Armin van Buuren and David Lee Roth of Van Halen Talk about Fusion of EDM and Rock [Interview]

There are many facets of music which is best explored through genres. For example, if you love an ensemble of guitars, bass, drums, and singing, then enter rock. But if you want the tempo to remain at 136 beats per minute with emphasis on melody and kick, trance is right for you. But what if these two seemingly distant genres clashed head to head in a collaborative effort?

Enter Armin van Buuren and Van Halen’s David Lee Roth. Although this has been attempted in the past, none are of highest profile than that of these two, respective legends. During Ultra Music Festival 2019, the two took to the main stage to unveil Armin van Buuren’s remix of Van Halen’s omega-classic song “Jump.” While van Buuren was behind the stage, Roth took the microphone in the way he has for decades and sang the lyrics that everyone and their mother know by heart.


— Your EDM (@YourEDM) March 31, 2019

Luckily, we were able to set an interview with the two superstars before that epic moment in cross-genre/Ultra history. Here’s what they had to say:

Hello and welcome Armin and David Lee! It’s incredible to sit with two legends of their respective fields. How are the two of you doing?

David Lee Roth: When worlds collide-ide-ide -ide. But in all seriousness, great!

Armin: And I’m doing fine!

Considering that this is a music festival focused mostly on electronic dance music, is this you first Ultra, David Lee?

David Lee: This is not my first dance affair, by any stretch. But this is my first Ultra and my first Ultra in Miami performing. I have not performed at one of these and have maintained for many years that this is where you get to perform your remixes. Everybody on the left-hand side of the Billboard charts is getting a remix, but when you go to [Las] Vegas to see [Lady] Gaga, you get the regular record. Now is time to perform remixes which, excuse me, are inarguably better than the original because of the boom in the room.

Armin, following what David Lee said, how did you get into the process of working on a remix that have brought you two here?

Armin: I’m lost for words, honestly! Seriosuly. I am lost for words. It’s an incredible honor sitting here with a legend. A couple of weeks ago, I sent my first version of the [Van Halen remix] mix. I always had an idea of doing something with this song. I got the stems via a friend and started working on the mix. And, of course, I think it’s important with a remix that you always send it to the artist first because you are touching their baby, you know? It took a while to hear back from David Lee. But after two and a half weeks, I got a phone call from my publisher who couldn’t breathe anymore and he said that he just heard from David Lee’s management, that they loved the mix and that there was a possibility that he might be interested in coming to Ultra to do a live performance. I just couldn’t believe [it].

How long was the work and correspondence on the “Jump” remix?

Armin: I had the stems for about three months. But I was so busy with touring, I didn’t have time to really get around it. But I had a clear idea about what to do with it, but throwing a stone and seeing where it would end up. It’s such an iconic song that it needs to be heard by younger generations as well. It’s one of the song I grew up listening to. I just did my take on it, sent it to David Lee, and here we are!

Here we are having a phenomenally bizarre, but meant to be interview, right?

David Lee: I look like the music sounds. This is what I call concrete poetry. His [Armin] music and mine as well sounds like the landing tower at Miami International Airport looks. All….consuming! Besides, I’m the Prince of Larceny at midnight when everybody’s guilty with this audience. Stop lying. [laughs]

But as the Prince of Larceny, you have been a busy be the last year with your new skincare product for people with tattoos. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came about?

David Lee: Approximately 20 years ago, I caught Dengue Fever in the South Pacific and broke my two molars. I walked around without the two teeth in my upper side [of my mouth] for almost two years before I got it fixed. And I swore from that camping trip forward that I was going to remedy everything that I had gotten wrong. Because I am an expert in everything you can do wrong. Everything you shouldn’t do. Have you seen the free solo film with Alex Honnold where he solos El Capitán?

I have.

David Lee: Every climb he did, I thought to myself, “Oh, I almost killed myself on that one. Oh, almost killed the team on that one.” [laughs] And this extends to going out in very harsh conditions and unforgiving environments. An event like Ultra Music Festival that is all day, fourteen hours in the sun, wearing a jacket and pants in the Mojave, getting lost somewhere in a fourth world nation as a means of recreation is the background for all our products that we make for people with tattoos. People with tattoos have very specific requirements for their skin. Especially, when they go through the time, the trouble, the expense and the pain. Tattoo consumers like myself will tell you that the pain is like a cat scratch. But the truth is it is like a cat scratch from a hungry, 300 pound Bengal tiger! [laughs] And we’re not even talking about people who get tattoos all the time. If you take that approach with hitting those weight stacks at the gym in your 20s, you’ll fool ’em by about twelve summers when you get to my age! [laughs] If you wait at my age, you’ll look like a 60-something who goes to the gym a lot. So here I am to save your day early.

What’s the name of this product and what can we expect from it in the future?

David Lee: Get after it with INK the Original! It glows! We’re not strippers, but we’re stripper friendly. But we don’t glow like strippers. It’s got a nice, smooth glow, it photographs beautifully, and it’s safe for the water. I have a business partner who lives close by who is a 5 in the morning surfer and his concerns of reef safety and what it’s doing to the water. What we’re doing to the environment is of paramount importance to us. We have a line of about 60 products coming out. Everything that can go in your backpack, including your backpack, is on its way. I have about 300 hours of Japanese intense [tattoos] and the first thing my mom said was, “I like the colors, but what do you do when you go outdoors?” If you’re wondering where the “a-ha” moment came from, it came from mom! We are taking this internationally. We’re almost at eight million dollars into the program and we are one hundred percent art centric. I sang and danced for every single penny, surrounded myself with 34 kindred, collegial spirits who are incandescent. We have offices in New York and Los Angeles and its time for me to give a little bit back. I’ve already made my fortune in rock n’ roll.

That’s incredible! This is a great venture that has been sorely needed from one tattoo connoisseur to many more.

Jumping back into music, how would the two of you describe the crossing of rock and electronic dance music in respect to the way the other genres have mashed together?

Armin: My motto has been, “Don’t be the prisoner of your own style.” Whether it’s art, food, love, or music, your life is so much more rich if you dare to cross boundaries. And I know you may upset some people, but that’s what artists are here to do. We are here to upset people to make them think.

David Lee: “Go ahead and JUMP. You might as well.” That’s the little voice in the back that says you can do it even though you’re a little bit scared. All my best adventures started with those first four words. Might as well. [laughs]

Armin: That’s exactly the point. The lyrics sum up the reason.

That’s true. It’s been a motivator for fans since the 80’s and it still carries.

Armin: Look what the Beatles did, right? When they introduced the Moog synthesizer on the White Album, you know what happened? Dance music was born because the synthesizer was considered a devilish instrument. You were not suppose to use a synthesizer in pop music because it was not considered to be a real instrument. The guitar was a real instrument! But a synthesizer was not. Look what we have now. We have a festival based around the synthesizer because electronic music came from the synthesizer.

That’s true. Just like in rock how Emerson, Lake & Palmer made one of the earliest Moog synthesizer solos on a rock song. And they were way ahead of their time.

David Lee: The most classic sentence that you’re going to hear in your first of week of any formatted music school like Berkley or Julliard is “if it sounds good, it is good.”

Armin: Amen! [laughs]

I cannot argue with such sound advice. But Armin, you’re not just here as an ambassador between electronic music and rock. You’re also here to once again headline A State of Trance at Ultra Music Festival. What separates this Miami edition from other years?

Armin: It’s the artists and of course the new location, which is going to be quite exciting. I’m very happy we have this lineup because we have artists that we haven’t seen before. We have Infected Mushroom and Vini Vici going back-to-back, Markus Schultz and Cosmic Gate is something to celebrate and I’m doing a two hour set myself. And, you know, it’s coming home for my fans because they get a little more from me than what they expect. I value my fans, trance is a sound that is close to my heart and will always be and my fans know this. I will always produce trance music, but my energy and my fuel for my creativity is doing stuff like working with David Lee. I’m so excited! I don’t feel as excited for performances as I do now I’m just ready to show people what it is all about. Life is short. You might as well…

David Lee: You start to travel. You bring home new ideas. Think about a chef who will travel throughout the far east. He’s going to grab a bag and try a little of this and mix it in with what he always makes. And his friends tell him, “Wow, pop, your spaghetti tastes a little better!” For us, as artists, to assume that you’re going to change is not what happens.  Whether you’re a chef, an architect, a DJ, or a composer, you have to change your context, move to a new city, begin recording in a studio you are unfamiliar with, get a girlfriend who doesn’t speak English. That’ll reform you’re lyrics! [laughs]

But what about your first exposures to each other’s genres? Armin with rock and David Lee with electronic?

Armin: My father was a big lover of the early progressive synthesizer music. We had all those weird sounds coming from Jean Michael Jarre, Vangellis, and Isao Tomita. It was trance before the word was invented. He was a big fan of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and we rocked a myriad of artists including Chopin. I love him [my father] to bits because he knows so much about music and I grew up listening to what he showed me. That was a huge inspiration for me. Basically, we listen to everything from the Beatles to the [Rolling] Stone, you name it. My mother was massive fan of the 60s and 70s so all those songs were playing loud and in our living room. What you grow up listening to definitely inspires you for the rest of your life. That is your guideline. And of course, I had dance music to sort of go against it. When you’re in your puberty, you want to go and find something that your parents don’t like because it’s cool, right? That’s how I got into dance music.

That’s how I got into a lot of my records. My mom showed me disco and my dad showed me a lot of classic rock. But I found electronic music as my own thing that my parents didn’t have.

But David Lee, as someone who has seen the music industry mutate two or three over decades, how would you say electronic music has influenced you to this day?

David Lee: Electronic music, for me, started all the way back with the synthesizer. It was even before that when someone said that the Rhodes wasn’t a real piano. The Fender Rhodes only sounds like the Fender Rhodes. [laughs] It doesn’t sound like a Steinway, it doesn’t sound like a Baldwin, and there was already friction that far back with Miles Davis in the 60s. It’s a familiar fight. It’s a familiar contest. But, I agree with Armin in that every succeeding generation thinks we hold the mortgage on popular culture now and forever ’til the last syllable of time. We all thought that side burn, big hair, and bell bottoms were going to be forever. They kind of are, but now they are worn by the audience instead of on the stage! [laughs] We used to think that big, blousy leisure suits were going to be forever. We used to think that punk rock was- but no. It’s a cycle of change. An iconoclast. It means to break the icon. You become an iconoclast first and if you’re lucky enough to make it to the top of the popularity heap, then you become the icon. Right now, Armin van Buuren is the iconoclast. Me? I am Pod God!

Make sure to check out Armin van Buuren and David Lee Roth performing the new remix to 80s classic rock song “Jump” and make sure to check out Roth new lines of products from INK the Original.

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