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Identity Festival Anchor Paul van Dyk Opens up about Past, Future

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Updated: Thursday, August 23, 2012 13:08


Christoph Kostlin

Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated acts for 2012’s Identity Festival, is Grammy-winning DJ Matthais Paul, who is better known as Paul van Dyk. At 40, Paul has been in the electronic dance music scene for over two decades and the veteran has a very strong take on the genre of music that continues to drive him.

“Music in general, and especially house music, carries this ideologic element for me,” he said.

Born in East Germany, Paul didn’t always have the kind of access he to music he has today. Under communist dictatorship, the country didn’t have any clubs, concerts or record stores he could frequent. Paul’s only connection to the free society was listening illegally to a West German radio station or smuggled mix tapes.

“This is how I discovered music,” Paul said. “It became my language. It became something I felt connected me to the outside world.”

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Paul made his way out of East Germany and in 1991, he played his first gig. Since then, Paul has achieved the level of fame that most DJs dream of. He was one of the first major DJs to ever win a Grammy in the newly added Best Dance/Electronic Album category and was repeatedly named the top DJ by DJ magazines. As a veteran, he’s had the luxury of watching the electronic music scene change, evolve and grow. What once started as a small subculture is one of the biggest music cultures in the world.

“When I started DJing, the DJ was the freak in the corner and nobody cared about him,” Paul said. “That has obviously changed. Now their shows are big productions on a big stage.”

But of course, to Paul, electronic music – at least his interpretation of it – is just as big as it ever was. Having played gigs in the mid ‘90s to crowds as big as 10,000, Paul feels the idea of the electronic front’s explosion is due to marketing gimmicks and the fact that top-40 artists have gotten a hold of it.

“What has happened is that those R&B stars got really bored with their slow motion style of music and started creating more danceable music,” he said. “And that’s the stuff that really has exploded – of curse a lot of marketing started to happen and people became more and more aware of this stuff.”

But after 20 years of DJing, Paul carries in him the passion he said a lot of new DJs lack and that’s something that can be seen in every aspect of his work down to his artistic collaborations.

“Making music is something very intense, something very intimate, so I cannot work for people who do not share the same passion for music that I have,” he said. “I don’t believe in [that] market-driven, manager-organized collaboration bullshit between people that don’t have anything to do with each other besides the fact that one of them is sending the other a vocal bit – or suddenly they have XYZ pop star on the record that has nothing to do with what their basic artistic output it is.”

According to Paul, it’s those DJs who are just trying to live a lifestyle rather than pursue a passion.

“I don’t have anything to [do] with the Rhianna and Usher’s of this world, and I’m not really interested either,” he continued. “For me, it’s about working with musicians and talents and vocalists and passionate people than just a pop star that is running from schedule to schedule and basically the only thing they have in mind is their bank account and how famous they are.

I have quite extreme opinions about music. You can say that it’s wrong but you can also say that it’s passionate. I am that way and it will probably never change.”

The opinionated, but humble DJ took a nearly five-year hiatus from his studio work and instead shifted his focus in other artistic outlets.

Since his last album in 2007, Paul worked on several projects including Hans Zimmer collaboration to remix the theme for “The Dark Knight,” he created the music for several EA Games video games and restructured his record company in order to adjust it to the current music market.

“There were many things that I wanted to do from the artistic point of view,” he said. “I am a musician, so I am always looking for something interesting to do or a new challenge.”

But after taking time to work on other projects, Paul made his way back into the studio to work on his latest album, Evolution, which dropped earlier this year.

Now the DJ is playing his new tracks for nationwide audiences while on tour with Identity Festival. A setting he loves to play in.

“What I like about festivals is that it’s kind of like a music convention where a lot of people come together and present their form of music and encourage others to listen to something new,” he said. “It’s always eye-opening to a lot of people and that’s sort of what I like about these things.”

The Identity Festival is Sunday, August 19 at Ashley Furniture Pavilion. 

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