Paul van Dyk is not a trance DJ. He calls himself an electronic dance music producer. But the German’s sixth and latest album, ‘Evolution’ is very much a trance record. The subtle difference lies in where Paul took it—right out to the fringes of trance’s landscape.
In this interview, inSing.com delves into Paul’s collaboration-heavy album, how his only solo track was birthed from an undesirable situation, his partnership with Owl City, and why arranged collaborations for marketing is wrong.
Is ‘Evolution’ a departure or a sum of your previous body of work?
I hope every album is a departure to some degree from the last. There’s a deeper meaning to the title—it’s about life itself and how the world has evolved over the time I’ve spent making and playing music.
Blogcritics mentioned that there’s nothing in electronic dance music that comes close to your album. The Arts Desk calls it your best album yet. Beatsmedia said that it’s perfectly polished.
I’m every bit a producer as I am a DJ. With the album I really wanted to unite the two. Clubbers were interacting with the music making process of ‘Evolution’. Their reactions showed me what direction each of the tracks should take, and this is how the album progressed.
Paul van Dyk ‘Evolution’ (Album stream)
Some high-profile collaborations on the album: Arty, Giuseppe Ottaviani, Austin Leeds, Ummet Ozcan, and singers like Sue McLaren, Plumb and Johnny McDaid. Why did you decide to work with these few?
They are all producers and vocalists—many of whom are also friends—whose music I admire and who I feel share the same type of musical principles and passions as I do.
‘Rock This’ was your only solo work on the album. I read that it was supposed to be a remix of another track but you decided to give it a life of its own.
That’s correct. I’m a big fan of this group from Liverpool called The Wombats. They had a new album called ‘The Modern Glitch’ due out and they asked if I could work on a remix for the first single ‘Tokyo’. Their label then had a change of heart, switched things around and opted for another track as a single instead.
I got so frustrated and needed to do something to release the pressure. That resulted in ‘Rock This’. It was kind of like an outpouring of artistic license.
Paul van Dyk ‘Rock This’
For the track ‘Eternity’, Owl City aka Adam Young takes on vocal duties. How do you think his vocal range is suited to your distinctive musical style?
‘Eternity’ was actually the third production that went over to him before he was really inspired him to write something. We ended up jumping on the phone and having this incredibly wide-ranging dialogue where we talked about everything. I found he was this clever, fascinating guy, with a really inspiring perception of life. SoI went back and started to work on a production that didn’t box Adam in. It allowed him to add in a story element to the song and the dynamic worked beautifully.
Paul van Dyk feat. Adam Young ‘Eternity’
In an interview with Music Radar, you mentioned that you don’t believe in collaborations that are created by managers for marketing and that the goal shouldn’t be the cheque book.
That’s correct. Management-arranged co-productions tend to be about putting your name on a record with another famous name simply for marketing. For me this is all about the music. Always has been. Always will be.
Do you think the general term ‘EDM’ has been bastardised like how the terms ‘house’ and ‘techno’ have been?
EDM has become a term rather than an actual description. It’s a subtle difference perhaps, but I prefer to describe what I do as ‘electronic dance music’. Technically it’s entirely correct, without boxing me in artistically.
You’re incorporating more live elements into your set. Is that something we would likely see at ZoukOut?
Very much so. As I was saying earlier I use keyboards, two computers, a custom-made mixer and controller and a few other little machines that allow me to interact with the music, whilst I’m playing live. This gives me an immense amount of control over the how the tracks sound, and provides a unique experience at every gig.
You’ve played at ZoukOut for a number of years now, how has the experience been?
Always amazing. The audience is great and always super-receptive and clued-up. Hope to see you all there again this year—we’re going to have the time of our lives!
Paul van Dyk plays on Day 2 of ZoukOut on Dec 8 from 5am onwards. The 12th installment of the dance music festival will kick start on Dec 6 at Zouk featuring Avicii with the next two days taking place at Siloso Beach, Sentosa. Tickets are priced from $88 to $158 from Sistic.