Dramatic walls of synthesizers, classical piano interludes and pick runs on a searing electric guitar? No, it’s not an old Queen record; it’s the new, rockish-trance epic Imagine from Dutch producer Armin van Buuren. Constantly in the running for world’s best (or just best-known) DJ along with Paul van Dyk and Tiësto, he’s got huge name recognition. His trance and progressive sets are always a hot ticket in Chicago—and he’ll play Vision on Saturday 24—so we thought it only right to get him on the phone between flights.
Time Out Chicago: Why do you think you’ve been voted the world’s best DJ?
Armin van Buuren: I don’t think it’s the best DJ. Maybe it has something to do with popularity or something. There are a lot of reasons; I have a radio show that’s in 40 countries on FM and in the States on XM, with six million listeners every week. I have been doing a lot of compilations in the States since 2002. I have had a couple of hit singles like “Burn with Desire,” “Yet Another Day” and the new one, “Going Wrong.” I am co-owner of Armada Records, based in Holland, and we produce a lot of records on Beatport. Mostly, I have been coming to the States a lot, touring every two or three months, deejaying up and down the country.
TOC: Trance music seems like it has stuck around a good long time. Are you into the way it is changing?
Armin van Buuren: I don’t think trance has ever been one type of sound. I think trance has always been evolving. The trance of now sounds different than that of five years ago. If you ask me if I still play trance, I say, Yes, but am I still playing the same records as five years ago? Definitely not. You move on.
TOC: Is there something about the Dutch love of life that translates into being a good DJ?
Armin van Buuren: Trance music gives you a full journey, and I feel that some other dance-music styles don’t do that; they stick to one sound. You’re a trance music DJ, and you’re allowed to go from 125bpm to 145bpm. If I look at my record case right now, I play a lot of tracks that are labeled as minimal, as electro, as house, as trance. You can get away with playing anything as long as you are taking [listeners] on a journey. That journey element and the euphoric element are really important for trance. Trance music works toward a climax.
TOC: You sometimes play 12-hour sets. Can you take a break?
Armin van Buuren: No. Talking about it, it sounds tiring. But doing a 12-hour set is the most rewarding thing for a DJ. Mind this, I’m not playing guitar for 12 hours; I’m playing other people’s records. I show up, put my hands in the air to other people’s music. That’s what I get paid for. A lot of people know me from the high-energy two- or three-hour sets, but there’s so much great music out there; as we speak, there’s hundreds of hours being made. In a longer set, I’m my own warm-up DJ, I’m my own highlight DJ and I’m my own closing DJ.
Armin Van Buuren lands at Vision, Sat 24.