The legendary Paul van Dyk has been at the forefront of electronic music for over two decades, watching the scene go mainstream and make the shift from analogue to digital.
Ahead of his upcoming album tour show in Brno, Czech Republic, and a headline slot at Electric Daisy Carnival UK 2016, the man himself told us about the meaning behind his music, gave us his take on the EDM movement, and picked out his favourite up-and-coming DJ.
Tell us about the title of The Politics of Dancing 3 – what is the significance of it to you?
When the album's title says 'the politics of dancing', it's important for me to explain that it's not a statement about politics-politics. It's more an observation of its diplomatic perspective. In Ibiza, many years ago, I had an experience which left a long-lasting impression on me. I watched friends from Tel Aviv and friends from Lebanon dancing side by side – without war, without anything in their minds other than treating each other respectfully.
In 2015, the need for this type of dancefloor diplomacy is even greater than it was back then. In a very personal respect, I see what sort of potential electronic music has for uniting people who would otherwise not normally be united. It's tremendously powerful in that way, and that is the essence of what 'the politics of dancing' means.
How did this meaning reflect itself in the music on The Politics of Dancing 3?
I make music, which aims to unify people on dancefloors around the world.
Is that also what motivates you to be as involved in charity work as you are?
I think it's safe to say it's an extension of those thoughts, means and ways.
You say your home will always be Berlin – what is it like playing in shows in Berlin compared to elsewhere in the world?
People might imagine that the big difference here would be 'the hometown crowd', but that's not (or no longer) so much the case. Broadly speaking, I play three different kinds of shows in Berlin each year. Club gigs, like the VANDIT Winter Nights, the We Are One Festival, which I stage annually in the summertime and more atypical shows like Aquanario, which I played at Tempelhof Airport last August. You run into plenty of local Berliners there, naturally, but over the course of the last 20 years, and most noticeably in the last 5 or so, there's a far greater percentage of people I meet or hear from who are travelling into Berlin and Germany for the show. So to answer your question in short: there's not as much difference as could be imagined.
The electronic scene, and specifically trance, has always been strong in the Czech Republic. Do you find yourself varying your set or performance style for different audiences around the world? If so, how would you describe a typical set in the Czech Republic?
I'm fortunate, in this respect. I've been around for a while… Event promoters and partygoers know me, they know what I do and how I play, and the same works in reverse. To the greatest degree, you have a crowd that you know are there for the exact same reasons you are. Thus, everyone will have a pretty good idea of what the vibe's going to be and what most people are going to be in the mood for. Other factors (club or festival, etc) are really more likely to affect what route a set goes down.
You've been making music for over two decades, and you've seen styles change and artists come and go. How would you describe the difference in the electronic music industry between the 90s and now?
Well even the difference between the early and late 90s was immense: from an underground movement to a global mainstream one. Add another 15 years on that and, honestly, we'd probably still be here tomorrow with just the fundamentals of the shift. If I had to pick up on one difference alone though, it was the move from analogue to digital. That was huge - genuinely 'revolutionary' in every sense of the word.
What's your take on the EDM culture that has taken hold of the US and much of the rest of the world over the last 5 years?
Over the course of dance music's lifetime there were always sub-genres that were going to have longer initial lifecycles and those that'll have shorter ones. Techno, house, trance, for example would be longer running ones. Others, like EDM, are shorter.
To put that into perspective, in the States now, you have festivals shifting musical focus, artists who've been at the forefront of the EDM movement distancing themselves from it, EDM movies DOA [dead on arrival] at the box office, etc. Over time you learn to read the signs, and the signs have been there for a while. Maybe the real question is when (and what) should we anticipate for 'EDM 2.0' or 'New' EDM!?
So where do you see the dance music scene heading in the coming 5 years?
We're back in a transition now. For 100s of 1000s, EDM's acted as a 'pathfinder' to less elemental genres of electronic music. There's nothing new in that. That's been the way with more expedient 'quick hit' electronic dance music styles, ever since the days of Rave and Acid. They're basically 'gateway' genres. What you listen to when you're 16 isn't what you listen to when you're 20. What you listen to at 20 is rarely what you're still listening to when you're 24, and so on. There's nothing bad or wrong with that. It's just the way it is. So those fans, I think, are already filtering off into numerous other sub-genres, old and new.
And what do you make of the explosion in music festivals over the last few years?
I think it's a healthy one. There's maybe a little overload there, in a few of the more obvious countries, but generally there's a huge appetite among the electronic music population for them, which can really only be a good thing.
What is your favourite festival?
I'm a little biased, but I'm going to say We Are One. It's wonderful to have a festival where you're taking all the best things you've experienced and learnt over a long period of time and channeling them into your perfect event. It's in your home city at the height of summer, and it's all on your shoulders. That's just the way I like it though!
And lastly – could you pick out one promising young DJ that we should check out?
Chris Bekker is a one in particular, I think; someone you should really keep an eye on. I’ve released a lot of his music through VANDIT over the last 2 years and he’s a guy who started strong and gets ever more impressive with every track. He brings the same energy and excitement to his DJ sets too; I’ve got very high hopes for him for the future. We’re releasing his debut album Berlinition through VANDIT this spring, for which he and I have recorded the title track together.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, and good luck with the upcoming album tour!
Thanks for that and I look forward to seeing you all in Brno again in February!