Even though he still regards his DJing as a hobby trance pin-up DJ Armin Van Buuren certainly knows how to pull the girls into clubs.
"Euphoric. Melodic. Energetic. Emotional. Drugs". This is how Armin Van Buuren describes the music he plays, what he self-refers to as the 'Armin Sound', the style which has helped him to conquer trance audiences all over the world in the last few years.
So what exactly differentiates the 'Armin Sound' from that of his peers? Making a point of steering away from the use of the word 'trance' or any other label which might be used to pigeon-hole his music, Armin says "When I listen to a particular record I don't care about styles. In 1998 'trance' was a really cool word before the press jumped on it. Then the major record companies started putting out cheap compilations and all of a sudden, trance became a commercial brand". These days Armin simply calls his music 'progressive' and at times even 'house' - a description more so related to its 4/4 nature than its stereotypical interpretation.
Whatever he wants to call it the fact remains that Armin, like fellow Dutchmen Ferry Corsten and Tiesto, is another of the trance industry's pin-up DJ stars. With his own label, a string of hits and production credits to his name and given his youthful blonde good looks, at just 25 years old he's a Marketing Executive's wet dream.
Like the fictional hero Han Solo in his favourite movie Star Wars, upon first meeting Armin there is an air of self-confidence and cockiness which is slightly off-putting. Despite the fact that DJs are put on pedestals by their fans, the dance music industry prides itself (although increasingly less these days) on the humbleness of its stars relative to those in the pop and rock industry. He says, "I just do my own thing and I really don't care if people don't like it," before candidly relaying the success of a recent gig in Newcastle, England which was broadcast live on the radio.
Still, it's an attitude he can afford to have. Less than 20 minutes into his set at Sound Collection (Tokyo's premier monthly Epic Trance party), Armin turns his back to the crowd and raises his arms in the air as the Japanese crowd lap up his latest anthem.
It was a similar story when he played the Gatecrasher Summer Sound System event in Perth last year, accompanied by his girlfriend Erika. "It was in the middle of nowhere so we had to drive forever. Then all of a sudden we saw a few of these massive tents each rammed with 8000 people. When I came on the MC introduced my name and everyone's hands went in the hair." Grinning he adds, "The hairs on my arms did exactly the same thing. It was a really weird feeling."
With regards to DJing aside from obvious advice like "The first three records are always the most important" he says there are a few other rules that many DJs don't know. "Guys stay because of the girls so you should play girl-friendly music. Two. Never look at the crowd. Always look at the people standing at the bar. If their heads are nodding that's a good sign. Three. If people order their drinks like this (he leans over, his face millimetres away) the music is too loud."
As a DJ his choice of tracks is less trance-oriented than those usually found in the record crates of your typical trance DJ. On his compilation series AVB001-003 tracks by Tilt, Evolution, Sister Bliss and Blakstone sit comfortably alongside more predictable trance offerings by SystemF, Signum, Rank1 and Dawnseekers. Expect more of the same when the latest installment AVB004 is released in late May.
Like most people Armin's passion for music was forged in his teenage years. "I had headphones literally glued to my ears from the ages of 12 to 18" he says. Not so permanently fixed that by the time he was 20 he'd already had his first success as a producer with the massive hit 'Blue Fear' released on Cyber Records.
Since then Armin has confirmed his talent as a producer with tracks like 'Communication', 'The Sound of Goodbye' and 'Clear Blue Moon'. With releases on labels like Tsunami, Cyber, Blackhole and his own label Armind (which he started at the age of 22) he's remixed everyone from Dido to Madison Avenue to Yahel, co-produced with friends Ferry Corsten ('Exhale') and Tiesto ('Wonder Where You Are?') and recorded under aliases including Rising Star and Perpetuous Dreamer.
Currently working on an artist album in between completing his final paper for his law degree Armin says "I think the most important part is if it works, it works." Having already completed five of the tracks including one with Airwave, he expects the album to be on the shelves sometime in October. "I'm also going to work on a track with both Ferry Corsten and Airwave."
So given his success both as a DJ and producer and the hero worship afforded him by his fans who does Armin admire? "I don't admire any other DJs. We're a producer/DJ generation so I just admire a lot of producers. My big hero is BT." Of artists like Chicane, Ferry Corsten, Tiesto, Rank1, Oliver Lieb and Matt Darey he says, "Whenever these guys do something, they manage to do something new. They also tend to have the same quality of production each time".
Don't expect to find Armin cruising the streets of his native Holland in his car with the windows down, synth lines blaring. Away from the spotlight he prefers a more mellow soundtrack. "Naturally I don't want to hear this music 24 hours a day. At home I like to listen to Royksopp, Enya, Sade, even....Dire Straits!"
So what about those drugs he mentioned earlier? Coming from the Netherlands where drug enforcement laws are considerably relaxed Armin laments, "It's a pity this music is so associated with drugs. A lot of people forget that this whole club is filled with young kids who just want to meet each other and have a great time, who just want to get drunk. I really don't think everyone is on drugs. Most people just come to enjoy the night. I'm sure of it."
Fans can expect Armin back in Australia later this year. Following his Godskitchen residency in Ibiza this summer where he'll play fourteen times he says, "I'll be doing a tour in Japan, Australia, and Canada".
With 2002 already shaping up to be another massive year for Armin he says, "You know I never officially made the decision to become a DJ. I still see it as a hobby. I'm only 25. I just want to enjoy this and have a great time. Erika and I just bought a house and a new car". Which should fit nicely in with the customized kitchen, the refrigerator and the colour teeeeveeee...