INTERVIEW: Paul Van Dyk (2012)
German producer/DJ Paul van Dyk has always used electronic dance music to break barriers and bring people together. His music is not simply trance but a mix of countless different styles as he is influenced by everywhere he plays Released through a new partnership of his label Vandit with global powerhouse Armada, Paul Van Dyk’s artist album features collaborations with people from around the world- from Arty in Russia to Plumb in Nashville, Tennessee. At the Promo Only Summer Sessions in Atlantic City, Paul made a special appearance, surprising the crowd with the debut performance of “I Don’t Deserve With You” with Plumb. Creating quite a stir already, this looks to be a song that will break even more barriers in the music world.
DJ Ron: The name of your album is Evolution, where are you evolving from and what are you evolving into?
Paul van Dyk: Life in general is my biggest inspiration, and everything that I see somehow ends up in my music. If you look at electronic music over the last twenty years from where it started, where it is now, and the way that we communicate through Twitter and Facebook, things have changed so much. We didn’t have any of these things ten years ago. Life has drastically changed, so obviously that my influences have changed and my inspiration has evolved and is somewhat different.
DJ Ron: Would you call yourself a trance DJ?
Paul van Dyk: I have always called myself a DJ of electronic music.
DJ Ron: So you are no longer a trance DJ, you are an electronic DJ?
Paul van Dyk: I have never been a trance DJ, you can read interviews that I gave as far back as 1994 where I say that dance music is not just about one genre, and it is about electronic music as a whole. When you hear me playing, you don’t hear the stereotypical trance records, they may have trance elements but there is just as much techno, house, and progressive in my sets.
DJ Ron: Thank you, I am so glad that you said that. I get sick of people labeling you as a “trance DJ.” How did you end up hooking up with Armada?
Paul van Dyk: Well Armada and Vandit are obviously two very big labels in the electronic music world. Armada is very good with the infrastructure and administration, and we are very good with the A&R work. We figured that it would make a lot of sense for us to join and provide better services for our artists, fans, and the people that enjoy our music.
DJ Ron: Speaking of artists, one artist that I see that you work with is Arty, is he someone that you signed?
Paul van Dyk: No, he is not someone that I signed. I saw him for the first time and heard about him four years ago. We met in Moscow and Berlin and just started making music together, he is not signed to our label but we regularly work together.
DJ Ron: I’ve always wondered – do you think in German or English? What is your first language?
Paul van Dyk: Since I am German, that is my first language. When I am in the UK, America, or abroad I think in English, I guess.
DJ Ron: There are two tracks on the album that you worked together with Arty on. WIth him being Russian, were there any communication barriers?
Paul van Dyk: Not at all, it is all regarding music. The song “The Sun After Heartbreak” on my album shows what I always say; it is not about stupid labels, like trance or progressive. If you were to put a label on him, people would say that he is progressive house and that I am a trance DJ. Together we make a track that people would say is a drum and bass track. We felt that was the way the track and music should be. By the way, he does speak a little bit of English.
DJ Ron: Since Arty is a much younger DJ and you have more experience, what have you learned and how have you mentored him?
Paul van Dyk: It is not so much mentoring him; what is special about Arty is that he has done something very unique. He hasn’t been cheesy and used top 40 artists on his records; he has developed his own unique style and vibe of music, which is why people have found it, and liked it. There are people like me who have a radio show, tour, notice it, and then play it.
DJ Ron: You also worked with Austin Leeds on two tracks, were you actually in the studio with him? How did you guys collaborate?
Paul van Dyk: We have been in the studio together in the past. I have known Austin for about eight years, we DJ’d together, he played for us in Berlin, and we have done music together before this album. He is just an amazing talented producer, DJ, and friend.
DJ Ron: When you work with a vocalist like Plumb, are you usually in the studio together or do you send tracks for her to write?
Paul van Dyk: In this particular case with Plumb since she has three children and can’t travel abroad too much, I provided music and she came back with vocals. She is an amazing person in addition to being a crazily insane creator.
DJ Ron: When you performed live last night, what equipment were you using? I saw many things on your table.
Paul van Dyk: It was pretty much the same equipment that I use when I DJ. My keyboards, computers, mixers, and controllers, that enables me to really interact and be live with everything. I don’t know if you noticed because it was so short, but the version that I played was very different. I played the hook differently and the piano was on a different key. It is kind of like the next step of DJing, I am not playing CDs off vinyls, I am playing keyboards at the end of the day.
DJ Ron: You are actually kind of producing live and not playing prerecorded things.
Paul van Dyk: Exactly, everything has its individual elements and I am producing and bringing it together live in front of my audience.
DJ Ron: Do you often perform with vocals live or is that a special thing?
Paul van Dyk: It was the first time with Plumb, but definitely not the first time that I have done it. For the album tour of In Between, I was touring with my complete band and all of the vocalists. We were like a massive group touring around the world
DJ Ron: You also worked with Adam Young from Owl City on the album, how did that come about?
Paul van Dyk: He got in contact with my office about 3-4 years ago and told me what he was doing, from there I told him to send his music over. His music was really cool and we decided to do something together. Obviously, “Fireflies” became a massive hit and everyone knew about Owl City; we stayed in contact and started working on music together. It was very interesting because I wrote the music in Greece, he wrote the lyrics in Australia, we recorded everything in New York, and I did the arrangement in Mexico then produced it in Berlin.
DJ Ron: Wow! I wanted to ask if there was a difference between working with a male vocalist versus a female vocalist.
Paul van Dyk: Yeah it doesn’t look as stupid when I sing along and it’s a male vocalist.
DJ Ron: When you are playing your sets, do you play mainly instrumental sets?
Paul van Dyk: Yes
DJ Ron: How do you choose when to put a vocal track in versus playing more instrumentals? Is it something that you feel the crowd with?
Paul van Dyk: It is just a feel and a vibe; I don’t think there is recipe of how to do it. When I play a vocal track, even the vocals are not the leading element. It is an additional element of the track and it needs to fit into the set.
DJ Ron: When you found out that you won the Grammy for The Dark Knight, what was your reaction to that?
Paul van Dyk: Effectively, Hans Zimmer won the Grammy; I was just a part of the whole thing and it made me proud.
DJ Ron: Out of curiosity, I read online that you don’t fly on McDonnell Douglas Airplanes, why is that?
Paul van Dyk: I think that they stopped producing them in 1971, so that makes even the most recent McDonnell Douglas plane at least 40 years old.
DJ Ron: That makes sense. If people want to follow you online what is the best way to do that?
Paul van Dyk: Probably Facebook, Twitter, and my website, paulvandyk.com
DJ Ron: What would like to say to all of your fans out there?
Paul van Dyk: I am a musician at heart, I do everything for the music and my fans, you guys enable me to do that. All I can say is thank you; I will be endlessly thanking you.