[INTERVIEW] Armin van Buuren Takes Us Behind The Curtain Of His Latest Album, 'Breathe In'
Armin van Buuren has spent over 25 years becoming a global electronic music icon and a household name as an artist. With nine studio albums to his credit, including the newly released Breathe In, this gifted veteran still sits at the forefront of the dance circuit.
Known for being a maestro of connection, he orchestrates an international audience of 40 million through his A State of Trance radio show, events, and original music. From commanding festivals like Tomorrowland to captivating residencies in Ibiza, Armin's influence is universal.
Throughout this iEDM interview, Armin invites us to explore the depth and inspiration behind Breathe In, offering an intimate glimpse into his musical journey and its profound impact on his listeners.
Check out our exclusive interview with Armin van Buuren below.
iEDM: Breathe In follows the narrative that started with “Feel Again.” How does this new album build upon the journey you explored in “Feel Again,” and what aspects of your connection with fans does it specifically focus on?
Armin: “Feel Again” was about finding myself and my love for music again. That had to happen first; it would have been so much harder to connect with my fans otherwise.
After “Feel Again,” once I felt that connection with myself was re-established, I wanted to shift my focus outwards. Now, I focus on my appreciation for my fans, living in the moment with them and being one big family again.
iEDM: The positive sound and higher BPM of Breathe In suggests a shift towards celebration and unity. How intentional was this change in direction, and what message do you hope listeners will take away from the album?
Armin: It was definitely intentional. Both the positive sound and higher BPM mirror how excited and hopeful I am about the future.
I had my fair share of dark days and pessimistic thoughts throughout the pandemic, and I wanted to convey with this album that better days are always on the other side.
iEDM: This album’s opening track “Forever (Stay Like This),” featuring Goodboys, draws inspiration from Guru Josh's “Infinity.” What led to this collaboration, and how did you approach blending elements of the classic hit into a contemporary melodic banger?
Armin: What inspired me to write “Forever (Stay Like This)” was the recollection I have of setting foot on the dance floor again after the pandemic. It felt so amazing to be back out there, and I wanted that feeling to last forever.
I ended up collaborating with the Goodboys after we met during a writing camp in Sweden and did a studio session afterward during Amsterdam Dance Event. That is when we came up with the idea to sample Guru Josh’s classic.
iEDM: What were some of the highlights of getting to work with such a wide range of musical talent across this album? Which collaboration surprised you the most and why?
Armin: Getting to work collaboratively with all these artists, no matter what sound or genre, is the actual highlight itself. I find it so inspiring and refreshing to be in the studio with these artists and learn from them directly.
As for which collaboration sticks with me the most, I would have to choose “Love Is A Drug.” Anne Gudrun’s vocals are just… wow!
iEDM: Which song on Breathe In that you are drawn to the most emotionally or instantly triggers a specific memory? What sonic or lyrical parts allow it to hit home for you?
Armin: That would be “Space Case.” There is so much of me in this track, and the space theme never fails to resonate with me.
The track’s narrative of losing the connection in space and then finding it again translates perfectly to me finding this sound again after all these years. I love how this track brings me back to the early sounds of trance I fell in love with as a kid.
iEDM: With over thirty shows last summer alone, including “Feel Again” shows and various festivals, how does the live experience influence the creation of an album like Breathe In?
Armin: There are only 24 hours in a day, and it always comes down to balancing your time well. That being said: though touring can be tiring, it can also be very inspiring. While playing so many shows sometimes takes away precious studio time, it allows me to be ready to go when I do get to make music again.
Plus, testing out new records live can give amazing insights into whether a track resonates with fans that you will not get by staying in the studio.
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iEDM: Your weekly A State of Trance radio show reaches millions of listeners globally. Are there any similarities or crossovers between creating an album like Breathe In and curating an episode of A State of Trance?
Armin: There is a bit of overlap in the sense that you want the records to complement one another, but, by and large, they are different disciplines.
Creating an album is much more personal, vulnerable, and in-depth; much more for me, while curating an episode of the show is more for the fans.
iEDM: Can you provide some insights into the creative process behind the artwork for Breathe In, in addition to the visualizers for “Make It Count” and “God Is In The Soundwaves,” and how it complements the musical themes?
Armin: In the album artwork, you see nine “A’s”, one for each of my nine albums. For this project, the “A” doesn’t stand for “Armin” but rather pays homage to the albums that came before. Fans might have caught onto this, but most of my album titles have had the letter “A” somewhere in the title, so now these are linked to Breathe In.
With connection being the theme of the album, it only seemed right. Each album that I work on informs the next, and it is important to me that I honor the work that came before and how it got my music to where it is now.
iEDM: What sparked the idea to pivot to a harder techno sound in your collaboration with Just_us, “Make It Count”? What role does the song play in the energy and narrative of the entire album?
Armin: “Make It Count” feeds into the album’s narrative in the sense that it is about living in the moment and making that moment count.
Just_us truly is a champion of this sound, and I loved exploring it during our sessions. It works amazingly well in my sets too!
iEDM: What scene or visual components in the music video for “Forever (Stay Like This)” are you most drawn to, and why? From your perspective, what is the message or story that the lyrics convey?
Armin: “Forever (Stay Like This)” embraces a message similar to the one in “Make It Count.” It is about wanting to be in the moment for as long as you can and making every second of that moment special.
If you embrace that mindset, you will become the master of your own time. The opening scene of the music video drives that notion home.
iEDM: Which track on Breathe In pushed you the most out of your comfort zone as a producer and how were you able to overcome any obstacles it presented?
Armin: “Make It Count.” I haven’t really dipped my toes into that hard techno sound before, but luckily, Just_us is an expert in this style, and I learned so much from him.
iEDM: What qualities make “Destination” ‘A State Of Trance 2024 Anthem’? What did you enjoy most about working with Ferry Corsten, Rank 1, and Ruben de Ronde on this track?
Armin: Well, we were just four friends sitting in the studio, having fun together. It was just enjoyable all around to do something you love with the people you are fond of.
It ended up having that epic feel to it that makes it suitable as a fully-fledged anthem.
iEDM: In Breathe In, you emphasize music's ability to bring people together. How do you see electronic music evolving as a unifying force, especially in a world that has faced challenges like the pandemic?
Armin: You can see it at my shows, or any dance music festival. People stop noticing the things that make them different and just enjoy the music in unison.
The pandemic only underlined the ability of music to unite. This has been a quality of (dance) music long before the pandemic hit, and I hope it will stay that way forever.
iEDM: How does Breathe In foreshadow the road ahead for your project and career as a DJ-producer hybrid?
Armin: I am not sure if it foreshadows my next career steps, but it does show the progress I have made as a person and artist, especially after feeling so lost during the pandemic.
I try to evolve and improve as a person and producer all the time, and I need that progress in order to keep doing this.
iEDM: From EDC Mexico to Tomorrowland Winter to Ultra Music Festival, you will be playing at major festivals across the world over the next few months. How do you curate your sets to fit the audience, festival, and region that you are playing for? What tips do you have for future touring artists?
Armin: I try to keep in mind what kind of stage or festival I am playing to make sure the sound aligns with what people want to hear. But I do not want to stray too far from my own sound. People are coming to see me, so it does not make sense to step away from the sound I love myself.
That would also be my tip for future touring artists: do not adjust too much. Fans love your sound for a reason; stick with it.
iEDM: What are your biggest goals, whether in or outside of music, for 2024?
Armin: I am in a great place right now. As previously mentioned, I just want to keep living in the moment for as long as I can. The album’s message is not just for others; it is for me as well!
Photos courtesy of Armin van Buuren and Armada Music.