» Arjen Lucassen - Ayreon
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Interview conducted February 02 2017
Interview published April 14 2017

"I call it the black hole period, without any ideas, without any inspiration."

Ayreon puts out its new record, The Source, on April 28th and Metal Covenant got on the line with the troop's director
Arjen Lucassen for just his second interview in this cycle. Accordingly, he was very eager to talk about his latest creation, which lyrically is a new chapter around the story on the 2008 record 01011001.

Even if Arjen is an honest, happy and open man over a wire he surely isn't a man that is often seen outside his home since many years back, so when he announced 3 Ayreon gigs, coming in September 2017 at the 013 in Tilburg, his long-time fans could probably not believe their eyes and all shows very instantly sold-out.

"I've become a better composer and I've become a better producer, but not a better guitar player. No way! 'Cause I don't touch that guitar. I only grab it to record. That's the only thing I do with it. The solos you hear, they are totally studio tricks. It's note for note almost. I'm not gonna lie about it."

The Source lineup:

Arjen Lucassen: Vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
Ed Warby: Drums

Marcel Coenen: Lead guitars
Paul Gilbert: Lead guitars
Guthrie Govan: Lead guitars
Maaike Peterse: Cello
Joost van den Broek: Piano
Mark Kelly: Synthesizer
Ben Mathot: Violin
Jeroen Goossens: Wind instruments


Russell Allen (The President)
Michael Eriksen (The Diplomat)
Floor Jansen (The Biologist)
Tommy Karevik (The Opposition Leader)
Hansi Kürsch (The Astronomer)
James LaBrie (The Historian)
Michael Mills (TH-1)
Tommy Rogers (The Chemist)
Nils K. Rue (The Prophet)
Tobias Sammet (The Captain)
Simone Simons (The Counselor)
Zaher Zorgati (The Preacher)

Tobbe: So Arjen, a new Ayreon record and on this one you revisit an old theme, lyrically, so tell us a little bit about the story's content on The Source.

Arjen: Well, I know I once said that I would never do a part 2. I would never revisit the story again, 'cause the story was getting so complicated. Really, I swear, I had to ask fans, you know "What happened there?" and "What was the connection between this and that?". So it got really confusing and that's why I did The Theory Of Everything [2013]. It was not connected to the whole Ayreon Forever/Planet Y story. It was a completely stand-alone story.

So yeah, all that time I thought I would do a part 2 to The Theory Of Everything, until basically I saw the artwork. I just turned it around this time. Usually I do the artwork at the very last moment. You know, find artwork that fits the story. I'm always looking for challenges. I always wanna do something new. I hate to repeat myself, so I thought "Wouldn't it be cool if I first go looking for artwork and then let the artwork inspire me?". Yeah, I saw that image of the girl and the cables and underwater and it made me think, like "I would love to go back to sci-fi.". I love sci-fi and "What if this girl belongs to the Forever race?", you know, and "What if the Forever race was human once?". I thought that would be a very cool idea and before I knew it I was going back to the complicated story. [Laughs]

But it's actually a prequel, so it's before the whole story and the title The Source refers to the source of mankind, so "Where does mankind come from?". A lot of scientists always say that it's very possible that the DNA of mankind hitched a ride on a comet or a meteorite. It's a big possibility that, you know, our life comes from somewhere else. So basically I'm building on that premise.

Tobbe: You have divided the album into 4 different chronicles, so what does each part stand for?

Arjen: Well, I wrote this album as a vinyl album. I really wanted it to be 4 vinyl sides, you know. That's the way I enjoyed music when I was a kid. And that's the way you had to, you know. You put the needle in the groove and you had to listen from the beginning to the end. Which was cool, you know. There was no fast forwarding or skipping or whatever. I really wanted to go back to that feel. So, I didn't wanna make it too long and I had that limit of 22 minutes per side. My albums are like one big story and they're all connected and each album side is a part of the story.

So, chronicle 1 is called The Frame, which is short for mainframe, so it's the mainframe on planet Alpha. That's where it all starts, planet Alpha. They instructed the frame to solve all the ecological problems on the planet. You know, they're facing the same problems that we are facing. And basically the computers, or the machines, or the frame, or whatever you wanna call it, came to the conclusion that the real problem was the people, you know. It was the humans, or the Alphans in this case. So they just decide to shut everything down on the planet, which is disastrous, 'cause people in the future are totally depending on technology and electricity and the internet and whatever. They close everything down, which means that the planet is erupting in chaos.

You know, there's total chaos on the planet and the worst thing is that they've got this quantum core, which has to be cooled, and if it isn't cool it will explode, which is not good, of course. [Laughs] So they decide that the only way to preserve the Alphan race is just to leave the planet. That's the only thing that they can do, but they've never really prepared for this. Like basically on Earth, you know, where they stopped going to the moon and they stopped space exploration with the NASA. So, they only had one ship, which is called the Starship, where they could leave, so it's a horrible decision, like "OK. Who is gonna go on this ship?" and, you know "You can go, but your wife can't go.". It's terrible. They're tearing families apart. Basically my stories are sci-fi stories, but they're always about human interaction and they're always about feelings, emotions, you know. There's never good and bad either. I mean, this frame is not bad. Their solution to the problem is "OK. Let's shut everything down.". They don't mean bad and there's no good and bad in technology in general. So yeah, that's the first chronicle.

The second chronicle is called The Aligning Of The Ten and that's basically the 10 singers who get together and they discuss "What are we gonna do? How are we gonna leave? Where are we gonna go?", etc, etc. I know that there are 11 singers, but the 11th is TH-1, who is like an android, a trans-human, T.H., who is still loyal to the humans, so he's not loyal to the frame. Actually there are 12 singers, but Zaher [Zorgati] has just a very small part, unfortunately, 'cause he just didn't have the time to come over. Basically there are the backing singers too, so there are 16 singers. [Laughs] Yeah, they get together and the cocky captain, who is of course Tobias [Sammet], knew that this was coming all along, so he says that he has got this ship, the Starship, The astronomer, Hansi Kürsch, found a planet somewhere and the biologist, Floor [Jansen], decided that it was a good planet to go to. So now they have to get to the Starship and it's chaos, you know. Everyone is on the streets and fighting and it's a horrible situation there, so Run! Apocalypse! Run! is a song where they have to get through this crowd to the spaceship.

Chronicle 3 is The Transmigration and it's basically where they leave in the spaceship and they find out that the planet they're going to is a water planet. So they're going to have to get used to living underwater, because the sun there, which is called Sirrah, is too close. It's just a deadly sun. It's deadly radiation, so they have to live underwater. So during the travel they have to adjust to living underwater and the chemist onboard, which is Tommy Rogers, invented this drug, Liquid Eternity, which I already introduced on my album 01 [01011001. Binary code for the letter Y] [2008], which enables them to live underwater and also communicate with each other.

And then you get the 4th chronicle. It's called The Rebirth and that's when they get to the Planet Y and they have to adapt to a completely new life. So, it's a genuine science fiction story. I don't wanna teach people anything or I don't want messages to be in there. It's just a sci-fi story. I base it more on science than on fiction, like "What could happen?". But I'm not saying technology is bad, 'cause I love technology and I'm a big science freak, so that's not what I'm saying. It's just what people do with it, you know.

Tobbe: The album is almost 90 minutes long and that's indeed a lot of music to imbibe and suck in, so do fans in this day and age kind of have the patience and time to sit down and carefully listen to such a long record?

Arjen: It's amazing, 'cause, as you may know, I put this one track online, The Day That The World Breaks Down and it's 13 minutes. And you know, I was talking to people and they say "You're crazy, man!". I mean, I go to YouTube and I look at the clip for like 14 seconds, maybe 15, and it's like you can just click to the next. And then on the right you see all those suggestions and "Oh, this seems more interesting." and you keep clicking. So I was thinking like "13 minutes. Who is gonna be crazy enough to look at the whole thing?", but that's the message I wanna do, you know, and people have to have patience, people should relax, people should dive into the story and take their time, you know.

Like going back to the vinyl again, you know, and put the needle in the groove and sit it out. So yeah, to my surprise people weren't just watching it once, but they were watching it like 20 times. And within a week it was over 200000 views, which is a lot for me, because I'm not Metallica, you know. So I was really surprised about how people dove into the story and how they sat out the whole clip. It sounds so corny, but I really think I have the best fans in the world, you know. I built this up in the last 20 years of course, but I'm really, really happy with it.

Tobbe: Yeah, I think your fans are indeed committed to what you do.

Arjen: It's amazing. And it's all positive, you know. If you go on YouTube nowadays, whatever band you look at, it's all these comments and people are screaming at each other and "I'll kill you!" and "Fuck you!", but here it's all positive, you know. It's like totally positive and there's just a few thumbs down, but hey, you always get that. But people are so positive and I love to spread this positivity. I love it.

Tobbe: You know, to make your creations require a lot of time and, like, careful consideration and planning, so how are you able to keep the inspiration going through the whole cycle? You know, from idea and songwriting to a finished product.

Arjen: It's total concentration. It's not doing anything else. Which I can, 'cause I don't have a family. I don't have kids. I lead a very reclusive life together with Lori [Linstruth], my partner. I don't have any friends. It sounds sad [Laughs], but I don't have any friends. Well, I've got friends, you know, but I'm not a social person. I don't go visiting friends, or I don't go out, or I don't go out eating. Once a year I go to the cinema, you know, 'cause the new Star Wars is playing over there. But apart from that I'm really like a boring fucker, you know. [Laughs]

It's all music, so once I started this project, and this time I saw the artwork, my mind is working like day and night, all the time, and the story is forming. I've had this all my life. Already as a kid I was always dreaming up these stories. So yeah, it's just total concentration. If I can't concentrate it's hell and nothing comes out. But once I can concentrate and have like a clear vision everything goes well. This album is more inspired than my previous album, The Theory Of Everything, because I just had the vision from the beginning and each day I couldn't wait to go back in the studio and add stuff and add things to the story. So yeah, that's how it goes.

Tobbe: So do you feel that you, during this long time of production, kind of get stuck or kind of hit a dead end sometimes?

Arjen: No, no, no. "The stuck" is afterwards. "The stuck" is now. Once an album is over I can not dive into another album. That's when the horrible stuck period starts. I call it the black hole period, without any ideas, without any inspiration. This album, I've been working on it for one and a half years, sucked everything out of me. And then I'm empty and then nothing new comes, and that's horrible. You know, 10 years ago I was like "Oh. This is it. Nothing is ever gonna come out again.", but by now I know that eventually inspiration will return. So I just sit it out. It's still a horrible period, you know, when not having inspiration. But I know I have to go through it and I know that I can climb out again.

Tobbe: You probably need that rest too from music, even if you're not aware of it.

Arjen: Maybe I need the rest, but I don't want the rest. [Laughs] Really, I don't want it. I hate it and I don't know what to do with it. You know, I'm too one-track minded. If we go back to where we said that it's all music, and when that's gone, all I can do is listen to other music and watch TV series and shit, but you can't do that all day. You know, that's not in my system, so I don't know if I need the rest. I would rather not have it. Of course you have to recharge the battery. It is necessary; I know that.

Tobbe: Are you sometimes a little bit concerned about kind of borrowing stuff from yourself or even coming out a little bit repetitive without being aware of it and do the same stuff again?

Arjen: I'm not afraid of it, but yeah, of course it happens. You know, how many albums did I make? I don't know. Well, ever since I was 19, which was in 1979, I've been making albums and most definitely I am repeating myself. I really don't notice it and I don't know it. And once I start being afraid of it I would get paranoid and not do anything, so I try not to do that.

But there was this girl on Twitter a couple of days ago, saying "Hey! That riff in The Day That The World Breaks Down is the same riff as a song with Star One." and I was like "Really?". So I checked and it was like "Oh shit! That's really close.". [Laughs] It's not exactly the same. It will never be exactly the same. But I think that's what music is and that's what art is, you know. It's just you can't invent anything new anymore. Everything has been done and it's just the same art in a little bit of a different form.

I mean, you can hear my inspirations in my music. You can hear [Ritchie] Blackmore, you can hear [Pink] Floyd, [Led] Zeppelin and all the prog stuff. It just shines through and I never understand all those bands that clearly sound like Floyd and "No, no. We're not inspired by Floyd. No. We like King Crimson." and I'm like "I can't hear it.", you know. Lori always calls it "Just own it. Just admit it. And be clear, like 'Hey! Those are my influences and you can hear it.'" and "There you go. Like it or not.".

Tobbe: I think people are well enough satisfied with that explanation and I don't think people really care about it when you say it like you do.

Arjen: Well, maybe if you're really repeating yourself and if there's nothing new. And that's why I, with each album, try to do something different. Like this time and start with the artwork or with The Theory Of Everything that was totally different where I just went to the studio without any ideas and started recording and just added little bits to a song and then I ended up with 4 long songs of 20 minutes by just adding stuff. That was a completely different way of working and I think that way kept it fresh for myself and the fans. But yeah, my style and my sound are just there, and when it's Ayreon it's Ayreon, you know, and if it's not Ayreon I call it Gentle Storm, or I call it Star One, or Stream Of Passion, or Ambeon, and that's why I have all those side projects, so.

Tobbe: A lot of the artists, and the singers especially, on The Source have made an appearance on Ayreon records before and have you kind of run out of people good enough for your records by now and, apart from that the story is a prequel, therefore have to invite the same guests once again?

Arjen: Well, lots of times I had the rule, like with The Human Equation and like with The Theory Of Everything, that I could only work with new singers, you know. Again, to do something different. Again, to keep it fresh for myself. But you're kind of limiting yourself when you make all these rules and I didn't wanna limit myself this time. That was the rule this time "Let's not limit ourselves.". And it was simply like "OK. I got this part here. Damn it! That has to be Tommy Karevik. That's the guy who can sing it, but I've already worked with him. What the hell! It has to be him.". And at some point I was like "I don't care. I want the best this time and I don't care if I've worked with them or haven't worked with them.".

And also, a reason to work with new singers all the time is of course to reach a new audience. You know, if you ask a new singer, who's never been on an Ayreon record, fans of this singer will check out the music, like "What's Ayreon?". So that's a good thing to do that. But, again, that's commercial thinking and I didn't want that this time. But yeah, to answer your question: It is true, you know. There aren't that many singers left that I haven't worked with. [Laughs] And there are lots of people that suggest singers, but if I don't have any personal bond with the singer, no matter how good he is, then I would not ask someone.

I wouldn't just ask someone because it's a big name. I need to have a personal bond with the singer and at one point I asked the fans on facebook, like "Who would you like me to work with?" and I think I got 7000 answers there and believe it or not, together with Lori, we sat all day and we wrote down all those names. Really! So I got a Top 200 here, of the favorite singers of the fans. I want people to like my music, you know, so it's important for me what they want.

Again, other people who say like "I don't give a shit what people want. I do what I want."… It's bullshit, you know. Everyone wants people to like their music. Come on, you know. So I base my choices on what people want and then I add some personal things or I give new talent a chance, like Michael Mills. Not too many people know Michael Mills, but he's so amazing that I want the world to see, you know.

Tobbe: How many singers have come to you, now and in the past, and asked if they could take part in one of your records?

Arjen: It's getting more and more and that's fantastic of course. It's a luxury position. When I started I had to fight for each singer or offer insane amounts of money. [Laughs] Yeah, I did it, man, and luckily I did it, because I built up a base that way. But it's a luxury position now and people notice that singers on Ayreon records get a lot of attention. I don't know if you follow this on facebook, but I did this guessing game thing where I put up an audio fragment of the singer and people had to guess who it was and, you know, there were like hundreds of thousands of people playing that game. And at some point, the next day, I divulged the singer with an image and this singer gets a lot of attention that way. So yeah, a lot of singers are like "Hey, man! I want that too.".

Tobbe: So how are you able to get all these people onboard? I mean, it must fit their schedule as well.

Arjen: Yeah, it's a difficult question to answer, 'cause it's different for each singer, you know. Some ask me, some I have to really chase, some I have to try to get via other musicians or via record companies or via managers. Sometimes it's really hard, sometimes it's really easy. It's different for each singer, so there's no conclusive answer to that.

Tobbe: It's definitely a varied and diverse record, with elements of a little bit different styles of music and instruments and is it important to you that every bit of the record has its own identity, kind of?

Arjen: I like the eclecticity. Is that even a word? [Laughs] But I've always liked that, you know. Like bands like Led Zeppelin where I didn't like them as a rock band, but they had those funky songs like The Battle Of Evermore and they had the ballad Stairway To Heaven and they had like a heavy song like Immigrant Song and they had all of these different styles and that's what I liked about it. I want music to be adventurous. And stuff like AC/DC, I know how good it is and I totally get it why people like it, but it's not just my thing. I have to get into this adventure, story-wise, but also musically. I wanna go from one atmosphere to another one. So yeah, a heavy part to a funky part, to an acoustic part, to an electronic part, and I love that. And I love doing it too of course.

Tobbe: And it keeps the record like viable and alive.

Arjen: I think so, yeah. I mean, for some people it will be tiresome. Or the many singers. You know, if there were negative comments it was people like "Why not just one singer? I can't handle all these voices.". Yeah, I understand that. I totally understand it, but then my music is not for them, so.

Tobbe: And the story builds through different characters all the time and of course a new voice has to be for each character.

Arjen: True! I didn't do that on the first Ayreon record [The Final Experiment, 1995], 'cause I was just too limited back then and I didn't have all these singers who wanted to work with me. I think that one character is like sung by three different singers. [Laughs] It's kind of a mess there, but yeah, that's the way it goes, you know. People often say "Why don't you just tour with one singer?" and it's like "Yeah, it's like doing Jesus Christ Superstar and you just have Judas.", you know.

Tobbe: About the live concerts coming this fall. They're the first Ayreon gigs that you will be in full control of personally and why was the timing right at this point to do this?

Arjen: Well, we did The Theater Equation [September 2015], as you may know. It was 4 theater shows and they sold out within no time on facebook. They were not arranged by me; they were arranged by our former manager [Yvette Boertje] and she made a mess of it. She made a total mess of it. Nothing was arranged and it was one, one big mess. And the last week I finally got involved, 'cause I was not allowed to get involved before, and I had to, like, fix everything and Joost [van den Broek], who did the music [Musical director], fixed everything and in the last week we had to get it all together. Some of the singers didn't even know they had to act, you know. They came, and like "Really? I have to act? I have to wear a suit?".

It was a mess, but then, you know, we did it! At the last moment we got it all together. Like an hour before the audience came in we were still setting up the light show and setting up the stage. And it was a big success. People loved it, people were crying and then Joost and I said to each other "Wooh, man. This thing, that was really, really badly arranged was a big success and it was sold out 4 times. What if we do this right? What if we start setting it up 2 years before and make it perfect?". It was just too big of a challenge for me not to do that. I will not be in the band myself, so I will not be playing, 'cause it's not just my thing. But the show is totally my thing and I'm working on it and it's a good way to avoid the black hole this time.

So I'm working on the setlist now and who's gonna sing what and who's gonna play what. I wanna make this perfect. I wanna make this like a once in a lifetime experience for everyone, which it could be, and people are expecting a lot. So yeah, we set it up and we've had lots of meetings and we have this whole team set up, which is good 'cause The Theater Equation was just one woman, you know, who fucked it up. Yeah, so in this big team here everyone has his own task. So we made this whole thing and like "That can't be too expensive." and "How do we do this, man?" and then we set it up and we just started the presale and, well, as you may know, within a day all 3 shows, which is 9000 tickets, were gone.

And we really, really did not expect that. Not at all, 'cause I was thinking "When I'm doing promotion for the album, like I'm doing with you now, I can mention the Ayreon Universe and get some people there.". That's what my thinking was, you know, like "I got a year to fill it up.", but that year was done within a day, so.

Tobbe: Of course a lot of fans will definitely hope for more shows coming now and what would stop you from doing a couple of festivals with maybe fewer people in the Ayreon lineup? Because it would be impossible to involve everybody of course.

Arjen: Well, the only point would be that I'm not playing and I'm not sure if a festival is interested if I'm not there, you know. It's like Ayreon, but no Arjen, and I would have to be involved and it's just I don't want that life anymore and before you know it you get sucked in and you do this and you do that and that whole life starts all over again. And I'm so happy the way I am. I just want to be home. I'm a boring fucker.

Tobbe: But I reckon that you'd only have to play like one song.

Arjen: Still then, you have to travel and you have to be in hotels and all the stuff that I really, really, truly, truly hate. The only reason I would do it is for the fans. Not for myself, not for the money. I don't have to do it for the money; I've got plenty. It's just I don't want that life anymore. But yeah, maybe like a festival should be possible, 'cause once we got this set up we have a band who knows the songs and that's a good thing, you know.

And like you said, we can use other singers, 'cause we'll never get these 16 singers together. The only way I can do these shows is because I started 2 years in advance. More than a year ago I contacted them and a lot of the singers were like "Hey man! That's 2 years from now. I don't know what I'm gonna do then. Go away!" and I was like "Yeah, but I need to know now and you have to keep that date free.".

Tobbe: I totally understand that happiness is more important than coming out playing if you really don't want to.

Arjen: Well. It's not creative, you know. It's just traveling, and waiting, and arranging, and logistics. In my studio, you know "Oh. I got this great idea. Let's do this! Let's put this sound there!". That's what I wanna do. That's what I like.

Tobbe: And tours are for people who really like to tour.

Arjen: Yeah. And I don't get it. I don't get it at all. But having said that; when I started out, when I was like 20, I loved it, you know. It was fantastic and it was like your dream coming true, but after 10 years of touring it was already like "What am I doing here? I feel like a clown. I feel like an actor.". Same songs every night and being with a lot of terrible people who were drunk, and all the drugs.

Tobbe: And still you were young then. What if it would be coming back now? It would be even more terrifying, I guess.

Arjen: Yeah. It's more terrifying, 'cause your body doesn't wanna do everything anymore, and I got sleeping problems; I got big sleeping problems. I already had it when I was touring. Just not sleeping for 4 weeks. And then you have to take sleeping pills and then sleeping pills give you headaches, so you have to take Aspirin. And then you're really tired again. It's a vicious circle, really.

Tobbe: A different question. About your guitar playing. I'm skipping from one side to another now. If you look at the last couple of years, do you personally think that you're still becoming a better musician all the time or have you kind of reached a certain maximum level already years ago?

Arjen: I've become a better composer and I've become a better producer, but not a better guitar player. No way! 'Cause I don't touch that guitar. I only grab it to record. That's the only thing I do with it. The solos you hear, they are totally studio tricks. [Laughs] It's note for note almost. I'm not gonna lie about it. I grab that guitar and I start playing, and it hurts and I get blisters, 'cause I never touch the thing. I tell people and they don't believe me and they say "Oh, you're just humble." and "I'm not humble at all, man. I'm not a good guitar player.". I had Marcel Coenen in my studio for the solo on The Dream Dissolves and he was playing his solo and I was looking at it and I was like "Oh - my - God! This is happening in front of my eyes.". It was so good and even if I would practice for a hundred years I would never be that good.

Tobbe: Well, let him play the solos then. Easy as that.

Arjen: Yeah. Well, I just play one solo, I think, on the album and then I got people like Guthrie Govan and "Oh my God!", man. So incredibly good. So, as a musician I'm definitely not getting better. I don't know, but maybe as a composer I don't get better either. But as a producer I definitely get better. Every time I do an album I learn more about where to put mics, or what speakers to use, or how to record drums, how to mix drums and how to get the best out of singers. I get better at that all the time. So yeah, that's definitely getting better.

Tobbe: Even though you told me you enter a black hole after this process, and your work with the Ayreon record is soon to be finished, what will be going on with your side projects in the coming years, like in late 2017 and in 2018? Will we get something there and do you have any idea or anything?

Arjen: I always have ideas and I always have plans, and I never stick to it. So I'm not gonna tell you. Really. Mostly, I always wanna start with a solo album, especially after an Ayreon album, 'cause, I tell you, man, getting all these singers is hell. It's hell, you know. Some of them are really easy and wanna do it, but then actually getting them to do it is months and months of hell. You know, there's 12 singers you hear on the album, but when I start an album I approach 40 singers and I'm discussing composition with those 40 singers. So, half of them don't work out.

You know, it's like work, work for months, months, months until at the last moment it's "No, I can't do it then." and "Yeah, but I wrote this part especially for you.". You know, it's horrible, so after each Ayreon album it's always like "Let's do a solo album.", you know. Play all the instruments and sing everything myself. So that's how each project starts, so if you ask me now I would say I wanna do a solo album. But then I start writing the songs and then I'm like "Oh, my God! I can't sing this. But Anneke [van Giersbergen] could, so let's ask Anneke.". And then "Yeah, but there's this part that would sound better with Jonas Renkse's voice and let's ask him.".

So before you know it it's like "Oh, I've got 2 singers now, so what project will this be?". So that's how it goes, you know. Again, I try not to limit myself, and I just open up and keep changing and keep adapting. So yeah, if you ask me about side projects I have no idea what it will merge into. I never know. I got my plans, but they never work out, so. [Laughs]

Tobbe: About the The Source album again. Why should someone, specifically, spend their money on an Ayreon record in 2017 and not on someone else's record?

Arjen: 'Cause you can dive into this whole story, you know. If you buy this album you're gonna get a beautiful package, with beautiful artwork, and you're gonna put it on and you're gonna dream away. You can read the lyrics and you can become part of the story. And the cast is amazing, the musicians are amazing, all the singers are amazing and you get the best out of all these bands on one album, you know. You like Dream Theater? You like Pagan's Mind? You like Circus Maximus? You like Blind Guardian? Well, here you go, man. You got it all in one. [Laughs]

But I think it's the whole package. It's not some rock 'n' roll band where you just get a couple of songs and you get artwork that is just a photo of the band. It's a whole experience and I think that's why my music is popular. And that's also, weirdly enough, the reason why my music is not more popular. Why it's not huge, you know. 'Cause a lot of people just want a simple rock song or a simple pop song. So yeah, that's why I have a small, but very loyal fanbase, which I really, really prefer to "Here today, gone later today.", you know.

Tobbe: Yeah, like we said, your fans are loyal to what you do. And I think having loyal fans is like a cornerstone about being a musician.

Arjen: Absolutely. 'Cause they stick with you and they tell you the truth as well if they don't like it. You learn from them all the time and that's why I'm so active on the internet. I try to answer everyone who contacts me. But in those posts it's hard, you know. If you have like 5000 you can't… But yeah, I just learn from them and I love to be in touch with them.

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