Monday, November 23, 2009

Armin Van Buuren's Universal Religion

SLIGHTLY revised version of a 2007 article I wrote for the Manila Bulletin about Armin Van Buuren, the celebrated trance DJ who performed here back then and is again scheduled to, well, bring the House down anew this December 10 at the World Trade Center for the Manila leg of his ongoing Universal Religion tour as presented by Nokia Music and Big Fish Manila.

At the time of the interview, Van Buuren was holding the number two position in the Top 100 vote of DJ Magazine, the bible of his industry. Since then and according to his Wikipedia page, he has been voted number 1 by the same magazine for three straight years from 2007 to the present.

Read on and get to know him some more:


“SOME people think trance is a dirty word,” Armin Van Buuren muses. “It’s only the most popular form of dance music in recent years. For others, it’s simply electronic dance music. For me, I just call it trance.”

The superstar DJ, who was recently in town for the second stop of his ongoing Asian tour, was more than pleasantly surprised to see the warm reception he received from the full house crowd that trooped to see him strut his stuff at A-Venue along Makati Avenue.

“I’m just a simple guy from Holland,” he exclaims. “I come to the Philippines and people know who I am, it’s amazing.”

In that one-night stand presented by Big Fish Manila (now this is what I call a really Big Fish), Van Buuren literally brought the house down as only a world class DJ can. The Dutch native also has a way of charming the select members of the media, as he did during a backstage meet and greet session that also effectively doubled as a mini press conference.

“I’m a big music fanatic in every broad sense,” he says while admitting that as far as he can remember, he always wanted a career in music. “I listen to everything from the Beatles to Sinatra to everything in between. I probably have one of the weirdest music collections you will ever see in my iPod, or any other iPod, for that matter. If it’s not hopelessly commercial or hopelessly cheesy, then I’m probably listening to it.”

And yes, Van Buuren always wanted to be a DJ. He says he could not remember a time when he actually considered a career outside of music, even if his good looks and demeanor easily reminded us of early, no, make that Footloose Kevin Bacon. Since he became a DJ, Armin has always been identified with trance, especially after he started hosting his own weekly two-hour radio show called A State of Trance in 2001.

“And seven years and 300 episodes later, the show is still around,” he beams. “When I first started it, fans were asking where they can find this or that track. It’s amazing how its following grew in such a short time. It now airs in about 40 countries in FM and in the internet. It’s the first globally established trance show with a listener base of over four million people who tune in every week for it.”

In explaining the trance phenomenon, Van Buuren attributes the popularity of the dance sub-genre to what he calls as “going back to its roots.” “Trance has elements of just about all types of different music,” he says. “There’s progressive, tribal progressive, techno, melodic progressive and of course, trance, euphoric trance and vocal trance. When all these styles come together, they evolve into a new sound altogether, which is what trance has become, a broader term that covers many different genres.”

When asked about the longest set he ever played, Van Buuren was quick to emphatically answer, “12 hours and 21 minutes” as if it only happened recently. “Actually, it was way back in 2002 at The Hague. How did I do it? Well, for starters, I brought a lot of records,” he smiled.

Van Buuren is actually used to playing long sets as far back as when he began his DJ career at ca club in his hometown of Leiden in the Netherlands where regularly played six to seven hour-sets. During school holidays he played more than four times a week. In 1999, he met Dave Lewis who introduced him as a DJ in England and the United States. His DJ career accelerated when he cracked DJ Magazine’s Top-100 DJ’s and debuted at number 27 in the magazine’s November, 2001 issue.

Having played in more than 25 different countries, often as a headliner of big summer festivals, Van Buuren is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s best and has been ranked number 2 by the same DJ Magazine for the last two years. When asked how it feels to be the second best DJ in the world, he did not show (or at least tried not to) any hint of displeasure over his ranking.

“It is what it is,” he replies in a matter-of-factly tone. “I’ll be honest, I do dream of being number one but it’s not my main concern at the moment. I’m not doing this for the money. I’m not doing this to compete with anybody. I do it because I love to do it, just sharing my passion for music with everyone out there.”

“As for expectations from my audience, like from you guys here in Manila, well, I don’t have any,” he shrugs. “The less expectations, the better party I usually give.”

And here he is:

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