Armin van Buuren on the popularity of EDM: 'You cannot stop musical evolution'

Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren in Toronto on Saturday April 19, 2014. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)

Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren in Toronto on Saturday April 19, 2014. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)

Sean Fitzgerald, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

For Armin van Buuren’s current world tour, he’s finding inspiration in festive meals.

“I like to call it ‘Christmas Dinner with Armin van Buuren’,” he says of the Armin Only - Intense tour, a massive five-hour spectacle that combines his style of progressive and uplifting trance with performances by acrobats, dancers and live musicians. “Because you don’t start off with your dessert,” he tells QMI Agency. “You start off with something – maybe a soup or a salad, something light. And then you build up towards this big climax.”

The Dutch DJ, 37, has been performing since the mid-‘90s, and has become one of the most popular EDM artists in the world, thanks partially to his radio show A State of Trance, which reaches 20 million listeners on a weekly basis. He also flirted with mainstream radio last year when his Juno-winning single This is What it Feels Like (featuring Canadian singer Trevor Guthrie) became a huge hit.

We spoke to him before the recent Toronto stop of his tour. He visits Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum on May 3.

What’s the genesis behind the Armin Only tour?

The Armin Only concept came from when I was DJing in 2001 in the Netherlands. I told my manager, ‘Look, I have all these great tracks. And I want to play longer than just three-hour sets... I really want to tell a whole story.’ It’s a little bit like old-school DJing – you’re the first guy in, and the last guy out. And I remember this marathon set that I did on October 26, 2002, in a place called Club Eau. The club doesn’t exist anymore. But it was a legendary night. I got to play for 12 hours and 21 minutes.

Surely you took a bathroom break?

Nope. It was straight through. I loved it. It was fantastic, phenomenal. I really enjoyed myself. And that became bigger. That was such a success. People, at eight in the morning, were still buying tickets at the door, trying to get in.

And now, many years later, you’ve built up to this year’s tour.

Yeah, and playing for longer than three or four hours gives me more creative space. I’m the only DJ, so I don’t have to take into account what another DJ’s playing, or who’s playing before me, or who’s playing after me.

And how do you keep going? Are you having energy drinks, coffee?

Just water.

Do you think this trend of massive EDM shows will continue?

I don’t know. Everything is going so fast right now. There are so many new talents on the horizon. And I’ve said this a few years ago. What is happening right now is a thing I like to call ‘diversification,’ because you have all these little islands within dance music. It’s not just one sound any more. It’s just all these different sounds. And all these DJs all doing big shows.

What are your thoughts on the huge popularity of electronic dance music in North America over the past few years?

There’s a lot of criticism on it becoming so big, but I have something to say to all of these people. I think, you cannot stop musical evolution. It’s sort of arrogant, for these people, as well, because if you look at the history of music – all music – and I mean, go back to Bach and Beethoven, go back to The Beatles, go back to Elvis Presley. And you see that it’s just a thing that’s going on. It’s happening. It’s a movement. And you don’t have to follow the movement. I don’t understand why people are so negative. If you don’t like certain music, just don’t play it, don’t listen to it. I don’t understand the negativity. I think what is happening right now is something that you cannot do anything about. It’s just the natural course of things. New people are coming with new sounds that don’t sound like older records. Music is always evolving. Listen to the first Beatles album, and then listen to the last Beatles album.

And what’s next for you? Is retirement on the horizon? I know that you’ve got two kids now.

No, no. I have all these different projects now. A State of Trance, which is doing really well. We just did the Expedition tour, which was a massive success... Gaia, that’s another project. My other identity (laughs), where I wear the hoodie. So that’s something I’m really excited about. That’s something that’s not even halfway of what it should be. We’re at 35%. I think there’s a lot more to discover there. I really want to think about it... we’ve introduced a concept to the bigger crowd, and now we’re just going to sit back, think on it, and see what people thought, and try to build on it. With Armin Only, I still feel like we could take it to the next level.

I love how you’re saying that this is the biggest tour of your career, but that you can still do better.

Yes. I think there’s still more to learn from the world of theatre.

Twitter: @SeanDFitzgerald

sean.fitzgerald@sunmedia.ca

 


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