Paul van Dyk: “EDM is a big deal in terms of cashing in, not quality or creativity”

Trance legend Paul van Dyk has been going strong for two decades, still inspiring devotion in his legion of worldwide fans, who send him gifts and get his name tattooed on their bodies. As PvD gears up for his return to Australia for Future Music Festival 2014, we got together to discuss his new live show and his upcoming Politics Of Dancing 3 album; and he also let us know what he really thinks about the rise of the EDM movement, and some of the ‘average’ minds behind it. Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I’d like to ask about the music and your new show in a second, but first, I have a bit of an odd question. You just posted a hand-drawn portrait of yourself, from a fan, on your Twitter; do you often receive gifts like that from people?

I really have to say, I have a lot of loyal and dedicated people that follow my music and what I do. There are some that have a very creative, hands-on talent that allows them to sketch or paint. It’s amazing, and it keeps me going in moments when it’s kind of painful, when I’m tired or have a headache. It’s a nice reminder that there are people who are as passionate about my music as I am, and are passionate enough to make me a sketch and send it to me. It’s a thank-you in a very direct way, I really appreciate it. I don’t even know if ‘appreciate’ is a good enough word. It means a lot.

You have a really, really busy schedule, with tours, radio shows, interviews and the rest of it – little things like that must help when you’re working at that level.

Yeah, absolutely – as I said, you have moments where you just say to yourself ‘holy crap, I’m really down right now’, but music keeps me going, and the people that I’m making the music for even more so.

On the subject of music, you’ll be releasing Politics Of Dancing 3 very soon, right?

Yes, that’s coming soon.

I’ve heard you say that the next Politics Of Dancing is going to be based around you remixing and collaborating with other artists – is that right?

Not entirely – the thing is that the first two were a lot more like DJ mix compilations where I took other people’s music, remixed it and then put it all together. Times have changed a lot since then. There’s no use doing it that way, because it would take months for me to put all the remixes together, and in this day and age, you really need fresh product. The approach this time was different. Instead of taking existing tracks and remixing them, I collaborated with people, and made music together. Rather than a DJ mix album with a lot of remixes, Politics Of Dancing 3 is an artist album with a lot of new collaborations on it, featuring people that are already established as well as some extremely talented up-and-comers.

Your last album had a lot of collaborations on it -have you worked with some of the same people again?

Well, that’s probably a whole other call to talk about Politics Of Dancing 3, but there are some people who I’ve worked with in the past, who are part of our extended family, and a lot of up-and-coming people whose approach I admire. The album is a way for us to show what electronic music means to us, how important electronic music is to us, in part as a response to this EDM thing that’s going on right now, which I don’t think has a lot to do with electronic music.

Well yes, I was very curious to ask for your take on that. In America, this thing that people call EDM has taken off in a very big way. What do you think about it?

Well, it is a very big deal, but the problem is, it’s a very big deal in terms of cashing in for people. It’s not a big deal in terms of quality or creativity in electronic music. I was in LA a few weeks ago, and there was a lot of talk about Grammy nominations, for Best Dance Record and so on. I think that if you look back over the last two, three, four years, the only person who should get the Grammy is the sound designer guy who made the Nexus 2 software synthesiser.

Everything sounds the same. There’s nothing bad about being inspired by a person or sound, but you have to give it your own twist, and that’s what’s missing. There are people now who are really admired for their ‘edgy’ sound, but if I listened to one of their tracks, I couldn’t even tell you who it was by. A lot of the big names are very average. The problem is that ‘average’ is something you can sell to a lot of people, and yes, a lot of people enjoy it, so there’s obviously a mass-market, but I have to say that my artistic approach is very different from that.

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