Armin van Buuren Dishes on Ultra’s New Home, Gaia & More

Bart Heemskerk

Miami Music Week is drawing to a close and Ultra Music Festival is settling in to its new home at Virginia Key. Sunday is the holy day of A State of Trance so we sat down with Armin van Buuren ahead of all of the madness to see what he thinks about the changes and what he has in store for us.

1On Wednesday you played a really cool downtempo set for Sirius XM. What brought that about?

It was a favor for Sirius, they wanted to do a new thing on their chill channel. I am a big fan of their chill channel. I am one of the biggest fans of ambient, down tempo, and chill stuff. Two years ago I released an album called Club Embrace. It is kind of down tempo and less aggressive mixes of my earlier songs. I was doing a big show in Amsterdam and around the world. I wanted to be the only DJ, would be kind of weird if there was a warmup. So I thought what I am going to do when people walk in? I came up with the idea to do a two/three hour mix of my own songs but down tempo. I approached all my friends in the progressive world and they made these amazing cool remixes. It’s on Spotify, been there for two years.

I won’t do this for a regular thing because people like me for the trance stuff. But you know its Miami and Sirius so – I am glad you liked it.

Thank you guys for all your support. I have been following you stuff as well. It is always important that you guys review something.

2In October your Gaia project had a brand new concept show during ADE then went silent? What happened and when will we get new Gaia martial?

I am finishing the album as we speak. With the Gaia project I want to be a little bit more rebellious. I am going to go against the grain a little bit. Obviously the Gaia is everything that Armin is not. Don’t expect any big collaborations, vocal tracks. It is just all live. Normally when you produce an album you would go to the studio and create a bunch of tracks, and they you would compile that and say ‘heres my album.’ For this album, we went completely the other side. We have done the live show, the project is finished, but we actually don’t have the album.

The way we did that is we have a bunch of loops and melodies and sequences. We have live synths and arranged the album live. I just need to fix a few things. What we first want to do is release the album and then a few months later then release the live Paradiso (ADE) set. It is radically different, the themes are the same but mixed in a different way. Because it is in front of a live crowd, it was so much fun to approach it from that way because it was unorthodox and outside of my comfort zone as a DJ. I am going to take my time, I feel it needs to be perfect, I am in no rush. The good news is the live show is done.

So we are ready to go live and it could be anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours. It is basically a live jam. We are triggering live sequences, and I am not able to play you a single track. Because it is all loops, I could only play you 4 seconds of loops.

3Was it done on Ableton?

Yes, two Ableton sessions. Linked to each other. It was a really good project because it was so far away from Armin van Buuren. I need to finish it soon.

4Over the past few years you’ve released a number of big singles, first in the pop-style red radio edit, quickly followed by the club edit. When you create these tracks which version comes first? Do you create the club edits and then strip it down to radio or the reverse?

Mostly we start with the club version. But it is a different time than 10 years ago, the trance world is even though it is super great is a small tight community. Those are always my fans but I want to reach a greater audience and pull them into the trance world. I am trying to find new trance family members. So the idea is get the pop version and then the club version. And sometimes the club version does even better than the radio version. “Wild Wild Son’ did really well in Belgium and the Netherlands but not so much in other countries. The Club version did really well in the States.

Doing the pop version does not guarantee a hit. I just find it exciting but it is just the background you change. It is really hard to make a pop mix of dance track, but it is easy to make a dance track of a pop track.

5After years you finally collaborated with Above & Beyond, how was that experience? And is there anything more to come from your time together?

Hopefully, I have a huge amount of respect for the guys. Because we started around the same time, actually my manager helped them set up Anjunabeats and advised them on deals. So we have always had something go on in sync and we at Armada love Anjunabeats. It is so cleaver and clean and I am a fan of their shows.

I have always been good friends with the guys. It took a year actually, I flew to their office to see their operations and how they approached things. We didn’t want to share any hint online because of the pressure. If we had released something online about an Above & Beyond collaboration, everyone would have been [going crazy]. And then the pressure would have been on. I was hoping to release it in October of last year because that was the original plan, but it took a lot of time and effort. There was ongoing discussion of what we should and not do. But I think you can hear both of our sounds in the song. I think it was version 100 that was actually the final version.

It is literally a 50/50 thing with those guys. I learned so much from those guys.

6What can we expect out of you sets from Ultra this week?

Well I have a new collaboration coming up, state of Trance 2019, coming out in May. I’ll be dropping tracks from there, a lot of new stuff. Also I am going to be playing more of the stuff you expect me to play. It is going to be a very different Ultra this year so it depends on the crowd. We are in a new location, new megastructure and live stage. So it is a different vibe, and I always look at the crowd and then I decide.

I have a folder of about 100 tracks and 70 of them are brand new. And 30 are more established tracks. The main stage set is more whoops and hops. A lot of exclusives, it is going to be different from what you expect. Everyone expect me to start out with that track I have been starting out with recently, but as itt is the start of the DJ season you have to bring your “A” game.

I am just a little worried that all the fans will get there in one piece. With the transport and I hope the vibe will be like the downtown one. In all honesty, I was really skeptical when they left the other area. I was like “oh my god, that is going to kill the vibe”. I think next year everyone will be happy. It is a strange year, the Swedes are not here, Hardwell is not here but hey I am gonna bring my “A” Game.