By Jeremy Hallock
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By Observer Staff
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Million-selling DJ and renowned remixer Paul van Dyk doesn't ask for much. On tour, van Dyk brings his own computers and various paraphernalia in order to recreate his dense and danceable compositions in front of a sweaty crowd. All van Dyk wants, really, is a sound engineer who knows his/her shit.
"This guy in Nashville didn't have a clue about how electronic music should sound," van Dyk says from his tour bus on the way out of Las Vegas. "Besides that, he was kind of a snobby asshole as well. Instead of making sure things sounded right, he was in the back, checking his fucking e-mail."
Normally a reserved type of guy, the ire van Dyk had for this particular sound guy is atypical. Direct, but relatively unassuming, the German DJ just wants the sound good for the audience.
"I like my music to be intense," van Dyk says. "This is what I do. You simply can't use the sound settings of a rock band for electronic music."
Van Dyk's commitment to quality would seem to have paid off quite well. Over the past 15 years, he has sold more than 3 million records and become the remixer du jour for the likes of Justin Timberlake, Depeche Mode, New Order, Britney Spears and U2.
His approach to remixing is on par with his attitude about his own music: "I don't just put some dance beats underneath the track," van Dyk says. "I basically restructure whatever song I'm working on."
His restructuring of U2's "Elevation" is a record the German DJ is eager to brag about. And, well, should he be: In Van Dyk's hands, the song becomes a techno geek's wet dream—a pulsing, eight-minute-long detour that weaves Bono's grunts and moans into an icy and impressive Teutonic wall of sound.
"I am very proud of that remix," van Dyk says. "I remember waiting for Bono to call and approve it so the label could release the record."
And approve it Bono did—just as have all of the artists van Dyk has worked with. "Elevation" appears with 11 other remixes as the second disc on the recently released double-album Van Dyk retrospective, Volume. The first disc contains 13 original compositions taken from Van Dyk's five full-length efforts.
Currently at the beginning of a 17-day, 17-city odyssey across America, van Dyk sounds like a man on a mission—and not just a guy out to promote his own music. He's out to prove that punching up music on a computer can be every bit as exhilarating as a real-life rock show.
"You have to be a musician, and you have to be somewhat talented," van Dyk says. "The computer is only going to play back what I create, and what I do is very lively and very exciting."
Big words to be sure, but van Dyk has the moxy to back up his bravado.