United Kingdom | 10 June 2010
With the first ever South West Four Weekender fast approaching, we caught up with Armin Van Buuren to chat about the event, his big tracks and his favourite festival moment.
This year you will be headlining SW4– what can the crowd expect?
Armin Van Buuren: “This will be my only London performance for 2010 and it’s obviously the festival of the summer. It will be around the time that I release my new album so I look forward to playing my new tracks at the festival. South West Four is the best festival in the UK, the atmosphere is incredible and I look forward to playing immensely.”
What can we expect from your new album?
AVB: “There will be some amazing collaborations on the album, although I can’t reveal who yet as the final track list has not been decided. It’s due for release in September.”
How is the new album different to your last artist album ‘Imagine’?
AVB: “There is more electro bass lines and more melody and that sort of stuff but there are also some classic, euphoric, 138bpm English trance on there. I still love that sound but I’d like to experiment a little bit with some lower bpm’s and some more housey elements.”
Who inspires you right now with your music?
AVB: “Everything, everybody. I listen to electronic music - a lot of the younger talents that are out there and doing really well – names like George Acosta, Ultrasonic and the new school of Trance producers - but also I listen to a lot of rock bands and rock albums. I try to understand all of the electronic music that is out there at the moment, even David Guetta’s stuff – it might not be my cup of tea but I still think what he’s doing is brilliant and I listen to that to see what exactly works and how I can incorporate that in to my sound without copying it.”
From your previous performances at SW4, what would you say has been your favourite memory?
AVB: “I think it was two years ago – I remember there was a dip in the sound for some technical reasons and the crowd were just singing along to the riff of the song. It’s a Gallery crowd – you can’t really go wrong, it’s really strange to see but there is such a huge following for The Gallery, now at Ministry of Sound and earlier at Turnmills. I’ve been playing there for 10 years on and off every 3-4 months on average. What’s so great about this crowd is they’re very very loyal and they’re very keen. You won’t find a festival with a better atmosphere in the UK because it has such a massive following that people are so enthusiastic about the music. It’s brilliant!”
So the opportunity to headline SW4 is possibly one you grabbed with both hands?
AVB: “Oh yeah, for sure! I have a really good relationship with the people behind SW4. I’ve been playing there for quite a few years and this is the first time I’m going to be headlining it. It is the festival of the summer. I’ve been speaking to quite a few Londoners and they say atmosphere-wise it’s one of the best festivals because it’s at the end of the summer, usually it’s pretty good weather, it’s pretty central London and it really is a special event.”
This year SW4 is extending to a two day event with Fatboy Slim headlining the day after yourself - is Norman possibly somebody you aspire to be like?
AVB: “I can’t be like Norman. He is Norman Cook. There’s only one Norman Cook. There’s only one Fatboy Slim! I’ve seen his Brazil DVD and it is so amazing what he does. I couldn’t play that music just because it isn’t me, but I fully enjoy his performances and I fully enjoy what he’s doing. He is a very unique personality. If it will be anything like his Brighton performances then it will be Woodstock!”
Will you be returning to Amnesia this year?
AVB: “I think so, it looks good, I mean I can’t see it not happening; I’ve done it six years in a row. I hope Roger [Sanchez] teams up with me like last year – it was really good. I heard the nights going to start around the 21st June and run through to the end of September. I’m really excited about it as I’ll have lots and lots of new music to play around that time.”
Are there any remixes that you’ve been working on recently?
AVB: “I’ve just finished a remix for Faithless of their new single and I’ve also just finished one called ‘Every Other Way’ for BT’s new album ‘These Hopeful Machines’.”
How’s the label Armada been going?
AVB: “Exceptionally well to be honest. If you look at our website you can see we have so many labels and it’s grown a little bit too big for myself so I’ve stepped down from the board of directors. I’m just a shareholder and I still run two labels within Armada but it is such a big organisation. With all the companies divided we have Armada, Armada Music, Cloud 9, Cloud 9 dance and a few other companies that are all in one building now. I think we’re talking about fifty people that are working there on an everyday basis when it started out with just the three of us – Armin, Michael and David which are the first letters of Armada – and now we’re in 2010, five years later and it’s this big company which I am really proud of because we’ve worked with some really really talented artists like Josh Gabriel, Andy Moor and John O’Callaghan. We have over 200 artists and we have made profit which is kind of exceptional in these times, but I think that’s because Maykel who runs and manages the company now is very smart with the on-line compilations. There is still a market for selling CD’s even though the industry has changed, it’s very small but we still produce CD’s and vinyl.”
With regards to Armada obviously you’re constantly releasing a whole host of tracks from a number of producers – who would you say your top tips are for this year in terms of up and coming producers?
AVB: “Sebastian Brandt is really really good. I’m excited about Josh Gabriel’s new album, that’s going to be wicked. I think Orjan Nielson is doing some massive stuff. We’ve just done a label deal with Andy Moor from the UK, he’s doing some really good collaborations. I’ve just heard his new single, it’s brilliant. Markus Schulz is another – he is doing some excellent stuff which we are really proud of. Watch out for his new artist album, it’s going to be amazing. There are loads of artists – Blake Jarrell is starting to build his own sound, also Dash Berlin has a pretty big buzz about them – they’ve made a single with Emma Hewitt called ‘Waiting’ – it’s definitely one of the biggest tracks in my set at the moment.”
Tell us about your studio set up and what’s the most exciting purchase you’ve made recently?
AVB: “There’s a big article about my studio in last August’s edition of ‘Sound on Sound’ where you can see the studio for yourself. Basically the most important thing in there are my monitors which are custom built by a new company called Royal Sound Systems from Holland. They built the monitors especially for the space of my studio. It’s perfect and feels really really nice and I can recreate the sound of a club in my studio; I can hear all the frequencies which is brilliant. The biggest purchase I recently made was the East West Complete Composers Collection which I think is a great collection of absolutely must have sounds, like orchestral for example. It’s very expensive but completely worth the buy.”
With regards to your tracks that you’ve made over the years, which track are you most proud of when you look back over your discography?
AVB: “That’s very hard to say. It would be like asking - if I were ever to have children - what my favourite child would be. It’s very hard because every track has a story. I think the track that has meant the most for my career that was big in the UK and really helped launch me was ‘Communication’, along with ‘Blue Fear’. But then again I’ve made so many tracks – for example ‘Sound of Goodbye’ and more recently ‘In and Out Of Love’ which I think made the biggest push for me internationally because it was such a hit worldwide."
Your radio show continues to be a massive success. Is that still something you enjoy doing?
AVB: “Yeah, of course. Actually, last night I had a big meeting with fifteen people because we are celebrating 450 episodes on 1st April – we are starting in Toronto and moving through New York then to Bratislava in Slovakia and then going to Poland a week later. What we are trying to do is a ten day long radio show on a special dedicated on-line station, which we did last year and was a big success with 300,000 people tuning in with an average listening time of over 2 hours. The show is going to be a live broadcast from all these locations. Basically my show is a two hour transmission every week with the latest in trance and progressive music, but for the round numbers such as the 350th, 400th and 450th we like to do special parties to celebrate. Last year for the 400th show we celebrated at Air in Birmingham with a live studio broadcast which had a massive following. Loads of people were watching online – some even were opening clubs in places such as China and broadcasting the signal in them. It was really fun.”
Do you have any ‘State Of Trance’ parties planned for around Europe and America?
AVB: “For sure. In the summer we’re doing a couple of parties and at Amnesia in Ibiza I’ll be hosting one special ‘State of Trance’ night. It’s going to be wicked.”
How long does it take for you to compile each week’s show and do you think the quality of music out there has increased or decreased in recent years?
AVB: “Well it has ups and downs to be honest. There are good periods – I always find this period one of the best because loads of people are back in the studio and they aren’t on tour so usually around summer it thins out a little bit but then it comes back around September/October. But it’s never hard to steal a show because there is always so much stuff out there and there are always people that want to hear re-runs of all the tunes, so filling a show is always easy. I have to say that me doing a two hour radio show is very demanding because I want to hear everything, I want to hear every single track that is out there.”
Your Armin only events have been hugely popular in recent years; do you have any plans to host any more of those?
?AVB: "When we launch the new album we already have plans to tour with that. We’re already working on sketches and artwork for it. It starts with the music and it goes from there.”
And what do you prefer – the intimacy of a small club or a large arena show?
AVB: “That would be like asking ‘do you like hamburger, do you like steak or do you like fish?’ What I love is eating steak one day and eating a really expensive meal in a really posh restaurant and then going out to Burger King the next day and eating a greasy burger. That’s what makes life fun.”
So a bit of both then?
AVB: “Yeah, sure!”
You’ve probably been asked this question a thousand times but you were voted number one DJ last year for the third time running – how was that achievement for you?
AVB: “Pretty unexpected – I expected David Guetta to win it. I was on my honeymoon when I heard which made it even more special. I had a really good year last year but I didn’t release an album – I just had a really big compilation that did well and toured a lot with some successful festival gigs and had loads of fun but I didn’t count on it. To win it once is very special and I consider myself very lucky to win it once. To win it twice was really unexpected but to win it three times was...I just really didn’t see it coming, especially with all the success of the house jocks that were doing really well last year. But then again looking back at the year with A State of Trance 400 and compilations, a couple of singles and a few remixes I did, along with the success of ‘In And Out Of Love’ internationally, I can understand it. But it is still hard to believe because there are so many great DJ’s out there, so I am extremely humbled and feel very small thinking about the idea that I have three trophies here at home and I can call myself ‘most popular DJ’. It’s a strange title if you think about it. A popularity title doesn’t say anything about how good I am. It just says a lot of people like what I do which is great. I’m one of the few people walking the planet that gets to do what they love everyday and gets so much back from the crowd. I am a very very lucky guy.”
What advice would you give to any new DJ’s breaking on to the scene?
AVB: “Be unique, be yourself. Take the good elements of DJs you like but try to make it your own. The reason why David Guetta and Deadmau5 are so successful is because they are unique characters. If you see them on stage you love them for who they are. Deadmau5 puts on a strange mouse head and David Guetta has his own sound. Look at Eddie Halliwell – he’s not producing records but he’s a unique DJ behind the decks and I think it’s really important that you become your own and you make your own style and you entertain the crowd with something that people haven’t seen before.”
Going back to SW4 – what one track would you say you are looking forward to mixing at the festival?
AVB: “My new remix with Faithless. I promise you I will play it because it is big!”
Finally Armin, have you seen Avatar?
AVB: “Yeah, huge, loved it, amazing!”
Fatboy Slim and Armin van Buuren will headline this year's event with Carl Cox, John Digweed, Josh Wink and many more already on the bill.
Early bird tickets have completely sold out but general admission passes are now available for £40 either day or £72.50 for the weekend.
Click here to buy South West Four tickets.
South West Four Weekender (SW4) 2010 will take place on Clapham Common, London from 28-29 August.
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