Star One

Interview date

21 Septembre 2010




Interview Arjen Lucassen (by phoners)

Have you ever thought about not persuing Star One because it took so long to release this new album and because the members have other projects that can take all their time?

That's not really the reason it took so long for this album. I think it's mainly because I'm always doing different projects, I'm always looking for new challenges. After the first Star One album, a lot of things happened you know. I did two Ayreon album, a Guilt Machine album, a Stream of Passion album... As I'm always looking for new challenges and as I hate to copy myself and do the same thing twice... So that's the reason it took so long to do a second Star Ones' album. Indeed, all the musicians are really busy with their own projects, Floor is playing with ReVamp, Russell is recording a Symphony X album. But I know they really like my music and they love working with me, so I know that if I call them, they will always be able to take some time off for me.

You said on "Space Metal" that it was very magic and you were not sure to have this kind of magic on a second album. So what convinced you to do "Victims Of The Modern Age"?

Basically, when I said that, I was more talking about the live tour. Because the live tour we've done was really magic. No one knew each other, so it was spontaneous. That was so magic that I thought: "If we have to tour again, will we be able to catch the same magic?". Maybe I had the same feeling on the first album. I was a bit afraid that I couldn't make an album as good as the first one. And I even thought about using different singers and different musicians. But I didn't do it for two reasons. The first one is that Ayreon is more my project with working with a lot of musicians. But Star One is more like a band. And the second reason is, I thought about it, but how do you replace these singers? You know Russell Allen is the best singer in the world. So who is gonna replace him? Or Floor, she is such a great singer. I can't imagine anyone being better than Floor Jansen or replace her. So I was thinking about that and I said "no, no". I think Star One is really this formation, with these singers and musicians. Basically I wanted to keep the same set-up, but get a better sound than on the first album.

You said that you don't want to repeat yourself, so what did you want to change or improve on this new album?

Well, the last album I did was the Guilt Machine one and it was a kind of orchestrated album, with very long songs, more atmospheric intros. And this album is completely different. The songs are shorter, I think they are catchier, there are a little bit easier. On Guilt Machine, everyone said "I had to hear it a couple of time before appreciated it", which is a good sign of course, this is a kind of album that you might enjoy longer. I guess I wanted to do an album that comes in your face, with chorus and catchy melodies. I did want to do an album on everybody can say "Hey I heard it, it's cool !" (Laughs) and not like "I have to get used to it". So it's a bit more straight forward and it's definitely heavier and also it's not as deep as Guilt Machine. Guilt Machine was very hard to follow, the music was hard to follow, the lyrics were very deep. And this is all easier, also the lyrics, to follow. It's based on movies. It a sort of escapism, it's not meant to make you think like Guilt Machine, but to make you rock! (Laughs).

As you said, the songs are really catchy and intense. Is it the reason why there are only nine songs on this album? If we don't speak of the songs which are on the second CD of the deluxe edition!

I think the attention of people minds nowadays is about forty to fifty minutes. That's how long I can listen to a band. I think seventy minutes is just too long. And I want to make a statement that I don't want to make an album too long. I wrote twelve songs, four of them just didn't fit with the other eight songs if we don't count the intro of the album. Those are really heavy and straight to the point and the other four songs, the bonus tracks are a little bit more experimental. Still they were too good for me to put them away. So I thought to do a second CD and put those in it and with different singers. But I think they are just as strong as the other eight, they are just different.

You were saying that you are inspired by movies. How did you get this idea?

It started with the first Star One album. The first album was going to be Bruce Dickinson and me. He listened to my Ayreon project and loved it. He contacted me and say he wanted to do an album together, in the style of the seventies like Deep Purple. So I wrote those twelve songs and sent them to him and he started write the lyrics. But then, I did something very stupid. I told to a couple of fans that I was working with Bruce, and fans put it on the internet before it was official. Bruce and his manager saw that and he was really angry like "Aaah, how can you talk about this ?!" and he cancelled the whole project. I was with twelve songs and no lyrics. I had no inspiration; I didn't know what to do. I just think "well, why don’t I see some different movies that I love". (Laughs). It was just easy and fun you know. So that's why I did it for the first time. And people loved it and were wondering on which films the song was based on. It worked, people were connected with that. And for the second album, I just thought I could continue with this concept, based my lyrics on movies again, but different ones. On the first album, it was on space movies and this time, I choose a different topic: dystopian and post-apocalyptic movies.

I won't ask you which film inspired you for this new album because I know you don't want to say that!

(Laughs). It's good for people to figure it out. It's kind of fun! But I know in a couple of months, every one will know!

Is it easier or harder to write about films than about other subjects?

On the first hand, it's easier because you don't have to think about the topic, you don't have to think about what you will be able to write. The question "what am I gonna write about?" is the hardest question! You don't have to think about it because you know you are going to write about "that" movie. So that's the simple part. But the hard part is "how can I write about this movie, being interesting, without telling the story?" I think on the first Star One album, I was just like telling to people what is happening in the film and that's it. When I wrote the song about Star Trek, I was like : "ok, Captain Kirk is saying that, Spock is saying that and the song is over!" (Laughs). I didn't want to do that this time. I wanted to take a certain feeling from a movie and concentrate on that. Like the last songs, "It All Ends Here" which is based on my favourite film Blade Runner. And people don't wanna that I just tell a story. So I took the aspects that interest me like it's about rebels which are called replicants and can only live for four years. They are very aggressive, they try to find the secret of living. I just tried to put myself in their place and ask myself "if you know you just have four years to live, would you be aggressive? How are you going to find out how to live longer?" It's really based on that, not just in telling a story and not giving each singer a character in the movie, but most based it on the feelings of the movies.

Did the singers agree with your feelings on the films and so the lyrics or were they a little bit reluctant to sing some songs because they didn't have the same point of view?

Of course, they didn't see all the movies based on it and of course I told them, each time we were working on a song, that the song was based on that or that movie. If they didn't know it, I explained it, like I said to Russell Allen "hey, you are Bruce Willis" and he was like "oh cool!" (laughs), "and then you are another person" "oh, yeah, I don't mind!". I did tell them what the lyrics were about and what their part in the song was. And everyone was cool with the lyrics. Everyone but Tony Martin. Tony Martin is singing a track on the second CD and he wasn't very happy with the lyrics. He thought that I was not really into it, so he changed the lyrics. He turned them on his own view on the movie. But he was the only one.

What is your favourite song on this album?

I really like "24 Hours". I think it's the most Aryeonish song on this album. I love when there are different moods in a song. And this song starts really softly with Damian singing very emotionally, and then you have the choirs (he sings) "you've got twenty four..." and it's very catchy and then in the middle you have this rock style piece (he imitates) "gragnagna" (laughs), which is cool and it goes to this very progy Ayreon song. So I really like that song. I also like the opening "Digital Rain". But I can't be objective about it, because right now, I love all the songs.

And for the audience, which one will it be?

I think people will like "Human See, Human Do". It's a very fast song and I know people like fast songs. It depends on what you like you know! If you like much slowed doom metal song, you will like "It All Ends Here", but then again if you don't like this kind of songs, it will be too long for you because this song is about nine minutes or something. So it can be too long. I heard many reactions from people, but I think there is a song for everyone, like "Earth That Was" is a really straight forward song based on the guitars, "Victims of The Modern Age" is a very melodic song. There is also this kind of pop song, with a kind of commercial chorus, but which is the catchiest song and on which Russell is singing perfectly, "Cassandra Complex". On "It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive", there is this bass in the beginning... I think there is enough so the listener can have its own favourite song.

And do you really think it was really too magic the first time or do you plan to do a tour?

It's an option to put it that way. We asked all the singers, if basically, they would be available and everyone said yes! Having all of them is going to be very hard, it's not just a tour, it needs rehearsal and stuff like that. They have their own bands like you said in the beginning so it's going to be very hard to get together and it's gonna be a lot of work to set it up, to rehearse... I remember the first time, I wanted to set it up and it was a lot of work and considering that touring is not really my passion, it's not really my dream. I'd prefer working in my studio and working on new things. If I would do it, I would really do it because of the fans, because people are asking me. There is this performance of two hours on stage, looking at the audience, seeing people who are enjoying themselves... It's beautiful, it's fantastic! I would just say it is an option, it could be done. I think, secretly, I'm waiting a little bit for more feedbacks . If feedbacks are really good and sound really well, than it makes sense to think about it!

According to you, who are the real victims of the modern age?

(Hesitant). It's a quote from the movie A Clock Orange which is a very, very heavy movie. And I have a couple options for this album, almost "It All Ends Here". I wonder the title to be representative for all the lyrics, for all the songs. "It All Ends Here", I was afraid that, if I call it like that, people get the wrong idea that it is my last album! (Laughs). I think "Victims Of The Modern Age" just makes sense and is representative for all the songs. It's all about that, things going wrong because of governments, or nuclear explosions or whatever... People always want to know my point of view, what I think about the future of mankind because I always write about that in Ayreon. But I just like fantasizing about it, thinking about what may happen in the future. I have no idea. I just know that a lot of things are going wrong and people think it's going faster and easier on the internet, but I'm not sure everything is getting better. I even think things are not getting better. Maybe that made us victims of the modern age because you get hooked on things... It's like recording you know. In the old, during the seventies, you had to record you song and that was it. Now you have these computer things, you can all fake it, you can tune the vocals. With the mouse, you can programm everything: drums, keyboards... You don't have to play anymore. Of course, things go on, but do they come nicer? I don't know. But you have the option! You can be focalized and not focussing on tunes... You have the option, because you are the victims of the modern age! (Laughs). You have to do it, you hooked.

It's not an optimistic point of view!

No, it's not, really not. But then again, if you know how to use technology, if you still the boss, that's hard, but it's good!

Do you have the same feelings with all your projects are do they all bring to you different impressions?

No, each a project is really different from the other and each project I do is a challenge as it has to be the best I have ever done!. I do admit that some projects are more for me and some projects are more for the fans. Take a project like Guilt Machine, it was really for me and I didn't think about what the fans want, I thinking: "what do I want?". Star One is more a project that people are asking me since the first album, "Please, make another one!". And I know people wanted another one. So it's more something that I feel the fans are waiting for. But then I enjoy it just as much as doing a Guilt Machine album. There is no difference. Just the fact of being creative makes me happy! It really doesn't matter what the project is. I have a complete freedom, there is no record company telling me what to do, I can do what I want. Every album I do, working on it, is giving me the same pleasure.

Now that this new Star One is about to be release, on which project will you work?

Well, as always, it's gonna be an reaction of the previous album which is of course a pretty heavy album, a pretty darker album... I actually promised myself to do a solo album. I've been promising myself about this album for the last ten years and I keep trying. The last Ayreon album was used to be a solo album, but suddenly it turn out to an Ayreon album, then Guilt Machine when I discover this great singer... I think that this time, I should really do it, I should not think about anything about what people want. Of course, people want to listen to a new Ayreon album; it's always what they want. And of course, I will do. But now, I should really do it. If I don't do it now, I will never do it! I'm fifty now, I noticed that a lot of singers, not that I see myself as a singer, slowly loosing their sparkle in their voice so I really think I should do it right now. Also, it's a big challenge, will I be able to do it all on my own? Because, on Star One, I had the help of the bests singers in the world, on Ayreon, I'm working with all this famous people... If I do it all on my own, can I do an interesting album? That's a big challenge for me, like proving that I can do it. I'm really looking forward to that! I will do it this time, it's a promise! Even if no one is ready for it, I will do it! (Laughs).

What can be the perfect final word for this interview?

(Hesitant) Buy the album! No, no, no it's not the perfect one! (Laughs). That's always a hard question! All I can say is if I can, and if the album succeeds very well, I will do my best to do a tour and visit France. I played there with Stream of Passion and I've always had this special feeling with France. All my holidays have always been in France, in Côte d'Azur, St Tropez, St Raphaël and all these places. And I'm sure that if we go on tour, we will come to France again. I'm looking forward to that, but I can't promise anything.

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