Q+A: Five minutes with Armin van Buuren


Truthfully, Armin van Buuren needs no introduction. Still, it’s hard not to venerate the immense cultural impact the Dutch DJ and producer has had globally. Over the course of three decades, van Buuren has established himself as foundational to the evolution and dissemination of trance, not only through his often groundbreaking and boundary pushing work, but perhaps even more so with the establishment of A State Of Trance. Since first airing in 2001, van Buuren’s acclaimed weekly radio show has surpassed 1000 episodes, broadcast to over 150 radio stations across 84 countries, and has surpassed an astounding 40 million listeners. The legacy that he and A State Of Trance has created is almost incomprehensible – Armin van Buuren is trance music. That he and his show are still going strong speaks toward one of his more unspoken talents – adaptability. With his roots and influences in classical music, van Buuren’s resilience can be attributed to his insatiable thirst for knowledge and love of innovation. Take his latest single Motive – a track that honours his signature style while embracing the sound of the zeitgeist. As a forever scholar of music, for van Buuren change is synonymous with inspiration. It’s impossible not to be enamoured with the way he speaks about his craft, the way he sparks up with an exuberance and genuine excitement that still fuels his artistry after thirty years. It’s this novice-like obsessiveness that drives his support for new events and artists. That such an icon makes time to create something special for something entirely new is heartwarmingly earnest, and frankly inspiring. And that’s exactly what van Buuren plans to do for a headlining set at the inaugural Insomnia Festival in Zurich this month. As he prepares for this moment, we had the incredible honour of speaking with him about his history, but also about how he remains the cornerstone for the future. 


Download and stream Motive here


Armin van Buuren, welcome to PLAYY. It’s an absolute honour to speak with you.

Thank you for having me!


Set the tone for us. Where did your journey with music begin, and what keeps fuelling your passion to create?

At the root of my long musical journey is the strong desire to share the music I love with likeminded people. It’s why I launched my A State of Trance radio show and why I am still so passionate about doing that. And creating, for me, is an incredible outlet, as music itself is for so many people.


You’ve been inspired by a range of styles and artists across your iconic career, such as Jean-Michele Jarre. Who are the people, things, or ideas most influencing your current sound?

There’s not really one person, thing or idea influencing my sound, but rather the sum of many. I do get greatly inspired by collaborating with other artists though; it’s so refreshing to embrace a different musical perspective.


Collaboration has been intrinsic to your craft as a producer. What advice would you give to young producers looking to collaborate with artists outside of their usual style or genre?

It can be a bit hard to dig into a new style or genre for the first time, so it’s important to keep an open mind and maybe do a bit of research upfront so as to not get overwhelmed. Also keep in mind that collaborating doesn’t mean fully adopting the other’s sound; it’s meant to be an inspiring compromise that takes the middle ground between your respective sounds.


You’ve been in the game for nearly three decades. How do you stay ahead of the curve, and what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt when it comes to creative longevity?

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt in regard to a long, prosperous career is to make sure your way of life is sustainable. You’ve got to know what the pitfalls are and how to sidestep them. As for staying ahead of the curve, I try to reinvent myself as often as I can. But mostly, it’s just a matter of doing what inspires me; that’s worked really well for me over the years.


You finally had the chance to stage the ASOT1000 festival this year after a few setbacks. How did it feel to celebrate such a monumental milestone, and is there a moment in your journey with ASOT that you’re most proud of?

Oh man, it was such an unreal experience. It’s a bit humbling as well; it helped me realise once more how lucky I am to have so many incredible fans who’ve stayed loyal to A State of Trance for so many years. There have been many truly awe-inspiring moments in the journey of A State of Trance, but I do feel being able to celebrate the 1000-episode milestone trumps them all!


How do you approach your live sets? Is there an element of planning and adaptation, or do you go off the feeling of the crowd alone?

A bit of both, to be fair. Naturally, I’ll always have some tracks I’m a huge fan of at the moment and others I’d like to test live. So yes, there’s definitely an element of planning. But as a DJ, you can’t rely on planning alone. You have to read the crowd and adjust accordingly to provide the ultimate experience.


You’re responsible for some of the most celebrated works of immersive trance. The three part Communication comes to mind. With attention spans becoming shorter and music becoming tighter, do you feel that contemporary dancefloor culture is less conducive to this sort of journey making? How do you navigate adapting to this?

Not necessarily. I feel dance floors are entirely different from social media in regards to purpose and people’s attention span. While more immersive, extended music isn’t for every music fan, that was also the case way back in the day; it’s simply a matter of taste. I believe there’s still a lot of room for DJs to play extended tracks rather than short edits, provided the crowd is up for it.


What sort of journey can we expect to be taken on during your upcoming headlining set at Insomnia Festival? Do you have anything special planned?

I’d hate to spoil the surprise! 


This is Insomnia’s inaugural festival. What is the importance for established artists to support up and coming spaces and promoters, and how do you think this support can best be given?

I think established artists owe it to the world of dance music as a whole to inspire the next generation (whether through mentoring young producers or offering support act slots on gigs and tours) and I guess that could translate to supporting new spaces and promoters as well. It’s a different kind of business though, and I’m not sure it’s the artists that should provide the support in that regard. But if a new project, space or promoters excites me, I wouldn’t hesitate to get on board.


What do the next few years look like for Armin van Buuren and A State Of Trance? Will the show be visiting more countries and cities that you’re excited about?

A State of Trance has already moved into a new phase with the main event moving from Utrecht to Rotterdam, and there are lots of exciting developments still to come. We also hit up London for the first time, which was especially memorable. For me personally, there are some exciting projects I can’t share too much about yet; I’m really enjoying my life right now and look forward to hitting the studio a lot!


If you could go back in time, and write any song in history, which one would it be and why?

That’s a really tough question. Does the Star Wars soundtrack count?


Catch Armin van Buuren at Insomnia Dance Festival on August 12 at Switzerland’s largest indoor venue, Hallenstadion, Zürich. Tickets are available here


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