If you consider trance music a religion, then Armin Van Buuren is God. The DJ, producer, remixer, composer, musician, pianist and songwriter has taken trance to world renowned heights through his A State of Trance radio show, Armada Music record label and vast discography which spans over the course of a decade. He has dominated the DJ Mag Top 100 poll at number one for a record five times and holds 27 International Dance Music Awards which include everything from "Best Global DJ" to "Best Global Record Label." With the release of his highly anticipated new album Intense, Van Buuren kicked off his album tour at The Palladium in Hollywood where we got to talk to him about Intense, Armin Only, fatherhood and where trance is headed in 2014.
Almost 20 years later, influenced by his peers like Tiësto, Paul Van Dyk and Ferry Corsten, Armin has taken his music to epic proportions and is still just as relevant today. His new album bridges the gap between trance and progressive house while incorporating pop elements. "To be honest when I started working on the album, I didn't have a title. I was looking at the songs and noticed they were almost extremes of each other," Van Buuren says. "There's sad tracks like 'Alone' about a guy falling on the streets and nobody wanting to help him. But there's also happy tracks like 'Won't Let You Go.' I saw it as sort of a metaphor of life." These pretty intense extremes in life from graduations, weddings, babies to sad moments such as loosing someone or break ups was what Armin reflected on and hoped to show through his Intense album.
"There's a big group of DJs who have abandoned that 134 (beats per minute) sound. I'm not criticizing them because I can understand why they are doing it," the DJ says. "I can't because it's too close to my heart and I don't want to abandon my roots." His latest "Who's Afraid of 138?!," which is a very classic trance-sounding track, gives fans a statement saying "Hey guys, I'm still here." Having said that, Armin is not being pigeonholed in one genre. "I love to play a warmup set that are 122-123 (bpm) progressive house and deep, almost chill out stuff," he says. "Then build it up all the way to 140."
He is also showing people that trance is not a fixed genre by booking artist like W&W who are more progressive house, Dash Berlin who is more vocal trance, and Aly & Fila on his ASOT shows. "The ironic thing with labels is if you buy a jar of peanut butter and open the jar to find there's no more peanut butter then you are pretty upset," explains Van Buuren. He explains that trance and electronic dance music is going to be a mix of all sorts of dynamic genres by 2014. "Dubstep for example has a lot of influence from drum & bass. That too will happen with trance and house."
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The last time Armin Only came to America was New Year's Eve of 2009 in LA. In 2011, he was slated to play an Armin Only show here through Go Venture's Monster Massive which was canceled abruptly by the promoters. Instead, he traveled the globe to 15 different countries to sold-out shows for his highly acclaimed extended nine hour sets. "We're already speaking to the right people to do the Armin Only show in LA this year," Van Buuren says. In a way, the Intense tour was sort of a mini Armin Only as he specifically choose a relatively smaller venue to give the singers a chance to test out the songs live for the first time and played mostly tracks from the new album the first half. "I could have sold out a bigger venue and do a big 35,000 people gig, but I hope people see that by doing this I am serious about the quality of the show," says Van Buuren.
Armed with a team from the Netherlands including an amazingly talented new director, he gave fans in LA, Vancouver, Vegas, Oakland and San Diego a taste of this new incredible show over the span of five days. Making his way across America with eight more stops ending in Boston, Van Buuren does warn his fans he will be making cuts in his tour diary this year. "We are expecting our second child this summer so I'm going to disappear off the face of the Earth," he says. "This also feels organic because I don't want to overexpose myself. I see some DJs who have a crazy gig every day. I want every show to be special." You can still catch one of Armin's special performances this year at his Marquee Day Club residency in Las Vegas or at Electric Daisy Carnival in June.