Interview: Paul Van Dyk on electronic ‘Evolution’ and Madonna’s drug blunder
Check out the video for 'Eternity' featuring Adam Young of Owl City
Katie Hasty | Tuesday, Apr 3, 2012 7:59 PM
With 20 years of experience in the electronic music industry, it’s safe to say that Paul Van Dyk is an authority on the subject. Today (April 3), the German producer and DJ released his new studio album “Evolution,” after five years chock full of singles, compilation and remix contributions, work on the “Dark Knight Rises” soundtrack, crafting songs for video games like “Mirror’s Edge” and racking up frequent flyer miles as one of dance music’s biggest festival and circuit jetsetters.
And as an authority, Van Dyk has some strong feelings about current events in the electronic music realm.
“Even the beginning of electronic music, we always had to fight against the preconception that everybody who listens to our music is on drugs, and whoever makes our music is on drugs. We’ve been made out to be a drug house rather than a music of substance,” he told me in our interview. “Then Madonna comes along, puts herself on stage and is ruining it by voicing what she did.
“This is such a creative artform, with great artists involved… It is fair to say that Madonna doesn’t do anything without something behind it. Her appearing [at the festival] was a really clear marketing statement, for a younger audience. What’s funny is she doesn’t know too much about what electronic music is. She makes phenomenal pop music, and uses electronic sounds and elements. I just wouldn’t think that she’s an electronic artist.”
When it comes to his own collaborations, Van Dyk said that it’s not of utmost importance that he works with people who “understand what electronic music is. It’s just that they respect what electronic music is all about.” On “Evolution,” he decided to combine powers with Owl City’s Adam Young, for the track “Eternity” that seems very much inspired by young songwriter’s hit “Fireflies.” The two artists had been in touch back-and-forth over the last four years, even as their careers grew in dramatic stature.
“In our music world it’s easy to get and stay in contact. Everybody knows the mailing address of my office. You can talk to your favorite artists on Facebook. Everybody can do it,” he said.
What artists should avoid on their social networks, Van Dyk warns, is exploiting a gimmick. “Online, there are things you can and cannot control. What I think we should all re-think is the fact that… is some [artists] who post the most stupid pictures get the most followers. Our music is not about posting stupid pictures. It’s like people are losing touch with reality.” Online, he likes to work his fanbase to everybody’s advantage.
“In Mexico, they like it when I play the older tracks, so on Facebook, I’ll ask, ‘What old stuff is your favorite?’ and there’s very vibrant communication between me and Mexican audience. In that way of communicating, I can deliver much more of what they wanted.”
Van Dyk also plans to field questions from fans during a live UStream Q&A session on Thursday at 3 p.m. EST, with submissions through Facebook and Twitter.
He's is also developing a series of videos, one each to correspond to every one of his tracks on “Evolution,” as another way for fans to experience his music and concept. His compositions have long been cinematic and, at times, even painterly, so the move makes sense. He says that the Anthony Burns-led projects have been based on his own technological experiences.
“I’m listening to a lot music on my iPad and iPhone, and I’d rather have something to look at rather than a stand-still picture,” he said. As for his other visual projects, he said he’s taking a break from movie and video game soundtracks, “to focus on my own music and artform, which I’ve really appreciated in the last year.
“Lately, too, we’ve seen a few acts touring around… where visual elements seemed to be more important. I’m a musician first of all, not a video artist.”
A new crop of EDM musicians have made an imprint on mainstream audiences lately, particularly Skrillex, who earned several Grammy Award nominations and wins at the ceremony in February. I asked Van Dyk -- a Grammy winner himself -- how he felt about EDM and Skrillex specifically garnering more national attention on the heels of that event.
“A lot of people thought [Skrillex] would take a lot of [awards] home. All I can say is congratulations. It’s something that interested a lot of people thought he deserved and he earned a lot of respect for it,” he said.
But a Grammy isn’t necessarily electronic music’s highest honor, he said.
“I don’t really know if Grammy means that much in the electronic community. Obviously, its one of the most prestigious music awards in general, and it means a lot when you actually are handpicked for a nomination. Winning one is even better. But in terms of honors… that’s the beauty of the real electronic scene, about EDM. I don’t think they care about it all that much. It’s not about the individual person making the music – it’s about the music itself. This is something where there is much more interaction than a regular show.” That’s why this music is so popular, because it’s not just a person on stage. It’s every person that rocks along.”
“Evolution” is out today (April 3). Check out his track “Eternity” featuring Owl City’s Adam Young below, and tour dates past that.
4/13 – Ottawa, ON @ Barrymore’s Music Hall
4/14 – Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata Hotel & Casino
4/20 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
4/21 – Calgary, AB @ Flames Central
4/22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Playhouse Hollywood
4/22 – San Diego, CA @ Float at Hard Rock Hotel
5/19 – Culiacan, Mexico @ Foro Tecate
5/25 – Raleigh, NC @ Longbranch
5/27 – Las Vegas, NV @ Tao Beach