Arjen Lucassen's project AYREON has been a guarantor for large-scale concept albums revolving around science fiction themes for 25 years. His most important work to date is "Into The Electric Castle" (1998), which he finally brought to the stage last autumn. A recording of this grandiose concert event is now being released under the title "Electric Castle Live And Other Tales" as a 2CD+DVD, Blu-ray and opulent box set, among others
Interviews with Arjen Lucassen are always a pleasure, because the two-meter man is a grateful conversationalist who chats like a waterfall and has various funny anecdotes ready. He talked to eclipsed about the live realisation of "Into The Electric Castle", in which he was joined by guest stars such as Anneke van Giersbergen, Fish and Damian Wilson, just like in the studio
eclipsed: The new live album was recorded last year in Tilburg. Amazingly, the four shows were sold out within two days. Did you expect such a positive reaction or were you rather surprised?
Arjen Lucassen: When we did the three shows for "The Human Equation", of which the first two were immediately sold out, I was surprised. Then in 2017 we did the "Ayreon Universe" shows, and again three of them were sold out. At "The Electric Castle" someone said: "Let's do four shows" - and it worked!
eclipsed: As the four concerts, which were attended by fans from 64 countries, show, Ayreon now enjoy great international popularity. What is the recipe for success of "Into The Electric Castle"?
Lucassen: For one thing, the cover was very important - a real oil painting. On the other hand, many people like science fiction - the story is a great adventure, and the lyrics add an extra dimension to the music. Besides, there hadn't been anything similar for a long time. There was "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensrÿche, but it was not a real rock opera
eclipsed: When "Into The Electric Castle" came out in 1998, it was the first Ayreon album with an international line-up [before that Lori Linstruth and Lenny Wolf were the only non-Dutch people; note]. This was certainly good to get more media attention
Lucassen: Oh yes, that was very important. I tried to do that on the first album, but at that time nobody knew me. It was like: "Hey, Robert Plant, are you interested?" (laughs) Then on the second album I was a bit arrogant and said: "I don't need big names! But this album is a flop. (laughs) With the third album I knew: This time I have to do it right. The whole thing must be totally over the top. I needed big names and Fish was one of the first ones that came to my mind. It took about half a year, but then he called me and said (imitating a Scottish accent): "Hi, Arjen, this is Fish from Scotland!" I thought, "What the fuck?!" (laughs) I was also able to win Anneke van Giersbergen, who was in big business with The Gathering at the time. She never made guest appearances because her band didn't want that, but I could convince her - which was great, because now I work with her almost every year