German superstar Paul van Dyk has been cranking out melodic, trance-inspired electronic dance songs for two decades, so it’s no surprise that the Ultra Music Festival would be thrilled to have him headline its 15-year anniversary shows. What’s a bit surprising is that he agreed. Van Dyk has been famously outspoken against UMF for its insistence that artists who perform there can’t perform elsewhere during Winter Music Conference week, saying that such a stance takes away from the original spirit of WMC. He talked to Miami.com about his change of heart, what we can expect from his sets, and his take on the state of EDM today.
So you’re performing during both weekends of Ultra. Are you performing anywhere else?
No, I’m going to be in and out – we have some more shows in the States, so I’m going to fly out and then come back and stay for three days, and then fly out and come back again.
What do you think of UMF expanding to two separate weekends?
I think in terms of timing, it makes a lot of sense, because people are coming for pretty much an extended week. So it’s a good thing and it gives more talent more possibilities to present their music.
You’ve been extremely critical of Ultra in the past. Why the change of heart this year – why did you agree to perform for them?
First of all, I’m still critical about some of the, let’s say, approaches in terms of this whole exclusivity thing. At the same time, Ultra still is one of the best festivals in the world for electronic music, and provides kind of an overview of electronic music that’s going on. So I’m happy to be back and proud of it again.
Just after last year’s conference, you released the album “Evolution.” Do you have new music for this year?
Oh yeah, of course I have. We’ve actually just released “Revolution,” which is a remix album that also features some new music as well. The other thing is, we’re gonna preview in a small, intimate setting, some of “The Politics of Dancing 3,” which is gonna come out later on this year. So there is a lot of new music.
Oh, so you’re playing a small venue somewhere?
Uhh, no, well, it’s nothing public. But I’m pretty sure that some of the stuff I’m playing at Ultra is something that nobody has ever heard before.
Will your sets be different from weekend to weekend at Ultra?
It definitely will be different, because like I always say, my approach is I know very clearly what I want to do, but it’s always down to the interaction with the audience. And I’m pretty sure the audience will be different from the first weekend to the second. And according to that, the set’s gotta be.
How did you choose the stage name Paul van Dyk?
That’s just basically a little twist on the letters in my mom’s maiden name.
Electronic dance music is constantly evolving – how do you feel about its current state?
Well, the thing is that electronic music started as a small subculture, and it’s the biggest music culture in the world now, and a lot of people all over the world enjoy this music. And just like with any music genre, there are elements that individually I really like, and there are others that I don’t much. But it is one of the most progressive kinds of music, and there’s a very passionate crowd following it, and I think it’s in a fantastic state.
Do you think you would be different in any way as an artist today if you had had the technological advances that are available now when you were beginning?
That’s a question that takes quite some time to answer, because how things work these days – you switch on your computer, you download the software synthesizer, and you have all those sounds at your hands: Electro, dub-steppy, artsy-fartsy sounds. I remember when we had to create them. One of the signature sounds that we created back then was, I took a guitar lead and put it through a guitar distortion that shortcuts by touching the end of the cable, and sampled that sound. So you had to be able to create those sounds and develop them. These days, you can just switch it on and it’s right there. So maybe my approach in terms of searching and developing and creating sounds would be much different, if I had always had that technology. On the other hand, with the technology that I have, I can be so much more creative. I can do so many more things. There are pros and cons to everything – if the new technology that’s available is used to be creative and do something special, then I really appreciate it. If it’s just to be lazy, then I really don’t think it makes any sense.