Pushing the Boundaries While Staying Grounded
Exclusive Interview with Armin van Buuren
by Kristine Kennedy and Michael Beas
What do you say about a man who needs no introduction in our music community? Whether you are a trance addict or a slave to the big room or love to lose yourself in some trap or dubstep, chances are you both know and love Armin van Buuren. His contributions to the music industry are countless and he gives his fans back just as much love as we all show him. He’s constantly looking for ways to progress forward and give the industry more and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for this year and many years to come.
Raver Mag Family – we give you the man, certainly not the myth, and the trance legend, Armin van Buuren!
Raver Magazine: We had the pleasure of seeing you twice recently while in Amsterdam for Amsterdam Dance Event. One of the highlights from the whole week for us was your back to back with Hardwell at Amsterdam Music Festival. How did this epic event come into play?
Armin van Buuren: The Best of Armin Only show that I did last May, I sold out that arena [Amsterdam ArenA] twice – two nights in a row – on my own. When I saw that AMF was in that location I thought “alright, so how am I going to top that?” I wanted to do something completely different for AMF and not just be a name in the lineup, which I do love, but I just wanted to do something completely different and that is why I decided to go back to back with Hardwell. We’ve been friends for a while now and even though I’ll always be a trance DJ and will always support it, you can’t expect trance music to grow and stay alive by staying inside the bubble. I’m curious about other genres and how to balance the old trance euphoric sound with moving forward into new avenues. The quality of trance music productions is going up so it’s interesting to have an open mind to new sounds and how they can be used to enhance the trance euphoria.
Raver Magazine: How have you seen trance music progress since you first started in this industry to present day?
Armin van Buuren: I remember when trance music was one genre and now we have all these sub-genres within trance. Certain people are going to like certain styles – every style has a following. I really want to cater to all of those styles and followings and it’s exciting to be in the middle of that. The only thing I’m feeling right now is a big feeling of thankfulness to all of the years I’ve been able to do this.
Raver Magazine: You have put so much into this industry and I think we all say a collective ‘thank you’ to you for that! Between your extensive touring schedule, running a record label empire, podcast and radio show, what do you enjoy doing on any down time?
Armin van Buuren: I’m not going to lie here. It is not easy to balance all of this. My wife and I have found a mode that works for us. Obviously she’s not happy that I am not home often and it is hard when the children are on FaceTime crying and asking “Daddy where are you?” That is what makes touring life tough. I always remind myself that I am in love with this music and these fans. There are a lot of people out there that have very busy jobs such as this one and don’t get as much love from the fans as I do, so I’m so grateful for that. My family has been so supportive and we have a great life because of this.
I’d also like to mention my team here. They are all working full-time on tour with me also and it can get tough for us when we are missing family and events back home. We try to make the best of it and support each other. No matter where you are in the world, you can invest time in your family by simply making time to talk to them. Sometimes I’m on a different frequency when I’m working on a new song or a video or finishing up an album. I’m very aware that that is the case and I’m focused to the point where sometimes I feel like I’m an Olympic athlete. I try to condense as many meetings as I can and be very time efficient so that as soon as I can, I head home and spend quality time with my family.
Raver Magazine: You have a lot of artists and vocalists you work with. How do these partnerships come about?
Armin van Buuren: A lot of times it just comes from a simple meeting. We’ll get together if I’m in town for dinner and start conversation on music. Then we’ll bounce ideas off each other and play a lot of different music and see if you can meet in the middle with ideas. Actually, I’ll tell you a secret. Probably half of the collaborations that could happen don’t end up happening. This isn’t for any bad reason, but just that maybe the timing is off. Some songs are even as old as 8 years until they see the light of day in the industry.
Raver Magazine: We’ve heard this word from you a lot. What does ‘communication’ mean to you?
Armin van Buuren: Music is communication on a different level than texting or talking. When I made my tune Communication, it was at a time when I really wanted to share the love of this music with my fans. I realized that I was communicating to them through my music.
I find the whole debate of electronic music so interesting. We try to put everything into a style and when I listen to a tune I never ask myself if this should be trance or progressive. It’s more like I am trying to have an open mind and sometimes I find that I may be limiting myself that the track needs to be a certain BPM or whatnot. Who ever said that trance music needs to be 138 BPM? I think it’s a myth so I’ve been experimenting with different BPM’s. For me the definition of trance music is something instrumental that gives a euphoric feeling, it’s energetic and emotional. As long as it has those elements the BPM shouldn’t matter. That’s part of the reason why I have the track “Who’s Afraid of 138” – it’s meant as an irony but never a statement for that BPM being necessary for the trance genre.
Raver Magazine: What does 2018 bring for Armin van Buuren?
Armin van Buuren: I’ve been preparing a lot of new stuff for Miami Music Week for a while now. I have some new singles in early 2018. I’m really excited for more of the Gaia project and wish I had more time to devote to it. We’re just going to continue to try and push the boundaries across the board.