Armin Van Buuren Talks How Streaming Culture Influenced His ‘Balance’ Album, Trance Music’s China Crossover & More
Armin van Buuren by Ruud Baan.

Armin van Buuren by Ruud Baan.

Ruud Baan

Throughout the entirety of his career, Armin van Buuren has been consistently putting out studio albums alongside his constant output of mixes, EPs and the famous A State of Trance compilations. When the trance icon announced his seventh studio album Balance as his first full-length project in four years—his longest stretch in between LPs to date—listeners knew the album served a purpose.

Balance is the ambitious collection of 28 new tracks, separated into two sides of 14 songs, delivering the Dutch DJ’s signature trance stylings that touch on everything from emotional and heartfelt stories to the pop-crossover party cuts. As expected from any van Buuren album, the 42-year-old crafts a varied list of collaborators to give light not only to rising up-and-comers (read on for the featured artist who he thinks is going to be big in 2020), but also voices new to his trance world including Ne-Yo and superstar songwriter Bonnie McKee. But perhaps most importantly, Balance feels more like a must-have playlist of consistently uplifting tracks—one who wouldn’t want its good-vibes to end whether they’re listening through their AirPods or as one of one thousands at a festival.

Read on for Armin van Buuren’s thoughts on his ambitious new album, how today’s streaming world influenced his process, the rise of trance music in China and more.

Jeff Benjamin: Congratulations on the release of Balance. This album has two sides boasting 14 tracks each. Does the way people stream albums and playlists influence your decision to keep it this length?

Armin van Buuren: Absolutely. This is the first time I’ve decided to only put edits—or the shorter versions—on the album. Every track is between two and five minutes long, but I’ve made the extended versions available on Beatport for the fans. I feel LPs are a great way to showcase a variety of sounds; it’s like a gift to your fans. When you have so much room on an album, it’s OK to be a little bit more diverse.

Jeff Benjamin: You’ve always had a diverse set of collaborators in your work and this album is no different. What were you looking for when enlisting features? 

Armin van Buuren: I just try to see if the person I’m working with inspires me. I love to learn and I feel there’s still so much to learn out there. That being said, the song is always most important. You can work with the biggest stars, but it won’t work if the song doesn’t resonate with the crowd. That’s a very hard rule. Overall, I feel that it will always shine through in the music if you have a true click with someone.

Jeff Benjamin: Were there any collaborators you were really surprised by or you really want people to check out more of their work? 

Armin van Buuren: Yes! I love Avalan’s voice and writing skills. I would guess we’re going to hear a lot more from him. He’s young and super talented, above all, he’s a super nice guy too.

Jeff Benjamin: But is there one track in particular you’re hoping a lot of people will resonate with the most? Or any tracks that are particularly close to your heart?

Armin van Buuren: All my tracks are my babies, but some tracks just touch me more. I guess my personal favorites are “Wild Wild Son,” because of the message of the song, from Sam to his [then-unborn] son, “Runaway” because I just love the lyrics on it and I can’t get enough, and “Song I Sing” because I simply love Haliene. I’m also really proud of my collaboration with Ne-Yo, “Unlove You”—it’s amazing to have been able to work with such a huge star.

Jeff Benjamin: Balance is an interesting title. I’ve been reading how you’re spending more time with your family and trying to find actual balance in your life. As a musician with a heavy touring and production schedule, how crucial is finding that balance?

Armin van Buuren: That’s exactly the point: I haven’t found the perfect “balance” yet. It’s an ongoing struggle. When I’m with my family, I miss the touring life and when I’m on the road, I miss my family. But my family is the most important in the end. They will always be there, no matter what. I guess it’s what keeps me grounded.

Jeff Benjamin: You’re known as the Dutch “King of Trance.” Thinking to recent music, are there any unexpected places or music scenes you’ve seen trance making an impact? 

Armin van Buuren: It’s especially big in China at the moment. I really love playing there and I have a huge tour planned in November.

Jeff Benjamin: Where is dance music in the grand scheme of today’s music world? 

Armin van Buuren: I think dance music, or electronic music whatever you want to call it, will never go away. Every track you hear on the radio these days has an electronically produced background. Fortunately, most of dance music is still underground and happens at small events and in little clubs. Some of dance music has crossed over to pop or EDM, but I think there’s something for everybody—it doesn’t matter if you like techno or dubstep or EDM.

Jeff Benjamin: What’s the changing trends in dance, either in terms of the larger world of DJs or even with what you’ve noticed at the audiences at your concerts in recent years? 

Armin van Buuren: I think everyone is experimenting these days. Many DJs are more open to collaborating outside their comfort zone, which I find to be a very nice development. The average age has gone down and the percentage of women has increased at my shows as well, which I also think is good news.

Jeff Benjamin: What’s next for you, either in terms of what you want to accomplish in music or life experiences? 

Armin van Buuren: I would love to show the world to my kids more and travel to places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In terms of music, I’m learning to play the piano at the moment, but don’t expect me to become a world-famous pianist, please. I can name a big list of artists I admire and want to work with but for me, in the end, it is always about the song. That comes first. I don’t have any particular style or sound I want to say no to. You can always learn from other styles and see what makes it special and try to incorporate elements from it into your own sound.

Jeff Benjamin: Anything else to add?

Armin van Buuren: I want to say how blessed I am for still having the support from so many of you out there. It’s really what keeps me going always.

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Throughout the entirety of his career, Armin van Buuren has been consistently putting out studio albums alongside his constant output of mixes, EPs and the famous A State of Trance compilations. When the trance icon announced his seventh studio album Balance as his first full-length project in four years—his longest stretch in between LPs to date—listeners knew the album served a purpose.

Balance is the ambitious collection of 28 new tracks, separated into two sides of 14 songs, delivering the Dutch DJ’s signature trance stylings that touch on everything from emotional and heartfelt stories to the pop-crossover party cuts. As expected from any van Buuren album, the 42-year-old crafts a varied list of collaborators to give light not only to rising up-and-comers (read on for the featured artist who he thinks is going to be big in 2020), but also voices new to his trance world including Ne-Yo and superstar songwriter Bonnie McKee. But perhaps most importantly, Balance feels more like a must-have playlist of consistently uplifting tracks—one who wouldn’t want its good-vibes to end whether they’re listening through their AirPods or as one of one thousands at a festival.

Read on for Armin van Buuren’s thoughts on his ambitious new album, how today’s streaming world influenced his process, the rise of trance music in China and more.

Jeff Benjamin: Congratulations on the release of Balance. This album has two sides boasting 14 tracks each. Does the way people stream albums and playlists influence your decision to keep it this length?

Armin van Buuren: Absolutely. This is the first time I’ve decided to only put edits—or the shorter versions—on the album. Every track is between two and five minutes long, but I’ve made the extended versions available on Beatport for the fans. I feel LPs are a great way to showcase a variety of sounds; it’s like a gift to your fans. When you have so much room on an album, it’s OK to be a little bit more diverse.

Jeff Benjamin: You’ve always had a diverse set of collaborators in your work and this album is no different. What were you looking for when enlisting features? 

Armin van Buuren: I just try to see if the person I’m working with inspires me. I love to learn and I feel there’s still so much to learn out there. That being said, the song is always most important. You can work with the biggest stars, but it won’t work if the song doesn’t resonate with the crowd. That’s a very hard rule. Overall, I feel that it will always shine through in the music if you have a true click with someone.

Jeff Benjamin: Were there any collaborators you were really surprised by or you really want people to check out more of their work? 

Armin van Buuren: Yes! I love Avalan’s voice and writing skills. I would guess we’re going to hear a lot more from him. He’s young and super talented, above all, he’s a super nice guy too.

Jeff Benjamin: But is there one track in particular you’re hoping a lot of people will resonate with the most? Or any tracks that are particularly close to your heart?

Armin van Buuren: All my tracks are my babies, but some tracks just touch me more. I guess my personal favorites are “Wild Wild Son,” because of the message of the song, from Sam to his [then-unborn] son, “Runaway” because I just love the lyrics on it and I can’t get enough, and “Song I Sing” because I simply love Haliene. I’m also really proud of my collaboration with Ne-Yo, “Unlove You”—it’s amazing to have been able to work with such a huge star.

Jeff Benjamin: Balance is an interesting title. I’ve been reading how you’re spending more time with your family and trying to find actual balance in your life. As a musician with a heavy touring and production schedule, how crucial is finding that balance?

Armin van Buuren: That’s exactly the point: I haven’t found the perfect “balance” yet. It’s an ongoing struggle. When I’m with my family, I miss the touring life and when I’m on the road, I miss my family. But my family is the most important in the end. They will always be there, no matter what. I guess it’s what keeps me grounded.

Jeff Benjamin: You’re known as the Dutch “King of Trance.” Thinking to recent music, are there any unexpected places or music scenes you’ve seen trance making an impact? 

Armin van Buuren: It’s especially big in China at the moment. I really love playing there and I have a huge tour planned in November.

Jeff Benjamin: Where is dance music in the grand scheme of today’s music world? 

Armin van Buuren: I think dance music, or electronic music whatever you want to call it, will never go away. Every track you hear on the radio these days has an electronically produced background. Fortunately, most of dance music is still underground and happens at small events and in little clubs. Some of dance music has crossed over to pop or EDM, but I think there’s something for everybody—it doesn’t matter if you like techno or dubstep or EDM.

Jeff Benjamin: What’s the changing trends in dance, either in terms of the larger world of DJs or even with what you’ve noticed at the audiences at your concerts in recent years? 

Armin van Buuren: I think everyone is experimenting these days. Many DJs are more open to collaborating outside their comfort zone, which I find to be a very nice development. The average age has gone down and the percentage of women has increased at my shows as well, which I also think is good news.

Jeff Benjamin: What’s next for you, either in terms of what you want to accomplish in music or life experiences? 

Armin van Buuren: I would love to show the world to my kids more and travel to places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In terms of music, I’m learning to play the piano at the moment, but don’t expect me to become a world-famous pianist, please. I can name a big list of artists I admire and want to work with but for me, in the end, it is always about the song. That comes first. I don’t have any particular style or sound I want to say no to. You can always learn from other styles and see what makes it special and try to incorporate elements from it into your own sound.

Jeff Benjamin: Anything else to add?

Armin van Buuren: I want to say how blessed I am for still having the support from so many of you out there. It’s really what keeps me going always.

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