How are you doing?
I’m doing fine.
What’s an ordinary day like in the life of a DJ?
Well it depends. In the weekends, I always travel and play. And during the week I am in the studio or in the office for my label, to take decisions on what tracks we sign, our artists. Stuff like that.
You spin at a lot of places around the world. Do you take anything from that?
What do you mean? Souvenirs?
It could be souvenirs. You know, the feeling? When you spin at different places?
The thing I find is that trance is a universal thing. If I play in America, if I play in Europe, I play in UK, Israel, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, it’s all the same feeling. It’s all about you know big rooms, hands in the air. That’s the great thing about this music. It’s wherever you go in the world, it’s like the whole trance thing. It’s one big family. That’s great. Yeah.
So you know we talk a lot about our expectations of a DJ. But what do you expect from the crowd here in Singapore.
I honestly do not know.
I heard great things about Zouk. And I know that they wanted to book me for a long time, and you know we’ve been trying to get here for a couple of years now, but I’ve been very busy you know finishing my album, setting up my label, touring the US. So that’s the reason why I’m here now for the first time. I’ll do my best not to disappoint. I don’t know what the club is like, but you know, if they book Armin van Buuren, they will get Armin van Buuren sounds. I’m not gonna play different because I’m in Zouk, you know? You book Armin van Buuren you get Armin van Buuren, that’s right, right?
You know you have friends like Ferry Corsten and Tiesto who have played. Tiesto played here two weeks ago. Have they given you any feedback on what the crowd’s like in Singapore?
Ferry told me that it was very good. I’m very close friends with Ferry so yeah Ferry told me it was really good. It was his birthday by the way. Ferry’s birthday yesterday.
And it’s coming to your birthday soon as well?
Yeah, Christmas child! Get big presents huh?
So what are you going to do on the 25th, you going to be home?
I’m going to be home. I’m with my friends. And I’m going to cook. I’m going to cook a big turkey or something. I have to think about it. I’m not that much of a good chef but I still need to think about the... I get 7 people so we’re gonna have a really nice meal.
But is it like a very traditional Christmas meal?
Yeah I think so. Nice Christmas trees, yeah.
Ok you know when you spin, what emotions do you want people to feel?
There are no specific emotions I want people to feel. I know that when people come to a club they have probably heard of me, and they probably know my music. You know most people come to the gigs because they know what my sound is like. So you know that’s really convenient. People listen to my radio show they buy my CDs or you know they’ve heard of me before. And that’s great, you know it’s the best thing. People can go to my gigs and they can dance, they can just listen and sit. They can do whatever they want. It’s not an emotion. I really like this music. I’m not doing this for money or because I wanna be no. 3 in the world or something. It’s just that I really really like this music, and this is the message that I wanna bring. I wanna share it with other people. It’s like when you have a really good CD, you really like.
You just keep playing on.
What’s the last CD you bought?
Godskitchen right? And there’s a couple of tracks that you really like? And you play it and you wanna play it to your friends right? Yeah? Well that’s what I do. I do what you do but then, for a bigger audience. Sometimes I’m so enthusiastic about a certain track, I’m like “wow, this is aw, one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard” and I wanna play it. It’s just you know, you know, building a party. That’s what it’s about.
One of your sets. You did a 12 and a half hour set.
Was it at the Hague?
What did you do to prepare for that?
Well it took a long time. I had five boxes, all sorted in key and yeah… but I was really comfortable that night because all my friends were there, my family was there, there were 2200 people in the club, and at 8 in the morning there were still people outside.
Yeah it was great. A really memorable night, really memorable.
You know, you have the label “Armada”. You know you sign on names like Signum and Motorcycle. Any chance of signing on some local DJs here in Singapore?
Yes of course! Yeah! If people give, if people send us demos, we listen to all the demos. We’re you know a very young label, we’re the youngest label amongst… the people already compare us to Blackhole, to Tsunami, which is great you know! The reason why I started my own label was because I got so much good stuff from other people. Tracks like, you know, people like Envio and people like Filo and Peri and Signum. They were all loving what I do and I was loving what they were doing. And they had tracks, and nobody signed them. And I was like you know, then I’ll start a label, and I’ll release the records! You know? And that’s just… and I find a really good partner, Maykel Piron who is the old A&R manager of Warner Music. And we started the company together and Dave, the ”Da” in Armada standing over there. And so yeah it’s really, it’s really nice. You know we are a record company ourselves so we get to decide what we wanna release. But if we release a record we really want to support the artist, and really want to support the record. I’m gonna play the record in my sets, I’m gonna you know, support the artist, play it in my radio show, do whatever I can to make the artist big. So is there a Singapore artist that wants to sign? (laughs)
Well I’m sure there’s a lot of people who are interested in signing for you. Definitely.
Well let me know.
You do a lot of vocal tracks right. What I would call vocal trance. How do you decide who’s gonna be singing with the music?
Everyday it’s different. It’s not a rule. Like with “Burned with Desire” I did with my album, I wrote an instrumental and Justine (Suissa) really liked it and she wrote that, and we sat down together and we wrote it. And that was really nice. We wrote together. We were sitting and I was writing and she was writing. We recorded it and at the end of the day it was on tape. And that was it. There’s never a rule and there’s no way of working it’s not that I always work with the song, or I work with the remix or I work with the instrumental, or I always start with the bass riff. It’s always different.
Have there been any offers of like doing a soundtrack? Like John Digweed did with, I think, Groove?
Not yet, nothing yet. Well tracks of mine have been included in some films and some TV series. But I didn’t get an offer yet to make a special thing for TV. It would be something that would be interesting. I don’t know, I’m really busy with what I do and I love what I do so I don’t mind making just, you know, I’m working on my second album now and I’m working on a compilation next year. I’m touring a lot next year so it’s really exciting.
Well I’m sure the trance fans will look forward to your new albums coming out.
Nice, very nice.
So what’s next for you?
What’s next? I’m gonna finish this Asia tour. And then playing Godskitchen New Years Eve, and then at January I’ll be in the studio and I’ll be touring in Australia again at the end of January, and next year it’s gonna be really exciting for me because I’ll be doing a lot of big tours I think Australia again, so twice. Three big tours in the US. I’ll be doing a big compilation with a US company. I’m gonna do Universal Religion Part 2. I hope to release my new album at the end of next year. So you have to wait, because you know I really want it to be good so it will take a lot of time. And there’s a couple of things, ideas with my radio show as well. I can’t tell a lot about it but we really wanna, you know, with A State of Trance we really wanna take the next step. Because it’s so popular, it’s so nice that so many people like the show. For me it’s a big honour. That all the people around the world listen to the show, it’s just great. We will keep continuing with A State of Trance.
It’s great to know that you play from the heart. That you are not going commercial like some other DJs.
That’s not trance. We think what you play is trance.
Exactly. Trance is not the JP88 riff. Di li di li di li! That’s not trance. I mean it can work but I don’t know, it’s you know, trance is a party for you. It’s not about riffs or vocals, it’s about a feeling, it’s about having a good night out with your friends. (laughs)
I think you said in an interview before that there are no rules.
No. You can play a progressive record, you can play a techno record, as long as it’s that feeling you know, then it’s good, then it works, I think.
No. 3 now on the DJ Magazine. Has it opened doors for you?
Yeah, definitely, yeah. I mean last year was no. 5, this year no. 3. I couldn’t believe it man when I heard it. It was just WOW! You know? I don’t know I really like being no.3 in the world, on the other hand, I really would want to be no. 1 in the world. But I will never change my sound. I will always stick to what I believe in. I will never, you know, start to play boring, or techno or whatever just to become number one. I will always stay loyal to my sound because I think that’s a risk of being a popular DJ because look at you and they criticise you a lot because it’s really easy to slam you down. Because people consider you as the established DJ.
For me it went so fast, the year 2000 nobody heard of me and now everybody, so it’s a great feeling, but it’s scary on the other hand because I still want to stay loyal to what I like, what comes from my heart. Sometimes it’s difficult because you get a lot of people, a lot of pressure from promoters, fans and labels. Labels say “you have to play my record!”, and you’re like “no I don’t really like it”. “You have to play it”. And you know, I wanna stay loyal to my own sound.
So how do you deal with the criticism or people pressing you to play?
I try to lock myself off a little bit. I try to deal with it, some pressure, you know sometimes, I really like to be in close contact with my fans. I try to stay in contact through messageboards. I wanna know what’s going on. I wanna know what people like. I wanna know what’s going on out there. So far people have been pretty positive out there. So I’ve been really lucky. I really like the fact that people like what I do. But I will always stick to my thing. It doesn’t mean that I will always play trance, but I will always play what my heart will tell me what I have to play and not an A&R manager, or label or you know.
So you know people listen to your tracks, for some of them it just touches their heart. Is that what you expect from your music?
I think every person is different and it will touch every person always different and that’s what I like about music. You might like music that I don’t like and I might like music that you don’t like, so there’s nothing more personal than somebody’s taste in music.
So outside of trance music what kind of music do you listen to?
Oh, I listen to so much music. Everything from Pink Floyd to Sting to George Michael, the Orb, Depeche Mode, U2, you name it! I recently bought Firebird from Delita. Jean Michel Jarre, classical things, BT, Chicane, everything! I like, I bought the new Dido album, I buy everything. When I go to a CD store I always end up with a pile this big and I go home and I don’t turn on the TV, I just listen to music. That’s what I like. I like listening to music. I like to hear what other people have, what ideas and stuff. I think it’s important to always have an open mind to other music.
So what about R&B and hip hop?
I like some of the productions, it’s amazing. It’s not something I would play of course! No, it’s good. Some of it is really good I think. It’s really good. I listen to it but it’s not my favourite.
So are you looking to mixing different genres for trance?
I don’t know. I think we’ve got this new wave coming. This new wave of sound I think you would exactly what I’m taking about. It’s not trance, it’s a direction from Gabriel and Dresden, Marco Schulz, you know, Ben Wolves, Barry O’Neal, those guys. Elevation. It’s going more towards the progressive side of things but you know, on the edge of progressive and trance. It’s not, you know, cheesy trance and it’s not progressive, boring, nothing’s going on. It’s on the edge. So it’s gonna be pretty exciting and so I’m already working with a lot of famous artists for the next album. So yeah it’s good, it’s really good. Can’t wait!
How about naming some of your favourite tracks ever in your whole life?
I think Li Kwan – Point Zero. Some of the old Oliver Lieb, BT stuff. There’s a lot of records. If you would go to me to my vinyl storage room and we listen to records, then we would be there for days.
Armin, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. We just have some records for you to sign.
No problem! Cool!