If you listen to the radio, frequent the club, or watch the Grammys, Paul van Dyk is a name you’ve probably heard at some point in the past 25 years. In 2019, only the most diehard trance fans might still know who he is, but in a double decade reign as one of the most influential electronic music artists in the world, van Dyk has seen it all.
“When I started Djing, the music that I liked didn’t really exist. Nobody called what I do trance music,” van Dyk reflects over the phone from a coffee shop in New York. “When I started, the DJ was the freak in the corner.”
Van Dyk has been dubbed the forefather of trance music. Growing up in East Berlin, he first encountered electronic music while sat in his mother’s kitchen and tuned into radio waves broadcast from the other side of the Iron Curtain. For van Dyk that was a watershed moment, and from then onwards, electronica has been everything to him.
“That’s my music, that’s the only thing I can be 100% real in terms of any artistical output,” he says, with an enthusiasm that illuminated the phone line. “So that’s what I do.”
“When I started, the DJ was the freak in the corner.” —Paul van Dyk
Van Dyk’s passion for his craft is perhaps only overtaken by his respect for the fans. To attend a Paul van Dyk show is to take part in an event that transcends the single moment, and van Dyk likes to think of himself as just as much a part of that experience as the crowd.
“At the end of the day, I’m just, like, the lucky guy up there actually being able to control this music, but at the same time I’m a fan like everyone else.”
As a Top 10 DJ in terms of net worth and a Grammy Award winner with millions of albums sold worldwide, it’s a marvel how van Dyk has managed to stay true to his original vision and sound. But when you hear him talk about the music itself, all that becomes crystal clear.
“I hope it’s not too cryptic when I formulate it this way, but to me, trance music, when you listen to it and you close your eyes, the music goes all the way to the horizon. That’s how it is for me,” he says with what must have been a glinty-eyed smile. “And all other music styles, they end at the wall in front of you.”
Paul van Dyk performs Saturday, November 17 at Harbour Event Centre (Vancouver)