HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Paul Van Dyk

If the titles of his last two albums haven't made it clear, then a few minutes with Paul Van Dyk will leave you in little doubt that politics and music go hand in hand for the man DJMag's readers recently voted the world's number one, knocking Tiesto from his three-year reign at the top. His own experiences growing up in the former East Germany have helped shape his belief that democracy is the strongest unifying force for society. "It starts by going to elections but it also includes being involved in charity organisations and being involved in other social aspects". And a DJ pole position has provided the ideal platform for pushing a philanthropic agenda that has been the cornerstone of his"Politics of Dancing" projects, the second instalment further promoting his conviction in the great levelling power of music: "A youth culture that is uniting people regardless of what kind of god they believe in, what religion they follow or where they come from. Israelis are dancing with Palestinians, Iraqis with Americans, Japanese and Germans".

Despite touring, production and remixing schedules in overdrive, Paul manages to actively support the charity project Akanksha in India, a foundation that provides education to disadvantaged children, and organise projects with the German Red Cross. We met up with him before his gig at Unit last month.

* If you would like to view the video interview...Click here !

> Introduction & Interview : Matt Cotterill (HigherFrequency)


HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : We are talking to Paul van Dyk. Paul, hello !

Paul Van Dyk : Hello.

HRFQ : And thank you for doing this interview.

Paul : You're welcome.

HRFQ : Congratulations, I think, are in order for DJ Magazine's Top 100, number one position. To show our congratulations we have brought you a nice shirt. It's a Diesel shirt, it's a present for you.

Paul : Thank you very much.

HRFQ : Treat yourself. You can try it on now if you like.

Paul : Probably it is a different program isn't it. How do I look ?

HRFQ : Great !

Paul : Thank you very much.

HRFQ : Everybody will be your friend if you wear that Paul.

Paul : OK ! Well the hat obviously comes absolutely heavy.

HRFQ : It does and I think that looks gorgeous. OK, well you are back in Japan and a few months ago you played at a very big club named ageHa. Do you remember ? It was about 3,000 people. Today's going to be a little bit different, it's a smaller club. Are you excited about today ?

Paul : Yeah, absolutely. Because I have never really played at a small club in Tokyo. The reason why we are doing it is because we got so many emails, people asking if I would come back this year again to Tokyo. So we thought if I come back this year then we'll do something special. We'll do something intimate. Something that stems out from the normal big club thing. So this is what we are doing and I am excited about it and it's probably going to be really cool.

HRFQ : We're excited about it too, Paul. It's part of the Politics of Dancing 2 Tour. This is your compilation series, the first one was about four years ago. A long time ago. Why so long ?

Paul : Well you know it is not a normal DJ mix CD. I don't like DJ mix CDs because you cannot put the atmosphere of a club night onto a CD. So this is more the technical concept of combining me being an artist, a DJ, a musician, a producer, a remixer, and you have to imagine listening to the drums from track eleven with the bassline of track five altogether becoming track seven. So it's a very time consuming process to actually make a CD like this. That's one thing. Another thing is of course I travel a lot and I DJ a lot because I love doing what I'm doing. The other thing is meanwhile I released two artist albums as well. I'm already working on a new one that is supposed to come out in 2006 if I'm ready on time. So I am doing a lot of things, so that is pretty much the reason.

Paul Van Dyk Interview

HRFQ : It's a good reason. Could you talk us through a little about the creative process by which you select the tracks ?

Paul : Well this was not so much of a creative process. I just listen to a lot of music and what I like I play. Especially with trying to actually compile a compilation and put everything together then you also sort of figure out um...Especially because it's down to musical issues as well. You know with the way I have been putting it together, you look into those issues as well, then you license the music and you try to put it together.

HRFQ : Do you re-tune and re-edit a lot of the tracks ?

Paul : It's not just re-editing is what I meant before. Basically I get the parts of all the tracks and it's just like putting everything in, mixing it and then putting it in order.

HRFQ : Is it Ableton Live that you use to do it ?

Paul : It is actually a combination of three programs that were used to do it. It was Ableton, it was Scratch Live by Serato, and it was Audio Logic.

HRFQ : Excellent. Onto the more philosophical side, you are recognised as a DJ who has quite a social justice conscience in a lot of the work that you do. Could you tell us a bit of the philosophy behind the Politics of Dancing 2 ?

Paul : Well you know, the last years, obviously with 9/11, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq showed that the best concept for us living together on this planet is democracy. In order to make a strong democratic healthy society it needs every single person to be involved. The more people that are involved the stronger the democracy is. It starts by going to elections but it also includes being involved in charity organisations and being involved in other social aspects. If you see something is wrong in your neighbourhood, try and change it. This is actually what I believe in. This is what I do. This is what I want to make people aware of on the one hand, the other thing is that the music and the income from this music enables me to do all of those things. So that's the circle when it actually goes all round again.

HRFQ : Would you say that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that happened recently, since the Politics of Dancing 1, have changed the texture of your message in any way ?

Paul : Well, absolutely. I mean the first one was about something rather different. It was much more about making people aware that besides all the fun and besides the fact this music actually attracts a lot of people who are having a great time, it as well actually became a global youth culture. A youth culture that is uniting people regardless of what kind of god they believe in, what religion they follow or where they come from. Israelis are dancing with Palestinians, Iraqis with Americans, Japanese and Germans. It's altogether. It doesn't matter where you come from as long as you are a good, nice person. This obviously is, especially in times like this, a political issue. This is why I called it the politics of dancing in the first place.

Paul Van Dyk Interview

HRFQ : Excellent. You mentioned before your charity work. You did a Charity Live concert for the hurricane Katrina victims. How did that go ?

Paul : Well that was very good, but that's just one of those one time things when there's an urgent need like there was. That's something I do obviously but there are also other things which are...There is a project called Akanksha in Bombay that I rather heavily support. Financially one side of course, the other thing is talking about it. Making people aware that there are huge problems that have to be solved. Otherwise kids are just dying for no reason.

HRFQ : We were quite keen for you to get that onto the interview, the Akanksha project, so there could be a sort of springboard for the Japanese viewers to become aware of this.

Paul : Absolutely. So the great thing about that concept is it isn't just a camp where the kids get some food, it's basically like schools in the hotspots, in the slums where the kids go to. Of course they get food and they get clothes but they also get education. It's not just a little maths and a little writing, they get everything all the way through and they get guidance all the way through until they're grown up and they get jobs of their own. So it is a great concept that needs much more support still because there are still a lot of things that are desperately wrong. That's one of the things, another thing that was actually inspired by the concept of Akanksha to some extent is a project I created together with the German Red Cross in Berlin called Rueckenwind, which is basically the German word for 'supporting tail wind'. Over the past few years we have had quite a few economic problems in Germany, and with that of course come a lot of struggles. Of course the first victims are always the kids. We have a lot of poor kids in Germany who do not have the same possibilities growing up that others do. This is where we step in. We have trained personnel that go into the families and do like time management and financial management. As well we take the kids in our hands, into our rooms, and they get trained on like kids computer programs so they are actually up to date with what's going on and not just hanging out in front of the TV. We have minibuses so we can actually take them out of the city onto a farm so they can see a real cow and a real tree and not just the stuff in the city. It is basic education like this, that I had, that these kids don't get anymore. We have also physical training and things like this. So this is something I created together with the Red Cross in Berlin and we are quite heavily pushing these issues.

HRFQ : Have you seen the results firsthand ?

Paul : Of course. Last time I was in India I went to an Akanksha school and I cannot tell you, it was one of the most heartbreaking moments. It was a first grade class and they had just learnt the numbers from one to one hundred and every one of those twenty kids wanted to show me how eager they'd been to learn those numbers and every kid was screaming, "One! Two!". It was just like so heartbreaking to see that these kids already have an extremely hard life but they are eager to change it themselves and all they need is a tiny little bit of help from all of us. That is definitely something where you see results. As well, with the families we work with in Berlin we see the response. How the kids are sometimes acting very differently, much more balanced, much more relaxed and you can sort of feel that someone is actually taking care of them. We had a kind of Christmas party with two hundred kids and we are renting a circus next week. So there a lot of things we do and you can definitely see the outcomes.

HRFQ : Great. Well, we think it is a wonderful project and we will endorse it on our website. If you have anything you'd like to say to the people who will come and see you in Japan and all the people who will have already seen you by the time they watch this ?

Paul : Thank you very much for coming. Thanks for all the support throughout the years and I promise I will come back again very soon. I am very excited. It is still before the gig so I am very very excited by what's going on and I am pretty sure when you see it right now you'll see that I was very excited. So, see you very soon. Make your dreams come true !

HRFQ : Well Paul thanks very much, and we really appreciate it. We wish you all the best for the future and everything.

End of the interview

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