When Paul van Dyk steps behind the decks Friday night at downtown Miami’s Club Space, his fans should feel an extra rush of appreciation, for this night very well might never have been possible.
In February, the Grammy-winning German electronic-music god fell through a faulty stage at the State of Trance festival in Utrecht, breaking his spine and causing a severe brain injury. Van Dyk was wheelchair-bound for five weeks, hospitalized for three months and had to learn how to walk again. Doctors told him it was a miracle that he survived.
Nine months later, he is still a long way from feeling back to normal.
“It’s a tough road,” Van Dyk said. “At this time, there’s still constant pain, and I’m still at the point where it’s not clear what the longer-lasting effects will be. After the accident, it was very uncertain if I would ever be able to play again. Either way, the doctors’ outlook was that if I was able to do 50 percent of what I did before, it would be considered a huge success.”
Mission accomplished, so far. Van Dyk will take the stage at one of his favorite Miami clubs in support of his upcoming eighth studio album, which is sure to feature innovative collaborations, lively electronic beats and strong vocal melodies. You’re also sure to hear more than a few of his anthemic, trance-kissed hits including “For An Angel,” “Tell Me Why (The Riddle),” “Time of Our Lives,” “We Are Alive” and “Eternity,” plus newer Beatport chart-topping singles “Come With Me,” “Only in a Dream,” “Guardian” and “Louder.”
Paul van Dyk at work. PHOTO: Rudger Geerling
It’s nothing short of remarkable that Van Dyk is close to being on schedule with the album, considering the extent of his injuries.
“[The accident has] slowed production down plenty this year, but it’s on track, I think,” he said. “You can never have 100 percent accuracy with these things, but I’d say I’m about four good, solid production weeks away from completion.”
Van Dyk has a couple of choices for a title for the new album, but isn’t ready to commit, at least publicly.
“Let’s say I have two very strong frontrunners,” he said. “It’s just a question of deciding between them. Better two potential titles rather than no potentials titles, though.”
Van Dyk doesn’t remember his first thoughts upon awakening from his near-death experience. His first memory, however, was “a stream of warmth through my body when my fiancée arrived in Utrecht at the hospital and held my hand,” he said. “The first more complex memory was about six days later, when I was moved from the emergency room to intensive care.”
About the actual fall, Van Dyk recalled, “There was no way for me to know that the stage was not built as a solid structure. The hole I fell through was covered with black fabric, and there were no markings advising that it was a ‘don’t step’ surface. It was just the most incredibly bad luck. I fell doing what hundreds, if not thousands, of DJs do every weekend. Interacting with my audience is fundamental to what I do, so I won’t change that approach in any way.”
Van Dyk says he didn’t really need a wakeup call, but that this trauma has given him a greater appreciation for his gift of musical talent and the life and career it’s provided.
“You’re correct in so much as I didn’t need it,” he said. “However, inevitably, it has given me that greater appreciation. Nearly everyone who goes through an experience along the same lines as mine gets that shake. It’s what you do with that extra appreciation that really counts, though. I feel like I was given a second chance.”
Van Dyk has always been reluctant to characterize his music as trance, but the sound that dominated the electronic scene in the ‘90s is a big part of his repertoire. So are the whispers true, that trance is experiencing a resurgence?
“Honestly, I may not be the best person to ask,” he said. “For something to resurge, it needs to ebb first, and from my perspective, I’ve not seen that. The club and festival floors are always full, and the reactions to the music feel every bit as passionate. As a genre, it’s not shouted about in the media as much as it was, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. What’s no longer flavor of the week has to stand on its own two feet, and trance music in particular has been doing that for longer than most.”