An in-depth interview with Ruben de Ronde

Ruben de Ronde doesn’t really need a special introduction for trance music fans but here I will put the whole article with the introduction (for those who would love to know more about Ruben) and an interview which I did with him for Croatian online magazine devoted to electronic dance music, Klubska scena / Clubbing Croatia. The interview took place at Zrće Beach, Island Of Pag, Croatia, more precisely in the club Kalypso where Ruben performed on 13th of July as one of the artists at trance festival Senses which was held from 12th to 15th of July this year and which had a massive line up, consisting also of the names such as Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Paul Van Dyk, Giuseppe Ottaviani, Super8 & Tab, Sander van Doorn, and many others. It was so amazing to see Ruben’s set after such a long time, which was, hand on heart, the set of the night (at least for me, but when it comes to my favorite DJs, I can’t really be unbiased ;)) and catch up with him in an in-depth interview!

Ruben and I were talking for more than an hour about everything’s what’s current, as safe festivals and overall situation with music in pandemic, ASOT, Twitch, trance music but also, of course, his plans, upcoming gigs, upcoming album…Yes, yes, this is exclusive and known only to his Twitch community – namely, he announced a new album coming out in October this year and it will be (well, most surely!) released on vinyl, for what, as a huge vinyl fan myself, I’m even more excited! I had a chance to give him my pencil portrait as well that I made and he loved it so much! I would say that this was definitely one of the nights I will never forget – seeing one of your favorite artists live, being able to gift him a portrait and talking to him for almost one and a half hour was just a dream coming true and I was amazed by his humbleness and super kindness as well! Although there’s lots of interaction with Ruben already both on his Twitch and Discord channel, this was truly something else!

Here you can enjoy the videos taken from his incredible set at Senses:

Back then when Ruben and I were talking, the festivals in The Netherlands were banned till 14th of August, but as of today Dutch Government banned multi day festivals (with camping sites) till 1st of September this year so Mysteryland, which should have been held on the weekend 27th – 29th of August, announced today that it’s sadly postponed to 2022, so Ruben won’t perform at their Trance Energy stage on Saturday 28th this year. ASOT posted an update for ASOT 1000 Utrecht today as well, but so far they are monitoring the situation and the festival is still scheduled: Bellow is the whole article so enjoy!

Dutch DJ and producer Ruben de Ronde is known to trance music fans as the host of the weekly radio show A State Of Trance (ASOT) of popular Dutch DJ and producer Armin van Buuren. Ruben started working on the show back in 2007 after joining Armada Music as an A&R manager, but since 2011 he has been fully dedicated to ASOT due to the growing popularity of the show and the fast-moving ASOT festival which, besides being held in the Netherlands, began to take place globally. In 2017, more precisely from the 800th show when ASOT started to be video broadcasted from studio in Amsterdam on streaming platforms like Youtube, Facebook and Twitch, he became Armin’s co-host. He is also the owner of the Statement label! Recordings dedicated to progressive trance music and a host of his own trance show “The Sound Of Holland”. So far he has released four albums: “From Sao Paolo to Sofia” in 2013, “My Story” and “TogetheRR” (in collaboration with Dutch DJ and producer Rodg) in 2017 and “Different” in 2019, as well as numerous singles and remixes.

Ruben is one of the pioneers of DJ and production streams on the increasingly popular Twitch platform with over 20,000 followers and as of January this year he also became an ambassador for Team Liquid, an esports organization with which he connected through his love for gaming.

He released several new tracks this year, such as “Bloodstream” in collaboration with legendary Dutch trance DJ and producer Ferry Corsten, who also joined ASOT as a host last year, “Lose Yourself” in collaboration with South African vocalist That Girl and a remix of the new track “An Ocean Apart” by the legendary British DJ and producer Chicane which was released last week on Modena Records, Chicane’s own label represented by Armada Music. Recently in his Twitch streams, he announced his new fifth album which should see its release in October this year.

We sat down with Ruben at Senses trance music festival, held on Zrće on the Island of Pag, Croatia, from July 12th to 15th this year, on which he played on Tuesday 13th, to talk about tonight’s gig, his upcoming album and gigs, trance music, ASOT and Twitch, but also about this whole situation with festivals and streams in a pandemic, and much more!

Hi Ruben and thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! We all enjoyed your set tonight very much! Senses is actually your first festival abroad after a long time of having no gigs due to pandemic. Tell us how did you feel performing tonight in front of the live crowd?

It’s the first time I got into airplane after 15 months or so. I normally do more than a hundred flights  a year, so it has been a weird year, not only for me, but for everybody. It was quite emotional to play live tonight and some of the new tunes as well, and having that energy from the crowd again.

Your set was very energetic, although your music is labeled as progressive trance. Tell us more about what were you playing tonight?

I wouldn’t see myself as the „progressive guy“ at all because I play whatever I want to play if it fits the mood. I had a certain set in my mind for tonight but if the DJ before you plays an energetic set, you have to adapt to it. 95% of tracks tonight were my tracks. I’ve noticed that there were also people in the crowd who maybe might not be that deep into trance music so I tried to play a couple of more tracks with familiar vocals, such as Above & Beyond’s tracks. You just have to read the crowd and I think everything comes and goes with reading the crowd. There’s a lot of new artists that have no idea what that is. But as I’m a DJ at heart, it’s normal for me. It was also so much different than playing in front of the camera in my Twitch streams, even though I have a special relationship with you guys who are in my Twitch community. But playing in front of the crowd is just always something else.

Senses festival is organized as a safe event, with limited capacity, and the requirement for the entrance is holding EU Digital COVID Certificate, according to the rules of Croatian national authorities. Do you think that these kind of events are the future and that they are really safe?  For example, recently in The Netherlands there was a ban on holding festivals till 14th of August this year.

A week before Senses I’ve played at Luminosity Beach In Search Of Sunrise event in The Netherlands, which was also organized as a safe event following rules of Dutch national authorities. How much they are really safe, I can’t tell as I’m not a scientist. On a paper, it should be safe, proving that everybody who is attending event isn’t infectious. I don’t know if this would really be a future of events – I suppose that pandemic will eventually pass and that the things will go back to normal. I don’t know exactly why our Government brought down the decision to ban festivals. The number of cases supposedly rise because of the night clubs and festivals. People simply get too close to each other at such events.

At this point in Croatia we still haven’t got many cases, although we started opening for festivals at similar time as The Netherlands.

I think that maybe it’s because you have better weather here and people are in general more healthier. But the situation with pandemic is so unpredictable. Nobody can know exactly what will happen. In The Netherlands the situation changed basically overnight.

Regarding the situation in the Netherlands, trance music and ASOT fans are curious will ASOT 1000, announced for 3rd and 4th of September this year, be held or will it be postponed? Armin and you announced a massive line up last Thursday, people were so excited and then literally a day after, as you said yourself, the situation with festivals suddenly changed.

ASOT is still scheduled for September. If everything goes well, we will have a fantastic time so let’s keep it that positive way. But as I said –  nobody actually knows.

Where can we see you playing this summer except at ASOT 1000?

The first weekend of gigs I am supposed to play at Creamfields, Tomorrowland and Mysteryland’s Trance Energy stage, all in one weekend, but Tomorrowland got cancelled. Creamfields and Mysteryland are so far scheduled. But for example right now, if you go to the UK, you have to go to quarantine for two weeks so it seems impossible to go to UK to play at Creamfields. Therefore it’s still a big questionmark.

Trance music fans in Croatia wonder why we don’t have ASOT festival here, especially now when we have festivals which have shown that the trance music scene here is going stronger and stronger.

As I’m not in the part of the industry which deals with event organization, I can’t tell you more from that perspective. I just know that the festivals big like ASOT you have to make with a local partner event organization. You have to have somebody with whom you will connect and who will do it localy, so it’s not that ASOT doesn’t want to come to Croatia.

What were you doing during lockdown, how were you spending your time? In your recent Twitch streams we could hear some new tracks you are working on currently.

In a first few months I made lots of new music, I even have material for two or three years but at a certain point I’ve stopped being so creative as I didn’t have the feedback from the live crowd on the dancefloor so you really don’t have energy to make music anymore. In the meantime, beside ASOT show, I did lots of my own Twitch streams and builded a community there which is also on my Discord channel what helped me a lot to get through these tough times. It’s an amazing bunch of people and I met so many of them already. Everytime I think about it, I’m just speechless, it’s such a great community.

I agree as I am part of it myself and I was mind blown by positivity, support and mutual respect of the people there. It seems to me that Twitch is completely something else compared to Facebook, Twitter and Youtube where lots of negativity is going on. Is Twitch the future as more and more DJs are streaming there and can you actually make a living out of it?  

You can’t really live just from Twitch. For me, the community is much more important. I was one of the first DJs together with deadmau5 who started to do DJ streams there 6 years ago. Twitch actually started as a platform for gamers what I am myself. At first I was doing producing streams and then the DJ streams. I also pioneered the first Twitch streamed event which was held in New York two years ago – it was a party of my label Statement! Recordings with Elevven, Rodg and Gardenstate in the line up. I think that Twitch blew up because of pandemic and became a popular platform, but as the situation got better with the gigs, people are slowly leaving Twitch and you can notice that in the number of views. But still, Twitch will surely stay. If I have to take something positive from this situation with pandemic, it’s definitely my Twitch community.

Your fans are very devoted to you but I’ve noticed it’s a two way street. Namely, in your streams you communicate a lot with the people what feels more like a live conversation than a typical one-way online music stream. Also nobody argues on what trance should or shouldn’t be as it’s the case in trance communities on Facebook and other platforms.

People chose to give their time to you and time is the most valuable thing which you cannot have back once that you give it. That’s why I really appreciate when people find the time to watch my streams. The least I can do is to answer to people’s questions. I love communication and also my formal education is hotel management. There was some negativity in the past but not anymore. You just simply can’t please everybody. We are just music fans gathered around stuff we are truly passionate about and I don’t really see any reason for negativity. Twitch became such an essential part of my life that I will always keep doing it. With the return of the gigs, the streams won’t be anymore everyday because my schedule doesn’t allow it. Also sometimes I have to make decisions as to spend more time in the studio or with friends and family, what’s also very important to me. But I will always be doing Twitch.

You recently announced a new album in your Twitch streams and on your Discord. What kind of tracks can we expect? Will the album be more progressive or are you considering changing your style?

Yes, I will definitely release a new album but I won’t change my style that much. I usually produce whatever I want to, so I also make uplifting music. I was even making stuff like hardstyle, dubstep and so on, but I don’t release everything I make. I’m not sure yet how the album will look like, maybe it will contain 7 or 8 tracks and I will keep more for later releases. There’s lots of vocal stuff and people who have been watching my streams already heard most of them in the making. This is what I love about Twitch as well – the feedback of my followers in my producing streams. The feedback plays a big part in my productions as my tracks wouldn’t be the same without it. For example, when I had a production stream for one of my new tracks, one of my followers, D-WaRRioR who is also a producer from The Netherlands, sent me an interesting loop containing a guitar, from which I extracted certain notes, made a melody and used it in that track. So without this input, my track wouldn’t have been the same.That’s why I think the producing streams are very valuable.

Can we expect a collaboration track with Armin?

I don’t think it will happen, as Armin and I simply don’t have the same idea about how our collab track should sound like.

With which vocalist you would love to work with?

If it could be just any vocalist, not only trance music, that would be definitely Maria Mena! Always! In my opinion, she’s the best singer and songwriter on the planet so that was an easy answer.

How do you make your music and are you also writing lyrics for your tracks?

I do all – producing, writing and composing. I have also been working in the studio with people who are writing lyrics. I found it so inspiring and would love to do more of that in the future.

How do your collaborations happen?

On one side you can connect with the artists through social media – for example right now I am working on a track with Daimy Lotus who worked with Markus Schulz on a couple of tracks as well. I actually reached out to her through Instagram and asked her if she is interested doing a track with me and she agreed. On the other side, my publisher Cloud 9 Music is responsible for that as well. They introduced me to Diana Miro, but also „Wanderlust“ track’s vocalist EKE and the writers were arranged by Cloud 9 Music so I didn’t know them personally. This is basically the two different ways of how it goes with the collaborations.

How much is Armada Music having an impact on your style?

Actually, my label Statement! Recordings isn’t under Armada Music anymore – we left in last November and now we’re going independent. It’s a lots more of work and that’s why we don’t have so many releases. But as soon as I find the time or someone who can help me with certain things on the label, then we will have more releases once again.  

NFTs are now really hot thing in music industry. Are you also into NFTs and are they accessible to everybody?

Yes, definitely, and I think it’s the future of music. Also, they are accessible to everybody. For example, if you buy something on iTunes, that’s an NFT. But you can buy like only hundred copies or so and that’s it. No one else can buy it, it’s limited, and you can sell them on. NFTs are actually everywhere. For example, emotes and bits on Twitch are also NFTs. If you’re playing Fortnite or some computer game, you can buy weapon skins in the game – that’s also an NFT. All these digital collectibles are NFTs.

What about physical music media as CDs and vinyl? Were you considering to release your new album on a vinyl?

Sale of CDs is at the moment horrible. On the other hand, vinyl has a huge comeback. I would love to release my new album on a vinyl, but making a vinyl costs – cutting, pressing, design but shipping as well which goes wrong so many times. Still, no matter the whole risk I would have to take, I think I will do it. As I’m a bit old fashioned and a collector, I love physical media, especially vinyl, and that’s why I also still release CDs. Holding the physical media in your hands is simply something completely else.

Trance genre lately became more progressive. Is it because of a lockdown and lack of gigs? We have witnessed more progressive phase of trance music from 2008 till 2011 as well when there wasn’t pandemic going on and after that came uplifting stuff again, but different than classic uplifting.

Trance music has its cycles and I think it’s just a natural flow of music. Producers get inspired by other music genres as well. What happened during lockdown is that the DJs were doing live streams for people at home who didn’t want to listen to harder music, at least I didn’t. I want to hear this kind of progressive music on live streams when I’m at home, where it’s comfortable and relaxing. So that’s why almost all of the DJs went more downtempo. For example, Solarstone was always playing progressive music as well, but if you check his morning show on Twitch, it’s only progressive music basically. I love that show by the way, and I listen to it a lot. You could notice that lot of producers are always trying to find different ways and means and they get inspired by different things.

This is not the first time that you are performing in Croatia. Would you love to return to this festival? In general, how it’s going with booking DJs, is it out of your control? People usually say something like: „Please, come to my  country“ but for some DJs it never happens or doesn’t happen often.

I hope to return to Senses festival the next year and would love to play at more events here in Croatia, but that’s not up to me. If someone wants to book me, then yes, of course. I played at Ultra Europe in Split four years ago and it was one of the nicest memories I have. The funny thing is that on a paper Ultra Europe looks as a very huge kind of gig but in reality the stage where I’ve played is very small. Nevertheless, the crowd was so fantastic and cool and it was great to perform there. I was booked for Forestland in Croatia in 2019 but, sadly, this was the only gig I missed in my whole life. It was a very hectic day, one of the most stressful in my life. Firstly I was playing at Sunrise Festival in Poland, then after four hours ride to Berlin airport, I realized that my tickets were wrongly booked. From that moment on it was a roller coaster. Then I went to The Netherlands to play both at my Statement! Recordings stage and the mainstage at Electronic Family festival. After that I had to take a taxi to Düsseldorf because my flights got rescheduled and I’ve missed my flight to Munich. When I got to Munich I had to stay the night there and never made it to Forestland.

This life of a DJ sounds really hectic and stressful. How do you manage all that stress?

Well, I don’t know, I just live day by day. This part of a DJ life is the side of a coin you fans don’t see. The gigs are fantastic, traveling is horror. But in the end, the gigs are worth it all. Simply nothing can replace the energy of the crowd and this is where I get my tracks tested as well, how they’ll work on the dancefloor. That is impossible on Twitch streams because you don’t have that kind of feedback. I’m bad with scheduling stuff, that’s why also my Twitch streams times are always all over the place, but in the end, despite that and my tight DJ schedule but other obligations as well, I still manage to make streams as well.

What would you advise to trance music communities in countries like Croatia where for example techno and house music are dominating genres – how to attract more people to trance music? And how to get more trance events here?

I guess that it’s hard to attract people to trance music because trance is such a small subgenre in music but it also depends on what you consider as trance music. For example, lots of techno artists, like Charlotte de Witte and others, are actually playing oldschool trance as well, and not only techno. Charlotte literally played a vinyl rip from a Push trance track from 1999 and it’s considered as techno. So there is a lot of trance music played on these techno events but people don’t want to call it trance. Techno artists just have to admit that they play trance music as well, but if you say to a techno crowd that it’s trance music, it won’t work. There are many issues even within trance genre, as for example the definition of what exactly trance is. Trance music is different for everybody and people have different interpretation of it. Personally I love uplifting trance and I play it in ASOT shows every week but also in my Twitch streams. Certain songs just hit you so hard emotionally. For example, tonight I wanted to play Lange’s „Out Of The Sky“ in Chris Schweizer’s remix but I didn’t have time as one and a half hour of set is just too short. Will Atkinson’s „Rush“ was one of my favorite tunes last year. Both are uplifting trance music tracks. So, for me, trance music can have either 122 or 138 BPM, it doesn’t matter – what matters to me is the feeling. As we are speaking, Cosmic Gate are now on stage playing their track „Blame“. I would call it trance music but maybe someone else wouldn’t. It’s because the general public sees trance as 138 BPM kind of tracks but trance music is so much more than that. Many people tried to „win“ the genre in that particular way, seeing it as 138 BPM music exclusively, and they are usually very loud in trance communities. I think it’s just a matter of time when people will start appreciating other than 138 BPM stuff a lot more. As for trance events, it begins at the beginning, meaning that you only need one person with a dedication to start doing events. But I know that it’s not easy as you can lose lots of money as well so it’s  always a certain risk.

If trance music is really such a small niche genre, can trance artists make a living out of it?

In trance music there’s a handful of people who could really live of their profession. The biggest money is, of course, always in the gigs.

What’s your motto in life?

I think the most important thing and the rule I live by is: If you put your mind to something, you can do it! In my head I had the whole bucketlist of stuff that I wanted to do and I thought I will never be able to do it, for example playing at big festivals such as Tomorrowland, Mysteryland, EDC, Ultra…Now I play at all of them. One of the few festivals I’ve never played at was Trance Energy and in the past I went there all the time, to every edition, so playing Trance Energy stage at Mysteryland last year was like catching two flies at one catch because I’ve always wanted to perform at both festivals. Also, I’ve played twice at the ASOT mainstage in Utrecht so far and will play there for the third time this September what is also a great achievement. So if everything goes well with festivals, I hope to see you guys at ASOT 1000!

And we are looking forward to ASOT 1000 as well so fingers crossed that it happens! Thank you for your time and we hope to see you soon!

You can find Ruben here: Twitch Instagram Facebook