“If I wanted to be number one DJ in the world again I’d have to change my sound”: An interview with Armin van Buuren
It’s a chilly Sunday night at Sydney Olympic Park and it’s bizarre to think that these rows of empty car parks were once filled with spectators coming to see their sporting heroes. Tonight it’s a very different scene. One by one gargantuan stretch hummers blaring staccato beat trance pull up curb side to release packs of sneaker freaker scantily-clad ravers here to worship another kind of hero. Their music hero; Armin Van Buuren.
As the pulsing packs of excitable fans arrive, Armin Van Buuren sits inside his quiet hotel room. The chaotic atmosphere of outside doesn’t hit this room, there’s calm and order. His willowy wife Erika dressed in travel clothes, potters around the kitchenette as Armin explains to me they’ve just had a Skype call with their two children Fenna, 3 and Remy, 11 months. It’s a far cry from the pre-concert antics that we’re so used to hearing about; the scene is rife with normalcy, a stark juxtaposition to the gabber trouncing crowds who have been filling the stadiums of his Armin Only Intense tour.
He is charismatically mesmeric in his prose; you can’t help but linger on every word of his almost encyclopaedic musings on the ever evolving music industry. It is that change that has seen the EDM movement divide many, but when pushed on the subject the Dutch-native answered humbly. “Music is a development, that you can’t stop and I can’t stop. And to slag that (EDM) off would be exactly the same as the parents who use to slag their kids off for listening to The Beatles.”
At 37, the sense of divide within him is palpable. On one hand he is unrelentingly passionate about his music and promoting young artists through his label Armada Music and his radio show A State of Trance, “There’s a lot of new talent still within the trance scene and that’s something that I’m particularly interested in.” On the other hand he is a father to two young children; the separation obviously starting to take its toll, “We’ve been to 21 cities around the world already and my daughter, she is three now and you can really see that she’s hurting that we’re not there.”
The whip smart producer cut his teeth in the music industry DJing whilst simultaneously studying and successfully completing a Law degree. Since then he has established himself as one of the most revered dance producers in the world, winning accolades and awards, like the No. 1 DJ title from DJ magazine. Unfortunately this year saw his reign end with fellow Dutch DJ Hardwell snatching the crown. “I mean I’m not going to lie, of course I was a little bit gutted to lose it but after five years it kind of feels ok.” His attitude towards the loss is reminiscent of the master passing on the baton to the next generation of music producers who have a new sound, a sound so different to Van Buuren’s, a sound that he’s not willing to adopt. “If I wanted to be number one DJ in the world again I’d have to change my sound, that EDM sound is not something that’s in my heart.”
What place does the dance music industry have for a young family man who is feeling a disconnect with the progressive sounds from a younger generation of producers? I think we needn’t worry, he’s clearly comfortable with his uncompromising sound and so too are millions of his trance-loving followers. “I’m in a different position in my life now, I’ve got my brand and I’ve established my sound and I just want to be in that niche,” he assures us. It’s this stubborn and unrelenting passion for trance music that forms the lifeblood of his career. He is a family man in more ways than one; he is also married to his music and forever faithful he will stay.
— Lisa Hamilton