Since the first day Ascendance Radio went live we’ve dreamed of one day getting to interview the king of trance, Armin van Buuren. In 2013 one of Acendance Radio’s dreams came true and we got to interview Armin. Fast forward to 2014 and Ascendance Radio has teamed up with Fusion Radio to interview the living legend himself about his new album, his second child, industry insights, much more.
Armin van Buuren Interview:
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Hi this is Kyle from Fusion TV here with Armin van Buuren.
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): And this is Dayanna with Ascendance Radio, and we’re here with the undefeated trance heavyweight champion of the world, Armin van Buuren.
So Armin, last year your wife gave birth to your second child, a boy, Remy van Buuren. As your children get older, do you ever see them carrying the “van Buuren” legacy on? They’re obviously still young but have you begun to nudge them in DJ direction with perhaps “Fisher Price Turn Tables”?
Armin van Buuren: No. I think the most beautiful thing that you can become in life is yourself, and I want to bring up my kids the way my parents brought up me and my brother, by giving them the opportunity to become themselves. So safe environment, very inspiring environment, where they can discover themselves in the whole world around them and see what they like and don’t like.
If my son or my daughter was interested in electronic music and they want to advance in this industry, of course I’ll help them and I’ll pass on my knowledge, but I’m not going to force it onto them. Again, I think it’s most important that they become themselves.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): All right. Well, let’s talk about the birth of your son, because I was a big moment for you, and it happened right during Tomorrowland, and actually, at the event you got very emotional when you played — I believe it was your “Intense” song, and for that, do you think that was probably one of the biggest moments for you, in this past year, regardless of everything else that was going on?
Armin van Buuren: Well, any father will tell you that his kids are the most precious thing that he has. Yes. I mean, it was the most bizarre day of my life. I mean, I took three weeks off and I had one gig planned, which was Tomorrowland, and I knew that my wife was due on the Monday after. So we were just praying and hoping that the birth wouldn’t start on that date, and of course it does. It’s that law — Murphy’s Law — “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Yes.
Armin van Buuren: So I was just like, “Okay. It is what it is. So we’re going to do it,” but everything went so fast. He’s our second, and seconds usually get born faster, so I had my management on the line, “Don’t cancel it just yet.” Then the contractions started in the afternoon. Went to the hospital at 5:00, and Remy was born safely at 9:00, I believe. Then I saw him, cuddled with him, and then he goes through all kinds of tests, and then he was fine.
The first thing you want to do as a dad — you want to scream to the whole world to tell that he’s my — you know, like the Lion King. Like that’s what you want to do.
So what’s a better way to scream to the world that you have a son and then at Tomorrowland. So I asked my wife, “Can I go?” and she said, “Is it important for you?”
I said, “Yes. It’s very important for me,” and at that point mayhem started, because it there was a car downstairs. It quickly drove me to the airport. Private jet the Belgium. Helicopter. Police escort.
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio) & Kyle (Fusion Radio): Wow!
Armin van Buuren: And I was going to say that I made it in time. So what you see on the you to video, and when I stand there, I haven’t even dared to watch it back myself. I know the whole world did. I didn’t, because I don’t want to see it again. Maybe I’ll show it to my son when he’s 18.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): There you go.
Armin van Buuren: So when I watch that moment, yes, it was a highly-emotional moment for me. I literally just got out of the hospital.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Yes.
Armin van Buuren: I had the same shirt on.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Yes. When I watched it, it was an emotional moment for me. I think everybody that watched it…the crowd, you — I mean, it was an amazing moment that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in the EDM scene or trance scene, because — I mean, you have this…
Armin van Buuren: The 50 most emotional moments…
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): Yes.
Armin van Buuren:… In the…
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Yes. Really. And it is. I mean, it was amazing, I have to say, and you played it off really well. So kudos to you
Armin van Buuren: Thanks.
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): So a little more hard-hitting question. It feels like its human nature to always categorize things, whether it’s putting music into specific genres or ranking DJs in a poll. Do you think it will ever be possible to stop classifying music in these buckets called “genres”?
Armin van Buuren: No. It’s fine. It’s good that there’s a debate about music. That’s the most important thing. I mean, I’ve always said that I’m not a big fan of DJ lists and charts and categories, but, on the other hand, human beings have attention to organize stuff, because we don’t like chaos. We want our lives to be organized, so it’s in our human nature. It will never go away. It’s fine. It’s understandable.
And do you know what the good thing about it is? I think if you have a DJ lists, even if you like it or not, people start talking about it. They say, “Oh. Avicii’s better than Hardwell or better than Afrojack or Armin van Buuren. Oh. I don’t like him, “you know, “I like Afrojack.” That’s fine, because you know what? They will go and check out Afrojack. They will go and [and tell you] “See Hardwell.” They will go see Avicii. They will go see me, and they will make a decision who they like best. So, that’s what we want in the end. Right?
So the debate is good. The debate about it is good. But you don’t have to agree with it. Don’t take it as a fact.
When somebody on a download portal says “This is progressive,” and you think it’s trance, then fine. They’re not right. There’s no right and wrong.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Definitely. And it’s funny that you say that, because, with your “Intense” album, I feel like you’ve covered more than just trance in there.
Armin van Buuren: Absolutely.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): And you explore it a little bit more than just trance, and even that Lauren Evans song “Alone,” whether you — I mean, it was amazing. It was a great song. That’s a true dance track.
Armin van Buuren: Well, the whole story of “Intense” is a very organic story. Other than my other albums, my previous albums, this album wrote itself more. So, I was just sitting in the studio seeing what comes at me, who wants to work with me, what ideas do I get, so just sitting there and embracing what comes at you.
It’s a funny story about “Alone,” because I was actually in Los Angeles working with Rhys Fulber from Conjure One and Delerium, and we were working on a completely different track, and I was in the studio with Victoria Horn, who’s a really talented writer who I’ve known for years, and she was talking about this really upsetting moment when she was driving down the street and she saw this guy collapse and nobody paying attention to the old guy. So she stopped her car, called 911 to make sure that the guy was okay. It was a very upsetting moment for her, because everybody just drove by and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. It was a terrible moment.
So she used that as an inspiration for the song, and I thought that that was such a strong moment, and, at that point, I wasn’t really sure that we were actually going to work together on the track. So I got the vocal in, the first take of it, and I said, “Well, can I make a track of it?” So I started working on it, preserving the message of the song. I never had an awareness song. You know, I never had an awareness song before.
And finished the song, really liked it, sent it to the record label. Everybody was screaming about it. I said, “Well, it’s not really an Armin van Buuren song, but it’s inspiring song.
So we went back to Los Angeles close to the place where, actually, the guy collapsed. We shot the video in almost the same spot, and the rest is history.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Yes.
Armin van Buuren: It’s really great to actually do an awareness song for change.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Yes. That’s fantastic. I didn’t actually know that the video was based on that event which is interesting, because I was watching the video and I was like, “Yes. Yes. This goes along with it. Yes.”
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): So you’re set to make the first-ever performance debut as your alter ego Gaia at ULTRA Music Festival tomorrow. Where did that idea come from?
Armin van Buuren: That was actually a pretty funny story because Ultra went from two weekends to one weekend, and they offered me to do a stage again, but I said “I also want to play the main stage,” and the organization agreed, said, “Yes. Yes. You have to play the main stage, but then you cannot play your “State of Trance” stage, and they just said like, “Yes. It’s sort of a rule that Armin van Buuren cannot play both stages. No DJ can play twice that weekend, because, you know, you can only play once.”
So we have to think of a solution for the problem, and my management came up with, “Well, you also have a guise Gaia, a pseudonym that you produce under.”
I said, “Yeah?..” And it’s funny, because they didn’t tell me anything, and then the flyer for Ultra came out and I saw Gaia. I was like, “Hold on a minute.” So I called my agency. I said, “Dessing, there’s this guy performing at Ultra that using my artist name.” That’s what I thought initially. I can show you the emails like “What is happening?”
No. And then Tim, my booking agent, said, “No. It’s actually — we booked you as Gaia.”
I’m like, “Oh. Great. Now what?” So that sort of gave the opportunity — sort of automatic opportunity to come up with something else. So you’re going to see Armin van Buuren. Well, you’re not even going to see Armin van Buuren. You’re going to see something different.
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): How do you determine when to use the aliases, versus just Armin van Buuren?
Armin van Buuren: It’s just an organic thing. Gaia means “Mother Earth,” of course, and it’s sort of a reference to my roots. It’s a little bit more stuck into one style. With Armin van Buuren I like to experiment a little bit more, but there’s definitely… A track like “Orbion,” which I released as Armin van Buuren could have been a Gaia track as well, so it’s not black and white.
But with a Gaia set and with a Gaia sound- that’s the sound that I love. It’s close to my heart, and I want to say to my fans, “Hey look, I’m still here.”
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): Makes sense.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): And speaking of A State of Trance, it’s out now — 2014 is out — and this is a brand that you’ve really created on your own, I feel. I mean, this is your mix show, this is you. You know? How do you keep that altogether? How do you decide how to make it all happen?
Armin van Buuren: You know, the A State of Trance radio show, when I started in 2001, was based on inspiration of myself listening to other radio shows. I’ve always been fascinated about the medium of radio. I think it’s a more powerful medium than television, because, with radio, you can come so close to somebody. It’s so personal. It’s this little friend that’s always there, and with the State of Trance, what I do is I showcase the latest in trance and progressive in a two-hour nonstop mix. That was the formula when I started in 2001. That’s still the formula in 2014.
So I’m in a position where I can share great music with great people, my fans, and I just pass on this music. And I actually use the radio show to showcase my fans about everything that I do. So, whether it’s a track that I’ve produced or re-mix that I produce, if I just became a father or if I want to tell something about a tour or about something that’s coming up or playing a track from the competition. I do everything. So everything comes together. It’s sort of the square, the general square, where everything comes together.
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): So my last question for you, your latest track “Ping Pong” just got released. I need to hear you tell the story again of how it came together.
Armin van Buuren: It’s a really funny story. It’s all based around my last show Armin Only – Intense. We worked on the show actively for a year, and we work 5-6 months on the visuals. We had a whole designing team in Eindhoven in the Netherlands who are working on the visuals itself, and the visuals will be — I think they’re really spectacular. That’s where we put most money into. That’s where we spent most time on.
And I went on one of the last days, right before the rehearsals started in Den Bosch, I came down to Eindhoven to check out how far they were with the production of the visuals. I said to the guys, “Guys, I’m so blown away by the quality of these visuals. I think it’s really, really outstanding work that you guys did, and I think it’s cool to make a contrast, something really simple,” and Carlo, one of the designers, said, “Well, what do you mean ‘simple’?”
I said, “Well, something 2D. Something black and white, like the original video game Pong, from the ’70s.” I’m a big gaming nerd, so I thought you know, if you have these beautiful 3D visuals going on and, all of a sudden, nothing what you see is like a black screen with two balls. It’s just so silly that it draws your attention, especially after all these hours of 3D looping visuals and logos and massive things that are going on.
So Carlo really liked the idea. I said, “Yes. Well, it’s okay if you want that idea, but then you need to deliver the track in one day, because we have only one more day to produce the visuals.”
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): Wow!
Armin van Buuren: So I drove home and I put down my computer the basic idea, in the evening, for Ping Pong.
Next day, my studio partner, Benno, came by to visit, and we finished the track together and put the vocal sample in. And, actually, we put all the stuff that we normally wouldn’t do in a track — we did in “Ping Pong”, just to make a contrast with all the rest of this stuff. We wanted the track to sound different, as a joke — you know, as a contrast for the Armin Only show.
The track was not meant for release. It was purely made for the Armin Only show, purely with the visuals. That’s why there’s a break in the middle of the ping-pong balls. Da.. Da. It’s made for visuals. You should actually see it with the visuals.
And then the show premiered. Some guys videoed it in the crowd and uploaded it to YouTube, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Wow! That’s awesome! That’s a fantastic story on how that came about.
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): Yes.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): My last question for you is this — with all the other big DJs out there, Tiesto, Avicii, Paul van Dyk, do you guys ever just get together and have a beer or play games or… Like how — I mean, I can’t imagine — I’m sitting here with you, but I can’t imagine if I have Tiesto here and Avicii and Hardwell. What you guys do, just talk music or…
Armin van Buuren: We do normal people things. We’re not aliens. We’re not astronauts. We’re normal people. Actually, yesterday, I hung out with Ferry Corsten and we came down for a little bit of wine. Sit down for an hour and chat for a little bit. I can’t say I’m good friends with everybody, like I know them really well. I don’t have the phone numbers of all the DJs you just mentioned. For example, Hardwell — yes — I go out, go hang out and see him.
Avicii, you know, we know each other. There’s a lot of mutual respect, and, if we have an opportunity, we always hang out. Yes. For sure.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Last time I saw you in Chicago at EDC, I didn’t know that Hardwell was in your trailer, as well, and I was interviewing, you know, and I’m later to find out that Hardwell is in there, and Trevor Guthrie is in there, and that was pretty amazing, so…
Armin van Buuren: Now it was also — Hardwell showed up at a State of Trance in Utrecht, which was really funny, because I interviewed him on air, and of course you get the negative comments and the la la la, but I thought it was really cool, because he’s open-minded. He’s a good DJ, because he has a good sound; he sticks to it; he’s loyal to his fans, but he also has an open mind to other genres, which is really cool.
It’s the same thing with guys like Dubfire or Carl Cox. They’re not beating down on other sounds.
Dayanna (Ascendance Radio): Well, thank you so much. It’s always an honor to get to interview you.
Armin van Buuren: Thank you very much.
Kyle (Fusion Radio): Thank you. I appreciate it.
Armin van Buuren: For sure.