Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 years in the dance music community, you have heard of the great Armin van Buuren. Known as one of the most talented and down-to-earth guys in the industry, Armin has become quite possibly the most famous and admired trance producer and DJ in the world. After starting off on his own at the young age of 14, he has risen to the top through hard work, dedication, and, above all else, passion.
The Dutch sensation holds the record as being named the #1 DJ in the world five times and four years in a row by DJ Mag, and came in at #3 this past year (since 2004, he has not dropped below #3). He is known not only for producing moving tracks that showcase his talent and range such as “This is What It Feels Like,” “Ping Pong,” “Intense,” and “Beautiful Life,” but also for his radio show, A State of Trance, which he’s been hosting since 2001. A State of Trance has blossomed from a radio show to a world tour, live stream, and podcast. Armin has also released five studio albums to date and doesn’t appear to be slowing down one bit. His most recent releases include, “Alone” featuring Lauren Evans, “Together” which is the ASOT Festival Anthem, and “Another You” featuring Mr. Probz.
Known for his ASOT and Armin Only World Tours, Armin has traveled the entirety of the world to put on shows for his loyal fan base and beyond. One of the most touching and most recent memorable moments in all of dance music derives from Armin, when he announced the birth of his first son, Remy, at Tomorrowland in 2013. He had come straight from the hospital, and dedicated the entire set to his new little guy, which made everyone in the crowd and even those watching from the live stream teary-eyed.
Whether you’re a fan of trance or not, it’s hard not to love and feel connected to his music because of the passion that’s apparent in every beat. Armin is set to headline Nocturnal Wonderland, TomorrowWorld, Ultra Europe, and Creamfields, and will undoubtedly announce more tour dates this festival season.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Armin, he cares about his fans beyond belief, and makes it a point to connect and interact with them on a regular basis. He dedicates himself 100% to his craft, and organically shows the world that this music is his whole life and a projection of his heart and soul.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Armin a few weeks ago to talk about the A State of Trance, advice for producers and his thoughts about the future. You can catch our entire interview below.
Special thanks to Armin and his entire team for taking the time to speak with us and we hope this gives you more insight about the Trance legend himself.
EDM Maniac: Armin, thanks so much for speaking with us today! We are here at the new Omnia Nightclub where you have a new residency. Can you tell us what drew you to Omnia, and how it all came to be?
Armin van Buuren: This is my first full blown residency in the US actually. I had a sort of a small residency at Marquee but that was once every two months, but his is going to be a real regular appearance. I’ll actually tell you a funny story, and not a lot of people know this, but the crew running the Hakkasan Group, part of the group is part of my old crew that I used to work with back in the UK. James Algate is one of the guys I work with a lot, this is his project. He used to be the same guy that ran Godskitchen in Birmingham where I had residency so I know the guys for a really long time. I knew a couple years ago they moved out here to Vegas with a new name and everything. So they know how to run a nightclub. I’ve known James for a really long time. He was my tour manager for a little bit when we were doing a Godskitchen Asia tour and I’ve had some amazing times with Godskitchen and so it feels in a way home far away from home.
EDM Maniac: What do you like most about Omnia?
Armin van Buuren: This is one of the best clubs I have ever played in my life. I mean, not to brag but it’s unbelievable. Unbelievable how they could build such a great club with such great sound in such a short amount of time. It really is amazing in many aspects. I was standing here, in the exact same spot end of October last year and you could literally see the sky. There was nothing here. There was concrete on the floor. There was no equipment here yet. And four months later, end of March or mid-March they opened it. They had crews here 24/7. Building crews, construction crews. It was like a military operation. Just look at all of the detail. They should have made a documentary about it. Go look around, go look at the bars. Everything has been thought through. Every little detail. It’s like its been here for years. Normally it would take years for a club like this to get built. I can’t believe it took them only four months!
The centerpiece is amazing and I can’t believe it.
EDM Maniac: Lets talk about your club sets a little bit. What sorts of sets do you like to play in an nightclub, how do you construct it and how does it differ from a festival set? What’s the process like?
Armin van Buuren: Well, I play longer in nightclubs so I tend to really build it up a bit more and tell more of a story than I would at festival. But then again the attention span in Vegas is really short. I think as a DJ you have to be able to play any situation. I can play the hits, the underground stuff, the deeper stuff, whatever crowd I’m in front of. I know there’s a lot of Armin fans here so that makes it really easy.
I really recommend go up if you can and try to see the DJ booth in this club [Omnia]. The unique thing about this club is that everywhere you are you have a first-row view of the DJ booth. Everywhere you are. That’s just very clever how they designed it.
EDM Maniac: You’ve had another great year with the A State of Trance radio show and the ASOT festival. The ASOT festival concept is new. Can you tell us about some of the exciting parts and challenges of doing something of this scale?
Armin van Buuren: Well, I’m the first DJ that has his own festival. So its a big responsibility, but I keep investing in A State of Trance. I don’t want to be stuck in the past and I really want to move forward especially with new and young talent. That’s also the reason why I don’t have a classics area yet. And I’m scared that if we focus too much on the past we will scare the young people away. You’ll get 45 year-olds standing in the front of every ASOT event — you’re more than welcome by the way! Not to bash them at all. But I think it’s important to keep an eye on the future. There’s so much new talent and if DJs want to play the originals or the classics that’s fine, but I find it important that ASOT moves forward and ASOT has always been about the current, the hot and the new. From established and up and coming producers. I want to reflect that. It’s important to me to see that there’s a development, and I sometimes feel it’s a little heavy for certain people because they fell in love with trance at a certain period in their life — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I’m quite a nostalgic person myself, even when I hear “As the rush comes” I still think its a great track but I think I want to move on and move on from that. And yes, I know in a few years I’ll play that track, but for right now with ASOT the focus will always be on the future and the future sounds: the Andrew Rayel’s, the Orjan Nislen’s, the Marlo’s, The Mark Sixma’s… the new and up and coming guys.
Theres so much talent out there. Bryan Kearney, Will Atkinson, Jordan Suckley… there’s so many sounds within trance right now. And I think trance is really exciting at the moment.
EDM Maniac: At ASOT Utrecht you had a variety of artists and this seems to be a trend with the ASOT festivals.
Armin van Buuren: For the ASOT festival in Utrecht, I really sat down with the crew because I knew we could have had a safe bet; having a classics arena and all the headliners and the main stage. But I said, ‘you know, I think it’s more important that we invest in the long term and that people know us for that.’ Not promoting the same DJs at every event. We had Eric Prydz in Miami, we had Psytrance guys Liquid Soul in Utrecht. I want to show people we are serious about promoting the different sounds within trance and all the different genres while keeping the more popular guys too.
EDM Maniac: Speaking of … what would you say some of the big differences are when it comes to playing in different countries — how do you like to prepare?
Armin van Buuren: I don’t necessarily look at the country; I look more at the crowd in front of me. Like take for example Ultra. 50% of the crowd is not from the US. Most of the people come from other countries. I just look at the crowds. Like in Vegas, I’m expecting nights to be very different here at Omnia. There are sometimes more women; in that case you may want to play more vocal tracks… it’s a way of thinking.
I’m not a DJ that pre—programs. I’m old school. I come from the old days where you would shop for vinyl’s and you would look them up and that’s what you would bring with you.
Your records. You would look through it all. That’s still how I play if I’m playing from a USB drive. I still look at the crowd. Having said that, that’s not entirely true. Some sets, my crew usually know my opening set and my second track and the track that I want to end with. But I don’t preprogram everything in my sets. Even my main stage sets. There’s nothing wrong with people who are doing it, but I’m not doing it.
EDM MANIAC: Your latest single ‘Another You’ just came out — Headhunterz even remixed it, and lots of DJs have been playing it. We know it came with a lot of mixed reactions though. How do you deal with criticism when you get it?
Armin van Buuren: Well I know it upset the trance fans and some of the hardstyle fans … we got so much shit. But I love the mix. Hate on it if you want, but don’t listen to it if you don’t like it. I’m just like that myself.
It’s my responsibility to move things forward.
And Willem [Headhunterz] feels the same way. I know he might have been upset about all of the criticism online, and actually you know what, I can relate to that. I like to do stuff that people expect from me, but then do a silly track like Ping Pong. I want to stress that is very important for music to grow and develop. To try and do a silly track like Ping Pong. Initially I was never going to release it. Took me 4 hours. This Is What It Feels Like took me a year to finish.
So, I see it as my responsibility — look — as much I love some of my classics; I love them and cherish them to this day. And I wouldn’t change a single note or a single beat, I’m really proud of a few of my tracks. But I cannot repeat myself, you know why? I can’t sit in the studio and work with the same baseline; the same kick, the same beat, the same BPM and you just change the melody a little bit. I hear a lot of producers doing that. And I know I’m walking a dangerous path because some people have expectations. If you buy a jar of peanut butter and you like that peanut butter, you’re going to expect that the next jar to taste the same. If it’s damn good peanut butter. But with Armin van Buuren, you might buy a jar of peanut butter and there might be jam in it. I’m using this food analogy to show you that for some people it’s not exactly what they hope for. I’m not defending myself for these choices, it just who I am.
Every time I’m in the studio, creativity just happens.
I’m not sitting in the studio thinking ‘Oh I need to make a trance track or a non trance track or an EDM track or a single.’ That’s not what goes through my head. When I was sitting down with Mr. Probz, we were just sitting in the studio have coffee and thinking, “Hey ‘looking for another you’ [signing melody] hey, I like that. I like that. Lets play it just like that. Sounds like Alone. Let’s put the piano like this. We need to record the strings for that…’ Tracks just come together and they happen.
EDM Maniac: How did you guys [Mr. Probz] meet?
Armin van Buuren: We met an awards ceremony. BUMA/STEMRA, the Dutch collecting society. So we were at a ceremony and he won a bunch of awards for his track Waves and I won a bunch of awards and there we were carrying all of these awards and we were like, ‘hey we should do a track together.’ It just happens! I can’t go in the studio again with Trevor [Guthrie] and try to repeat ourselves. As much as I love Trevor, he’s an amazing singer, but I don’t think we should try do any follow ups to This is What It Feels Like. So you’re just trying to do different stuff all the time. And I realize some people will be let down and some people will be happy. It’s just the way it is. Not as a defense, but I can totally understand if they’re let down, but it is what it is.
EDM Maniac: Along those lines … you have this saying of ‘don’t be a prisoner of your own style/genre.’ What would you say that really means?
Armin van Buuren: Think of it like this, you don’t eat the same food every day. You need it to stay healthy and to be energized. You need to have food. But you don’t want steak or fish every day. Besides music, it’s kind of like a general saying. I mean it also with movies. Don’t always go see an action movie. Try a romantic comedy, you might like it .. you might be surprised.
Life has so much in store for you, there’s so much beauty out there.
If you go to the same club or bar every day, nothing wrong with that but go try the other bar! I try to dare people out of their safe comfortable homes. This quote has a lot to do with myself too. I sometimes want to walk the easy path, like when I did Safe Inside You with Betsie Larkin. That was more of a safe choice. I really did thoroughly enjoy doing that track because I hadn’t done a track like that in a long time but definitely intend on doing it again. Betsie’s a great person to work with… she’s just awesome. But I may be working with someone else.
I want to keep changing stuff. I want to find stuff in life that excites me.
Movies that excite me, books that excite me. I like to read books. The other day someone gave a book about financial stuff. I never thought I would enjoy it. But my friend said, read it, you’ll enjoy it. And I read it and I really did enjoy it. About financial stuff! Seriously! That’s what I mean about don’t be a prisoner, that goes with everything in life. Food. Movies. Goes for anything.
EDM MANIAC: Speaking of life — what advice would you give musicians that would like to have a career in music?
Armin van Buuren: Education is a very important part. If I could go back in time and tell Armin 20 years ago something I know now. I would say take piano lessons. Go follow this course., go follow that course. I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix. I love Netflix. Instead though, I could be on YouTube cause there’s so much amazing stuff on YouTube. Tutorials. A lot of people ask me how I make a great dance track. I have a great DAW, I have a great studio, I have a great idea but how can I put that idea into a track? And the answer is really education. It’s all about education.
You need to learn the DAW tricks, how do you make the kick drum sound that great. It’s on YouTube! You just need to go there and INVEST TIME! Just Google! Or if you want to make a techno track, man, there’s HOURS of tutorials on YouTube. Random guys teaching you stuff. There are tons of people giving advice. 70% of what you see you might be like, “I know that,” but you might see them use a plug-in and you are just like “wow.” I have this site called macprovideo.com, there are millions of sites, by the way, that’s just one of them. They have these courses on everything. Social media, how to use Facebook. How to use your Macbook. Go and do a course! Out of the blue. They usually take an hour to 3-4 hours. You will learn so much. For example, the plugin Omnisphere, it’s a great sound plug in. Really expensive. I had it for years. I did the tutorial for 6 hours. Layering sounds and granular synthesis. I learned so much! That’s the answer. That’s what I would tell anyone.
Education is so important.
EDM Maniac: Who would you say inspires you?
Armin van Buuren: Other artists. Not going to lie. You can learn so much from a 21 year-old.
I remember when Skrillex first came out. I’m not a big fan of his music per se, but I’m a huge fan of his energy. And I love the detail in his productions. And that just shows you that I’m not inspired by him per se by his sound but I was inspired by some young guy doing it in a completely different way. I’m really inspired by the new and up and coming guys like Andrew Rayel, who has changed his sound again. Orjan Nilsen. Mark Sixma. Me and Mark became close friends. We have been working a lot in the studio. And he’s great.
I will tell you I’ve been doing this radio show for almost 15 years now, and to this day I select all the tracks.
I hand pick. Every week I go through 500 brand new tracks. And I have to say, I cant stand hearing sometimes the same kind of programming all the time. But every week, there’s always been 5-6 tracks that I’m like “this is amazing.” I heard MaRLo’s Atlantis. When I heard that I was just like WOW. BOOM.
EDM Maniac. With that said, how on earth does Armin make time do all of this?
Armin van Buuren: I sit on planes most of my life, so I work harder on planes than most people do. I’m always listening to new music, making mashups, self-educating, thinking about my sets. I can never play the same set twice. I always want to do something different. Like for tonight, I made a bunch of new mashups, I’m not saying I’m going to play them all, but I have them as ammunition!
EDM Maniac: Here’s a question from our audience. Where do you see yourself in 10 years, and is there something you would like to be doing more of?
Armin van Buuren: That’s a great question. I think I’ll never stop DJ’ing that’s for sure. I definitely want to see ASOT reach episode 1000. But the music needs to be interesting. I can see myself producing other artists. I have been doing some of that secretly. I really educated myself as a producer; I really can record and produce myself. Not my engineer. I think it would be great and inspiring. I think I could maybe even produce a whole indie rock album, not something I would do now — but I think that would be so amazing. I’m not going to do that, but that would be awesome.
I’ll never stop DJing. It’s too much of an addiction. But I have a growing family and it’s important to be home with my wife and my kids.
EDM Maniac: Seems like a lot to manage!
Armin van Buuren: It’s impossible. It’s almost impossible. I’m blessed with a great team of people around me. You’re talking to me, but I have such a great team. Everything’s always sorted. As soon as hop on the plane, my boarding pass is printed, my passport is ready… everything is ready. I arrive, there’s security, there’s a limo. That’s a little bit of the “Rockstar life” that I really fully enjoy. I told my tour manager get some fresh shallots for me when I arrive to the hotel. And I arrive and they are there!
EDM Maniac: We’re running a little short on time but lets play a quick game. Let’s fill in some blanks. Without music I would be:
Armin van Buuren: A lawyer I guess! I wish we could live in a world without lawyers! It’s always great to educate yourself. I think more than anything it’s the work ethic of having a degree. You have to finish this book or exam and would rather be doing other things but that work ethic is important.
EDM Maniac: My music makes me feel:
Armin van Buuren: In a state of trance! [laughs and smiles]
EDM Maniac: We should support music and our favorite artists because:
Armin van Buuren: It’s what gives COLOR to life. Try watching a black & white movie without music. Try going to a funeral without music. A wedding without music. It’s what gives the earth air. It’s what gives the world oxygen.
EDM Maniac: Music is:
Armin van Buuren: The center of my life [smiles].
EDM Maniac: We’re based out of LA, a lot of people asked if we’ll see you soon.
Armin van Buuren: I think there’s something coming up!
**Following this interview, Armin was announced to play Nocturnal Wonderland in Southern California this September.
EDM Maniac: So, you did something really special for some people a few weeks ago…
Armin van Buuren: Is this about Marvin and Andrew? First I just want to say sorry to hear about all of this.
EDM Maniac: They loved you. They were at all of your shows. Andrew and Marvin were the pinnacle of a lot huge trance family groups. They were respected in so many ways and really were exceptional people.
Armin van Buuren: That’s what everyone has been saying, its crazy.
EDM Maniac: what happened shocked everyone. Andrew was so eager and the nicest guy ever. Always took feedback and was so genuine. He was really great.
Armin van Buuren: Why does God always take these people.. It’s just unbelievable….
EDM Maniac: And so when Andrew passed it shocked all of us. Then a few days later we lost Marvin. And Marvin had his Facebook profile picture of him and Andrew, at one of your shows.
Armin van Buuren: It’s crazy because I just feel so powerless.
EDM Maniac: You brought them together. Marvin had your tattoos; he was a huge fan. Even though they are both no longer with us, that moment in time when you gave them a shout- out really brought everyone together.
Armin van Buuren: That’s so crazy to imagine.
EDM Maniac: if they were here today, and knew what you did… they would be on top of the world.
Armin van Buuren: I was really blown away from several sources. The email firstname.lastname@example.org blew up. Tons of people from all over. Before that though, I got text messages from promoters all over saying, ‘did you hear about this.’ I called Reuben instantly and said did you know about this? He said ‘dude there have been so many emails.’ So, I went on the email like I do every week and I saw a ton of emails.
EDM MANIAC: Everyone really wants to say thank you for that.
Armin van Buuren: That’s probably the best thing that has happened this year. But it feels… I mean of course. It’s only logical. It really struck me how deep of an impact that had in the scene.
And I really hope you can relay this message to everybody: sometimes I wish I had super powers and could change things around. But I’m a normal human being and sometimes I can’t. But the fact that this means so much to a lot of people does mean a lot to me. Even given the circumstances. I do want to stress that you’re not the first person to have mentioned this; many people have talked to me. Really, random people. It was like an earthquake I was in the Netherlands, so it hit me a few days later. I seriously hope the trance family can continue their positivity. I know this music is a way of living. I know that’s how trance is for people. I really hope that people will get over this, because I know it’s something you could never get over. But be strong!
EDM Maniac: its amazing that someone like yourself could be so humble. Thanks so much for speaking with us today; we look forward to seeing you really soon.
Armin van Buuren: No worries, bro, and you’re welcome!