Hot off the madness that was ASOT650 Santiago and Buenos Aires, we hooked up with Armin to ask him all about the fun of the ASOT tour, the challenges of combining it with Armin Only and his upcoming Ibiza residency at Ushuaia. Next to explaining the story of ‘Ping Pong’ and telling us all about his upcoming collaboration with Andrew Rayel, we also talk about the current state and future of trance, a weighty discussion that keeps the scene going these days. Armin: “Trance can be very addictive and this also shows you how much love there is for that sound. But music will always move on.“
Hey Armin, how are you doing? Recovered from the ASOT650 madness of Chile and Argentina?
Armin: ”Doing great but I could use some sleep. Balancing between being with my family, on the road and in the studio. The New Horizons show in Chile was great and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from what happened in Argentina. 22.000 people came to the show and we ended up doing a back to back with 7 DJ’s. Awesome.” Who came up with the brilliant idea to do a back2back set with 6 other DJ’s? People will remember that for years! Armin: ”The best parties always come unplanned. When Dennis, one of the organisers at Alda Events, approached me with the sad news that Fadi of Aly & Fila couldn’t make it I was devastated. We had to make a plan quickly. Fortunately Thomas Heredia wanted to fill in for Fadi and to make it extra special I asked Dennis if Thomas would be okay with me joining him for a special B2B. I would ask all other acts to join us as well. I wasn’t sure if every DJ would be up for staying that late but everyone stayed and all of us made it memorable. I think it was so special because in these days of DJ list rankings and stuff I know every one is so careful with their ‘image’. But all DJ’s put that aside and made the show for what this is REALLY about; THE FANS!”
You in the radio studio, interviewing and discussing, playing sets…the ASOT world tours are exactly what you love most, right?
Armin: ”Yes ASOT and Armin Only are my most important projects. I’ve always been a big fan of radio and I love being able to give new talent a stage to shine on. That’s what I love most. (Don’t forget I had a lot of help in the early days from other artists and it feels great to be able to do something back.) Second, I really love to connect the audience at the event with the people listening on the streams. Literally turning the world into a dance floor by spreading audio and video to anyone who cares to see it.”
We’ve still got Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Miami coming up. Looking forward?
Armin: ”Very much! Kuala Lumpur was so insane last year we just had to go back. Jakarta is a completely New Horizon and long overdue. The fans there have been requesting ASOT’s presence for years. I’m totally honoured to have such a big line up there too, especially with having Paul van Dyk there. He was one of the guys who started it all. Miami will be extra special with my first ever GAIA performance on the ASOT stage.”
Another highlight of this past weekend, was the announcement of ASOT’s Ibiza residency moving to Ushuaia. After 2 successful seasons in Privilege, why move to Ushuaia? Is it the next logical step?
Armin: ”Ushuaia came to us with a brilliant plan! It’s as simple as that. Traditionally the radio show itself always broadcasts on Thursday evenings 20:00 CET so a couple of the nights will be broadcasted live from Ibiza! I love bringing trance and progressive to Ushuaia! I loved the seasons at Privilege and I will always cherish those moments we had there but this just feels the right step.”
ASOT at Ibiza will no longer be a night time event, but held during in the evening. How will this affect the show? Will we see any changes?
Armin: ”The plan is to make the show as intense as ever. Of course it gets dark at a certain time and this will enhance the ASOT experience. Plus I will host a couple of ASOT radio shows live from Ushuaia and some of the line ups you will recognise from last year.”
Trance is definitely something new for Ushuaia. Is this move a sign of the times – is trance taking over?
Armin: ”Maybe! I see a lot of debate about the current state of trance. My opinion is that when I play I see the crowd going off just as hard on a full on trance set than on a more electro house set. I look at the crowd, I see them go off to new trance record! That’s what counts for me. I see 22.000 people in Buenos Aires, I see 30.000 people in Utrecht, ALL going off to trance. We never sold more tickets! You simply can’t deny that. I think this is also because of the new generation of trance guys, like Andrew Rayel, Orjan Nilsen, David Gravell, Photographer, Bryan Kearney, Jordan Suckley. The fact that Ushuaia is opening its doors to trance is amazing and it shows you the club wants to diversify and program a different sound every night. I think they will be pleasantly surprised about the atmosphere on a trance night.”
You’ve talked about it on the live show last weekend, there’s a big discussion going on whether the trance community is too reluctant when it comes to cross-overs and other genres. What’s your opinion on that?
Armin: ”My problems is that nobody has a clear and right definition of what is ‘trance’, what is ‘techno’ and what is ‘house’. Some guys on some download portals simply put music into categories but that doesn’t mean it IS what it says. Throughout my career I’ve always played tracks across the board. If it fits into a set I want to bring, I will play it. I play the tracks that I like and that interest me. I’ve learned now that I will never be able to please everyone but I can get pretty close trying. Don’t forget, melodies are very important to me and I love the music that a lot of people label as ‘trance’, whatever that is exactly. I like the current state of the scene with lots of different sounds that still bring that euphoric feeling.”
Why, do you think, have people become such purists? Are they killing the trance scene, or making it stronger?
Armin: ”Some people like to hold on to the sounds they loved and supported for years. There’s nothing wrong with that. Personally I see some of the negative comments as something positive. It probably means they were really touched by some tracks and sets in the past and they’re looking for that same feeling again. That’s great! That’s what albums are for, so you can listen to them again! Trance can be very addictive and this also shows you how much love there is for that sound. But music will always move on. There’s nothing you or me can do about that. Listen to the first Beatles album and the last. They don’t sound the same. Why? Because of the development in production techniques (4 track tape to 24 track tape), the song writing skills of Lennon and McCartney, the sound of the records they were listening to, etc. Some people see St. Pepper as their biggest work and hate the White album and some people think the exact opposite. Fast forward to 2014, exactly the same is happening now! Some fans will always cherish ‘76’, some prefer ‘Mirage’ etc. I can only make the music that I like making. I simply can’t copy/paste tracks from the past, as much as I love them. That’s too boring for me. I need to move on to keep it interesting for myself. I want to invest in discovering new sounds, new song structures, but my heart will always be with trance so it will always point to that, I’m sure.”
What isn’t really trance, but still very you – is your new track ‘Ping Pong’! An unexpected story of success, huh?
Armin:”Yeah, the track initially wasn’t even meant for release but just for the Armin Only show as a contrast to the rest of the music and tracks. Let me tell you the story. A few weeks before the try out shows of Armin Only in Den Bosch in October last year, I drove to eyesupply in Eindhoven. They spent months and months on the visuals for the Intense show and I went over there to look at the developments. I was simply blown away when I saw it! Some of the best 3D work I ever saw!! I made a joke to Carlo, one of the leading programmers and visual designers. I said we should make a contrast to this by making something extremely simple 2D, like the first ever tennis videogame from the 70’s ‘Pong’. I already had this idea for the ‘Mirage’ show but never got around doing something with it. Carlo loved the idea but said I had to deliver the master for whatever idea I had within a day (!) because it would take him a few weeks to finish the visuals in time for the rehearsals. I drove home and started working and finished the track the next day with Benno, my studio partner. I sent it to Carlo and he loved it. I actually forgot about the track till the day of the show came. The funny thing was that when I arrived in Den Bosch to do the rehearsals, the WHOLE crew were talking about ‘Ping Pong’. It quickly became a big hit with the crew. I didn’t expect this at all. After the show in the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, the videos from visitors went viral on YouTube and we decided to release it because there was such a huge demand for it.”
It’s one of the highlights of the Armin Only – Intense tour. How is the show doing? Was it a big challenge to do Armin Only and ASOT650 at the same time for the past few weeks?
Armin: ”Yeah because Armin Only and ASOT 650 are almost opposites of each other in many ways. But thankfully due to the great team of people I work with and the months of rehearsals and preparations we managed to make it work. The Armin Only shows are doing very well, even though it’s a lot of hard work to get the exact same stage everywhere. Check out the road movies to see how it is all working! “
Is this the show you’ve always dreamed of doing? Or will there always be wishes left for the next tour to come?
Armin: ”The Intense show is definitely one the most fun things I’ve ever done. Working with such a professional team and building these shows is a highlight of my DJ life. But this tour bring a whole lot of other idea’s again… let’s just say my ideas haven’t run out yet.”
Also coming up – is your first collab with Andrew Rayel, ‘EIFORYA’! Finally! What was it like, working with him?
Armin: ”Awesome! We always said we were going to do one together. It was amazing to work with Andrew. He works very fast like me. I initially send him the first melody idea and a small idea for a vocal. He sent me another idea back. We bounced back and forth a few weeks and there it was! We both wanted to make a track that would really have both our sounds in it. The title is like an imaginary country called ‘EIFORYA’. Euphoria for you. A place where uplifting sounds rule!
Less than a month to go until the ASOT 2014 compilation hits the stores – what will 2014 bring music wise and how did you capture that thought into 2 mixes?
Armin: ”I decided to hold on to the ‘On The Beach’ (CD1) and ‘In The Club’ (CD2) concepts. I feel it really works and describes the sound I like to bring. I really got a lot of beautiful progressive trance tracks with lots of nice vocals to them when I was compiling the tracklist. I decided to put these mainly on CD1. CD2 is really like a photograph of the sets I’m currently playing, a little faster and more instrumental than CD1.”
Last but not least – which are the names to watch out for? Any new ASOT signings to keep an eye on?
Armin: ”David Gravell, Hazem Beltagui, Jordan Suckley, and many more!!”
Photo by marcvanderaa.