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There are few larger names in DJ-dom than Paul Van Dyk. This former East German started the ball rolling on his legend from the first time he took to the tables at Berlin's infamous Dubmission party in 1991. Two years later, when he tranced up Humate's "Love Stimulation," his profile only rose. And after Van Dyk future-fitted a floor-filling remix of New Order's "Spooky" later that year, his status as a rising colossus was cemented.
But it was when Van Dyk dropped his own "For an Angel" off his debut studio album, 45 RPM, on the well-respected MFS Records, that the master mixer truly became a phenomenon. And it was then that he both epitomized and defined a whole new trend in dance music. That trend, of course, was trance, a term Van Dyk neither disputes nor believes really best represents what he does to the beat.
"I don't have a problem with [being called trance]," he says one recent afternoon by transatlantic telephone. "I, for myself, just call it 'electronic dance music.' This is what it is. When you hear me play, you hear me playing from electro things, you hear house elements, you hear trancey things, and you also hear the techno things.
"If you look at what the sound is right now on the dance floor, you basically hear pretty driving heavy drums. So you can say it's electro, but you have really fat electro bass lines. At the same time, you hear very trancey melodic breaks," he continues. "Nobody knows where one thing starts and the other ends, so the easiest is just to call it electronic music, and it's usually danceable."
It's also terrifically popular, and Van Dyk, who has remained in DJ Magazine's "Best DJ" top ten since 1998, is again circling the globe to ensure it stays that way. In fact, his latest jaunt takes him on some very crazy stretches, including one that begins in São Paolo, Brazil; veers through Edmonton, Canada; and ends up in Beirut, Lebanon — all in the span of two weeks.
"It's even crazier when you look, let's say, at the last Asian tour," Van Dyk adds. "Because we started all the way up in the north, in Seoul; then went all the way down through Japan, China, and Taiwan; all the way down to Indonesia; and then back home from down there."
Thankfully, on this leg, Van Dyk has found time to add Miami to the mix, specifically Space, which he still considers not only "one of the best clubs in Miami" but also "one of the best clubs in the world."
And the DJ doesn't hesitate to elaborate why. "First of all, [Space owner] Louis [Puig] has been in the business for quite some time," Van Dyk says. "He knows what to do and how to do it, and how to promote the night. Also, the objective points of the venue are really, really cool. They have a great PA. The whole setup, the whole layout of the club is really, really cool. Then, of course, they choose the talents they have playing there very wisely. It's always high-quality events when people go there."
Van Dyk also is a frequent spinner at Miami's mega Ultra Music Festival and says he finds both the outdoors and indoors to be "equally exciting." And though he isn't completely confirmed for the fest's lineup next year, he says his people "are in contact [with the fest's organizers], and they are in contact with [him]."
Meanwhile, Van Dyk is eager to sing the praises of the Sunshine State's dance music scene. "Miami has always been absolutely in the forefront of electronic music," he says. "I remember back in '93 and '94 playing some of my first gigs in America down in Florida." He also specifically cites Space resident Oscar G as definitively influential on club music as a whole. "The music that somebody like Austin Leeds or Nick Terranova do, even though they're not living in Miami, they definitely have a straightforward Miami influence."
Van Dyk has been to the Big Orange so often he even has his own preferred eatery: La Loggia, which he calls "my favorite Italian restaurant in the world. Try the 'Pasta à la Loggia,'" But even a downtown as bustling as Miami's can't really compare to what went down at the Brandenburg Gate earlier this month. The occasion was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Van Dyk, who closed the show, was perhaps the most honored musical guest of the festivities.
"It was really impressive," he says. "You have to imagine my audience at that point was starting from Clinton to the Russian president, the British guy, the German guy, the French guy — all those major politicians on one hand, and on the other hand a few hundred thousand Germans at the gate. And [then there was] another six million people watching on television. It was a goose-bump moment," he adds, almost unnecessarily.
What led to those goose bumps was a fireworks-laden performance of Van Dyk's own "We Are One," which the German government asked him to pen for the occasion. To add vocals, Van Dyk drafted British singer Johnny McDaid. Van Dyk has had great luck with McDaid over the years, in fact. They first collided over "Time of Our Lives" on Van Dyke's 2003 album, Reflections. And now, besides "We Are One," the two boast the equally stunning single "Home." It all kind of leads one to believe that Van Dyk and McDaid were destined to collaborate.