Armin Van Buuren Talks NYC Love Ahead of Electric Zoo 2017

Rahi Rezvani
Armin van Buuren

"It's such an open-minded music scene and whenever I’m there, I get the sense that everything is possible."

New York City is a legendary metropolis. It's mix of cultures is storied, it's highs inspire artists around the world, it's lows are heart-wrenching tales of warning. It's the birthplace of disco, hip-hop, graffiti and more. No wonder Dutch producer and DJ Armin van Buuren can't get enough.

The trance icon is legendary in his own right, having played the Pied Piper on so many NYC dance floors the nights begin to blur. He's been a headliner at the city's Electric Zoo festival since its inception in 2009 and has made a tridition out of pushing himself for the EZoo crowd year in and year out.

Van Buuren will return to the main stage again when the fest celebrates its home city with the 6th Boro theme Sept. 1-3. Billboard Dance caught up with him ahead of his set to chat about the magic of NYC and what keeps him coming back for more.

New York has long been considered a worldwide capital of dance music and you've got a long history of playing massive shows here, what do you think makes the scene so special and unique?

I think what makes the New York dance music scene so special is the fact that it’s steeped in music history. Not just dance music history, but all other kinds of styles and genres as well. It’s such an open-minded music scene and whenever I’m there, I get the sense that everything is possible. It’s what makes me come back time and time again. 

Do you remember any of your first gigs in New York? Does any one in particular stand out?

I’m finding it quite tough to remember my first gig in New York, as it might even go farther back than my North America Tour in 2006. But what will always stand out to me is Armin Only at Madison Square Garden and you can probably guess why. To play a solo show at Madison Square Garden has been -- and will remain -- an amazing milestone in my career. 

You've been a favorite at Electric Zoo since the festival launched in 2009. As the festival has grown and changed over the years, what keeps you coming back for more?

The atmosphere and the people. Whenever I’m at Electric Zoo, I feel like the sky is the limit. The crowd and its unbridled enthusiasm are the main reason for that. As long as that stays the same, I’ll come back for more every single year, if possible. 

What is one thing you always make time for when you come to NYC? 

Oh, that’s a tough one. I often don’t have much time for sightseeing or other activities, but I always try to pick up something nice for my wife or for my children. Can’t come back empty-handed, you know. 

Mind-blowing production is a hallmark of an Armin van Buuren show. How do you keep increasing the fan experience? And can the people of New York expect a special treat this year at EZoo?

It’s actually surprisingly hard to keep up with the enormous growth in terms of show production and the expectations of fans. If you’re not ready to bring something to the table that’s bigger, better and more spectacular than the year before, it’s going to seem dull and inferior to what everyone else comes up with. You don’t really think about how to improve the experience, you just go all out every single time. And at Electric Zoo, that’s exactly what I’ll be trying to treat my fans with. 

If you lived in New York, what borough would you live in? 

I might just go with Brooklyn. I have been told once that Brooklyn is one of the most diverse boroughs in terms of culture and music, so living there would probably inspire me the most.

It seems trance is having a real big moment, especially in the United States right now, and your work over the years has no doubt played a part in that popularity. How have you watched the genre grow Stateside, what do you think of its place in the dance scene today and where do you see or hope to see it go in the years to come?

Trance might just be bigger than it has ever been, especially in the United States. It continues to stake its claim at some of the biggest Electronic Music festivals in the world -- the A State Of Trance stage at the past few editions of Ultra Music Festival Miami is a great example -- and its loyal following has played a large part in making that happen. Personally, I don’t see the momentum subside just yet. On the contrary, I think, and hope, that Trance music will continue to grow in the years to come.

Music is a beautiful escape for many people around the world. In this tough political climate, what keeps you inspired and motivated?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my fans. To play in front of thousands of people is already a very humbling experience, but to see your music connect people on so many different levels is something that inspires me to no end.