Ahead of Hong Kong gig, DJ Paul van Dyk talks East Germany, learning to spin, and what he gets from his fans
The German DJ will rock the stage at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal during October 20’s Cream Tours event, alongside German DJ duo Cosmic Gate and Britain’s Christina Novelli
How did you get into music? When I was in my early-to-mid teens, radio was the only way to listen to music that wasn’t controlled by the state in East Germany. Its "scarcity" made it that much more compelling. Electronic or synth music was in its emerging stages, so you had those two forces coming together at once - it was kinetic. For me, music, and further to that, electronic music specifically became a fixation. Later on, I managed to get very occasional bits of vinyl (a relative who could travel to the West brought me back my first record), but for years it was radio and radio only. All the music and shows I listened to came from the other side of the Berlin Wall and were broadcast by SFB Radio.
Where did you learn your trade? I learnt it the same place as pretty much everyone of my generation learnt it: at home. That’s the best place to learn. You get all the early mistakes made and then you start making those tapes, passing them around your friends and hearing what they have to say.
Who do you have to thank for your success? My fans. They’re the ones that keep my passion running at these levels. A musician produces to make music to move people. A DJ plays it so he can enjoy sharing that music with audiences. People respond to that, prompting the musician and DJ to go back and do it all over again. It’s an entirely cyclical/reciprocal thing - perpetual motion of sorts.
What would you be if you were not a DJ? It would be something food-related. I cook a lot. Pretty much whenever and wherever I get the opportunity!
How do you feel about DJ rankings? Do you keep track of charts as such? Regarding the big ones, I feel broadly the same as I think most other DJs do these days. They’re not assessments of skill, ability, attainment or quality, but more barometers of popularity. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or, necessarily, a good thing, but the goals I set myself are entirely unrelated to polls or charts.
What was it like being nominated for a Grammy? It was tremendous, certainly, something I was (and still am) very proud of. There are other things that over time have meant more. Achieving musical and artistic freedom, for example, is something that in the early years took more time and struggle to gain. It is something that I benefit from every day of my professional life.
What other aspect of your career might people recognise you from? Most likely to be, I think, either what I do in the studio or what I do on stage.
What’s on your playlist right now? What has been on your playlist for as long as you can remember? What do you listen to when you’re jetlagged? On my playlist right now are all the demos I have for potential release on my record label VANDIT. "For as long as I can remember”, would be Half A Person by The Smiths. It is my favourite track from the very early days. Jetlagged, well I’ve never really spotted myself going for one track above many others, when I feel like that.
Where is your favourite place in the world to spin? I might be able to narrow that list down to a number in double figures, but “favourite ever”, I’ve really no idea.
How different are the audiences from place to place? I used to pick up on a lot more differences earlier in my career. Nowadays, though, nowhere near as much. I think that has a lot to do with how long electronic music’s been around now.
What can the Cream Tours audience expect from you on October 20? A whole lot of fresh music from my new album The Politics Of Dancing 3!
Cream Tours, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, Kowloon Bay, October 20, 9pm to 5am. Tickets on sale at HKTicketing.com