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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.
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"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.
"[McDaid] was the singer of a band called Vega4 in the early 2000s," Van Dyk recalls. "This one night, my wife and I were cooking dinner and basically the TV was running in the background. MTV was on and suddenly there was this video and this band playing, and we turned the volume up and listened to it. It was Vega4, the band he was singing with.
"People always ask me: 'What else do you listen to besides electronic music?' And I said [in an interview], 'Well, I found this band that I really, really like that's really, really cool [called Vega4].' That interview ended up in a magazine in Malaysia, and they were on tour in Asia and saw that interview," Van Dyk says. "Then they were a little afraid because they were kind of like, 'OK, there might be some misconception going on. Maybe there's another project going on called Vega4 in the electronic world too?' They called my office to reconfirm, and I said, 'No, no, no, I mean you. I mean the guitar band. I mean the rock band from the UK.' And this is how I met them."
Van Dyk has also had good luck with Jessica Sutta from the Pussycat Dolls, who he met through her manager, Jeff Haddad. And also with American singer Ashley Tomberlin, who had recorded a track called "Amsterdam," under the pseudonym Luminary, that Van Dyk heard.
"I remember I was playing somewhere and she actually came around and said, 'Listen, you just played my track. Thank you,'" he recalls. "I said, 'Well, you have a great voice. We should definitely exchange numbers, and maybe we can work together and make music together.'"
That music became the track "New York City." It, as well as the Jessica Sutta collaboration "White Lies," can be found on Van Dyk's recent career-spanning double-disc Volume: The Best of Paul Van Dyk. Also on the LP is the dance hit "For an Angel," which Van Dyk has reworked nicely — and needfully. "There wouldn't be a re-release of my old material without 'For an Angel,' he says. "So I decided to basically give something new to it, to give the classic 'For an Angel' feel with a new and more modern twist."
The remixed "For an Angel" leads a disc of all Van Dyk originals. Disc 2, in contrast, consists of nothing but his best and "most popular mixes and remixes," he says. There's the aforementioned New Order, of course, and just about everything you can think of since, including U2's "Elevation," Depeche Mode's "Martyr," Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around.../...Comes Around," and Britney Spears's "Gimme More."
Taken as a whole, Volume truly is the mark of an illustrious man of music. But what's perhaps most amazing is that Van Dyk now has such a vast catalogue he could do an entire evening of his own tracks and still keep the floor packed and dancing. Naturally, Van Dyk, master turntablist and worldwide phenomenon, wouldn't do such a thing, not with so many beats to break. Besides, how would he keep his spot atop everybody's hit list?
At Space this Saturday, expect to hear the complete Paul Van Dyk. But expect to hear a whole lot more as well. Most important, expect to not stop dancing till Sunday afternoon comes down and you've marked another riotous evening with a DJ legend.