A conversation with Armin van Buuren at Creamfields 2023: Exclusive Interview
“Now everybody has USB drives and massive led walls but still the music is the same, it will always be about the music, and thank god,” says Armin van Buuren about the differences in the scene when we spoke to him at Creamfields.
Sitting down for a rare chat at Creamfields 2023, we got the chance to interview the legend Armin van Buuren. Picking his brains, we wanted to get his opinion on how the trance scene has changed from 20 or so years ago to now, and also what the differences are that he’s seen in himself. Aside from this, we also got the scoop on what his personal trance anthems are, and what he’ll always want to play in his sets.
With releases of yours from recent times, you’ve explored many different genres that weren’t explicitly trance such as the Reinier Zonneveld collab. When exploring different sounds, do you ever feel pressured to still make it ‘trancey’?
“I mean, I don’t want to alienate my fans. On the other hand, I have to embrace the fact that I’m not like other artists, and you have to embrace your uniqueness as well. So I guess it’s all about finding the balance between embracing who you truly are, and also sticking to your roots. It’s nice if some fans resonate with your music. I’m pretty aware that when I make music, there are no fans when I make music, but it really doesn’t make any sense to make music that people don’t resonate with. So that’s why I play a lot of music for well, you know, people at Armada, or my wife, or my best friends and try to get them excited. Yeah. I guess it’s a passion. It’s what really drives me. Music is nothing. I mean, if you look at it physically, it’s trembling air. It’s the emotion, the translation that people do in their heads. And I like to play with that. As a DJ, I think it’s fascinating to see why certain tunes work and why certain tunes don’t.”
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What would you say is the biggest difference in the trance genre and how it’s developed from, say, 20 years ago versus now?
“I think the way we produce trance has has a massive impact on the sound, you know. When the transformer was invented, as many people agree, you know, that was the golden age of trance 99, 2000, 2001. It was all mixed with outboard gear. So you had a sequencer with MIDI and it was sending out MIDI signals to a lot of outboard gear, and then it was in a big mixer, and it went through a data machine. I come from that. And then it changed into everything in the box. And some stuff was overproduced, I guess. And a lot of criticism came from that. I think we’re back at a time where people have started to really appreciate trance again. The techno guys have embraced trance fully now too. So it’s great. I mean, I don’t really want to get stuck too much into a whole genre discussion. When I go on beatport or another portal, I never look at “Oh, the trance genre.” I always try to venture out. For me melodic techno is transforming a lot of the techno stuff that has a trance element to it. So you know, it’s an endless debate. I think what we can still say is that people love melodies, and love a really good arrangement. And I think that’s the most important part.”
I Also thinking of your personal growth as an artist from starting out to now, what are you the biggest changes you’ve seen in yourself and your career?
“I was very, very much more insecure. When I just started, I was a people pleaser. I really wanted to please the fans. I was really gutted when I was reading the message boards at the time. Some people wouldn’t like my set, or you know, they called me ‘Armin van Boring.’ It was really harsh. And that was even before Twitter and Facebook, but I’ve developed a thick skin and now I appreciate that we’re all different. There’s never been an artist or a song written that 100% of human beings like, and I think that’s good. In a way. We are all supposed to be different. I mean, that’s how we had Einstein. You know, he thought different and he came up with his brilliant theory, so no, I’ve really witnessed the growth in the scene and it’s been massive. When I first came to the UK, the festivals were the exception. It was more of a club thing. So I have DJed all around the UK, you know, did my rounds of the M1, M25 Motorways. M6 even! I played Naughty But Nice in Herford. Wow. It’s a great, legendary club. It’s been great to watch the music grow. The way we played the music was from vinyl, it was all 90 minute sets. Everybody was playing the same records. And now everybody has USB drives and massive led walls but still the music is the same, it will always be about the music, and thank god.”
Speaking of the older style, what are the trance classics that you’ll always want to play in your sets?
“I have a couple. It really goes back to my love for bands like The Future Sound of London and The Orb and you know, M.I.K.E. (Push), Van Dyk and all those guys. L.S.G. (Oliver Lieb), Gorilla Records, ‘Limbo.’ Even Sven Väth stuff like ‘L’esperanza,’ and also Jam and Spoon and the early Bonzai stuff from Jones & Stephenson and all that sort of stuff. I have to say Matt Darey & Li Kwan’s ‘Point Zero‘ really got me into trance and the art of trance in general. I absolutely love L.S.G, ‘Netherworld’ is still one of my favourite classics. There’s hundreds and hundreds of tunes. Even back in the day you had R&S Records and stuff from C. J. Bolland, even Aphex Twin.It wasn’t a genre at the time, and now they call it EDM or whatever it is. I just love the fact that sounds so fresh. That’s where my passion for ambient music comes from as well. Yeah, absolutely.”
Featured image credit: SNDR / Provided by Armada PR