The #1: A sit-down with Armin van Buuren

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A few days before he reclaimed the #1 spot in the DJ Mag poll, inthemix heard Armin van Buuren speak for an hour about his career at Amsterdam Dance Event. [On-ground reporting by inthemix reporter Angus Paterson; story by inthemix Editor Jack Tregoning].

Early in the Amsterdam Dance Event panel The World According to Armin van Buuren, a telling anecdote emerges about the world’s leading trance DJ. In Miami a few months back, Armin was seen strolling out of his hotel lobby towards the street. Without an entourage thronging around him, the Dutchman cut an innocuous figure. Some heads turned with a quizzical, “Is that Armin van Buuren?” as he slipped unshowily into a cab. Upon hearing that story in the packed F5 Panel Room at ADE, Armin replies, “Well, I don’t know how to do it any differently.”

The observation captures why he still inspires devoted fandom: he’s a superstar DJ without the superstar DJ clichés. On the topic of his rider, he tells the room, “Most of my rider usually gets taken by people who are with me. I’m not a big fan of alcohol. I like to be in control. You rarely see me wasted.” How about five-star hotels? Well, he’d prefer a cheaper room if it had high-speed internet. What about sex, drugs and dance music? “I’m very lucky to have a very sweet wife. She’s very understanding. We call each other five or six times a day.”

Then there’s the scene in his recent documentary, A Year With Armin van Buuren, where he crouches behind the decks, midway through a marathon set…to eat a banana. “I just read a book by Ian Robertson, The Winner Effect,” he tells the F5 Panel Room. “They did research about the effects of playing in front of crowds. The dopamine effects are comparable to sniffing cocaine. I think I’m addicted to that effect.”

Armin van Buuren has just been voted the world’s Number One DJ in DJ Mag’s 2012 Top 100 DJs poll. It’s his fifth time taking the top spot, following a four-year unbroken run from 2007 to 2010. In 2011, he was succeeded by David Guetta, a DJ whose trajectory from Parisian club player to pop star has been infamously divisive. An avowed advocate for trance with a defined and dedicated following, Armin is a less polarising figure. “Trance music has a special effect on people,” Armin says early in his movie. “It unites them in a way I’ve never seen with other types of music. It makes them ecstatic and has an almost religious effect. It’s extraordinary.” Earlier this year I wrote about his “superhuman enthusiasm”, and it’s that polished good nature that fans can admire. In 2012, though, he’s become more willing to reveal some grey in his sunny demeanour.

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