MusicDish e-Journal - January 19, 2020
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Paul van Dyk
By Holly Day
(more articles from this author)
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Paul van Dyk provides lingering glimpses into a world of crystal reverb and subterranean basslines through his music, something in between a REM-inducing trance meter and mid-'80's melancholy dance pop. Born in the former GDR in 1971, van Dyk's musical influences were minimal-basically, anything that could get through the Wall or could be filtered out of the faint, static buzz that made up the West German radio stations. Rumors about the clubs and the dance scene in West Germany also came through, and when the Wall finally came down, van Dyk made his way to West Berlin to see the places he had only heard about in brief ad spots on late night radio. Soon, he was making his own dub tapes and playing them for friends, who encouraged him to try to get a gig as a DJ himself. The promoter of 'Dubmission-Parties' eventually recognized him and he got his first DJ job at Turbine in 1991. His DJ debut was so brilliant that Paul rapidly played himself into the hearts of the Berlin club scene.

Nearly eight years later, van Dyk has toured pretty much most of the world as a DJ and has appeared on MTV and Deutsche Welle/NTV, as well as features and interviews on radio and television stations everywhere. The U.S. re-release of his albums 45 RPM and Seven Ways (both on Mute), which made British and Berlin charts on their first appearance in '94 and '96, have brought van Dyk's work to a whole new audience of appreciative listeners here in the States.

Van Dyk has earned great respect as a remixer for projects like Humate, New Order, Dance 2 Trance, Sven Väth, Age of Love, Amen and Sunday Club. His homebase is still E-Werk in Berlin, where he does a monthly party with guests such as Sasha, Carl Cox, John Digweed, Darren Emerson, Nick Warren, Francesco Farfa. He also does a radio show in Berlin where he plays his own remixes as well as those of his contemporaries, often material that is heard nowhere else in the world, or at least not until he breaks it in on his show first.

Van Dyk credits a lot of his determination and success to his mother. "All my life through, all the time, she's supported me big time. Even though we grew up in a communistic country, she still managed to bring me up with kind of a cosmopolitan attitude, that of someone who could think about other things and other pursuits besides working and just surviving. I'm very thankful to her."

"I've always tried to do something with music, or around music," he says. "Even when I was a kid, I got really interested in the whole technology side. I started an apprenticeship as a computer technician, which was basically more related to the whole telephone system and broadcasting system than the music that was being recorded in studios at the time. This, what I'm doing now, is something I would have wanted to have done even back then-either this or be a producer, but always something to do with creating music."

An average work day for van Dyk-if he's not playing a show-is up around 9 a.m., have a coffee, then into the studio until around 10 or 11 o'clock at night. "It really depends on whether there's any pressure from an upcoming deadline or if I have to finish something or if I have a really creativeÉflash," says van Dyk. "The problem with working at home is that you can't just relax and kick back and watch a movie or anything. I usually spend the day wandering around my apartment wondering 'How can I do this? How can I make this better?' whenever I'm not actually working."

To van Dyk, there is no real division between DJing a live show in a club and working in the studio. "It all really goes together," he says. "It's like, a band goes into a studio to record an album and then they go on tour to present everything. As a DJ-especially if you have your own studio and are able to produce your own tracks-- you basically lay down a track, and then the next night bring that track along to the club and try it out in front of a crowd. Also, if you have a studio, you can record a track directly the way you want to present it in a club ahead of time. It's really important to get the energy you invest in your music back. This is what the crowd's doing, when they get really excited about what you're playing. It helps so much to go out and get that feedback from an audience."

And even though van Dyk doesn't have much free time outside his busy work schedule, he does (somewhat reluctantly) admit to setting aside time each day to indulge his one secret vice: the American TV show, Friends.

"I like that," he says, laughing. "It's quite fun. Good old Rachel Green. Yum."

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