(Leia AQUI a versão em português)
Following the release of another Ayreon album, many was the expectation of what will be the next step of the tireless and brilliant Arjen Lucassen, and in early 2014 the Dutch composer announced a joint project with his compatriot Anneke, which caused great euphoria among their fans. The duo worked together several times already, and I even thought inevitable and also essential that one day they would release and album together.
Well, after a year of studio work, the album was officially released on march 23, 2015, presents some novelties, such as various instruments that Arjen used, creating a whole atmosphere, a real soundtrack for the story told on the album. Furthermore, the fact that he virtually dividing all the work with somebody, something which is not part of his usual.
In an informal interview with the always friendly Arjen, we talk about another great piece of art, some curiosities during the album's songwriting process, the partnership with Anneke (and, as Arjens sayd, "she has magical powers!"), who already has a long history, series and movies (one of the great Arjen’s passions, already he likes to be kinf of "reclusive" and also does not like to follow the news, because "only bring bad news") and more!
RtM: Well, the album with Anneke was a desire of many fans, and something I believed was inevitable one day, and expected much so, and so when it was announced The Gentle Storm, was a motive to celebrate!! I believe you also knew it was something that inevitably happen, and besides, it's something different from what you've done until now, right?
Arjen Lucassen: Thanks, good to hear that! Yes, I really feel it’s quite different from anything I’ve done before. Nevertheless my style of writing is still quite recognisable I guess.
RtM: And perhaps you should have had little doubt as would conceive this album, dividing the compositions, and how the fans will receive the album?
AL: Oh, it’s always scary what the fans will think. But I have to accept that I can’t please all of the people all of the time. This album isn’t very proggy or very heavy, so people expecting that could be disappointed. I feel that the melodies are stronger than I’ve ever written them though.
RtM: I also believe it must have been something very spontaneous, or you had been thinking it was time to do this work with Anneke?
AL: I started the project of the two different styles (acoustic and orchestral) before Anneke was involved. But when she did get involved, the project took a whole new turning, which was indeed a very spontaneous process.
RtM: About the creation and production of the album, how were the first steps of its creation, the idea of how it would sound or the concept, and how you were shaping these compositions and fitting everything?
AL: I worked very different than on my other albums. I first composed and recorded all the tracks with just orchestral sounds: double bass, cello, violins and horns. Then I recorded the heavy (Storm) version and lastly the acoustic (Gentle) version.
RtM: Anneke wrote the lyrics based on letters written in the seventeenth century, who found in her attic. What did you think about the idea when she told you to use the letters on album concept? I see that the album ended up being pretty much a true story, and historical facts included.
AL: Basically we came up with the story together. It was her idea to do a love story, and my idea to set it in the 17th century and base it on letters between two lovers. The original story is not based on a real story, but coincidentally we found out that someone had written a book about this so at some point we involved him in the process. Indeed he checked and added all the historic facts. He happened to be a big fan of our music!
AL:Yes indeed! We never argue, we just inspire each other and build on each others ideas.
RtM: I see the fans, and of course you, are very happy with the album, and you also have made several promotional activities such as videos, trips to promote the CD and the release party, including you participating in the show. I see you have invested, and also had fun, rather that part. I see something that also has the hand of Anneke, what made you come out of your personal routine, or as you say, get out of your "bubble" hehehe! Very Good!
AL: Yes, Anneke managed to do that, she has magical powers! But having said that, I’m very happy to be back inside my safe little bubble again!
RtM: And how did the idea of making the two versions? The version "Storm" and the "Gentle" version for the songs?
AL: I asked the fans on Facebook what style of music they would like to hear from me next. The most popular styles in the poll were heavy and folky. But instead of combining them, I decided to seperate them. It was a big challenge for me to do that, I’m always looking for challenges.
RtM: You have used very different instruments on the album, and in versions "Folk", the result was wonderful, but I believe that must have given a lot of work! Tell us a bit to us about how you were choosing the instruments in order to properly fit the soundtrack of the story. Then there's the fact that this time you resisted and did not put the Hammond on this album! hehehe!
AL: Yes, the Gentle album was a LOT of work, much more than the Storm album. I just told all the musicians to bring as many instruments as they could play, and we’d figure out very spontaneously in the studio what to record with them! And yes, it was another challenge not to use any of my favorite anolog keyboards on this album... and I succeeded!
RtM: I love the Stream of Passion and Star One DVDs, and I certainly the fans would love a new DVD/BLU-RAY featuring songs from The Gentle Storm and of the other albums. It's possible? I believe that a crowdfunding action would have a very good response from the fans!
AL: Yes, that is definitely an option. The band is really amazing. The first time I saw them I had goosebumps all over my body and tears in my eyes!
RtM: It's still early, but you already think in continuing the Gentle Storm, and do more albums in the future?
AL: I would love to, but it will all depend on the success of this album, so if people want to hear more. The thing is, I have so many other projects that a lot of fans are also waiting for, and I can only do one at the time! So I have to set priorities.
RtM: And after this promotion period and have also spent a year working on the album, will you take time to rest or already are thinking in a next album?
Arjen: I hate resting, it makes me very restless! So I hope the inspiration will return fast, I’d love to start working on a new project as soon as possible. I do have some basic idea, but as always I keep changing my mind.
RtM: And about the results of the most recent Ayreon álbum, "The Theory of Everything"? You even said once that Ayreon perhaps would not be financially viable in the future, but surprised again with “The Theory...” in 2013 all the fans and music critics, who certainly expect new albums! oh, and you watched the movie "The Theory of Everything", about the life of Stephen Hawkins?
AL: Oh, I would never stop with Ayreon, it’s my favorite baby! I did watch the movie, I liked the first half but then I slowly lost interest. Quite an okay movie though. Stephen Hawking rules!
RtM: About “The Theory of Everything”, in my opinion, finally Cristina Scabbia had a chance to sing compositions in the height to her potential. Not that I do not like some things on Lacuna Coil’s work, but I think she has potential for much more.
AL: Oh yes, she’s amazing. A very emotional person and singer. She really became a friend of mine.
RtM: And talking about female singers, and you “discovered” and also gave opportunity to many new singers, many who were beginning their careers, i want to know your opinion about people use the term "Female Fronted Band", if is a positive or negative thing.
AL: Well, I guess that within the female fronted metal style there are many different bands who don’t even sound like each other! So in that repects it’s not good.
RtM: And your favorite series, have been able to keep up? Which ones have called more your attention currently? I watched the first season of "The Strain" and was pretty cool.
AL: I don’t know "The Strain", thanks for the tip! Well, I’m now watching a UK series called "In The Flesh", about zombies who are cured and return to society. It’s very warm and deep, I’m enjoying it! I’m also watching "Justified", completely different but pretty good too. I was disappointed by the 2nd season of "Broadchurch". But I’m looking forward to watching season 5 from "Walking Dead", and the Breaking Bad follow-up Better call Saul! And waiting for "Game of Thrones" of course.
RtM: Arjen, thank you for the attention and your time, and also thank you for another great album! All the best to you, Lori and, of course, to Hoshi!
AL: You’re very welcome, my pleasure! Hugs from all of us here, and a high five from Hoshi!
Interview: Carlos Garcia
Interview: Carlos Garcia