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The Mass Media

DJ legend Paul Van Dyk on ‘Evolution’ and the future of Electronica

Legendary+DJ+and+producer%2C+Paul+Van+Dyk
Legendary DJ and producer, Paul Van Dyk

Paul Van Dyk is a legend in the DJ world with a career spanning almost two decades. In 2005, his release “Reflections” was Grammy nominated for the new category of Best Dance/Electronic album, and he consistently ranks alongside veterans like Tiesto and Armin van Buuren. Before taking the stage at his show in Boston on Nov. 7,  Van Dyk sat down to talk about his 2012 album, “Evolution,” how his sound has changed over the years, and the current state of electronic music at large.

Q: Your most recent album, “Evolution,”  is marketed as an “ode to interconnectedness,” partially because you developed and refined the songs live. How does the crowd’s influence manifest in the final product?

A: “On an artistic and creative level it is hard to describe but I can put the process into words. Imagine I have a chord structure and then live I’m playing the actual hook and melody on top of it. I try different things and see what works best; feels the most intense with my crowd.”

Q: The artists featured on the album are from many different places around the world. How did you work together?
A: “Ideally, you end up in the same room in the studio. I usually send something rough to the person I believe will be best for the composition. There are a lot of phone calls, like “Hey, what about this, what about that?” It develops. I engineer, produce, and do the mix, so you will get a feel for [the collaborator], but it always sounds like me.”

Q: How has your sound changed or stayed the same over your career?

A: “Passion for music has remained. Listen to something I did 20 years ago and you feel it. It might sound different because technology has advanced. I know much more about producing, making, and composing music. But most importantly now I think that my music has a much deeper angle.”

Q: By deeper angle, do you mean the mix is more fuller?

A: “When you grow up you get more self confident about yourself as a person, and that reflects in what you do as an artist. You are more straightforward and honest. Something in the past I might have been of afraid of, like, ‘That is too much of me,’ I’m putting it in now. You either accept me for who I am, or you don’t, but I’m putting it in. That’s what I mean by depth.”

Q: What can we expect from you in the future?

A: “We have the [new] album lined up, or at least the single releases leading up to the album. It is not stereotypical EDM music. My decisions come from the heart and not the perspective of a bank account. You maintain a substantial fan base by being authentic. If all you have is the trap of the moment, it is going to fade away.”
Q: As a longtime lover of electronic music, what is it like for you to see its popularity increase?
A: “When I first heard early house music, in ‘87 or ‘88, I was a little kid in East Berlin illegally listening to West Berlin radio, and I said, ‘Electronic music is the f****** sh**!’ I love it. For me, it is no surprise that the world actually loves it.”

Q: Can you comment on the current EDM trend sweeping through the U.S.?

A: “There are some artists I really respect, but for others, it’s more about show than depth. It [should be] about substantial musicians and art. There can be different opinions about styles, vibes, and interpretations, but the core element of the music should be the artistic integrity of whoever made it. It should shine through. It should not be a copycat of something you have heard a million times before.”

Q: Do you differentiate between EDM and electronic music?

A: “I think EDM is a marketing term for people throwing cake. Don’t get me wrong, I love catchy hooks, I love poppy melodies, I love lyrics, I’m not underground, but sometimes it is funny that I am the underground guy now. Things have certainly changed in that way. It’s not down to me to judge what other people like, but I can carefully choose who I work with, what I produce, and what I play as a DJ.”
Paul Van Dyk recently released a single and music video called “Only in a Dream,” featuring vocals from English singer/songwriter Tricia McTeague. The song will have a place on Van Dyk’s forthcoming album which is set to be released in early 2015 through Ultra Music.
Check out the music video for “Only in a Dream”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMSrMHx0AE0

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.