Arjen Lucassen, is best known for his successful Ayreon saga which combines musical styles from jazz to metal. The elusive genius behind the Ayreon project speaks to us about his first live shows, how he dreams of working with Robert Plant and Kate Bush and what the future has in store.

Photo Rik Bauters

PG: The Ayreon Universe project was the first official live performance of your music what made you decide to do a live show finally?

AL: It was The Theatre Equation, that was a theatre play of the Human Equation we did a couple of years earlier. I wasn't really involved with it, not 100 per cent. My former manager was looking for a challenge, and I suggested it, she set it up and I arranged the singers. That was two years ago, and it was a big success. I was backstage there, and I saw the reactions of the musicians who were enjoying themselves, and the people who were crying and laughing; there were lots of emotions going on. At that point I thought it would be such a shame if this were the last time that something happens with Ayreon live, despite the fact that I hate playing live – it scares the shit out of me. I knew we had to do something, so I went to Joost (van den Broek) and said “should we set up something ourselves?” and he said “yeah, but it will take two years to set that up. So let's start now.” We had to think about what to do, which album would be good for a theatre play and at some point, it morphed into the Best of Ayreon. We thought why not do a rock show at a rock venue and get some songs from each album and get a few of our singers. We planned to have four of five singers, and we ended up with eighteen because they all said yes!

PG: You’re used to doing studio work, how did it feel to have all the singers and musicians working together for the show?

AL: It wasn't daunting at all, it was like we say behind the scenes “one big happy family.” It sounds cheesy, but that's exactly how it was. The atmosphere was so great, and I specifically picked the singers because of that: I didn't want to work with egos and believe me there are egos. I wanted people who wanted to do it, not for the money or the fame but just because they like the music and because they wanted to be part of it. My brother sometimes tells me “what do you care if they don't like the music, you don't have to marry them.” But I always say no, because you can see it on stage if they are enjoying themselves and I'm sure that the audience feels that.

PG: What was the rehearsal like for the show?

AL: First we started setting it up and getting the right musicians and singers, instrumentalists, LED screens and pyros – all that stuff. We started rehearsing about half a year in advance. The great thing was that all the instrumentalists were from Holland so we could rehearse once a month. The scary thing was that we only had one rehearsal with the singers and that was the day before.

PG: You made an appearance at the show too, how did you get over your stage fright for the event?