Armin Van Buuren Comes Clean

by Clubplanet
10.02.2006

-Emily Tan

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Holland’s Armin Van Buuren just might be the embodiment of the euphoric trance he plays: transcendent, inspirational, uplifting. Van Buuren’s syndicated radio show, A State Of Trance, was just picked-up by KISS-FM in the UK and can now be heard in 20 countries by 2 million people each week. Although his lengthier live sets veer from techy to groovy, Van Buuren remains proud to bear the flag of his chosen style of music: trance. Following two outdoor shows at the same venue where U2 played, and on the eve of his return to New York to play Crobar with Made Event (tickets here), DJ Times writer Emily Tan caught-up with Van Buuren in this exclusive Clubplanet interview.

Emily Tan: I’ve heard great things about your last New York show, the one at The Tobacco Warehouse, beneath the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges--where U2 performed. How was that for you?

Armin Van Buuren: That was my best gig this year! First of all, because of the exotic location. It was the first time I ever played a party there on this scale. I was the only DJ from 4:00PM until 11:00PM, and it was totally a journey for the people who were there. It was glorious weather – it was warm – and I started slowly building it up from the ground. It was two days, not just a single show. I can’t explain…it was just amazing. I can’t stop talking about those parties.

Besides the weather and the venue, why were they your best shows all year?

Van Buuren: The sound was the most amazing in the world because of Mike Bindra, and Steve Dash is a hero, internationally, for sound. The production was amazing. They hired special trucks to power the lasers because they were so powerful. The location was amazing, right under the Brooklyn Bridge. The crowd was fantastic!

I interviewed Mike Bindra and Laura De Palma recently regarding Made Event’s productions of Paul Van Dyk in Central Park. Rather than simply be organizers of big festivals, they’ve gone the route of crafting more upscale events.

Van Buuren: It was tight security in Brooklyn with the situation in New York City…there were a lot of police officers and such, yet Made was able to pull it off. I’m really hoping to be back there. Central Park is a great location, too, but there have been many parties there. The Tobacco Warehouse was just me; there was not another artist before or after me that night. The structure’s just walls with no roof, but there was a tent in case of rain. The party itself was in the tent, and the outdoor area was open for everyone. It was amazing. The shows were July 7th and 8th.

What can fans expect from your show at Crobar on October 7th and 8th that they should be excited about?

Van Buuren: Musically, I’m releasing a new album called 10 Years Armin Van Buuren, in the life of Armin Van Buuren. A lot of people have asked me to re-release tracks only available on vinyl.

Is 10 Years Armin Van Buuren a retrospective of your work, or are they all-new tracks?

Van Buuren: A lot of tracks were unreleased. There are a couple of new tracks – like the one with Raccoon, the Dutch act – and one with a hip-hop artist. I’m really happy with it. It’s a double-album and it should be released in the U.S. in November on Ultra. About 30% are new tracks.

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Armin Only is the name of your parties?

Van Buuren: Yeah, sometimes they’d even last 7, 8, 12 ½ hours. The last Armin Only party on a boat sold-out instantly. We decided to move it to a venue called Ahoy in Rotterdam, which holds 12,000 people. There’s a DVD of it that’s just been released from Ultra, as well. It’s something I’ve never done before. It’s a core DJ set of 9 hours. It’s like what I did in New York City under the Brooklyn Bridge. For the Armin Only shows, I have vocalists, a guitar player, drummers and live musicians supporting me.

Why have you decided to remain with Made Event for your New York shows?

Van Buuren: Mike Bindra and Laura De Palma do Made parties all around New York, and since Brooklyn was so successful, I’m always with Made. They always brings-in extra stuff, extra lasers.

What is your DJ set-up at the moment?

Van Buuren: I’m using three Pioneer CDJ-1000MK2s and a DJM-800 mixer.

Are you playing vinyl anymore?

Van Buuren: No, none at all. I am nostalgic for vinyl, and I really can’t get used to the idea that I’m leaving my house with only a bag of CDs. It’s kind of uncommon ground for me, but CDs give the audience the feeling that at least something is live. If someone is mixing with Ableton Live or Serato, it’s live, but they could also be playing with mix CDs.

I was just going to ask you if you DJd with Ableton Live or Serato Scratch Live. There’s been a lot of discussion about that topic over here at DJ Times.

Van Buuren: You can still be very creative with Ableton; in fact, I do my weekly radio show on Ableton Live. But, I don’t do that in front of an audience! Ableton does synchronization for you, and with Ableton when you’re clicking with a mouse on a laptop, is that really adding to the “live” element of a DJ? If I’m using Ableton to do my radio show, do you have to pay money and go to a club to hear an Ableton set? I find technology right now, like Serato and the Allen & Heath Xone:3D mixer, and I think it’s really brilliant what you can do with it. I’m definitely looking at Serato for live shows because it still gives the audience the feeling that at least the mixing is live. If you really look into the heart of many people who go to the clubs, at the end of the day, what matters is that the music is good. Nobody cares about what technology you’re using…

Except gearheads like us.

Van Buuren: [laughs] Yeah, ok! We can talk really long about which techniques we’re using or not using. But put it this way, I find that watching you typing this interview is not very exciting…

Touché.

Van Buuren: It’s not that I say “no” to that way of DJing, I’m just thinking out loud. Is it interesting for a crowd to see someone standing behind a computer screen?

Which is why Sasha created the Maven controller to use with Ableton Live.

Van Buuren: Sasha’s a legend in that sense. What’s also very important is, if you’re a DJ, you have to perform every night. I can imagine Sasha moving to Ableton because it definitely breathes new life into a set, so it gives him a new vibe to make music. I think DJs who DJ with Ableton…there are DJs who need something new and exciting, and I think that’s a very good thing. It’s just not my thing, at the moment.

Do you see yourself DJing with Ableton Live down-the-road?

Van Buuren: It’s very possible that I might be DJing with a laptop in a year or so. The good thing about Ableton is, you mentioned Sasha’s Maven mixer, but th
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