DJ holds fans in a trance

Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren joins more than 40 artists on the line-up for dance music festival ZoukOut.
Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren joins more than 40 artists on the line-up for dance music festival ZoukOut.PHOTO: ZOUK SINGAPORE

Electronic dance music pioneer Armin van Buuren, who is heading here for ZoukOut in December, is going strong on the scene

You would think that for someone whose job involves partying and playing music in clubs, Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren would be a night owl. Surprisingly, the 38-year-old is an early riser - he has to wake up in the morning to feed his two children.

"I need to be up early to feed my kids, take them to daycare or school. It's a bit hard with my crazy schedule, but I try to have a normal family life at home," says van Buuren in a telephone interview from the Netherlands, where he lives with his wife and two children, daughter Fenna, four, and son Remy, two.

One of the most influential trance music producers worldwide, van Buuren will be back in Singapore for the 15th annual dance music festival ZoukOut in December. He will join more than 40 artists at the two-day event, including dance-music superstars such as English trance DJ Paul Oakenfold and Dutch DJ Tiesto.

Oakenfold and van Buuren join Claude VonStroke and Porter Robinson from the United States, Germany's Paul Kalkbrenner and Andrew Rayel from Moldova as the newest names on the line-up.

Credited as a pioneer of the electronic dance music movement, van Buuren has clinched the No. 1 position on DJ Magazine's influential Top 100 DJs poll a record-breaking five times. His two-hour weekly radio show, A State Of Trance, which has been around since 2001, draws about 33 million listeners from more than 84 countries every week.


  • WHERE: Siloso Beach, Sentosa

    WHEN: Dec 11, 8pm to 5am, Dec 12, 8pm to 8am

    ADMISSION: $158 (early bird), $168 (advance) and $188 (event day) for Day 1; $168 (early bird), $178 (advance) and $198 (event day) for Day 2; or$258 for a two-day festival pass from www.zoukout.com or Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)

Last year, he became the fourth trance artist to receive a Grammy nomination for his single, This Is What It Feels Like, in the Best Dance Recording category.

He is no stranger to Singapore. This year's ZoukOut marks the fifth time he will be performing at the beach event, following engagements in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

While he reckons he has been here "more than 15 times" in his career, he could not be more excited to hit Siloso Beach again.

"I'm a little jealous of the people here because Singapore has such an amazing vibe and it is one of the hottest destinations on the scene. I haven't been touring a lot so I'm super happy to come back," says van Buuren, whose sixth studio album will be released later this year.

Describing the crowd here as "crazy", he adds that he has had some "really, really memorable" gigs in Singapore - in particular, one rainy ZoukOut a few years ago.

"Normally, when it starts to rain, the first thing people do is run away to the hotels. But the rain was just an enhancement for the crowd here. I was playing my set and people were singing and dancing along - it was beautiful."

1. Trance emerged in the 1990s. How has trance music managed to survive in the scene for so long?

The sound of trance has been evolving a lot. Nowadays, it's very melodic, uplifting and energetic. You have different sub-genres of trance right now - for example, psy-trance, vocal trance, uplifting trance, progressive trance. I think that's what keeps fans on their toes because they hear new melodies all the time and new production techniques being used - it keeps things interesting. Trance has always found a way to reinvent itself.

2. Many big-name DJs have come and gone. What do you think is the secret to your staying power?

I guess it's my fans. My radio show is popular and it still does really well every week. I keep putting out new records and new elements into my show and fans recognise me. Right now, for example, I'm DJ-ing with the Myo bracelets, which are sort of a motion control device.

As long as you keep on your toes and you keep reinventing yourself, people will keep following you.

3. Did you expect your radio show, A State Of Trance, to be so successful when you first started hosting it?

No. I did it for the love of the music. I've always been crazy about trance, crazy about DJ-ing, crazy about music in general. Everything I did came from the heart and the fact that it was so successful makes it really beautiful.

4. With electronic dance music becoming increasingly popular among the younger generation, do you see a need to appeal to a younger crowd?

The crowd has definitely become younger, but I guess it has to do with the fact that I've grown a little bit older. I think music doesn't have an age limit because you can listen to whatever music you want.

Having said that, I do think it is important to stay in touch with new sounds and with the young kids on what they really want and what they really like.

5. There are many pop stars who team up with DJs nowadays to release singles. What do you think of this trend?

If you look at the history of music in general, you see that collaborations have always managed to get interesting results. Whether it is pop or dance or a DJ working with rock artists, it's always a good thing for music in general if people try to experiment and find their boundaries.

People will not buy a record simply because there is a big name attached to it. A big commercial name helps to sell the record, but if the song is s**t, then people won't buy it. At the end of the day, it's all about the music.

6. Whom would you like to collaborate with next?

Chris Martin of Coldplay would be nice, but then again, that's name dropping. It doesn't matter if you work with the biggest artist on the planet or a new person. It's always about the song you want to represent.

7. What is your best gig so far?

It was during my Armin Only tour in December. The closing of the world tour was in the Netherlands and at the Ziggo Dome, which was fantastic. I got to play a solo set for six hours straight and I got to be on stage with many people I had worked with in the past. It was a unique experience for myself and for the fans.

8. How would you like to be remembered?

That's an interesting question. I hope people will remember me for my music. I hope that I've inspired some people and made lives on this planet a little happier with my music, radio show and performances. It would be a great achievement if that happened.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'DJ holds fans in a trance'. Print Edition | Subscribe