Interview: Paul van Dyk, Keeping Electronic Music Real
By Scott T. Sterling
Paul van Dyk doesn’t have time for what he calls “EDM soup.”
The veteran German DJ/producer has been making dance music and spinning at massive events around the world since the mid-’90s, existing in the upper echelon of first-generation “superstar DJs” who can still command headline status in the current whirlwind of EDM in America and beyond.
He’s also a GRAMMY nominee, with his 2003 full-length, Reflections, among those that vied for the inaugural Best Dance/Electronica Album prize in 2005, which just so happened to be the first year that award was given out. Unfortunately, he went on to lose to Basement Jaxx and their album, Kish Kash. But, it’s an honor just to be nominated.
While some of his contemporaries have stayed relevant by adapting to the changing tides in dance music, van Dyk has remained true to the trance sound he helped pioneer, pushing his music forward without succumbing to traditional pop leanings or catering to radio station formats.
“My look at electronic music comes from a different point,” he explained during an interview with Radio.com. “When I started DJing, the DJ was the freak in the corner while other people had fun. It was about the music, and it developed from a small subculture into probably the biggest music culture in the world.”
According to van Dyk, what we’re seeing now is just an “influx in pop music,” a wave of danceable music that has gotten the mainstream audience’s attention. But Van Dyk knows how trends work.
“I mean, if one of the big rock bands comes up with a really cool album, then everything is rock driven again,” he explained. “I don’t want electronic music to die once the EDM hype is over. This music is there to stay forever, therefore we need to focus on artists who made music that lasts longer than three minutes on the radio.”
van Dyk’s serious passion for electronic music was palpable throughout the interview, with the artist proudly discussing the upcoming third edition of his popular Politics of Dancing series, which will be a mix compilation made entirely from all new original productions.
He’s equally ardent about his legendary live shows, where he incorporates an array of instruments and gear to create a unique, one of a kind experience every night, running counter to the perception that DJ gigs are all about pressing play.
“When I’m playing now, I pretty much have a recording studio with me onstage. I have keyboards, computers, custom made mixers, a lot of controllers that enable me to be really interactive and actually play things,” he said. “I prefer maybe me pressing the wrong key at some point and still be able to be live than everything being programmed and you just put the USB stick in the CD player, press play and then do this,” he added, waving a hand in the air. “That has nothing to do with what electronic music means to me and the real followers of electronic music.”
Watch van Dyk, who is on tour all summer, open up about everything from his favorite remixes to the one award that means the most to him in the exclusive video interview clip above.