Likely one of the world’s most famous DJs, Paul van Dyk rose out of the trance movement of the ‘90s and into the global vernacular, although for his generation, the music was about more than just dancing.
Growing up in the ‘80s behind the Berlin Wall in East Germany, van Dyk’s musical upbringing was formed by smuggled cassette tapes passed among his friends. As journalist Felix Denk explained this year in a New York Times interview, “Techno’s like our folk music here in Berlin,” citing the similarities between the hand-me-down house mixes and the traditional songs passed between lifetimes. And after the wall came down in ‘89, it was electronic music, no longer just relegated as an underground movement, that brought the country together after nearly 45 years of separation.
It’s this political and social importance of the genre that commands respect, even for the most ardent of naysayers.
For van Dyk, his path to stardom came out from shadow of the wall, when he began mixing at parties and clubs at the start of the new decade. By 1994, he was among the superstars of Berlin’s techno scene, watching the music spread into Europe and eventually the rest of the world. Since then, his popularity has grown immensely, working with or remixing a famed and varied selection of artists. (He even remixed Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight score and saw one of his tracks featured in an episode of What’s New, Scooby Doo?) Earlier this year, besides making headlines over a mini-spat with Madonna—he claims she should have quit after Ray of Light—van Dyk released Evolution, his sixth studio album, featuring a collaboration with Adam Young of Owl City.
Although the impact and importance of van Dyk’s music may never rise to the same levels as the early ‘90s, it continues to make people happy, which is all one can ask for.
Wed., Nov. 21, 8:30pm. $35. With John G, BHB + Johnny V. SoundGarden Hall, 520 N. Delaware Ave. 570.977.3827. soundgardenhall.com
PW's Music Issue 2014