at his house, tucked away amid flat farmland and the odd windmill in Roosendaal, Holland. It’s exhausting to think about the variety of high-profile singers and musicians which have entered the modest house he shares with companion Lori and their canine Hoshi.
We sit within the open-plan kitchen/front room. Lucassen has simply been studying YouTube feedback concerning the trailer video for Misplaced In The New Actual and is concerned by one remark describing it as “tacky”. Does he take followers’ opinions personally?
“I cope with criticism in a nasty method, each unhealthy phrase hurts,” he admits. “I can learn a thousand good feedback however I’ll at all times bear in mind the unhealthy ones. If there’s a assessment that utterly slags off the album and it’s unfounded, I at all times react. I discover out who the man is, discover his electronic mail handle and ship him a fairly heavy electronic mail. However in the long run we at all times find yourself as mates as a result of we argue it out.”
“With the final three albums [Ayreon’s 01011001, Guilt Machine’s On This Perfect Day, Star One’s Victims Of The Modern Age] I’ve been pondering extra concerning the followers than about what I need,” he continues. ”So after I began this album I used to be like ‘Fuck yeah, that is going to be a solo album and I don’t care if it sells or not’. The nice factor is individuals don’t have expectations with this one, as a result of if I do Ayreon they count on large bombastic stuff, with all these visitor singers, and if I do Star One they count on this metallic album, heavier than heavy. But when I do a solo album they do not know what to anticipate.”
There are two main variations on the brand new solo album: firstly the deviation in sound, in the direction of a extra light-hearted, Sixties vibe, drawing affect from The Beatles, Floyd and Zeppelin, and, secondly, that the vocals are all sung by Lucassen.
“I’m not a rock and metallic singer, I’m extra like John Lennon. So I might write songs that I knew would sound cool with my voice and that was enjoyable. This can be a large soar from the small components I used to sing on the Ayreon albums. A few instances a day I might get Lori right down to the studio and ask for her opinion. I’ve change into extra assured about singing, and I do know my limitations.”
Persevering with Lucassen’s lineage of idea albums, Misplaced In The New Actual tells the story of a twenty first century man cryogenically preserved whereas affected by a terminal sickness. Aeons later, he’s revived within the hope of discovering a remedy for his sickness, solely to find that world has modified past recognition. A pivotal character within the story is the person’s psychological adviser; requiring an extra voice on the album.
“I’ve been a fan of Rutger Hauer for the reason that age of 10, when he starred in my favorite programme Floris,” says Lucassen. “I bear in mind I used to be jogging and I began fascinated by the album’s idea after which about Blade Runner. I believed how nice it might be to get Rutger because the narrator. So I despatched an electronic mail via his web site and, to my shock, I bought a reply a few days later saying ‘Inform me extra’. He didn’t know me however he should have Googled my title as a result of he mentioned sure.”
Via Skype, the 2 have been capable of talk about the venture. Hauer was given the temporary and labored on some traces. “He actually immersed himself within the story and spent weeks rewriting the narration. At first I used to be not sure as a result of there have been a number of ‘fucks’ in there, nevertheless it was so cool. I had no concept what he was speaking about, nevertheless it was so a lot better than what I wrote. Ultimately Lori recorded him in Santa Monica, and he was an actual gentleman.”
Focus turns to the thematic content material of the album and specifically a music that names his influences. Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin offers with the development in expertise and the way it overshadows human enter (‘I simply consider what I like/Any mix will do/They reproduce what’s in my thoughts’). It displays Lucassen’s fondness of the times earlier than Professional Instruments. “I like limitations,” he explains. “That’s why I report with previous analogue synthesizers. My favorite synth is the Minimoog as a result of you’ll be able to solely play one observe and it’s important to dial all of the buttons. It’s unreliable nevertheless it makes that instrument so attention-grabbing.”
Maybe the truth that machines can’t authentically replicate the human voice has influenced Lucassen’s selection of visitor vocalists on previous albums. The record reads like a Who’s Who of prog rock: Fish, Neil Morse, Devin Townsend, James LaBrie, Bruce Dickinson, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Dave Brock, Bob Catley and extra. “I’m within the voice, not the method. It may be this superb singer who can sing extremely excessive, with a ravishing vibrato, but when I don’t just like the voice I’m not going to ask.”
Most of the vocalists have been to Chez Lucassen. “It’s the very best feeling ever once they come to my home. However particularly with individuals I grew up listening to, like Dave Brock,” he provides, gesturing in the direction of his intensive Hawkwind CD assortment. “I used to be at his place for 2 days. He was this extremely good man, we had enjoyable and made a meal collectively – we’re each vegetarians. We ate fish and went to his forest and checked out his horses.”
Unusually, for a polymath who has labored with so many musicians, the mild-mannered Dutchman describes himself as a “social recluse”. Lucassen refuses to adapt to the stereotype of a rock star, and appears visibly repulsed by the entire concept.
“I don’t go on holidays and I don’t socialise. I hate small speak. I hate hanging out or going to a bar,” he says, positively grimacing on the prospect. “I’ve had singers who actually needed to hang around, like Bob Catley who was like ‘Hey! The place lets go?’ and I needed to say ‘No man, I don’t exit, I’m a recluse, I’m essentially the most boring particular person on the planet’.”
Whether or not it’s the results of a divorce that left him depressed and affected by anosmia (the shortcoming to odor), or the hedonism of his days in 80s Dutch metallic band Vengeance, however Lucassen has a ‘still-waters-run deep’ high quality mirrored in his airtight way of life and quest for perfection.
“I’m actually insecure and I assume that’s what makes me a perfectionist,” he admits. “Individuals name me a genius, however I do know I’m not as a result of I’ve labored with so many geniuses like Thijs van Leer of Focus or Fish or Russell Allen [Symphony X]. They’re geniuses. It’s superb, after I work with them, they humble me.”
One half delicate introvert to 2 components proficient control-freak, the six-foot seven-inch tall Dutchman could be modest however his work speaks for itself. A wander round his house reveals extra: his storage studio the place, he ‘jokes’, he lived when nonetheless along with his ex-wife; the studio overlooking the swimming pool; the workplace the place he tries to answer personally to each message he will get via Fb. As for future plans?
“I by no means plan forward. After an album I’m utterly empty. I’m hoping it is going to be one other Ayreon. However all I can do is anticipate inspiration to come back. Solely time can inform.”
This text initially appeared in problem 26 of Prog Journal.