Armin van Buuren Talks MSG Surprises, A State of Trance, Tiësto and More

Tonight, Saturday (March 30), Madison Square Garden will transform from an arena to a sold out (tickets flew off the Net in under an hour) ‘state of trance’ fun-house. The world’s longstanding No. 1 DJ, Armin van Buuren, will stand where the Stones jammed; where Lady Gaga gyrated and shed faux blood, fellow (former trio) DJs Swedish House Mafia spun and countless other sports and music legends have performed before. If you haven’t seen our ‘Photographic History of Armin van Buuren’, check it out here.

A mere few hours before showtime, VIBE sat down with Armin high atop the PH-D Rooftop Lounge at the Dream Downtown—as journalists and shutterbugs flapped about waiting eagerly to speak with the CEO of trance music. Still, this Netherlands born producer maintained an air of calm and friendliness. After all, that’s “what it’s about,” Armin van Buuren told VIBE amidst the fray, “having fun, being in a studio, just being me.”

VIBE: Are you nervous for tonight?
Armin van Buuren: Not really, not at this moment. I know I should be, but probably the most comfortable place for me in the world is on stage. I’m actually sometimes nervous right before a performance, but as soon as I’m on the stage I’m like, “okay, we’re gonna rock this baby.”

What have you done to evolve “A State of Trance” in the last 12 years since it started?

I think you’d have to answer that question.

But I and I’m sure the world wants to hear it from your mouth.
I’m not trying to evolve, per se. I’m not trying to force being something that I’m not. It’s also the theme of my new album. I found my own light, in a way, and that means I’m now more at peace with who I am and what I am. You know, sometimes you’re jealous of other people and their achievements, and you wanna be that person, but I’ve come to realize that each individual on this planet has his own path. I’m more at peace with that now. Not completely yet, it’s not like I’m ‘there’, but I found my light, I found my road. Even though tonight is a very special performance, I know that the message from the fans is like, “Armin, don’t change your sound, just be who you are and do what you want to do.”

Trance music is a quite a cult culture, and you sold out MSG in under an hour. How does that feel?
Amazing, but also scary because I don’t want to alienate my first ever fans. I want to wave to them and say, “hello, I’m still here.” It’s still Armin van Buuren. It’s still the guy who came to New York for the first time in 2002, for my first show for Mike Bindra (of Made Event). It’s just the attention. There’s a lot more attention right now, which is great, but I also want you to know that I’ve never – when I’m in a studio making a track – I’m just vibing away. I’m not like, “oh I have to have a Billboard hit,” or “I have to get more fans,” or “I have to make more money,” or “I wanna be in DJ Mag again.” It’s not about that, man, seriously, it’s just about having fun, being in a studio, just being me.

Who are you? How do you define yourself, your sound? How about in a simple three words?
Emotional, euphoric, uplifting… and intense, maybe I should say intense.

How do you feel about Tiësto? Do you think he’s alienated fans as someone who had deep roots in trance and changed or evolved?
His path is different from my path. I think he’s still an amazing artist and I think he deserves a lot of respect for what he’s done for the EDM scene in the past, and he’s still doing it. I could never badmouth Tiësto. Also, he helped me in the early days of my career a lot.

It’s refreshing to hear you say that, because as a writer or painter or musician is it not an artist’s right to evolve and lead their own path?
Well, it’s an artist’s choice to listen to criticism or not. I’m very sensitive to criticism. On the other hand, I do realize that it’s my mission as well to evolve and to keep the sound alive. Trance for me is not this or that. State of Trance, the radio tour, I think I’ve tried to show people with my warm-up sets that I play 122 [beats per minute], 123, progressive. I’ve never said a State of Trance is just about one sound or one thing. If you listen to the show from 2002 or 2003, you’ll also hear tracks from James Holden, and the deeper stuff from [progressive DJ Petter] Petta. So, a State of Trance for me is everything from the 122 up to, “who’s afraid of 138?”

How did you know when “Expedition”, which you collaborated on with Markus Schulz [also spinning tonight] was finished?
We just felt like it was finished. We felt like it’s different, it’s a theme, it’s energetic. If you listen to the track you can clearly hear both of our signature sounds in it, so I’m really proud of the track.

Do you have a plan for tonight?
Yes. We have some special surprises.

Anything you’d like to share now?
Well, let me give you a hint; let’s just say it has something to do with my new single [“This is What it Feels Like” feat. Trevor Guthrie].

Which dropped on Armada North America. What’s the plan for the label in North America?
Basically, we just want to do it ourselves. After four albums that I’ve dropped here through American labels, it just feels like I haven’t gotten the attention that I wanted. I really want to reach new fans that could possibly be interested in trance, and I feel like we have to do it ourselves now. It’s actually a bit sad.

Well, doesn’t the adage go, “if you want something done you have to do it yourself?”
I’d rather work with an American label, to be honest.

Don’t feel too sad for Armin van Buuren. He’s smiling as his publicist shoots me the, “three minutes left” sign, pointing to her watch… there’s another eager member of the press waiting.

Keep it locked for VIBE’s post-MSG follow-up, with more from Armin van Buuren, along with Ferry Corsten and Markus Schulz, who debut their new collab tonight as New World Punx.

See you at the Garden.

Photo Credit: Richard Agudelo