This past Thursday night at Ann Arbor’s The Necto, a line of
people an hour deep stood patiently outside in the chilly spring
air. While hour-long lines might be the norm in New York nightlife,
they are certainly a rare sight here in Washtenaw County. Yet like
an army of faithful pilgrims, the crowd was tensed, ready to
unleash its evangelical dance energy on none other than Paul Van
The Michigan Daily sat down with Van Dyk before his show last
Thursday to talk about politics, music and dance culture in
The Michigan Daily: Is it interesting for you to play in smaller
venues like The Necto as opposed to bigger city clubs like in New
York or Chicago?
Paul Van Dyk: Well, first of all there’s the connection with
Detroit and the whole area. (Detroit) is a root of electronic music
with places like Berlin, Manchester and Sheffield. This is where
this music actually came from. Therefore it’s so much like I’m
going into a provincial area. Instead I know I’m coming back to a
place I know has a strong connection with electronic music.
TMD: Does it feel strange to be here touring in America given
the current world events?
PVD: It’s not strange touring while this is going on because I
have a very clear (political) position. I make that standing very
clear through my Internet site (www.paulvandyk.com) and through
interviews. So in a way, I think it’s even better to be out, to
have the opportunity to talk to people like yourself and to be
somehow connected with people in the crowd and make them aware of
what’s going on.
TMD: What about the Detroit influence on your music and your
interaction with Detroit when you were growing up in East
PVD: Detroit techno made me become a DJ in a way. I heard all
this electronic music even in East Germany on the radio and this
was how I got really infected with this music.
TMD: Given where dance music is now in 2003, do you ever have an
urge to go back to 1988 or 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down when
this music was really just breaking through in Europe?
PVD: I’m still as excited about this music and as passionate
about this music as I was back then. I’m very happy that I was able
to experience (that time period), but I’m a very optimistic and
forward-looking person. You will never hear me say ‘The good old
days were better.’ My experiences back then were totally cool. Yet
the thing is it’s even better these days. So many people worldwide
are connected through this music to each other.
TMD: I’ve noticed the electronic music scene in Berlin and
Germany in general these days seems very broad. People are doing
everything from trance and house, to glitch music, IDM and
microhouse. Do you see your style of music as contemporary with
these newer artists and the directions they’ve taken with
PVD: The thing with Berlin is that it never had its own sound.
Frankfurt, Germany, had its own sound, and there’s a certain sound
from Manchester in the U.K. The new styles were coming from places
like that, not from Berlin. The reason is that we have a lot of
very talented, passionate producers and DJs that all have their
very own unique idea about music. I have my own idea, someone like
Jan Driver has his pumping house style, there’s DJ Westbam who has
the whole electro thing on his side. There’s so many different
(genres), and it’s all on a very high quality level. I won’t even
say we influence each other. This is one thing Berlin has – very
strong, clear ideas.
TMD: What do you think about some of the legal restrictions they
have here in the U.S. – early closing hours for nightclubs, tight
control over substances, compared to the nature of nightclubs in
PVD: The only thing I can address is the drug issue because I
think it is a worldwide problem, and I think it’s approached
totally different. When they close a club down, it’s not preventing
kids from being attracted to drugs. What would make much more sense
is to actually inform them what they actually do to their bodies if
they take something. Taking away the glamour to it (is crucial),
like ‘I’m taking an E!’ so they know what’s happening to them. That
way it’s not becoming normal, but they will know what’s going to
happen so they don’t die or have health problems after they do
The other thing to ask yourself is from an idealistic view, and
that is why people take drugs. They take drugs to get out of their
real world. This problem lies in the social system of the country.
If you give people options and possibilities in their life they
will never get caught in this drug spiral that’s become so
TMD: Have you heard of the legislation they are proposing here
in the U.S. called the RAVE Act? The act makes it illegal in some
cases to have parties because they are associated with drug
PVD: That would be the same as if you say driving a car is
illegal because you could run someone over. That doesn’t make any
sense, but in that regard, they teach people how to drive a car.
They control the process of learning to drive a car. As absurd as
that sounds I think it’s a good comparison. There’s some danger
involved, but in the driving situation they’re taking precautions
and making people aware of what’s going on. In the drug issue they
don’t – they just basically don’t want anyone to ‘drive.’
TMD: What things make you feel optimistic about the future of
PVD: The great thing is that because of the open character of
this music it is able to absorb all the experiences, atmosphere,
and different cultural elements. Therefore it’s always developing
further, and there’s always something influential coming along, and
this might influence someone who has nothing to do with it.
TMD: Is there anything that makes you feel cynical about where
dance music is at or where it is going?
PVD: Some of the cheesiest bullshit is called electronic music
right now, rather than what it really is. There’s all these ’80s
cover versions that are like danceable pop music but have no roots
in the clubs. I could imagine that someone living in Detroit
getting really pissed off with music like this because (Detroit)
used to be underground rock and roll, and suddenly you hear Don
Henley. This obviously makes it a bit cynical, but in general it’s
a very positive thing, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.