Dutch powerhouse DJ/producer and scene leader extraordinaire Armin van Buuren has historically been the highest performer in the Top 100 poll, holding onto the No.1 spot for an unprecedented four years in a row. And while there's been speculation over whether trance can maintain the massive peaks it's enjoyed the past few years, Armin's star has shone brighter than ever in 2011, with the size of the crowds he's played to only swelling. The biggest milestone of the past 12 months was the series of events across the world to celebrate the 500th episode of his world-beating A State Of Trance radio show, all simulcast live to millions.
"We celebrated over five weeks, with five live broadcasts from five mega ASOT500 events on five different continents," says Armin, who flew from Johannesburg to Miami, Buenos Aires, Den Bosch and then finally Sydney to headline all of the sold-out events, joined by a cast of some of trance's finest. "It was really a special thing for me personally. It was a lot of work to get all the live broadcasts done and to get all the DJs to play, but I'm happy they did and it was amazing! People still talk about it."
He points to the scale and success of ASOT500 as all the evidence you'll ever need of the strength of his beloved trance scene.
"There's a huge demand for trance still," he says. "A lot of trance records are now labelled as 'prog' or 'house', but for me, they clearly are still trance records… We're being fooled into thinking trance is going away, but for me it's just a matter of what label you stick to it."
While the dissenting voices within the scene from respected veterans like John '00' Fleming and John Askew have grown louder this year, Armin refuses to be drawn into the debate.
"I haven't really read about it. All I know is, I hugely respect them both. The way I see it, it's a little bit of history repeating. In the early '90s, we only had house music and from that came rave, techno, and even trance. Now you have different kinds of trance, like prog trance, hard trance, psy-trance, vocal trance, uplifting trance, house trance, or 'trouse' as some call it. Every genre has its haters and fans. It's called evolution."
Otherwise, his massive 'Armin Only' show continued its trek across the world, in support of his 'Mirage' album from last year, a nine-hour DJ set spectacular that's visited more than 10 different countries.
"It's the biggest thing I've ever done!" he says. "We flew in our own stage and a crew of about 40 people. We had to do this because we demanded a special kind of show with movable LED screens and several moving stage parts. Everything was running on timecode to make sure everyone was in sync with what was happening on stage. It was like a live concert and a DJ set joined together."
However, all this pales in comparison to what Armin ranks as the year's major achievement - the birth of his first child.
"The most important thing was becoming a dad to a beautiful daughter named Fenna this summer. All the cliché's are true; it's the best thing that can happen to you!"