Over the past two decades, Paul van Dyk (also known to fans as PvD) has been creating and sharing his music with the world. From multiple artist albums and tons of singles, to having his work appear in movies and video games and touring across the globe, the talented Grammy nominated DJ/producer has done it all. We were lucky enough to catch up with PvD while he was in New York, about his most recent album, latest remix for Linkin Park, and what else is on the horizon for the rest of the year and beyond.
Nicole: How has 2012 Been for you so far?
Paul van Dyk: Actually fantastic. A lot of changes, I don’t think the Mayan calendar was quite right. It’s not about ending the world, it’s about ending things that don’t fit and changing it for the better. And this is pretty much what sort of my year 2012 has been so far, in a very drastic way on different levels.
Nicole: Tell me about your most recent album Evolution. I think it’s a really great album, a lot of collaborations. What was it like working with so many different producers and vocalists?
Paul van Dyk: Well, the thing is first of all, you know I don’t believe in those marketing driven collaborations where the manager tells you, you should work with that person, it’s good for the bank account, and blah blah. That’s not how I function. For me, it’s about the music actually, because you know making music is the most fun thing in the world for me. And obviously doing that with friends is even better. But it’s also a rather intimate sort of thing to do, so you need to work with people that share the same passion for music. And I wouldn’t work with somebody that, actually I don’t know, I don’t have anything to do with. So it’s always much better to do that with friends and people you actually connect with.
Nicole: And how did you come across working with everyone. You’ve worked with a lot of people from Arty to numerous vocalists. How did you choose who you wanted to work with?
Paul van Dyk: Well with Arty as an example, I heard about his music maybe about four years ago for the first time. I played his music on my radio show and we just decided to make some music together. I met him in Moscow, I met him in Berlin. Yeah, and then we just started working on music together and it’s just this organic thing. But also, this kind of shows, especially this one track we did, “The Sun After Heartbreak”, it kind of shows you. He’s coming from this electro-y house-y kind of thing. I’m coming from sort of like my trance tech-house sort of stuff. And then we go and do something completely different and has like, a straight forward drum and bass influence to it. I think this is what music should be, you know, it’s like break the boundaries. Just do whatever the piece of art needs. And this is what we did.
Nicole: Absolutely! Well it turned out great. What is your favorite track on the album?
Paul van Dyk: I don’t have a favorite track on the album. For me, they all have something unique to each other. It’s like, you know, every track has something that I really enjoy, this is why I did it. And I’m always saying, it’s like asking a mother who’s your favorite child. Always with every single track, I’m kind of like pregnant with them, you know they grow and grow and grow, and then at one point, in a painful experience they come out.
Nicole: That’s a great analogy. You recently remixed the Linkin Park song. Are you a big fan of them?
Paul van Dyk: Yea.
Nicole: Is that why you decided to remix them?
Paul van Dyk: Well, the thing is we are in contact for maybe like two years or something already, talking about things and, you know, what we can do. And obviously they were busy with their album, I was busy with my album. And now it’s like we started this remix thing, and yeah let’s see what comes out of it. It’s definitely something I would most likely enjoy doing because as I said, they share the same idea what music should do, they share the same passion for the music, they’re real to what they believe is the right thing to do. And this is what I admire in artists.
Nicole: A bunch of your productions have ended up in movies and video games and things like that. How does it feel to have your music radiate throughout the entertainment industry like that?
Paul van Dyk: Well it’s kind of an interesting and strange feelung when you sit in the theater and suddenly your track comes up in this strange environment, because I’m really an artist in that perspective. I very often, I don’t really know much about that because it’s like the publisher and my office and my assistant, you know they’re dealing with all that. And it’s like you know, and then I’m sitting in the movies like “Oh!” So sometimes, it’s actually quite funny. But it’s different to kind of feel the music in that context obviously, because I don’t picture my music, I hear it.
Nicole: That’s great! Well, you’ve produced a lot of amazing music. “For An Angel” is my absolute favorite. I know you said you don’t have a favorite track on your album, but are you proud of a particular track that you did over the course of your career?
Paul van Dyk: Well, I think something that sort of like went a little unknown, is my remix for U2. Which in a musical way I think is very interesting because I completely took their track apart. And I took the bridge as my chorus, and left the chorus out because I didn’t like it that much, and took the verse, and changed it completely around, and pretty much re-wrote the complete song, rather than just doing the remix. I think it maybe went a little bit unnoticed, but hey, other things have been noticed, and I’m very lucky.
Nicole: And U2 is a great band to remix. So, you’ve worked with so many people on your album and over the course of your career. Is there one particular person you enjoyed working with?
Paul van Dyk: Well as I said, it’s like working with friends and people that share the same passion is always special. And I have to say that Johnny McDaid, well he’s probably my best friend, and it’s always the best to work with him. We have a very easy understanding. It’s like, when we write a song together, let’s say we need six hours. So we go five hours into the coffee shop or whatever, and we talk about the world and whatever. And somehow out of this develops a topic that sort of interests both of us, and that is sort of dear to us at that moment. We then go to the studio, and it’s just like automatically I have melodies in my head, I have keys in my head, and I start playing. And in that very second, he develops the vocal idea, and then everything comes together very quickly. And this is a very special way of working, and the only person I ever discovered that with in that way actually is Johnny. Because even though he comes from this whole like rock band stuff, you know he’s touring with Snow Patrol and all that sort of stuff, so he’s like all in this rock world. But we know what music has to do, music has to actually reach out to people, and it has to be intense. We use different elements, vehicles, to transform it. He uses the guitar and his piano. I use my other elements. But the combination of it is always something that I really really enjoy, and probably are some of my best tracks.
Nicole: Have you not had the chance to work with anyone you would like to?
Paul van Dyk: Well the thing is, I don’t really have a list of people that I really really want to work with. It’s more like when I have an idea, it kind of develops where it’s like I think, that would be a good sort of like partner for a particular track. And then of course there are people that I really like, from really unknown bands like the Handsome Furs, or The Thermals, to Linkin Park as an example. It’s really a wide range of things, and I don’t know, I just love making music really.
Nicole: Well that’s an important quality to have. Who have been your biggest musical influences over the course of your career?
Paul van Dyk: The thing is, I don’t really have a musical influence. So there’s no one where I sort of listen to and say, "Oh that’s really influencing, I want to do it this way." But what I find really interesting, this is what I’m looking forward to in music, is as I said it has to be intense, it has to be honest, it has to be authentic. And it can be somebody who is as authentic as a crazy bird like Alanis Morissette all the way to Placebo, Depeche Mode, the guys from Way Out West have always straight forward done their things. This is what I like, and this is inspiring. It’s the person rather than their music. It’s the vibe that comes across.
Nicole: You’ve obviously traveled all around the world playing festivals and clubs. Is there any one particular show that sticks out in your mind that you’ll always remember, or do you have a favorite city to play in?
Paul van Dyk: One thing that always will be special is of course playing something like in Berlin in front of 1.5 million people, it’s like you know those big things. Or when I played new years even in Rio, it was like 1.3 million people at Baga beach. It’s crazy, it’s impressive. You just stand that and it’s like "holy crap!" And then there are other things, places that might be a smaller play, but it’s just as important. The first place I ever played in America, like really played in, was New York. And you know, I got to meet people, like the New York club kids in the '90s, hanging out at Limelight – which I just saw is a clothing store! And obviously Twilo, and the Central Park show, so New York is a very important place for me. But then again, there’s like a massive crowd for electronic music that loves real electronic music in Miami, in Los Angeles, and in San Fran, as much as in Berlin and London, and all over the world. That’s the great thing about it, it’s like, the small subculture really that kind of like was in Berlin, and maybe Detroit, and maybe a bit in London or something you know, Chicago not to forget, and New York. It’s everywhere now. Oh, I forgot Zouk in Singapore, and Asia not to forget. It’s crazy out there, it’s fantastic. It’s really a global phenomenon.
Nicole: It’s definitely growing a lot, especially here in America. What do you have planned for the rest of 2012, any secrets or any touring?
Paul van Dyk: Well of course, the touring continues, just as crazy and while and back and forth criss-crossing the planet. And of course, the next singles from the album are coming out. In America it’s going to be “I don’t deserve you” with Plumb. We have some really really really cool remixes. I can’t wait for them to be released actually. And yeah, you know I’m just concentrating on making music. I’m already actually working on my next artist album. So I don’t know, I seem to have that rather creative flow right now, and just work and work and work. And it feels good, I’m just really excited about everything right now, so that’s good.
Nicole: Definitely. Do you do a lot of producing on the road at all?
Paul van Dyk: Not producing, but obviously song writing and arrangements and stuff. Producing, I do everything in my studio in Berlin because I don’t believe in those kind of like weird sort of on the laptop, kind of crunch sound. It needs to be a proper studio with everything that sort of makes something sound good. But obviously being on the road, I always have my studio, well not studio, but my live set up on stage, it’s my keyboards, two computers, etc. So I always have a recording studio with me. So if it’s not on stage, it’s in my hotel room. I just need to switch it on, and I can make music. And that obviously is possible.
Nicole: Well this is always an interest to me because being a DJ and being a producer, you obviously listen to A LOT of music. But what do you like to listen to personally?
Paul van Dyk: Well, again, it’s like everything that I feel is authentic. I’ve been obviously listening to the last Linkin Park album, because I just love it so much. First I listen to it because ok, that’s the track you should remix. Love it, really cool. And now every other day I have a new favorite song. This is what discovering music is all about. Obviously with the whole iTunes generation, that’s not possible anymore, because people just download the two or three most obvious tracks. And they completely lose out on the actual more cool things. Yeah, but that’s an album I’ve been listening to a lot lately. Then, the Misfits Jets, just like a band. And then Atomic Tom from New York. I just saw them on YouTube. They were actually making music. They had like the guitar app and the drum app, and they were making their music in the tube on the iPhones. Really really cool song, and they have a fantastic album out. I can really recommend it, Atomic Tom. What else, so many things. I’m kind of like full of music all the time. And in between, you know some old stuff. You can never be wrong with a good old track by The Smiths.