Paul van Dyk’s Vandit Records office, recording studio, childhood home, and current residence are all within two miles of one another. He grew up behind the Berlin Wall in the then-socialist capital of East Germany, and if the east-west split were still in effect today, his office and studio would be divided. From an eighth-floor office building, Vandit headquarters look north, out over the Spree River and the neighborhood of Kreuzberg, which is like Wynwood’s older cousin.
Walls in the office are covered with awards, many of them from Winter Music Conference’s golden years. It's Friday afternoon, and van Dyk is off to the airport for weekend gigs in Russia and Austria. His manager, her dog Clooney, and another dog named Mozzy are holding down the office.
“Paul has two Berlin shows on the schedule because he wants to give this city a trance night. He’s going back to his roots and playing some smaller venues here. It’s important to him. You have to understand that here in Berlin, Paul van Dyk is the trance scene,” his manager says.
Van Dyk’s story is one of resolve, perseverance, and love since his near-fatal from a stage in February 2016. That story is told in his new album, From Then On, which dropped October 20. It is his eighth album, which is heroic, but what is most inspiring is its quality. From Then On is as good as or better than anything he has created. The album is a brilliant example of artistic freedom and comfort. All 14 tracks are loaded with detail, texture, and creativity not typically found in a musician’s eighth effort. From Then On is a proper album and is best enjoyed in a nonstop sitting.
A week after that Vandit Records office visit, van Dyk talks on the phone in detail about the story behind each track on the album.
1. “While You Were Gone” with Vincent Corver. “Vincent provided the piano line, and I listened again and again. I was in China, and I started to form a sketch. At the time, my wife was on a Himalayan excursion in Nepal, and I missed her."
2. “Inhale” with M.I.K.E. Push and Fred Baker. "I’ve known these guys for a long time. In this album, I’m coming back to the core of my music, and I was looking for people that have inspired me throughout my career. I reached out, and we sent things back and forth. For me, music is as essential as breathing."
3. “Touched by Heaven.” "This song title explains itself. I had a bad accident, and since then, the world has changed for me. Despite the accident and all the bad that came along, some good things have happened too. All the support from my team and family has been incredible, and I would not be here without them. Something kept me here."
4. “I Am Alive.” "This was the very first piece of music I made after my accident, and for a long time it wasn’t clear if I would be able to continue. I had a bleeding brain and I could not talk. The creative center is near speaking, so I was not sure if I could make music ever again."
5. “Everyone Needs Love” with Ronald van Gelderen, featuring Gaelan and Eric Lumiere. "Got an early sketch from Ron. I loved the theme and whole idea. We did this one quickly. One of the great things about modern technology is the ability to work with others without being together. And, of course, those amazing vocals."
6. “Breaking Dawn” with Alex M.O.R.P.H. "Alex is a very good friend for many years and part of the Vandit family — he is family. This one you can feel the positive energy that moves and strikes you. It’s the energy that comes as the sun comes up. There will always be a next day and another dawn."
7. “Vortex” with James Cottle. "James is one of the up-and-coming talents with a unique approach to music. My style is a bit psy-fi and not exactly like his style. The vortex to me is to dive into something else. James is one of the amazing new artists. There is more to come from James."
8. “The Code” with Jordan Suckley. "To me, Jordan is one of the best younger and most talented guys. He’s a great guy as well. We’ve done music together before. We work quick together and we have different styles, but we both know what to do. We’re very efficient together. It’s energetic, pure, straightforward — it’s like the code of life. Do life happy, and life will be better."
9. “Stronger Together” with Pierre Pienaar. "My view on life has changed. Without my wife, I wouldn’t be alive. You can’t get through an injury like this alone, and she was my best reason to stay alive. She gave me so much support, and without her, I would be dead."
10. “From Then On” with Leroy Moreno. "The title track of the album. All music actually started and happened in the last year since the accident. My view on life has changed. Some things that were relevant are not anymore. Life itself is the biggest inspiration."
11. Fairytales” with Steve Allen. "It’s a miracle how life comes together. It’s a trippy sequence, a fairy tale, and a great piece of dance music tells a story."
12. “Close Call” with Tristan D. "I’ve known Tristan a long time. He was a pilot and almost crashed, and, of course, I almost died. When we made this, it was clear to feature that topic. There is an urgent sequence in the song; there is something happening and then a hopeful melody, and then there is light at the end of the tunnel."
13. “Escape Reality Tonight” with Emanuele Braveri, featuring Rebecca Louise Burch. "This is what we’re all trying to achieve when we go out, whether it’s a movie or a party. We are trying to drift off and daydream for a moment."
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14. “Safe Haven.” "Regardless of where in the world you’ve traveled or how far from home you are, you have a place that is a safe haven. My wife is my safe haven. If you are in the shits, you call a friend. That’s your safe haven."
On average, marriages end in divorce after eight years. Van Dyk and trance clipped a quarter-century and are more in love than ever. His first album, 45 RPM, was released 23 years ago, and his first DJ gig was 26 years ago, but in 2017, his top priority is keeping it fresh.
“I want an audience of people that go out for the music only, not people that go just because it’s hip to go... We’re trying to establish and reestablish a monthly event in [Berlin] that is only about the music. There is so much minimal techno here. Berlin needs this night we are creating,” he says. “With the album, it doesn’t matter what happens; it is my most successful album. I did it exactly how it should be."