Paul Van Dyk: I don’t care……

 Paul Van Dyk is one of the true pioneers of trance, from his early years on the German label MFS, where he released his first two albums; “45 rpm” and “Seven Ways” and numerous remixes and co-productions, until now where he is signed to Universal and has released his latest album “Out There And Back”. He has also started his own label Vandit, and from here he releases his own and other artists material. Perhaps the most notable Paul van Dyk track is “For An Angle”, this massive hit boosted his career and emphasized his position as the biggest DJ and producer on the trance scene. 

 Paul van Dyk has also earned great respect as a remixer for New Order, Sven Väth, Humate, BT, Tilt, Curve, Binary Finary, Faithless, Balck & Jones, Saint Etienne, Thrillseekers, Dusted, Jam & Spoon and U2. Paul Van Dyk's first 12" was released in 1992. The project was called The Visions Of Shiva, a collaboration with Cosmic Baby. 10 years on he is still going strong and released late last year his first ever compilation mix CD “The Politics Of Dancing”. Clubbing went to Berlin to talk to Paul Van Dyk about his music and his career, at one of his bimonthly Vandit parties at the Casino venue.

I see that you have only done 3 mix compilation CDs, the “Muzik Magazine CD”, the “X-Mix One” and “The Politics Of Dancing”, how come that you haven’t done more?

- Actually I’ve never done a real one, because “X-mix One” was the musical soundtrack to this video animated thing in the beginning of the 90’s, that was released on CD, so that was not a proper mix CD. It was only tracks from the beginning of MFS Records, and the thing for the Muzik magazine, basically wasn’t a very well thought out kind of mix CD. They have this annual thing, whoever is winning the best international DJ award is putting some examples together of what the sound is a that moment, and because this is a complete non commercial thing, it was easy to get the rights. A lot of people like to be on these CD`s, they are giveaways and samples of their own music. So basically in three days we had licensed all the tracks, I just picked some of my favourite records in that particular week, so that wasn’t a normal one. The first one really was “The Politics Of Dancing” and even this isn’t a regular mix CD. I have excuses for the two first and the 3rd one is a rather special project. You probably know this - I don’t like mix CDs and that is because DJ’ing is an interaction all the time. If you don’t have anybody in front of you to give you any feedback – I don’t think that it can bring the atmosphere from any club across. So with this in mind I know that this isn’t possible. I try to do something which is different and is giving the whole idea of a DJ mix a sense to me and that was to choose tracks and remix them, not doing a typical Paul Van Dyk remix, rather doing a mix which actually brings the original track on to the right level for the particular moment of that CD.  If you for example take my rework of the Solid Session remix of the Black & Jones “Secrets & Lies”, which is usually a laidback thing and my version is banging. This is what I have done – I think it’s rather a new idea approaching something like this. So it’s a combination of me being a producer, musician and a DJ.

So do you see yourself more as a DJ or more as a musician?

- I see myself as much more and first of all as a human being, that is the main thing and there are many other aspects of my life which are coming before that. Obviously music is a very important thing, but it will always play a second part of my life. I’m as passionate a musician as a DJ, so I’m both. I wouldn’t spilt it apart, I’m very sure when I stop DJing I would do another kind of music, because my main influence comes from travelling and playing in front of people.

Are there any plans on doing another “The Politics Of Dancing”?

- No not right now, there are so many other things I’ve just done. I wanted to approach this mix CD in a different way, and I have done that. I got a lot of offers making music for films and scoring movies. Somehow I’m rather difficult – I don’t like the idea of someone coming up to you, e.g. a director for a movie and telling you, this is the scene, make some music for it. I was waiting a very long time until the right thing came along and there was an offer from a Mexican director to do the music for a very outstanding film “La Mano del Zurdo”, which is very related to Mexican culture and is only going to be released in Latin American countries including the soundtrack. The picture is very intense and very interesting to watch, regardless of what the story is – but it’s a great story too. I have done a lot of things over the last couple of months that haven’t been in the forefront of the public eye, but that has satisfied me a lot as an artist doing something new, something interesting. Now I’m going to write new songs for a new album that is coming along.

When I listen to your sound and style today it’s very distinct, you know it’s Paul Van Dyk, compared to the sound that you had with “Seven Ways” that I find a little more experimental.

- I think is has something to do with the fact that between these albums I have learnt how to engineer all these things as well, I have a very clear idea in my mind on how I would like to sound. If you actually analyse the albums on different levels, there is much more experimental stuff on the things I’m doing now. The engineers I’ve worked with haven’t been creative on the engineering side, and I think that in electronic music it’s really important that you are creative as a musician, as a producer, as the programmer and as the engineer, and the best thing is that you can do it all by yourself. So you can directly bring across what you want, obviously I have a very clear idea of the sound I want to bring across. There are a lot of differences – if you take the U2 – “Elevation” remix or the Rammstein - “Ich Will” remix, or other things you still hear that this is a production by Paul. I see something very positive in that.

I understand that when you were working on your 3rd album, you split with MFS and a lot of music made at that time was never released – what happened?

- In the meantime the whole thing is sorted out, it’s clear that it’s my album, I have the music back. It’s music that is 4-5 years old, maybe at some point I will release it, as perhaps the missing link. But right now I’m just concentrating on all the new things, I’m working all the time, and I’m not interested in the old stuff in terms of releasing it.

How do you handle your success, breaking through from the underground to the public eye with your hits, chart positions and the media?

- I’m basically right now writing a song that is going to be called “I don’t care”, which might sound rather tough; it kind of deals with this issue. I don’t really care so much about that, chart position is not important for me, it’s not important that people recognize me on the street. What is important for me is that there are people that really enjoy my music, that I’m able to give a lot to some people with my music. People around me love me as a person, and this kind of public icon admiration, when it’s real, I really appreciated it, but I think that 90% of it is just fake, which is created by press, by this and by that. The song is with full-on lyrics and deals with these issues – I really don’t care – but people don’t believe you. When I finish with a song then I’m satisfied, the second my wife says it’s a great track I’m happy. And if even more people like it, I’m the happiest person on earth. I always refuse to go to the “Top of the Pops” in the UK or in Germany, because that isn’t my cup of tea. I try to be as nice and comfortable in all these situations, giving autographs and all these things. I don’t see this as something I have to do, if I give an autograph it’s with all my heart, but I would still do exactly the same music if no one would buy it. I would still love the same records, if no one wanted me to play them, I wouldn’t change anything with my musical taste or my musical direction. I never made any compromises with any of my songs. 

Is it hard for you to decide for whom you will do a remix?

- No it is pretty easy, I have to like the track. It has to give me something, when I listen to it I have to get an idea of what I can do with it. Sometimes it takes more time, I remember when I got the offer to do the U2 remix, I said ok-what am I going to do with it? I kind of experimented around with it, before I even said yes. And at the end of the day I did 4 different remixes. The Romanthony ”Never Fuck” track I have done all in all 4 remixes because I couldn’t decide on which way I would go with it, and they are all very different from each other. They are not just dubby mixes of the same; they are completely different from each other. This is how I approach things.

When you are in the studio you work alone and don’t you feel it’s hard?

- Absolutely - I work alone, it’s hard. You carry the whole responsibility for the right compression, the right sound in general, the track itself, all the things. If you have someone with you, you can get a feedback, if this is cool or not. You basically have to fight this out with yourself when you are alone in the studio. I would really like to have an engineer partner, who I could give what I know and I could learn from him. I don’t know anyone who is in Berlin, he has to be close if you want to work on a day-to-day basis to be able to do that.

This bimonthly gig at the Casino, is that also a testing ground for new Paul van Dyk tracks?

- I always have new things with me and test it where I’m in the world. The Casino thing is very special, this is our own event production and it is my hometown, it is a lot of fun, we invite a lot of people. We invite guest DJs, great talents from unknown people to known DJs like Edgar V. to people like Timo Maas. It really doesn’t matter, people trust us, whoever we bring, they know is a quality DJ.  

How do you look upon the Internet and do you read any of the stuff?

- First all I don’t read so much of these sites, either they are writing very good about you, you know love you big time or they just ripe you apart. Either way you get influenced but not by the reality, so I’m not reading this. I don’t read reviews of my records either, because of the pure fact that I have very loyal and very honest people working with me, for me and around me, if they tell me it’s shit – I know it’s shit, if they tell me it’s good I know it’s good, regardless of what everyone else thinks about it. I’m not surfing around, on chat boards or these kind of things. We use the Internet a lot for exchanging information between companies and we also use it to give as much extra information from our own homepage to people who are interested in it. Another thing is that we have never found a way of making money over the Internet, they say it will take 1½ years before a program can be in place for selling music over the Internet. When I signed with Universal they wanted the on-line rights for my music.  I asked what are you going to do with it, and they said “wait, we are going to check that”. They have never replied, they don’t have a clue on how to do it.  

Another experience I had with the Internet was the domain paulvandyk.com. It was falling back from the guy who originally had signed it, and we had an agreement with. It was falling this particular day back from his responsibility into ours, but we had a global time change and this guy was in America and there was this other guy in Hong Kong that had this waiting list – he had done this to many people e.g. Danny Tenaglia and Carl Cox, and he tried the same with us. Because we were 6-7 hours behind, when our guy came into the office it said it was signed to someone else. The guy in Hong Kong linked paulvandyk.com to a porn site, we tried to stop that and got lawyers involved. He basically replied we don’t care about your laws here in China and we got our legal backings right. What finally convinced him was that there are no legal agreements between China and the surrounding countries, so that means if he leaves China he will go to jail.  

You have a great working relationship with BT (Brian Transeau) and together you have made some great remixes and tracks, like “Namistai”, can you tell me a little about that?

- Well I haven’t worked with him for two years now; it was on the “Namistai” track. He has moved to LA from Washington and he has done all these movie scores. It is also timing, but when we worked together it was great. I have a very clear idea and lot of knowledge of how a studio works and he does as well. We were really effective and we worked very fast. We knew what was going to happen, how it was going to work and how it was going to sound even before we did it. So we had this track in our heads and we went out to get something to eat, discussed these things and went into the studio and just did it and it was sounding great because we are both great engineers. He is actually the only one I could work with. 

You have been to the Music Winter Conference in Miami – how was it?

- Great. I have been there the last 4-5 years. It is not as new for me anymore. At the conference I do the same as the other 5-6 times a year I’m in Miami. It is quite flattering when people say that the two “have to go” nights are Danny Tenaglia and Paul Van Dyk – how much more can you achieve? 

Do you play differently for a large crowd compared to a smaller crowd?

- Not on purpose, but obviously DJing is an interaction and you get another feedback from 50,000 people than from 1000 people. So you approach this differently, and it also depends on who or what was played before you. As an example I played at a venue, I had to follow a DJ who played very cheesy trance music, and it was very hard for me to follow this. I had two possibilities, one to go ahead and play really cheesy which would have been the easy way, or I could risk a real cut musically and style wise, it took me 20-25 minutes to make the people aware that you can have an amazing time and even a better time without all the cheese, that was what I did. Another time I had to follow Bob Sinclair and Deep Dish were playing after me, so I started out with housy tracks which surprised a few people, and they got into it, I sort of pulled the energy higher and higher.

How do you see the trance and progressive scene?

- I see it has separated over the years. The so called progressive DJs become more and more boring because they try not even to have the closest thing of entertainment in their music, like a hook, a vocal or something that is exciting. To separate from the other guys they become cheesy as fuck , to put it this way, without any respect of taste they just play the biggest bullshit. I see myself out of all this – there we go again – I don’t care. I play the music I enjoy and if there is a record which has a certain amount of cheese, a little cheese is always good, that is what gets it all going, but at the same level you have be able to bring it all down to a cool level. There is so much amazing music out there.

What music do you listen at home and what music inspires you?

- I listen to all kind of music, so from A – Alanis Morissette to Z – Frank Zappa, the only thing that is important to me is I have to have the feeling that the artist has something to bring across, it has to be honest and intense music, regardless of music styles. Obviously I have a preference for electronic music, that is my main musical thing. One of my all time favourites is “Gorecki” by Lamb, which is this weird combination of music and styles, and I just found the original CD with the original version of that track. Life inspires me - everything inspires me.

 Do you have a favourite track of you own?

- It’s pretty much the last one, I love all the music I have done for this movie, but there is one track, which is very outstanding for me. It’s not so fast, isn’t so energetic, it develops the whole atmosphere kind of through the backdoor. It kind of combines what used to be progressive house for me, the early UK dance music, but with a very modern way and a very intense soul feeling to it.  

Do you have a favourite remix of you own?

- Mmhh- Actually one I really like is a track that didn’t get the exposure it deserved, due to political and legal issues is “How We Used To Live” by Saint Etienne in my dub version, that has this amazing piano part, I think it’s very good stuff. One of the “Never Fuck” remixes, the U2 remix is cool and the Rammstein is also cool – I love that. No, I can’t choose one.

I really enjoy your 3CD collection of remix “Vorsprung Dyk Technik” that is a great way to compile your remixes.

- We are doing a new one, probably going to be called “The Second Level” with all the remixes I have done from then till now, including rarities like Alanis Morissette, Robbie Williams “Millennium” and probably the Sinead O’Conner track that I’m doing. U2 will be on it of course, the Saint Etienne track in the dub version because nobody knows about it and many other interesting things I have done. I’m doing it this year, but the legal clearing of the tracks take time, I haven’t decided on sequencing or mixing them together yet.

 And lastly – can you tell me what else you are working on?

- Another interesting project I’m working on right now is a DVD. You know with the whole spilt with MFS and all this has cleared, I now got hold of my whole back catalogue again, so I’m in a fortunate position probably like no one else, that I own the rights to everything I have done. It isn’t going to be a “best of”, I will choose important tracks I have done, not remixes, from then to now, I will rework some of them. There are a whole team of creative people working on doing an atmospheric movie for the DVD. Not with a theme, not with a storyline, but with visuals having an overall context with each other. It will be in Surround Sound, we are going to do special recordings of some old tracks that we can’t reproduce in Surround. We are planning to have this out this year. The new album is going to be in normal stereo and in 7.1 Surround Sound too.

 Words and live photos: Christian Almind

Published: Clubbing Magazine June-July 2002

More live pictures of Paul Van Dyk  at BIPATH photo gallery

(C) Copyright Clubbing Magazine 2001-2002