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Interview: Paul van Dyk

We talk to the DJ ahead of his return to the jing

Time Out catches up with Paul van Dyk in LA - just as he's about to board the plane for Beijing - to talk about the current state of trance, about his new album the Politics of Dancing 3 and what he would do if he was President of Clubland. Catch his gig at on Friday 29.

What are you doing in LA at the moment?
I’m based here for 6 weeks. It’s something I end up do several times throughout each year. When the touring is concentrated in the States, Asia, Australia and regions like that, logistically it makes more sense to be here than Berlin.

What is the current state of trance?
Better in late 2014 and 2015 than the 2011 - 2013 years. The volume of tracks that have been stylistically chasing the vapor of other genres has dropped off significantly. A few labels that, to my ears, had lost their way and were trend-seeking have gotten back on track. That’s helped the overall health of that scene to quite some degree.

What's the one thing that has kept you firmly loyal to the trance genre for all these years?
I feel it’s more that the trance genre has remained loyal to me. I’ve gone off and done my own thing, experimented, worked with people, producers, vocalists, etc who’ve not been known within the scene and they’ve been prepared to trust and embrace that. That’s something I’m immensely grateful for and appreciative of.

Why the album title Politics of Dancing?
I became involved in politics, across a wide range of areas fairly, early in my life. It had to do with being raised in East Berlin, during the communist times. There was a natural crossroads where the worlds of dancing and politics met and I decided to highlight that through the first album’s title.

It’s important to clarify, though, that when the title says ‘the politics of dancing’, it’s not a statement about politics-politics. It’s more an observation on the diplomatic aspects of politics.

In Ibiza, many years ago, I watched a friend from Tel Aviv and another from Beirut bond over club music. Had it not been there, they otherwise would never have met. And they said, 'look, we are just like any young people. We want healthy, peaceful living. If we’re able to dance side by side, why can't we have this with our countries being so close?

In 2015, the need for this type of club or dance diplomacy is even greater than it was in 2001. In a very personal respect, I see what sort of potential electronic music has for uniting people who otherwise would not normally be united. It’s tremendously powerful in that way and that’s what ‘the politics of dancing’ really means to me.

Tell us about your new album...

People began, I think, to anticipate the third ‘Politics’ album around 2008, which was right around the time more & more of my potential projects began to compete with one another. From that point people were asking less ‘when will there be another one?’ and more ’if there’ll be another one?’ After the EVOLUTION album’s release in 2012, I was drawn back to the idea more and more. It built up until one day, my mind became set and I thought ‘Yes, the time’s right for this’.

I’ve moved the series to the format of an artist album though (‘Politics’ 1 & 2 were mix-compilations). I wanted to challenge some conventions and myself, but it was also out of necessity. A lot has changed in the music industry since 2005. The way we make and produce music, how we release music and how each and every one of us consumes it. Back around the time of the 2nd album, it was normal to have exclusive music up to 9 months ahead of an album, which is no longer the case. The third ‘Politics’ had to work around that and have a different methodology from the first two.

To me, making music is one of the most stimulating, fun and fulfilling things to do in this world. Doing it with friends and people you admire makes it that even more enjoyable, so the answer really lay in that. By the end of its production there were 23 different co-producers and singers featured on the album. While I wasn’t working with them all at once, of course, there was an added time factor. It needed a different type of discipline, but that challenge was all part of the fun.

How does Egypt's position in the global trance scene play its part?
Egypt does play an important part in the scene, no question. It’s the speed with which the country embraced the sound that I found particularly inspiring. That’s was spearheaded, to a major degree, by Aly & Fila, who I worked with for the first time on ‘The Politics Of Dancing 3’. The track we did together ‘Guardian’ is interesting as Aly & Fila (and by extension Egypt) is well known for the more energetic, full-force trance style. When we collaborated together I suggested we did something that shook that up a bit. So in its original forms ‘Guardian’ was cooler and more emotionally charged, which caught a lot of people by surprise.

What's your favourite track off the album and why?
I don’t believe in favorites as such. It’s like asking a mother to pick which of her children she loves the most! I would say though that the next single ‘Lights’, with Sue McLaren is one, I know, I’ll be coming back to with the same freshness in 10 years time. Sue has a voice I find completely unforgettable. She has a lyrical and vocal infiltration that always gets me. The lyrics to ‘Lights’ are metaphorical & figurative. Every time you listen to it, you come away with a slightly changed perception of what she’s singing about, which I love.

Politically, within dance music circles, what gets most on your nerves?
People who make/DJ music that’s clearly got far more to do with what their manager (or bank manager)’s telling them to do, than the direction their heart’s telling them to go in.

If you were voted in as President of Clubland, what new laws would you introduce and why?
I don’t know about laws as such, but some over-watch on characters turning up to ‘DJ’ and then spending 9/10ths of their ‘set’, microphone-in-hand in front of the turntables could be good!

What can we expect from your set in Beijing?
When you’ve finished making an album you always have this 3-4 month of pause, where you have all this new music. The ‘thorn’ though is you can’t play most of it, as you’ve got to build up to the album’s release. This though is the point where I can take all the music, present it live to the audience and finally see their reactions in the clubs and arenas to the music. So in short: a whole lot of news music from The Politics Of Dancing 3!

Paul van Dyk: The Politics of Dancing 3 is on Friday 29 May at LIV.