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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
- 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
How do you see the trance and
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.
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.
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.
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.
and live photos: Christian Almind
Published: Clubbing Magazine June-July 2002
More live pictures of Paul Van Dyk at BIPATH