From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)
SEPTEMBER 28 OF THE YEAR 2002 was a monumental date in history. Space crusaders STAR ONE, featuring AYREON, designated it as the kick-off for their tour on Planet Earth. Three European countries were chosen to be visited by this company from outer space: The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Probability calculations have eluded scientists worldwide for years as they attempted to determine the likelihood of the extraterrestrial phenomenon known as "AYREON" of ever making physical contact with a human audience live from an earthly stage. Neither have they been able to predict what appearance it would take, should this ever happen. Let alone, having any indications about the impact it was going to have when AYREON finally touched down on earth, covered by STAR ONE. It rocked our world! Rock 'n roll would never be the same after the invasion of these space crusaders...
AI: Could you describe briefly what your new STAR ONE project means to you?
Ayreon: A welcome change after the electronic "Ambeon" project, let off steam. Computer off, guitar on!
AI: The very diverse AYREON cd's you have released so far are all based on a concept that's quite unique for hard rock and metal: stories performed by a group of singers, each with their own character. This concept is also used on "Space Metal". Similar concept but a different project. Why?
Ayreon: AYREON stories are always my own stories, and they are continuing stories throughout the cd. On STAR ONE the songs are individual and based on different, existing space movies. Other than that, STAR ONE is a metal project, heavier and more one-sided than AYREON, the music is less layered. Besides, there are only four singers, whereas there is an average of ten on AYREON albums. The songs are also more simply constructed and, thus, easier to play live. STAR ONE was never meant as an AYREON album so it wouldn't have felt good to release it as such, only for commercial reasons.
AI: What has inspired you to chose such a conceptual approach to your music after a musical history that's primarily dominated by straight hard rock and metal?
Ayreon: It's mainly the first and still the best rock opera ever, Jesus Christ Superstar. From that moment I have always wanted to do something like that myself. But in Bodine and Vengeance that was absolutely out of the question. Also, I have always been fascinated by space and escapism. Bodine and Vengeance were more down-to-earth. Sometimes, I've been able to put a little of that into the music, but just those songs didn't work out really well live. Plus those bands objected to keyboards (that was not done in the narrow-minded eighties), while I adore old analog synths, mellotron and Hammond. But it's hard to stop doing something that's really successful. You never know whether you will be able to reach the same level with a totally different kind of music. Fortunately I succeeded with AYREON and it has become even more successful than all my old bands together!
AI: Both AYREON and STAR ONE require a lot from you in musical and organizational respect. Finding the right people for each particular project and actually bringing them together to realize it. Exactly this, you have previously mentioned as a reason for AYREON not to go touring. And yet you'll be on stage pretty soon with a show that must almost have the character of a musical production. Are we facing a change of course here or are we being treated to a unique, one-time rock spectacle?
Ayreon: Because it's being presented as "STAR ONE featuring AYREON", it is possible. I'm going to 'cover' AYREON songs, so to speak, with the band STAR ONE. The emphasis, therefore, will be on the heavier AYREON work. For me, playing live is something completely different from recording cd's. When I'm on stage I want to get loud, and when I'm recording I want to capture beautiful melodies and spacy atmospheres. I always explain it like this: metal is in my body and progressive, atmospheric music (Pink Floyd) in my heart. Whether the tour will be a one-time event or not, will become clear after it's done. You know, in time I have really become sort of a hermit who likes to be alone.
AI: And what's going to happen with STAR ONE after this tour? Is this meant as a project that will have follow-up or is it a more individual project like "Ambeon"?
Ayreon: Originally, it was meant as an individual project, but since it has been so successful there will certainly be a successor. I would also like to record another "Ambeon", but I just don't know when.
AI: Knowing you, after this brilliant "Space Metal" cd you will come up with another surprising project performed by the most talented people. Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Ayreon: I'm already thinking about a new AYREON. I do have a wish list of like fifty people! But unfortunately most of them have passed away (Phil Lynott, John Lennon) or are out of reach (Syd Barrett, David Gilmour). Of course, it is most fun to work with musicians that you've been listening to from your youth. Working with Dave Brock from Hawkwind, therefore, was one of my biggest dreams coming true!
Balance was a keyword that absolutely applies to what was presented here this evening: An overall heavy show, countered by various melodic and acoustic moments. One of the highlights being another(!) guest appearance by the flutist Ewa Albering (ex-Quidam). The brilliant instrumental part of "Isis and Osiris" was truly breathtaking in the show. Balance was also present in other aspects of the show, such as the lighting, the decor (representing a huge space ship), the projection screen and the stage clothes worn by the performers. It all created a spacy atmosphere and made the show a complete event. "Intergalactic Space Crusaders", STAR ONE's "tour song", was something that many people, obviously, had been looking forward to. The crowd sang along as loud as they could, and singers Sir Russel Alan (Symphony-X, Ayreon) and Damian Wilson (ex- Threshold, Ayreon) played their roles excellently, in a vocal combat that greatly enhanced the show. It was hard to decide on a winner since no one was by any means inferior to the other.
It was predictable this show would come to an end. But not before we had been exposed to a couple more STAR ONE and AYREON songs: my personal favourite "Star Child" and "The Two Gates". For the performers it was one more opportunity to give away what they had, in full spotlight. The grand finale. At least, that's what we were thinking. But those who thought the party was over now turned out to be terribly wrong as we were finally blown away by Deep Purple's classic "Space Trucking". The whole band was completely freaking out, and singers Damian and Robert were bodysurfing their way through the crowd.
An impressive quality live show with the characteristics of a musical production. All within the limits of a mid-size venue!
For those of you who didn't have the chance to witness this unique live show you can certainly get a taste of it from the record: STAR ONE, "Space Metal", Released on April 22, 2002 by Inside Out Music. Also available as limited edition digipack with bonus cd.
For more information you can visit the Inside Out Music web site at: http://www.insideoutmusic.com.
Visit the Ayreon web site at: http://www.ayreon.com.