Vancity Buzz and Cascadiarecords.com teamed up for a great conversation with electronic dance music (EDM) legend, Paul van Dyk, to talk about his new EVOLUTION album and his views on the world of EDM as we know it today. Vancouver is one of the destinations that will experience his EVOLUTION 2012 World Tour, as he’ll soon be performing at the Commodore on Friday, April 20.
His illustrious presence in the industry, over two decades long, has got him twice voted as the world’s No.1 DJ, earned him a Grammy nomination, and allowed him to exceed 3.5 million album sales. This superstar musician let us in on some incredible insights on EDM as well as his inspiration and hard work that went into what is now his sixth studio album.
Paul (VcB): The last time you were here in Vancouver was in 2010 for the Olympics. What’s your perspective on the EDM scene in Vancouver and how does it compare to other North American cities?
Paul Van Dyk: Well, I’ve been coming to Vancouver for a long time and I’ve seen the scene growing. Its always been very strong and one of my favorite destinations in North America. It’s a booming city and really inspiring. Whenever I play there i’ve felt very welcome.
Jordy (Cascadia Records): Moving on to your new album, EVOLUTION. What separates this album from the previous ones? What new sounds are you incorporating?
PvD: Well the thing is I’m not really analytical about my music. Not when I actually make it when I go to the studio and not really afterwards. I cannot really say. I think its like a logical progression. When you grow up you get more experience and more self-confidence and that has an impact on being an artist. So in a way I’d say its become more intense and more direct and at the same time more diverse in terms of the sounds it features.
Cascadia: The album features a wide variety of collaborations. Can you tell us about some of the people you worked with?
PvD: Well there’s a few people. Ranging from my good friend Jonny McDaid aka Fieldwork, to Austin Leeds, to Arty, to Adam Young from Owl City, Sue McLaren and many more. Oh and I nearly forgot Sarah Howells.
Cascadia: What is the process you undertake when choosing and collaborating with a vocalist.
PvD: We have to share the same passion for music and this is what I truly believe in. I’m not a fan of those marketing driven music collaborations where the manager says ‘You should work with this guy, its good for the cheque book’. I believe in those creative moments and they only happen if you have something in common. This is what makes this album really important to me as well. Because I handpicked every single person that I work with on the album, and every single song, every single collaboration, has a story about how it came about. That makes it a really sort of personal piece of music, which is important to me.
Cascadia: Can you tell us about this innovative live stage show that your bringing on this tour?
PvD: Well the thing is I can’t really bring it to all the occasions because of the different sizes of the venues. But the visuals and the light content is especially designed for the tour and goes along with the theme of evolution. I was sitting together developing the concept with people like Oli Metcalfe, who is one of the best stage designers and has won multiple awards for Muse and things he’s done for Coldplay and so on. He also did work on our stage setting and its definitely really exciting because it brings a visual element to the main thing, which is the music.
Cascadia: You’ve described your music as advanced electronic music and your new album really showcases this through the diverse range of sounds and genres that you incorporate. How do you think electronic music has evolved and where do you see it going in the future?
PvD: Well obviously if you look over the longer span, electronic music has developed from the small sub-culture twenty years ago, to the biggest music culture that we have today. You find so much fantastic music in the field. And of course as it comes with anything that grows bigger, there are certain elements that I’m not really too much of a fan of. But then again, I’m a rather optimistic, positive type of person, so I’m concentrating on the good stuff and I think the state of electronic music is as good as it has ever been. So therefore, I’m excited looking forward. In terms of where its heading, I’m not really sure. The only thing I would criticize right now is there’s this weird sort of strategy of releasing track by track. This is definitely a step back in terms of an artists ability to be creative, because if your a young up-and-coming artist and you have success in January, your probably going to do the same in February, and in March, and in April, and so on. So it basically all sounds the same and I see that with a lot of the young, up-and-coming artists. They don’t really develop anywhere. Something you heard from them two years ago sounds pretty much the same as their current work. You actually need the stage of an album in order to be creative and show diversity in what you can do creatively. And thats the thing that is maybe a point of criticism, but people have to decide what they enjoy the most.
Cascadia: Speaking of up-coming producers and DJs, who do you think will be the next big star?
PvD: To be completely honest, I don’t know because I’m not really concentrating on who might be the next big star. I’m more about the people that surprise me musically and bring something artistically interesting to the table and someone like Arty for example, does that. Some other people that just suddenly became big stars I find rather lame in terms of what they musically present. But if this is what the masses like, then this is what they like, and its not up for me to judge that.
Cascadia: How challenging has it been for you to stay consistent as an artist in your style of music throughout your career, while also evolving your sound.
PvD: Well first of all, the album title EVOLUTION, is not too closely tied in with myself, or my evolution as an artist. Its more in the bigger picture. Like I’ve just explained about the evolution of electronic music from a small sub-culture to what it is now. But also if you look at society and how we communicate these days. Ten years ago we didn’t even have Facebook. Or the way we listen to and buy music these days. We didn’t have all these outlets ten years ago and my biggest inspiration is life in general. Everything I see and how our lives have changed so much has ended up in my music somehow. This is why the album is called EVOLUTION. In terms of keeping my signature sound and changing my style, I’m not really sure how it happens. When I go to the studio I have this atmosphere and this vibe in my head that I would like to bring across. I’m pretty open when I go to the studio, so I can’t really tell you if something is going to turn out as drum and bass, or chillout, or something completely different.
Cascadia: One last question for you. We’ve read that your a big advocate of social justice and initiatives for world peace. What kind of projects can we expect from you in the future that might involve your music?
PvD: I don’t really know in terms of music. I think what’s important is that my understanding of democracy is that we all are responsible together for our societies. A democratic system is only as strong as the people who are getting involved in it. So when you see something is wrong in your neighborhood, go ahead and change it. This is what I do, within the ability that I have. Which is why I am socially active in certain projects. My music enables me to do that, but I don’t really know if my music actually plays a driving role in it. Its me as a person.
VcB: We’d really like to thank you for your time Paul. We’re big fans and your one of the original guys in our eyes. Its a great new album and Vancouver is excited to have you at the Commodore on Friday.
PvD: Thank you so much and thanks for having me. You can be assured that I am just as excited as you are!
Photo Credit: Christoph Kostlin