Armin van Buuren: "Intense is about finding my own road."
Through the 16-pieced musical mosaic of ‘Intense’, Armin van Buuren introduces his fans to many intriguing fusions, intricate soundscapes and surprising new shades of his sound. ‘Intense’ is the biggest project Armin van Buuren has ever worked on, uniting 3 years of studio work. And in many ways, is it the most intuitive album he’s ever done. Read on, as the Dutchman himself explains. Armin:”I guess I'm more open to my ‘inner voice’, if something like that even exists. I've accepted that I can't please everybody.”
Why did you title it ‘Intense’? What’s the meaning behind it?
Armin:“About finding your own road. You can say the album and my life at the moment in general are pretty Intense. I've never put so much work into one album and each track by itself is pretty Intense. They are all about moments of extreme joy or sadness and the album flirts with all kinds of musical styles, particularly the title track itself. Also, I came to realize how Intense life can be with the birth of my daughter Fenna and how much more colour that gave my life. Almost like how music gives colour to life.”
What’s the idea behind the cover of Intense?
Armin:“It's about finding your own light. And living life intensely, you're only here once.”
You said it’s more diverse than any of your other artist albums. Is it part of your natural growth as an artists, or is ‘Intense’ an experiment?
Armin:“It wasn't meant as an experiment. These songs came to life just by being in the studio, being who I am and following my gut. I feel closer to myself than I ever have. The album sort of happened to me, it just all came together and the story wrote itself. I didn't try to force anything, I just did what I found interesting and tried to have as much fun in the studio as possible.”
This is your fifth artist album, following 76, Shivers, Imagine and Mirage. If there’s anything that producing an artist album has taught you, what is it?
Armin:“An album is different than a DJ set although there are similarities. I want an album to have some sort of a natural progression but I want it to surprise people too. For example, I find it boring to start every track with a kick-drum. I think each song must have a different start and ending. That keeps the listener interested.”
The album incorporates pop, rock, classic and much more. Has the king of trance abandoned trance music? Do fans need to worry?
Armin:“If I decide to eat a salad on one day, does that make me a vegetarian? 85% of the album is still trance in my opinion. Trance is where my heart has been for so many years. In fact, for the fans some tracks are really ‘classical’ Armin sounding tracks (‘Last Stop Before Heaven’, ‘Intense’, ‘Pulsar’ ‘Who's Afraid of 138?’) but I also like to explore new production techniques. I think my fans should start worrying if there's no progression or experimentation.”
Do you somehow feel that by releasing an album this diverse, you’re getting them to be more open-minded as well?
Armin:“Like I said above, it's all about finding your own light, your own road. We all do this every day. In the past I could be jealous of what other people had achieved but I don't have that so much anymore. Maybe I've accepted myself more now and just follow that road. That's the only thing that feels natural and right. I guess I'm more open to my ‘inner voice’, if something like that even exists. I've accepted that I can't please everybody, even though it took me years to swallow.”
What did an average day in the studio look like for you?
Armin:“Most tracks were written, arranged and recorded in my own studio in my house in Leiden. I worked closely with Benno De Goeij again on this. We'd usually start the day around 9.30am, lunch at 1pm and then work till at least 5pm when I wanted to be with my daughter. Quite a few days we worked after dinner again till late.”
What kind of software did you use to produce it?
Armin:“All tracks were finally rendered using Logic Pro but we created a lot of samples and ideas using Ableton and exporting them to Logic. Also, for a few tracks I did the recording using pro-tools (for example with Miri Ben-Ari in New York)”
When was the moment you thought ‘this is Intense, it’s done’? Or does that moment never come for a perfectionist such as you?
Armin:“At some point you worked so many hours on an album that you're ready to share it with the world. We've really ruined ideas and tracks by looking too long at them. Any producer can tell you the best tracks were written in a day. Writing a track is almost like building a new car. Sometimes it's perfect and sometimes you end up using parts of an unfinished car to create another new one. Some tracks were just made in the magic of the moment and that's mainly what we're looking for in the studio.”
By which artists were you inspired, in the process of creating the album?
Armin:“Not one artist in particular. I think we were mainly inspired by the songs I play in my sets and radio shows but I think we listened a lot to Coldplay as well.”
How did you end up working with Miri Ben-Ari? Will you be doing some live performances with her?
Armin:“I was introduced to her by my manager David Lewis who now lives in New York. I hope we can do the track live once!!”
It also features singers Laura V, Laura Jensen, Fiora, Emma Hewitt, Richard Bedford, Aruna and many other talented artists. What, in your eyes, makes a good singer?
Armin:“A good singer is a person who can convincingly tell the song with his or her voice and character. The song is always key. You can have a brilliant singer but if the song isn't good, it won't work.”
You’ve tried to incorporate as much real live instruments for the tracks as possible. What was it like, to be working with an orchestra and band in the way that you did?
Armin:“Inspiring. I like to learn new ways of making music every day. That's what you can hear on the album. Armin learning new things and testing new ideas.”
The album has been 3 years in the making, but you’ve also released several other singles in the meantime. How did you decide which tracks to save for the album and which to release sooner?
Armin:“I wanted a healthy balance of vocal and non-vocal tracks on the album. Also, the album was made to be an album and not a compilation or a mix cd. The way I see it, it's harder to make an album track out of a club track than a club track/remix out of an album track! So the tracks that had that album feel, we worked on as album tracks.”
How did you discover the singer/songwriter Trevor Guthrie and how did the process of creating ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ go?
Armin:“Benno and I wrote an instrumental with quite an unusual arrangement, together with John Ewbank. That track ended up with Jenson Vaughn and Trevor. They wrote the vocal in Canada and then we completely changed the backing-track and made it to what it is now.”
Why does Ron Jeremy star in the music video of ‘This Is What It Feels Like’? That was quite a surprise!
Armin:“We needed someone for the role of the owner of the cafeteria and he fitted the profile perfectly. It was great to work with him!”
One of the tracks of the album is ‘Who’s Afraid of 138?!’, which also had its own stage at ASOT600 Den Bosch. What are your future plans with this brand?
Armin:“I have no idea yet. The stage in Den Bosch is an experiment. I really love this sound and want to see how many ‘true’ fans of uplifting there really are. They always scream loudest on social media. Will they fill this room? If they do, I definitely want to continue this.”
Have you already decided which Intense single is going to be next?
Armin:“Not yet! It will depend on what the people think.”
Download on iTunes.
Download on iTunes Canada.
Download on iTunes UK/Eire (available May 6th).
Stream on Spotify.
Download Extended Versions on Beatport.
Order CD at ArmadaShop.com.
Order Limited Deluxe Box on ArmadaShop.