Earmilk Interview: Armin van Buuren [+ Tour Preview]

Earmilk Interview: Armin van Buuren [+ Tour Preview]

Here at Earmilk, we get some unbelievable opportunities. This year, on New Year’s Eve, we were lucky enough to sit down with the number one DJ in the world as voted by DJ Magazine, Armin van Buuren, to talk anything and everything atop othe picturesque Dream Downtown Hotel, overlooking all of Manhattan from the views at the PhD Rooftop Lounge.

We had a ton to ask Armin, but beyond his inspirations, personal life and technical expertise, we wanted to know about his upcoming A State of Trance 600: The Expedition tour that’s launching in just a few weeks. With stops in cities like Sao Paolo, Miami and our own New York City, The Expedition will continue the tradition of making A State of Trance a truly world tour, reaching as many fans in as many corners of the globe as possible. A true tour for the fans, Armin and the ASOT team have worked tirelessly to take the performance series to the fans that had the hardest working campaigns to bring the tour to their city.

New York City is lucky enough to have the ASOT tour arriving at the only venue large enough to house the demand for the event: the one and only Madison Square Garden. The space where Swedish House Mafia made history last year welcomes The Expedition, making history for trance music in 2013. Announced this week, van Buuren will be supported by huge names Ferry Corsten, Markus Schulz, W&W and Alex M.O.R.P.H. With such a fantastic international line up, the tour’s last stop on US soil is bound to be unforgettable.

With the quote “To others it might be Christmas, but to trance lovers the most wonderful time of the year really is NOW!”, the tracklist for the forthcoming A State of Trance 2013 album was announced today. Full of tons of new tracks and featuring acts like Arty, W&W, Andrew Rayel and Van Buuren alter-ego Gaia, the album showcases the two main directions trance has taken in the past few years: uplifting trance and electro trance. The compilation promises to be huge, and will surely be a source of crowd pleasing tracks for the ASOT tour.

Check out our enlightening interview below, as well as information on tour dates and locations, a video preview and where you can sign up for pre-sale information for the ASOT 600 tour.

EARMILK: You’re such a huge influence on both established producers and an inspiration to those trying to make it in the business. Who inspired you in your early days?
Armin van Buuren: In my early days, well, a lot of people in fact. I can mention a very large list, but for the sake of the interview I’ll just mention a few. I think the most important guy was Ben Liebrand, the Dutch master mixer and producer who is still producing today. I think if he’d been born 20 years later, he would be one of the most popular DJs. He’s technically probably the most skilled DJ that I know, and he became a very good friend over the years and is very good at what he does. It’s pretty amazing.
It sounds really weird right now, but back in 1974, people didn’t mix two records together. It’s bizarre right? They used to talk between to records like, “Here’s the new one from The Supremes called ‘Baby Love’,” and you would start the record. And now, we mix records together, and he was one of the first people to do that and create mash-ups, which is now a common thing – but somebody thought of that first. So, I think those guys inspired me because the power of bringing two records together and creating something extra because you mix those two sounds together is magical.
EARMILK: I feel like right now there’s kind of a second renaissance for trance happening. What have you seen as it changes, from then and now, for artists and specifically for yourself?
Armin van Buuren: I think, first of all, the way we produce trance music is completely different. The technology has advanced: I used to DJ with vinyl until 2005, and I remember bringing big crates of vinyl here to Manhattan to play Roxy and Central Park and different areas. So that’s what’s changed in terms of technology.
But what I think what has stayed is the euphoric, uplifting elements. The BPMs have gone down in general, out of influence from the electro-based line with minimal percussion, and within trance you’ve got all these different genres now. You’ve got vocal trance, you have uplifting trance, you have psytrance, electro trance, tech-trance. It’s actually kind of funny, you used to have one genre and now it’s spread out. And I think this is beautiful: change is a constant given, within music.  If music would always sound the same it’d be boring and it would die.
It’s funny you would say it’s the renaissance of trance. I remember in 2002 giving away interviews, and I read a couple actually a few weeks back because I was going through my archive, cleaning, and people were already saying, “People are saying trance music is dead, what is your reaction?” And here we are 11 years later still talking about trance. So something must be universal about this. I remember when hip-hop was born, in the 80s, with Sugar Hill Gang, and people were saying hip-hop is this thing that’s going to come up and it’s going to die down, and now it’s part of modern day music culture.
And I think it’s the same with trance, as much as with house, with any genre. It’s going to be here, it’s never going to stay the same, but some of the elements are going to stay the same.
EARMILK: Sticking with the present, what are you doing currently, technically, in your sets that no one else is doing?
Armin van Buuren: Not much I guess. The only thing that I’m doing that a lot of people aren’t doing that I’m using time-coding and click tracks: sending it out front of house to sync up a lot of the visuals that I use with the audio. And not only the visuals, but also the lights and fireworks and all that. And I’ve explained that in a video on YouTube, have you seen that?

Yeah then it’s pretty interesting, it’s not a system that’s meant for that but it works for me and it works great, and I’m sort of an old school DJ. I don’t use my laptop, I still sync up records. I’m actually mixing, and I like that. Some people don’t, it doesn’t really matter if you do that, but I enjoy that way. To me that’s the craft of DJing.
EARMILK: Who would be your dream collaborator, dead or alive?
Armin van Buuren: Well actually, I almost met him last night. I was backstage at the Coldplay concert – Chris Martin. I love his voice and I love his energy on stage, and the Coldplay music has a lot of resemblance with trance for me because the chords are very similar with minor/major changes and I really like that. I’m a big fan of Coldplay, so that would be a dream come true. But I’ve actually approached them and got a reaction from the manager, and they were very nice to me saying “Oh, we know who you are,” but that Coldplay wants to be Coldplay, and that’s fair enough.
But for me, name dropping is one thing, of course I can give you a big list of names of people I want to work with and I think you can think of that list you know Bono, Gavin DeGraw, I would love to work with them. But at the end of the day, what counts for me the most is the song. I don’t want to work with somebody just for the sake of working with that person. If the song is shit then I can’t work with it, you know what I mean? And this for me is always the most essential. I’ve always told myself to stay loyal and true to what I believe is right. For my next artist album that I’m working on right now, what you see is the songs that I bring out, and that I present to the crowd, but there are so many songs and words and lyrics artists that I have to disappoint because I’m not feeling the song.
EARMILK: What, for you, is different about performing in the United States, and specifically in New York?
Armin van Buuren: Well, there’s something special about New York, because I think my biggest fan base is in New York. New York is New York, and I’ve been coming here for so many years. I think New York was a little bit ahead of the rest of the US because there’s been a very big club scene here that wasn’t in other cities in the US. Right now New York is part of the US and the whole EDM boom that has come. Obviously the big real rise of EDM, you can really feel it here in New York, as well.
But what I really like about New Yorkers is that they’re sort of cool and really true and honest. It makes it a hard crowd to DJ for but when you do a good job they really appreciate. And then you know when you’ve done a job in New York, like Frank Sinatra said, “If you can make it there…” and it’s true in a way because the people in New York are very critical and it keeps you on your toes.
EARMILK:  What would we be really shocked to see in your iTunes right now?
Armin van Buuren: Well, I’m a big freak for ambient. And I’ve discovered this new guy called Ott; you should check him out. I found him on iTunes, and I actually found him through Spotify, and I just love his stuff. It’s kind of ambient dub. It’s really weird but it’s a lot of electronic music and I really like what he’s doing. It’s kind of completely weird but it reminds me a lot of the Delirium productions and Conjure One and that sort of sound – the sound that I really miss. A lot of dance music is pop right now, and it’s not a bad thing necessarily but my heart is more with that sort of stuff.
EARMILK: And what’s the thing you’re most looking forward to in 2013?
Armin van Buuren: There are two things I’m looking forward to. First of all, my new artist album finally after two years. I want to get it over and done with, because if you’re staring too long at your picture you might ruin it. You know there’s something of the first enthusiasm, you usually create your biggest track in one day and then you spend four days trying to make everything perfect. But you do your biggest work in one day.
So the second thing I’m looking forward to most is my A State of Trance 600th radio show, celebrating 600 episodes. To be honest with you, I never expected that it would be this big. I thought after episode 500 and after the big celebration ‘Hey, this is it, I’m done, I’m going to stop the radio show,” but the fans have made it this big. It’s also very strange because it makes me feel like a promoter sometimes. When people are arguing, “Armin, why didn’t you bring A State of Trance to this city,” or “Why didn’t you book this DJ?” I’m like, "Hey, I don’t book DJs man, I’m just a DJ," you know? And I have other people that help me with booking and that basically handle that sort of stuff for me.
But that’s the thing I don’t like about A State of Trance 600. I want to be a DJ, I want to help the scene, I don’t want to not book a DJ or book this DJ. I don’t want to be stuck in the controversy. Some people are always trying to make me a promoter and I don’t want to do that. But I am looking forward to it because, with the rise of EDM and the popular sound right now, there’s a lot of focus on mainstream, and on the main stages you hear DJs play a lot of the same tracks, and with trance right now, I think there’s so much new talent coming out. And I really miss that those guys should be headlining on the main stages as well. But not me, I’m talking about the new guys.
With A State of Trance 600, I hope to bring trance to a new crowd, and really try to bring it to new countries like Brazil, and Mexico and here to New York.

Check back with Earmilk for additional information on Armin van Buuren’s March 30th “ASOT600 - The Expedition” tourstop at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Tour Dates:
Feb 14: Madrid
Feb 16: Mexico City
Mar 1: Sao Paolo
Mar 7: Minsk
Mar 8: Sofia
Mar 9: Beirut
Mar 15: Kuala Lumpur
Mar 16: Mumbai
Mar 24: Miami
Mar 27: Guatemala City
Mar 30: New York
Apr 6: Den Bosch

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