In February 2016, Paul Van Dyk suffered a brain injury and spinal damage after falling off the stage at Utrecht’s State of Trance festival. A year-plus removed from the accident, he’s getting back to what he does best. He’s confirmed as a 2017 resident DJ at Cream—the longest-running residency in Ibiza—and is deep into a new album. We caught up with Van Dyk in Germany to chat about his EDC appearance, new music and his recovery.
How did your recent U.S. tour go? It was really good, actually, amazing. The crowd that came out was so dedicated and so passionate about this music.
What’s the biggest difference playing the clubs instead of the huge festivals, since you do so much of both? I approach the whole thing kind of the same way. I have a pretty clear idea about what I’m musically about, and what I want to do, and it’s always down to the interaction with the audience. And there’s a different kind of interaction: In the club, it’s more intimate, it’s more confined, than at the big stage at the festival. I take both with the same intensity.
On tour, were there any songs in particular that created a huge reaction? The tour was catered around me and my music, so whenever I played one of my own tracks, people went especially crazy. Like “Touched by Heaven,” which was a track we released together with the tour, almost like a tour anthem.
That song feels very meditative. How and when did it come together for you? I wrote it in Los Angeles. That was actually the week after EDC last year, the very first time I played after my accident. I felt so relieved that I’m still able to play. Because until that point, I wasn’t sure if my creativity was still there, if I still knew how everything works, if I actually was able to go through with everything. That track has very special meaning to me.
What do you recall about that performance at EDC last year? We chose the show specifically to be the first one [back], because the whole Insomniac [team] are good friends. I knew I was in good hands. It felt very safe for me. It was very special. There was more than one moment where the goose bumps actually changed into tears of happiness and gratefulness.
How are you feeling now? I’m much better than I was one year ago, but the injuries from the accident are rather severe, so it is going to take a long time until I fully recover. Although I’m able to walk and talk seemingly very easily again, there are non-apparent side effects that will hinder me for the next several years. The projection of my doctors is that it’ll take up to five years to make a full recovery. It comes with a level of pain, and I’m exhausted far faster. I almost don’t have any, let’s say, spare battery with me. And when I do something like performing, it drains me quite a lot. It’s more difficult than before. But at the same time, I’m the happiest person and the luckiest person, first of all, to still be alive, and also to be able to do what I love so much.
Has what happened changed your musical approach in any way? Life in general is always my biggest inspiration. And all the music was created, and is still in the process of being created, under the influence of what happened. I wouldn’t say a deeper approach, because I always made my music with that. To me, it feels closer to me somehow. It’s difficult to describe.
How close is the album to being done then? The plan is definitely this year.
Are you going to be able to catch anyone else’s set at EDC? We are definitely going to go a little early. I don’t know exactly the running order, but we’re definitely going to hang before and after.
Do you have any rituals or go-to places that you like to visit when you’re in Las Vegas? I haven’t been in Vegas, properly, for quite some time, for a proper club show. Everything developed more into these table and bottle service kind of shows, and that’s not necessarily my audience. I haven’t been in Vegas that much besides special, targeted shows like EDC. I’m just going there, I’m enjoying the vibe, and enjoying the city, and I’m looking forward to the show.