After 20 years of pioneering and trail-blazing, Armin van Buuren needs no introduction.
His name is synonymous with trance, he's become a fixture in the EDM firmament, and even after all these years he's still one of the hardest-working artists around.
In a rare moment of downtime, he told us about the last 16 years of A State of Trance, relived his tearful moment on the main stage at Tomorrowland 2013, and looked ahead to his hopes and dreams for the future.
Thanks for taking some time to speak with us, Armin. How is 2017 treating you so far?
2017 is shaping up to be an excellent year. I’m touring the world with ‘Armin Only: Embrace’, just opened my new radio studio in the HQ of Armada Music in Amsterdam, am getting ready to celebrate A State Of Trance 800 in Utrecht and have tons of new things coming up. That’s pretty amazing in my book.
We’ve just passed A State of Trance Festival Utrecht, on 18 Feb. How do you reflect on ASOT, and all that you’ve achieved with it, almost 16 years on from the very first show back in March 2001?
Back when A State Of Trance started, it was simply me playing some music and sharing my own personal taste with the world. Now, sixteen years later, I still find it really hard to believe that such a small show went on to become a way of life for so many people all over the world. If you would’ve told me sixteen years ago that this would happen, I’d have you admitted in a mental institution. I’m really, really humbled by it all and hope that there are a lot more years of ASOT ahead of us.
After that you have seven Armin Only dates, taking in Ukraine, Germany, Russia, Indonesia and Singapore, and finishing with two Best Of shows in Amsterdam. How does bringing the party back to your home crowd compare to performing around the world?
Although playing so close to home always adds something extra, performing around the world also has its perks. It’s truly wonderful that I get to meet so many different people who all share a passion for music. Each crowd brings something unique to the experience and that’s exactly what I love about playing abroad.
You talked about your last album, Embrace, as being about bringing together different cultures, views and styles. Not to get too political, but do you think this type of inclusive mindset is even more important now, 18 months on from the album’s release?
Not necessarily. ‘Embrace’ wasn’t exactly meant to reflect some sort of change in the music world or a musical direction that everyone should follow. ‘Embrace’ is what it is because bringing together all of these wonderful sounds and influences inspired me. That was the most important thing for me and that hasn’t changed in the past eighteen months.
You’ve also said before that collaborating with live musicians, and ballet dancers, on Armin Only shows is a way of keeping things interesting for yourself, or part of ‘reinventing yourself’. Would you ever think about adopting a new alias and producing a totally different type of music, electronic or otherwise?
I don’t know if I’d adopt a new alias. I could’ve done so with Embrace, but I reckon it wouldn’t have mattered. Every song or record I make is a part of me. It’s all Armin van Buuren. No alias can change that.
What advice would you give to young DJs and producers, about how they try to develop their sound and find their own way?
I know it sounds cheesy, but I’d advise them to follow their gut. You can always analyze tracks from other producers to learn from, but in the end, you have to find your own mojo to truly stand out. The best way to do that is to create whatever inspires you, not what you think might work or sell well. Apart from that, I’d tell them that they should never give up on their dreams. The fight isn’t lost until you stop trying.
I have to ask about your announcement of the birth of your son, Remy, on the main stage at Tomorrowland 2013. It has become one of the festival’s iconic moments, and I guess it kind of represents the balancing act between family life and touring. How do you remember the emotion of that moment?
A rollercoaster. I think that’s the only way to accurately describe all of the emotions that I experienced right there and then. That moment will stick with me till the day I die.
READ MORE: • Tomorrowland's Most Memorable Moments
And how has having a family changed your life in music?
It’s a massive change for not just me, but a lot of people. Fortunately, I’m surrounded with a lot of wonderful people, who help me to even it all out. I couldn’t have done it all without them and am forever grateful. It’s a lot of work to balance family and music, but it’s worth the effort twenty times over.
Do you think about whether your children will follow in your footsteps and become DJs/producers themselves? Are they showing any interest already?
Although I’m sure they’re musically talented and love to know what daddy is up to, there’s no saying whether or not they want to follow in my footsteps. And frankly, I don’t even mind if they don’t want to. I want what all dads want, that they follow their dreams and live a happy life. That’s all I wish for.
And finally, can you tell us about your dreams for the next 10 years, either in your personal life or in music?
So many dreams, so little time. I always strive to become a better musician and to keep Trance music alive. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I’m sure that these two things are among the main focal points in the next ten years. As for the rest, I promise to clue you in whenever I’m about to go on a new adventure. How does that sound?
Armin van Buuren's I Need You is out now on Armada Music.
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