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Interview: Armand Van Helden

Author: Skruff
Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Despite being one of New York's highest rated house producers (his remix of Tori Amos' Professional Widow practically launched 'speed garage') Armand Van Helden is something of an enigma, apparently being more impressed with hip hop (and any other form of music) than house. Famously clearing the floor at Ibiza superclub Space last year with a take-no-prisoners unadulerated rap set, he's also frequently mocked for his remarkable resemblance to comedy gangsta Ali G .

House Music is 'Disposable' and 'Meaningless' While Fleetwood Mac is Jack
"If you listen to Fleetwood Mac their songs are very well written with good hooks, so you can listen and sing along to them. It's important for Americans to be able to enjoy something. That's why American radio doesn't support dance music." Chatting to Angie Ng this week before his first ever show in Kuala Lumpur, Armand Van Helden was friendly if surprisingly critical about house. "It's the least important music because it doesn't deliver anything that's meaningful over time," said Armand.

Skrufff (Angie Ng) : You're one of the most famous DJs in the world today; how much difference does it make playing to a new crowd in a new country-
Armand Van Helden :"It doesn't matter that much. When I DJ, I look at how long the scene has been around and if it's dead or alive. If you have a scene that's been around for a long time, it's like you can't fascinate them anymore, can't 'bring anything new to their tables' because they've been through it all. And sometimes with scenes like Kuala Lumpur which are relatively new, you have more fun because it's more like 'the unknown', ground that has not been travelled that much yet. Sometimes playing at a place that's legendary can be not as exciting, but sometimes it's the reverse, you go into a new place and it just goes over their heads".

Skruff : What's happening with your recording career-
Armand Van Helden :"The Armand album is done; I finished it late November, and the first single is coming in a month. Not to plug it but since you're asking I'll tell you (laughs). The album's called 'Gandhi Khan'. It's a comical album which is something you don't often find in house music."

Skruff : Do you prefer DJing to producing-
Armand Van Helden :"I love producing a lot more than DJing or remixing because that's really what I do- I'm a producer. I love DJing as well but it can't compare to making an album that's…I'm saying that when you have an album or CD, when you listen to it, it's always there; it never changes. You can recreate that moment at any time 20 years from now whereas DJ sets come and go."

Skrufff : No two sets are ever the same…
Armand Van Helden :"For sure. I love DJing but it's a very 'now' thing and I'm more of a person who looks to the future. You question yourself ' 'what are you doing here ; are you actually doing something with your time ; are you making people think about something or are you just making people fill this moment' -"

Skrufff : Why has house been hugely popular in Europe and the rest of the world, yet still failed to crack America in the same way -
Armand Van Helden :"America actually thinks a lot in the way I just described. Dance music, at the end of the day, is very much singles based and it's very disposable. It's like with disco, I remember the disco days, and I have some 12 inch records from then, but disco was just filling a void. In America, they know that. Dance music as a whole in America is looked at as the least important music, on radio, on TV or anywhere; because it doesn't deliver anything that's meaningful over time."

Skrufff : Unlike hip hop…-
Armand Van Helden :"Hip hop does; hip hop give you a story; rock & roll gives you a story; country gives you a story. If you listen to Fleetwood Mac their songs are very well written with good hooks, so you can listen and sing along to them. It's important for Americans to be able to