Armin van Buuren keeps himself busy. For the past two decades, he has hosted the enormously popular “A State of Trance,” which boasts a follower base of 40 million listeners. He has won many awards, played countless festivals, been nominated for a Grammy and holds the U.S. record for most entries on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums Chart. On January 29, he’ll perform at the Fillmore New Orleans.
I sat down to talk to the world-renowned DJ about the musicians he admires, his newest album, the unusual marketing campaign that accompanied it and his recent appointment as the Global Oceans Ambassador for the World Wildlife Federation.
You have 28 songs on your latest album, Balance, and you released a 2019 end of the year collection with 100+ songs; what inspired you to such volume?
I guess I feel comfortable in the studio! Also, I want to stress that Balance is a balance of songs I’ve released over the past few years and 14 brand new ones. It’s sort of a photograph of everything I’ve done over the last three years.
I noticed that one half of the album is more pop sounding and the other is more dance-oriented. I assume that was intentional as well?
Obviously most people know me from my work as a trance DJ. I’ve hosted a radio show for almost 20 years called “The State of Trance” but over the last couple of years I’ve really developed myself musically, so I’ve been in the studio with people like Scott Storch and Ne-Yo and it’s a great way to experiment and broaden my boundaries. Having said that, I will never forget my roots as a trance DJ, as a trance producer, as a trance host, so Balance is a mix between the more pop and the more dance. I love trance; I will never abandon it but veering out of that sometimes gives me a breath of fresh air and it’s the fuel that still makes me want to do what I’ve been doing for so many years. I try to find inspiration in not-so-well-known territories.
As the host of such an influential show, you’ve helped define the genre. Who is an artist within it who you really admire?
Oh, many, many DJs. I come to think of people like BT. There’s actually a track on Balance with BT– he’s one of the founding fathers of the whole trance sound. He was already there, making his mark, years ago. To be able to do a track with him was an incredible honor.
Anyone new and coming up?
I’m a big fan of MaRLo, the Dutch/Australian guy. He’s doing incredibly well. He’s a good guy, a good friend and he’s one of the best producers out there at the moment.
Have you done a collab with him yet?
Not yet! We’ve been talking about it for a long time. Another guy I’d like to mention is Tempo Giusto. He did the track “Mr Navigator” with me– he’s a guy from Finland, super talented. I’ve been following his work for a long time. We started with a strong idea and it was really quickly finished. I love his ethic.
I love that. When I asked about people you admire, you gave me three artists from three different regions of the world. There’s something wonderful about how global this sort of music is. Do you have a favorite city in the world to play?
You know, I’ve played good and bad gigs in every city but if I had to name a favorite one, I’d say Ibiza. There’s something magical about it. I’ve been touring the U.S. for almost 20 years now. I’ve been in every city. It will be nice to be back in New Orleans soon.
What do you think you’ll be doing while you’re here?
Hanging out on Bourbon Street but only because Sting sung about it.
Oh, you have to, at least, eat a little bit of everything on your visit.
Yeah, well, my personal trainer thinks I should lose weight and I’m trying to but I’m crazy about food, especially any Asian food. I struggle with keeping to my diet but I have days where I’m allowed to cheat. I’m looking forward to those days. I can’t wait.
You were just announced as the new Global Oceans Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund. That’s thrilling. How did that come about?
Before I applied, I went to Bali to see how they’re fighting the plastic problem. I saw the spots where they dumped all the garbage. It’s just laying there. It really breaks your heart. The problem is very urgent and very touchable but the solution is relatively easy. It’s all about mindset. It’s about more than just collecting money. It kind of surprises me how easy it actually should be.
I was in Bali last year as well, and the trash issue was alarming. What can we do about it closer to home?
You can make your politicians aware that the environment is something you care about. On a smaller scale, reuse your bags. It takes any time between 20 and 1000 years for a plastic bag to disintegrate and, because it’s in the water, it goes into the water supply which goes to your stomach.
In Indonesia alone there’s around a million kilos of plastic being dumped into the ocean every year– there are islands of garbage in the ocean. I literally don’t understand why it still needs to happen in this modern world. If somebody drops something on the street, I always pick it up and put it in the trash. It’s just a matter of decency. It’s how I bring up my own children. I think it’s important they realize that you’re breathing clean air, you’re eating clean food but that’s not something that just happens. There are a lot of people fighting for that and what really scares me is the microplastics. There’s a credit card’s worth of microplastics going through your body every day and that’s just crazy.
We’ve clearly touched on a subject we both care about and could elaborate on infinitum but let me shift gears for our last question. How did you come up with the concept of having murals painted, around the world, with scanning codes for Balance?
In these days of streaming, Balance, as much as I want it to be, is less of a physical product. Obviously, we press vinyl, CDs, but it’s not as much as it used to be and putting posters around town is still cool but it’s not very 2020. You have to think of a way to promote your music to younger people. So, we set up different meetings with different people and one of them came up with the idea of the murals. It’s such a random idea, I felt, but it has such a massive impact because you give artists the freedom to have their interpretation of the album in the artwork and then people can take pictures with that, scan the Spotify link and stream the songs. We’ve seen such a massive reaction, so many people posting pictures of themselves with the murals. I guess it works.
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