I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the most influential DJs/producers and trance legend, Paul Van Dyk. The German Producer/DJ, who has been in the scene since 1991 -- way before electronic dance music became the coined marketing term “EDM” -- speaks out about his opinions of the scene in America today and how times have changed. From one interview alone, one can clearly depict the passion this musician has for his craft. The passion that drives him to keep true to his roots even after more than two decades of performing at the biggest music events around the world and creating music.
CP: What are your favorite kinds of sounds in trance music? Bass, pads, drums, leads, etc
PvD: All of these instruments alone is wonderful, but combined, it creates amazing music. For example, i love the Intense moment of pads but i also like the energy of the big hooks and big leads. And of course, drums are really important as well -- it drives the whole thing. I’m not sure haha, i don't have an exact favorite. they are all part of the musical family.
CP: You are a veteran in the electronic dance music scene -- Do you think this will be your last EDC Vegas or do you plan on returning in the future?
PvD: Actually I’m not planning on anything being my last because there are quite a lot of things that I intend to do so I never want to go with the mindset that something will be my last.
CP: Who do to think are the DJs the look out for in the near future?
PvD: For an up & coming DJ I would have to say that Las Salinas and Maarten de Jong are great ones to watch out for.
CP: As a veteran legend trance dj, who do you see taking over music scene for trance in festivals?
PVD: I feel that, the people have created this kind of music, and the feels /vibe of it and seem to just create commercial music to jump the train which is somewhat disappointing; especially looking at artists where they had a certain integrity when it was just not about the bank account and the checkbook. But at the end of the day, It is about the music and so many people like this EDM stuff, so many people like different sounds. It’s not down for me to judge it, it’s down to me as an artist to bring what I feel the music should sound like.;to bring this across and do my job as best as I can. This is what I am trying to do.
CP: Since you've been there since basically the beginning, and the explosion of "edm" in the last 5 years, where do you see the next 5 years in North America?
PvD: Well, first of all, It’s always a question of definition. I was asked before “What does EDM mean” -- And I said, “ It’s a marketing term for people throwing cakes” -- because it has nothing to do anymore with ‘electronic dance music’ -- that term, is almost used for something else these days. EDM barely has anything to do with music, it’s more about “1, 2, 3 -- put your f-cking hands up bullshit” -- Honestly if that’s what you enjoy, fair enough; it’s great. But again, -- this is not what electronic music means to me.
CP: What does electronic music mean to you?
PvD: To me, it means energy. Entertainment on a high quality level. Not like what most raves just scream “fuck you, I put your hands up blah blah that sort of stuff. It’s about the music more than anything. This is what’s important to me and what i’m trying to bring across. And again, I don’t think that electronic music crossed over to the mass market. Cheesy danceable pop music has crossed over to the danceable market that is used as a marketing term and called “EDM” -- it’s like, the music that I call “electronic music” that is dear to me, that moves me, and touches my heart, is still not at the mass..and I don’t think it will ever get there -- because it is too complex. It’s not just music that you just listen to on the way to the supermarket, it is music you actually listen to, to get in touch with your feelings; you have to let go. But I mean there are different views on this scene and on this music -- It’s always about artists, bringing across what they feel what the music should be like.
CP: There’s actually this quote by Carl Cox, and I would love to hear your opinion on it. “ I don’t think it’s underground vs overground, I just think it’s pop culture vs people who actually love the music. Some of these people have no clue why they are standing in front of these DJs in the first place”
PvD: Well I can honestly say that if there was a petition I would sign it easily. You know, in front of some of the main stages of the big festivals, especially in the US these days, if the name of the DJ wasn't even on stage most of the people wouldn’t even know they were listening to. The fact is, since they’re all playing the same 10 tracks, there is no identity either. So I can completely agree with Carl Cox on that.
CP: So when I went to Governor’s Island last year for your summer show, I noticed that you were taking part with your charity and giving out gift bags and created a contest to have a picnic and an intimate meet/greet with your fans through the FEED Projects + Target. Could you tell me more about your charity?
PvD: I grew up in East Germany, so to me democracy is a very valuable gift. And that we are living in now, at the same time, democracy isn't perfect; societies aren't perfect. It’s always about being involved, and getting engaged with things and making sure that something is right. And I always say, if you see something is wrong in your neighborhood, go ahead and change it -- don't wait for somebody else to. And this is what I do or try my best to. Just simple things each day, like helping a granny who is struggling to cross the street over the road -- little things that can make the society better. It’s about looking at what’s going on in the world and not being ignorant.
CP: That’s so inspiring and many more people in our society should follow suit. Do you have any upcoming projects?
PvD: You know there’s another thing I'm working on; it’s with the company TOMS. It’s a project, where together with the design team, and we are designing and creating sunglasses. The great thing about this concept is, that whenever somebody is buying the glasses, somewhere in places where people can not afford glasses and/or have issues with their vision, we will install their capability to see; to give them an eye exam and glasses. It’s an amazing concept similar to the shoes concept where whenever someone buys a TOMS shoe, a pair of shoes is donated to someone who walks around barefoot; someone in need of shoes. It’s the latest thing that i'm involved with.
CP: Out of all the festivals and places you have played at which is the most energetic crowd or the most inspiring to you?
PvD: Well we do have this one festival that we have once a year called ‘We Are One’ in Berlin, is quite special to me. It’s at an old fortress in the middle of the city surrounded by water and it’s a big green field with a massive stage and we always try to do something special. We had it on the 16th of August and we had Eric Prydz, Max Graham, Kyau & Albert, and many others myself included. We are trying to carefully and purposely not invite artists that are basically just like only focusing on the top 40 radio thing because this is not what we are about. this is not what the music is about. and this is not what ‘We Are One’ is about. It is called “We Are One” for a reason. It is one scene, it is people enjoying the music, and I don’t feel distant from the people on the dance floor, if i wouldn't be up there on stage, I would be down there jumping up and down because I love this music and that’s the core and main element of it all.
CP: Do you think that ‘We Are One’ would be able to come to America one day?
PvD: Well there is always potential to grow and I would love to bring things together. Right now, I think that there is almost an influx of festivals in the US. and i’m pretty sure that quality will shine through in the end and I hope that people will recognize the team that i work with, and the artists that we invited to the festivals have to give.