Paul van Dyk’s From Then On is his attempt to look at life through a brand-new lens following his 2016 near-death accident. “What was responsible for helping me to hold on to this life was my passion for music,” says the trance music guru, who notes that his shift in perspective heavily influenced the album. This time around, van Dyk took it upon himself to really make the record he always wanted to make, calling the 14-track LP his most authentic project to date. And musically, the EDM icon feels more connected with this material than any disc he’s released throughout his 24-year career.
Van Dyk is scheduled to perform at Dreamstate SoCal 2017. It’s a gig he’s very much looking forward to, as he admits that the festival’s trance-focused audience “knows their shit” and therefore keeps him on his toes. “It’s an extra challenge,” he says of the upcoming performance, where he will be making the West Coast debut of his live show concept AEON.
Insomniac caught up with van Dyk ahead of Dreamstate to discuss AEON, making From Then On, and his quest to put on a show that he would love to watch as a fan.
“What was responsible for helping me to hold on to this life was my passion for music and how much music means to me.”
What inspired From Then On?
I had a rather drastic accident 1.5 years ago and a long recovery process. Through the process, I learned a lot about life. Different things that were relevant before are pretty much irrelevant now, where other things that have been taken for granted now are essentially something to be really excited about. The music on the album is pretty much marking the point from where I had that drastic change in my life.
What did you do differently in the studio this time?
What was responsible for helping me to hold on to this life was my passion for music and how much music means to me. In the past, I always did exactly what I wanted, but there were still A&R managers keeping after you—“What about trying this way? What about trying that way?” I didn’t listen to any of that this time. I was just basically 100 percent making exactly what I wanted to do. I never felt closer to my music than I do now, and I think this is what is coming across on the album. It’s very straightforward—exactly what I am musically about.
“It’s not just about playing the huge classics of trance music. I do that, but I also include a lot of different elements in the set. And at Dreamstate, I’m able to do that with an audience in front of me that actually knows about our music and vibe.”
Walk us through the collaborations on the album.
I feature people that are part of the van Dyk family—Alex M.O.R.P.H. and Jordan Suckley—that I’ve been working with in the past. But there is also new talent, like James Cottle, and people from different musical worlds, like Vincent Corver, who comes from the classical world. “Everyone Needs Love” has Eric Lumiere and Gaelan. And there is Louise Burch, from the song “Escape Reality Tonight,” who has a very lush, beautiful vocal. I hadn’t worked with any of the vocalists prior to this album. For me, it’s always about finding people who share the same passion for music. It doesn’t have to be that they enjoy the same kind of music; it’s more about understanding what music should do. Music should be straightforward. Music should be intense. Music should reach out to the audience. When you find these artists to work with, then it’s absolutely amazing.
How would you describe the album’s vibe?
This one is a very straightforward trance album with a lot of musical substance, with great compositions, great productions, and a lot of drive to it. There is a very positive angle to this album. I really think it’s something that is very positively uplifting.
What gets you excited about playing Dreamstate SoCal?
Dreamstate is about trance music. It’s really all about the people that enjoy that music. Therefore, you have a very positively demanding audience. Let’s put it this way: They know their shit. And this is something I really like, because it’s an extra challenge. I really enjoy interacting with the audience and enjoying the music together.
If you know there is an audience that loves this kind of music, you can experiment with bringing new aspects in. It’s not just about playing the huge classics of trance music. People always ask me to play “Soul of an Angel,” “Time of Your Life.” I do that, but I also include a lot of different elements in the set. I play different live versions of these tracks. And at Dreamstate, I’m able to do that with an audience in front of me that actually knows about our music and vibe.
You’re performing AEON a Dreamscape. What can the audience expect?
It’s an audiovisual concept about drifting off, escaping reality, and becoming one with the music and the sound. Through the visuals, we try to support that aspect. For instance, there is this visualization of a portal that actually makes you go into a different dimension. I also have two keyboardists with me that help to create an even wider soundscape. Being onstage with two keyboardists who can take elements and make them more intense, and catering to the moment, is something that brings the whole performance to a different level. We are simply trying to enhance what music does.
At the end of the day, every audience is different. My team and I have to challenge ourselves but also be open, absorbing what’s going on, and tweaking and twisting the things with every show.
What’s the secret to captivating a crowd at a massive music festival like this?
Being authentic—because therefore you are going to be believable. Also, interacting with the audience, with the music at the center of the interacting. It’s really communicating through the music, feeling what the audience feels. Be one. If I wasn’t onstage playing, I would be on the dancefloor, enjoying myself. I feel the same excitement about this music as my audience, and that’s what brings it all together.
Dreamstate SoCal 2017 takes place Thanksgiving weekend, Friday, November 24, and Saturday, November 25, at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, July 11, at noon PT. For more information, visit the official website.