Armin van Buuren’s Journey: Bringing Color To Life – An Interview At Las Vegas’ Newest Nightclub, Omnia

*interview by Christian Alva

Here are some video highlights of the interview…

Full interview below…

Christian Alva – So we’re here at Omnia, it’s a new club, you’ve played here before… what do you think?

Armin van Buuren – Amazing, I think this is one of the best clubs that I’ve played at in my life, and I’ve been DJing for 16 years and have played in a lot of different countries and venues. The sound is amazing, the club is amazing. You’re so close to the people, everybody can see you. The latest technology is all in this club… look at all of the LEDs… I think it’s really remarkable. And of course the chandelier, it’s like the icing on the cake. It’s beautiful, it looks like something out of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. It’s really beautiful.

Christian Alva – Why don’t you run us about 10 years back, 10 years ago ’til now. What was it like? What was going on? Where are you at now? What’s the transformation been like?

Armin van Buuren – I like to think that I’m still basically the same person. I mean I’ve learned a lot. The sound has changed a little I guess, but it’s still Trance… I’m very much focused on trance and about the development in trance music. In 2006 I was already pretty high up in the DJ magazine poll and I was already spinning all around the world. So, the only thing I’ve noticed in the last 10 years is that, all of a sudden, we have this big boom of dance music around the world and the term EDM all of a sudden came up (which isn’t new)… but people just started using it in a different way. And, this year’s scale of things, just blew up. I remember landing at an airport and you were very happy if the promoter would tell you, “Hey man you sold 800 tickets” you’d be like, “WOW!” and now it’s like you land somewhere and it’s, “Hey man, you sold 80,000 tickets” like, “WOW!” haha.

Christian Alva – Or you sold the show out, right?

Armin van Buuren – Yeah, so it’s really great that the numbers are bigger. Some people don’t like it, some people are nostalgic… they prefer the old times, where everything was smaller. I always tell these people, “Ya I know where you’re coming from, but you know, you cannot stop change”, the only constant is change. Music is changing, everything around us is constantly changing, and that’s just what we have to live with.

Christian Alva – I’ve had talks with a lot of people in the industry in reference to any DJ getting big, and for example, some people say, “Oh Armin is doing all these ASOT’s now… where it should be just a one (show) celebration, in one city. It’s now multi-celebrations, in all of these cities for the same ASOT show number”. But my whole reaction, coming from being a business owner, is that when you’re growing a business, in which you are growing a businesses as a DJ and Producer, doing something that you love, you also have a lot of people that support you to be able to become so big. A lot of people in my opinion don’t understand that part.

Armin van Buuren – I think the customer, at the end of the day, is always right. It’s right, we used to have one celebration, one party to celebrate the round numbers of episodes, but then you want to do a new thing every time. I cannot, as much as I would love to, just simply go into the studio and recreate the same track that I’ve done already. I’m very nostalgic about my own tracks from the past and I’m very nostalgic about older episodes of A State of Trance and I actually love to listen to them myself… but I want to keep developing. That’s also the reason why, for example, I’m not continuing the Armin Only Intense tour. It has to stop at some point. It needs to show to the people that you’ve moving forward with the sound, otherwise you are going in circles and it’s not inspiring to me. I want to keep learning, I want to improve myself or at least keep moving forward or keep trying different things all the time, ’cause you know what, that inspires me. This year we did A State of Trance 700, live from Luna Park in Sydney, which is a completely new location, completely different party. Then a few days later we threw a massive event in Melbourne. It was a great experience, but a whole new approach to the whole 700 celebration theme. So I think it’s important to stress to people, that in order to keep things interesting, you gotta try new things. Sometimes you love a good movie right? And, some people prefer to watch the same movie over and over, and that’s fine you know. But, I like to make new movies.

Christian Alva – I agree, I have a season pass to Disneyland and they are constantly changing and recreating the park. They do it for a reason… because if they are always the same park, no one would go or attendance would drop.

Armin van Buuren – Exactly, yeah of course.

Christian Alva – I don’t think a lot of people understand that. I also have a list of up and coming DJs and Producers that I help with marketing and stuff like that, and I’m always telling them, “Look at what everybody else is doing. Like Armin or Paul… or like all those types of guys. They’re always recreating, looking for new ventures and all that kind of stuff…”

Armin van Buuren – Well, I want to make one really important remark about that, because I think it’s really important to stress that I’m not trying to force this (recreating yourself) onto anybody. There’s nothing wrong with liking something. Some people just don’t like change. And, what they’re really actually saying, and I’m realizing this now, is that they liked the Armin of THEN (moreso than now)… and that’s totally fine. It’s actually a positive thing. That’s how I view it now. You know what? I’m still the same person, I’m just trying to move things forward. And not as a defense… and I’m not even trying to explain myself, I’m just trying to tell people, that the choices that I make, are for a reason.

Christian Alva – Let me tell you something that I was going to get into. 10 years ago, I believe that was one of the first times I actually started listening to you on a regular basis… a friend had shared the 2005 countdown with me. It had “Tracking Treasure Down”, “Serenity”, Dogzilla was in there… and at that point in time, I was going through some really hard times in my life. At the same time, I was also doing a lot of writing, that’s the way I was expressing myself. And that mix, basically got me through those hard times.

Armin van Buuren – (laughs) Cool!

Christian Alva – I would just listen to it over and over and over. So like you were saying that people love you (“the old Armin”)… I still love you to this day. I listen to all your stuff still.. but that one mix, was one of the staples for me… to be here, to keep on coming.

Armin van Buuren – That’s cool, that’s awesome!

Christian Alva – So, thank you, I really appreciate that!

Armin van Buuren – No worries (laughs).

Christian Alva – I have a question from my mom, she’s like this (knowledgable) music person, who loves all kinds of music. She doesn’t really know anything about dance music at all, but she asks, “In your opinion, why is it that music strikes a universal note with everyone, and specifically, what is that touch-point for you?”

Armin van Buuren – I think music is giving color to life. Try to go to a funeral without music, try to go to a wedding without music. It’s like watching a black and white or color TV. It gives color to everything, it gives it dimension. It’s something that has been amazing me all my life. I’m so amazed by the fact that it’s trembling air, that’s what it is. It’s speakers, trembling, the frequencies that touch your eardrum and you know our brain responds to it. The references that we have… the melodies. It evokes emotions sometimes, if you listen to a track that you really like. It’s something really magical, it’s what makes us unique as human beings because I think most animals, not all of them, but most of them, don’t even respond to music. It’s a very human thing which makes us human… and like I said, it gives color to life, it’s like the leaves on the trees.

Christian Alva – So, storytelling… I heard an interview one time, I believe through SIRIUS XM, and it was in reference to, “What does Armin Only give you the ability to do?”, and I believe your response was something to the sort of, “Storytelling”. Can you elaborate on storytelling as a musician, as a DJ & Producer, and as Armin Only as well?

Armin van Buuren – Well, I think of a DJ set as a composition. If you play a shorter set it’s like watching a short movie, a short film. If you go to an Armin Only show it’s like a feature film, and every good feature film has a beginning and an ending and a story. There’s maybe a car chase scene, maybe a love scene, maybe a fighting scene or a whatever kind of scene… it’s like a roller-coaster. It’s not the same thing all the time, you try to bring people on a journey, you want to give people an experience and you can do the same thing with music. I try to use the tracks that I play to paint my painting, that’s what I’m doing, or to make my “movie”. I’m making my own “movie”. And with Intense, Intense is an album that’s really a reference to the birth of my two children. That’s why when I the start the show i’m DJing in the womb and I’m being born at the beginning of the show. So it’s like a life cycle, that was the story of Intense…you know, “catch your light”, that’s the story we wanted to bring across with people and that’s what people still remember to this day… people still come up to me like, “Hey, that’s very clever”. If you have Christmas dinner for example, you’re not starting with the dessert, you don’t start with something sweet, you save that ’til the end. That’s how I approach the DJ set as well… it’s so great to be able to really take people on a journey. Like, “Hey WOW it’s  already 4 am?! That night really went by fast.” (laughs)

Christian Alva – And that brings up a good point. If you’re getting so many people involved (in your music) that they lose track of time, that’s a good thing you know. I like to tell all the DJ’s and Producers that I teach & train, to tell stories with their music. That’s how I believe you’re really going to dig really deep into people…. because your 2005 countdown episode, that dug really deep into me… ‘tiil this day it’s still on my computer and I listen to it every now and then.

Armin van Buuren – (laughs) Cool.

Christian Alva – So do you think that’s (storytelling) really a big and important thing for up and coming artists to put into practice?

Armin van Buuren – Absolutely! Well, everybody has a different story to tell and your story doesn’t need to be like a movie or anything… but it (these stories) shows your character, you decide how you want to to tell YOUR story. How you want to entertain people. What I mean by storytelling is every good movie has a surprise element. It’s something that makes you laugh, something that makes you cry or something that makes you scared… that’s for music as well, you can entertain people in so many ways. With a big drop, with a nice melody, with good lyrics, with just maybe a techno groove that’s really cool and really nice to dance to. There’s so many colors into a good DJ set. There’s so many ways that you can entertain people and if you’re really an aspiring DJ, you want to tell people a story. There’s a million ways or more that you can tell YOUR story.

Christian Alva – Especially when you introduce the visuals and all that kind of stuff. I went to the Intense show at the Forum and I was blown away. I didn’t even know what to expect because I had never been to anything like that before. I’ve seen you play at some festivals and things of that nature, but nothing like that. I was just completely blown away.

Armin van Buuren – That’s also because I had full control of the night, it was my show and my crew there, and we were really able to lift things to the next level. I’ve learned so much throughout the years, 16 years of DJing and I’m just the type of person that knows that, “Ok, wait a minute, if the crowd is not feeling my set, am I having a good time?”. If i’m not having a good time, why would the crowd be having a good time. So, the most important thing for me as a DJ, and I always take this as a ground rule: I want to do stuff that inspires me. Because I know for a fact, that if I’m doing something that I’m not liking… I see a lot of DJs that go on autopilot, I see them DJ with a pre-mix set or whatever and they just mix and they go like this (waves hands in the air), then take a drink… or they go like this (waves arm)… it’s not really DJing, you have to do it with your heart. That’s just how I am, there’s no rules in music of course and I’m not here to tell anybody what to do. I’m just saying that’s who I am. I like to entertain people by surprising them, and you know what, I’m doing it actually to surprise myself. I’m trying to entertain not only the crowd, but also myself.

Christian Alva – And if you don’t FEEL what you’re doing…

Armin van Buuren – You’re going to stop doing it…

Christian Alva – Yea, but not only that, but you’re not going to inspire people, and that’s what I think THIS music has so much power of doing… is inspiring people, like it did me with the 2005 countdown, and like it has done with a lot of other people. If you’re not feeling it, you’re not gonna inspire people and those people are eventually, in my opinion, are going to get turned off.

Armin van Buuren – (laughs) True… very true.

Christian Alva – So we are a LA based entity and I saw on the Facebook newsfeed that you were giving a shout out to two of our fellow Trance family guys that had passed…. Andrew and Marvin. Can you elaborate on that? How did the news make you feel? Is there something special that you would like to say?

Armin van Buuren – Well the Trance family is obviously a close community and some people are really tied into that community, and sometimes you hear of the unfortunate passing of people… which just always breaks my heart, especially if it’s a member of that family. When i heard the news, I immediately got text messages, and to be really honest with you, I didn’t know them personally, but I heard that so many fans were really touched and moved by the news and they were really shocked. I felt like I needed to say something on the radio show because my radio show, for me, is the perfect medium to reach out to people personally. Sometimes I wish a couple who just got married (congratulations) and other wishes to fans of the show. So yea, it’s a great way to reach out to people and I just felt really shocked about all of this with Andrew & Marvin. And unfortunately, this is what… LIFE happens… some people that are dear to us, sometimes have to leave this earth and I don’t know why. It’s very unfair. The only thing I can do is bring some comfort to people by saying, “Hey guys, this is terrible what happened, let’s comfort the people that are close to these people…”

Christian Alva – Yea, lets come together as the community that we are, and lend a helping hand.

Armin van Buuren –  Yea, it was really a shocking thing. I could feel throughout the vibes… because I was reading through the forums as well, what that (the mention on ASOT) did to the community and how good that made everybody feel. And it makes me proud… it makes me feel good, the fact, that just by saying this on air, that I can give some relief to some people who are with the deepest grief and going through the hardest times in their life, losing someone they love. I can only imagine how hard that must be for the family members and friends of the 2 guys that lost their lives… It’s just horrible.

Christian Alva – Rest in Peace Andrew and Marvin.

Christian Alva – What’s the advice you can give up and coming artists, that is besides the, “don’t give up, hard work”, you know… that kind of stuff?

Armin van Buuren – Recently I became a fan of all the clips on youtube and websites like macprovideo.com. You can find sooo many tutorials online and a lot of people ask me, “Ok, so you tell me that I have to make a track. So, how do I do that?”. And it’s a very (complicated thing), I understand that. Because you’re sort of in the dark. There’s so much information out there, you don’t know where to start. You’re looking at your blank screen, you have your DAW set up… you have an idea for a song, “but how do I get from my idea to the song… to actually to the dance floor… and to Armin Van Buuren playing my track”. Well, I recently found out that there are so many great tutorials on youtube, you don’t even need a professional education, you can if you want, there are some great schools out there, but I think self education is key. Why not instead of watching another (TV) series that everybody is talking about, use that exact time and go online and watch a couple of these tutorials… because that’s what inspires me. I’ve learned a lot of tricks for producing, making specific sounds… you know, “how can I make this pad and make it sound really wide? How can I make this trance riff… how do you program that? How can I make my kick sound really fat? How can I have that clap with the big reverb behind it and reverse it? how do you do that? How do I arrange my song… do I have enough elements to arrange my song?” All these questions and a million more, you will find answers online. You find them on youtube… you find them on websites like macprovideo.com. Or for example, if you’re a big fan of spectrasonics, or native instruments or whatever plug-ins you like to use… like reFX, you just go to their websites. There’s free tutorials… there’s really experienced sound designers that tell you everything about compression, about limiting, about mastering. And all you really need to do is take time, go online, and self educate.

Christian Alva – So, basically what that means is get your ass to work and focus.

Armin van Buuren – LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!!

Christian Alva – Like you said, no more series, no more netflix… nothing on regular TV, just go learn. I don’t do any production myself, but I DJ. But the stuff I do study, is online, and I do it all damn day long.

Armin van Buuren – Imagine if you would just take an hour of your time everyday, 5 days a week. That’s 5 hours a week, 20 hours a month… that’s a lot during a year. You can really learn sooo much, just study and learn tricks of the trade. Learn your DAW. Learn how to make a good track. And then… I promise you, as soon as you finish a couple of these courses (and training), you will feel sooo inspired… and the music will start writing itself.

Christian Alva – Here we go… last question. This is from the fans, it was pretty much the #1 requested question: When is GAIA coming to Los Angeles?

Armin van Buuren – Uhh, GAIA (laughs), you’ll have to ask GAIA themselves. I don’t know ;]

*scratches head

I think GAIA is making an appearance very close to Los Angeles really soon… and I mean within the next 2 months. Might not be so far from here actually (laughs). I spoke to them. They really don’t want to do that many gigs… but yea, it’s a fun side project to be honest. It’s fun times.

Christian Alva – Everybody is just like (GAIA GAIA GAIA)… there wasn’t any other real questions… other than a couple of track IDs from shows and stuff like that. Mainly it was: GAIA, GAIA, GAIA!!! And I’m like, “Ok I got it! It’s on there, it’s on there. Don’t worry about it…”

Armin van Buuren – (laughing) It’s great because it’s blowing up to this massive thing and I told my management I want to keep things on the low with GAIA…to keep it exclusive and to keep it special. It already has it’s own cult status already (laughs)

Christian Alva – It does. It totally does.

Armin van Buuren – (laughs) Hey, maybe we can get GAIA on DJ Mag Top 100?! That would be awesome ;]

Christian Alva – (laughs)

Armin van Buuren – (laughs)

Christian Alva – Alright Armin, thank you so much!

Armin van Buuren – Thank you!

Photo Credit: Al Powers: powersimagery.com

Photo Credit: Al Powers: powersimagery.com

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Special thanks to Armin van Buuren and his wonderful team for their time & arrangement of this interview! Also, special thanks to Omnia Nightclub for allowing us the time and privilege to do the interview inside the nightclub!

Connect with Armin van Buuren: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

Connect with Omnia Nightclub: Website

And a very special thanks to Unity Travel for helping with the video production of this interview!
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