The Paul Van Dyk interview - The Politics of Dancing

2006-03-29 10:57

M-WEB: Do you see yourself as a composer, DJ or a "bedroom knob twiddling" producer?
PVD (matter-of-factly): I see myself as an artist. Obviously when you make your own music, you mostly likely compose it as well (chuckles). My approach on a lot of things is coming from a strong writing process, rather than creating a track. So, it's more like working in the studio having a very clear idea and actually composing it, playing it, feeling it and if you don't feel it you change it. You restructure things. It's always very different it really depends on the feel. If you sort of touch something as serious as "Time of Our Lives" or "Like a Friend" you have to make sure - it's just out of respect towards the people. This is the right way of doing it.

M-WEB: How do you know what is right - intuition?
PVD: Yeah, maybe this is what sort of makes the difference between just being a DJ and being an artist. And then again between being an artist who just creates tracks and an artist who actually writes songs. It's just that thing, this different kind of approach towards things and issues.

M-WEB: Your music has often been described as "stylish" and "e-vocative". Explain?
PVD:'s like touching certain, some might call it "difficult" issues in the music. With "Like a Friend" on the album it's about kids actually dying of hunger. So it's not appropriate to make - you know a full on major banging song out of it. So maybe this is where it's coming across as the tasty, kind of maybe sophisticated or whatever you call it, direction of the music. Basically, trying to bring either an atmosphere or certain issue across. Therefore of course, you have to consider more than just what the lyrics will say. In fact, the whole track itself has to have the right feel and character towards the issue it's going on about.

M-WEB: You seem fascinated with vocals that are not throwaway, producing songs that have a message like "Time of Our Lives" with Vega 4?
PVD: Well, for me, I don't really like the things where you have like a backing track and then you're trying to make a commercially relevant song out of it by putting some cheesy vocals on top. That's not my vote. So when I actually sort of have a certain issue in mind which I believe needs lyrics to come across in the appropriate way then I actually write the song with the exact idea of what the lyrics will say in my head. I maybe don't have the exact words together, but I know exactly what the song will say. So basically lyrics and the song itself they really belong to each other, I couldn't just exchange them and put them onto something else. So again, it's more like a songwriting process rather than creating a track-based album.

M-WEB: Your songs always seem to have strong signature melodies?
PVD: Hmm...maybe, yes. But At the same time, I wouldn't say it's too necessary. 'cos some of the most beautiful songs even that have been written are sort of just very easy 3 notes kind of things. And still are very intense, you know? I think really it is about what you actually want to do - what will you achieve, what will you actually have people thinking about after they listen to a certain track. Like in "Time of Our Lives" I'm not mentioning the Palestine-Israeli conflict that was the initial inspiration. I'm not actually mentioning the Israeli soldiers flying into the Palestinian areas and killing innocent people. I'm not actually mentioning a weirdo Palestinian blowing himself up in the middle of Israelis and killing innocent Israelis once. But people know what's going on if they want to.

M-WEB: Do you think the mood of the music actually communicates that emotionally?
PVD: Hopefully. This is definitely what I am trying to do and if it reaches people then obviously it worked out. It wouldn't have worked to have the whole "Like a Friend" issue with a banging up in the air situation for a club. Even the more clubby version is really laid back, you know? But the thing is you can still listen to it as just a beautiful piece of music, as a beautiful song you like listening to. If you want to dig deeper you find something that's gets you thinking.

M-WEB: So why is that critics are so unwilling to dig deeper when it comes to electronic dance music?
PVD: I think this has something to do with the usual understanding of it all. If you look at the first so-called critically acclaimed artists like the Chemical Brothers, to me now they're maybe turning a little bit more back into it, but back then it was basically a modern form of rock 'n roll music. If you see Prodigy, sorry, this is pure rock in a modern sense. It had nothing to do with the club music at all. So whatever was referred to as actually being electronic music never really heard a song of Prodigy or Chemical Brothers ever being played in a club, you know? That's the truth.

M-WEB: Are you ever bothered by lukewarm reviews?
PVD: First of all, what's the purpose of music? Why in the hell would I try to actually convince someone who doesn't even like my music that it is anything worthy? I wouldn't. The real criticism would come from people who actually know where I'm musically coming from. What I'm doing, what I want to do and then basically trying to figure out if I actually was able to achieve what I said I wanted to achieve. That would be real criticism of a record. I don't really care if a rock 'n roll guy understands my music or not. I don't care if a stiff minded electronica freak actually thinks there's too much vocals on it. I don't care. I just don't care!

Veteran dance music pioneer Paul van Dyk is not your average beat mixing deck jockey. Since the late 80s he's helped transport techno, house and trance from the electronic music underground into a full blown mainstream dance phenomenon. He's an artist, a producer and yes, a songwriter whose atmospheric soundscapes reveal a relentless pursuit of a beat that transcends the cul-de-sac of mere dance-floor euphoria. You see PVD's dance music has a message. On his new album Reflections he deftly publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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