In conversation with legendary producer and DJ Paul van Dyk

German producer and DJ Paul van Dyk is known across the world for his pioneering work in the Trance scene and his continued unique contributions to the electronic music world. Oh My Malta sat down with Paul to discuss his extensive career and recent performance at the Monte Kristo Estate

Paul van Dyk is a Grammy-nominated producer and DJ who first burst onto the scene in 1994 with the release of his chart-topping hit, For An Angel. Since then, he has sold over three million records, and continues to tour internationally to packed audiences worldwide.  

On Saturday 30 July, Paul performed live in the "beautiful setting” of Malta’s Monte Kristo Estate, bringing his unique and eclectic blend of electronic music to the country’s committed EDM audience. Reflecting on the recent performance, Paul explains that, "The audience is one that follows the journey the DJ provides, and I was able to go from deeper techno to happier, more uplifting things...providing some variety of electronic sounds. That’s what this music is all about.”  

Indeed, in a similar fashion to the way a live DJ set develops, Paul’s own career journey has witnessed considerable creative development and reinvention. When asked about his artistic evolution from Trance in the 1990s to his diverse and genre-defying musical identity now, he notes the genre’s relatively underground nature when compared to today, commenting that, “...electronic music wasn’t all over the place like it is now — we had to search for it. It wasn’t on the radio and there were only a few clubs, to the point that the music we wanted to hear, we had to create because it didn’t exist. This is how all those genres started to emerge. I was involved in creating something that later people called Trance...we created the music we wanted to hear, and that sort of developed into probably the biggest music youth culture in the world.” 

Throughout our discussion, Paul exhibits a thoughtful approach to music and the creative process, something especially noticeable when I enquire as to the influence of the recent novel coronavirus on his artistic output: “It influenced me very directly, because my influence is life in general. Whatever I see and whatever I experience has an impact on my’s the travelling, meeting people, the events and the feedback from the audience. During the pandemic it was basically the same tree outside the window at the studio, so, obviously, instead of being bombarded by all those experiences, it was a more introverted approach to the music.” Paul notes how this directly impacted the creative vision for his upcoming new album, explaining its planned release in three parts: “The first part, Off The Record, is deeper yet still very energetic. You then have For the Record — which is a more festival-like approach to my music — then The Record, which is this, but even more music.” This year has seen a string of new releases from the veteran producer, including a track written in collaboration with Rafael Osmo entitled Two Rivers, and In Your Arms (For An Angel) — a remix of Paul’s iconic 90s anthem which saw him join forces with singer-songwriter Nico Santos and fellow producers and DJs Topic and Robin Schulz.  

In addition to Saturday’s concert at the Monte Kristo Estate, this recent visit also saw Paul perform a set for Chasing Sunsets — a series of videos filmed in Malta featuring electronic artists presenting live performances in stunning locations around the country. Discussing his involvement and the artistic concept behind the production, Paul explains that, “It’s a streaming project that also shows the beauty around the thing — it’s not just the music and a steady camera on the DJ. With the beautiful setting of Malta, it had to be done and I was very happy to be asked to participate in this.”

...we created the music we wanted to hear, and that sort of developed into probably the biggest music youth culture in the world. Paul van Dyk

With electronic music seeing such widespread popularity and enthusiasm amongst the next generation of music-makers, I was interested to learn what advice Paul might give to aspiring DJs and producers. Exhibiting a wisdom built on years of experience, he stresses that, “You should really ask yourself why you want to do this: fame and money are not guaranteed, and they also come and go, so the only thing that gives you a healthy mind and a steady way of living is if you do it because you love music — that should be the centre of it all. It’s not about being on the main stage at festivals, it’s firstly about making new music and then presenting new music. It’s an art form, everything else is random entertainment that comes and goes.” 

Paul van Dyk performing as part of 'Chasing Sunsets'
Paul van Dyk performing as part of 'Chasing Sunsets'

Since his first performance in Malta in 1999, Paul’s frequent return visits have been eagerly anticipated by the country’s loyal EDM audience. I ask if we can expect to see him again in the future: “Of course, I hope so! I was able to spend two or three more days here this time, and it’s so beautiful that, even if there’s no chance for me to play, I’m definitely going to come back just to check it out.”  

It seems clear that Paul’s engaging and fruitful musical journey is far from over, with this year holding much in store for fans of his music to look forward to. The coming months see Paul continue his busy touring schedule — including a hotly-anticipated appearance in Ibiza — as well as the release of his new album, Off The Record. Demonstrating a refreshingly honest and eclectic approach to both his artistic output and the wider musical landscape, Paul's hugely successful career shows no sign of slowing down, and, when one considers his clear appreciation for Malta and the country’s enthusiastic response to his recent two performances, it seems doubtful this is the last we will see from this legend of the electronic music world.