By John Hood
Feature photo courtesy of Carli Herm
See, Armin van Buuren is the #1 DJ in the whole wild world, and it’s highly unlikely his spinning for thousands upon thousands on any given night makes for any kind of lonely do. Ever.
Yeah, the late, great Nilsson was singing about a whole other sort of lonely, but for all intents and purposes, van Buuren stands just as alone — not just at the top of the DJ charts, but onstage, before those given thousands. Granted, a man and a piano isn’t quite the same alone as a man and a booth, yet what’s a few turntables and a microphone between friends?
Whatever the diff – in lights, and in sound, and in BPM – it’s a cinch to see van Buuren is not at all lonely up there at the forefront. After all, was Moses lonely when he led his people back to the Promised Land?
And lest anyone get their belief system in a snit, van Buuren’s not being equated with Mr. Exodus. Nevertheless, when all things are considered, the Dutchman’s shows certainly rival any religion’s gathering of tribes, not to mention any myth man can imagine. And when it comes to his A State of Trance live broadcasts, van Buuren has undoubtedly spread the gospel of Electronic Dance Music at least as far and as wide as any ol’ crusader – caped, robed or otherwise.
And it wasn’t easy, baby.
In fact, when van Buuren did Beirut in March 2013, he got close enough to taking a page from the Good Book’s narrative he nearly got himself and his fans damn good and burned.
“I spoke to the people from the local radio station that supported the show,” he recalls, “and I asked them their opinion of all this. They said it was literally like dancing on a volcano. That’s how dangerous the situation is, and it’s a shame. It’s a beautiful country, full of beautiful people. And the crowd was going nuts. Maybe even more than usual because of the tension.”
That might well be the reason van Buuren has titled his fifth LP “Intense” (Armada Music); that and the fact that, whether it’s Southeast Asia, way out West, the Big Bad Apple or the Middle East, when he whips those thousands into a frenzy, well, it is nothing but.
There’s also something acutely intense about van Buuren himself, whether fielding questions in an RV parked between his team’s broadcast booth and the roar of another sold-out Ultra or front and center before a throng thick enough to give rise to the Dead Sea. Yet as focused as his mission and as true as his calling, van Buuren doesn’t design to define his wondrous sound or defy expectation; his or anybody else’s. So when the now sound breaks new ground, as his does with “Intense,” it’s simply the natural order of things that have come to pass.
“It’s not so much that I tried to experiment or I tried to change the sound or I tried to change the world; no,” he explains. “It’s also not like I woke up Monday morning and said I had do this and this to be credible, or I had to do this and this to be the #1 DJ, or I had to do this and this and this to be booked in the States, or I want to have a Billboard hit; no. You get in the studio and you have fun.”
That purposeful fun can be heard coursing through van Buuren’s increasingly massive “This is What it Feels Like,” perhaps the single most uplifting breakup song of all time. It’s also apparently universally contagious. As the main man’s continually current main site attests, the Trevor Guthrie featured track entered the UK Singles Chart at #6. While its Cali-fied clip, directed by longtime collaborator Svenno Koemans of Pixelheaven.tv, is well over the “five million YouTube views” mark.
You can’t play second-guessing games with the public, right?
“You can’t,” van Buuren continues. “And they’re not there [in the studio]. When you go in the studio, you go with your heart. And when you do, you’re sure you’re going to please a few fans and you’re going to disappoint a few fans. That’s just the way it is.”
From the intense roar heard clear ‘round the world, if van Buuren disappointed even a few fans, it’s a cinch he’s made many, many more to take their place. And that he’s making more and more fans each and every night of his charmed life.
Then again, what else could come about when the world’s #1 DJ also happens to believe that music, specifically Electronic Dance Music, has the power to unite even the most divided?
So, if there’s going to be peace on earth, it’s going to happen through music?
“Exactly,” he says, a decided spark alighting already sparkling eyes. “People who hate each other can be dancing to the same music. It’s strange. But the only answer to world problems is dancing and connecting with people.”
Sounds as if DJ isn’t the only un-lonely #1 concerning a certain Armin van Buuren.
One world, anyone?