He may be fit enough to perform again, but Paul van Dyk’s psychological scars still linger.
In an emotional In Conversation session at the Amsterdam Dance Event last week, the veteran trance music producer detailed his painstaking recovery after a horrific fall on stage at the State Of Trance festival in the Dutch city of Utrecht in February 2016.
Sustaining serious spinal damage and brain injuries, Van Dyk spent more than three months in hospital and underwent “all the kinds of therapies that you can possibly imagine” before making a low-key DJing comeback in June of that year.
While he remembers the return gig being satisfying, he says he has no recollection of the fall itself, and doctors have recommended he never watch the various YouTube videos that show what happened, for the sake of his mental health and well-being. “I don’t remember it at all and I think the brain does that to protect itself,” he says. “I know there is video out there of me falling but I can’t look at it. It wouldn’t be good for me.”
But one thing that’s clear for Van Dyk is the cause of the fall. The 46-year-old DJ fell through an unmarked hole on the stage that was covered in cloth. Van Dyk wants his experience to be used as a cautionary tale. He told the packed theatre, which was full of budding promoters and artists, to be diligent when it comes to the safety measures of their shows.
“That’s one of the reasons why I am here,” he said. “I want everyone involved in some way in production and booking to shine a light on the safety of their events.”
Not that van Dyk and his team were absent-minded when it came to his safety before his fall. “We also did that at A State of Trance, apparently the presented stage design was not what was meant, therefore there are responsibilities there that have been addressed and will be addressed.”
Despite being a mainstay of the influential music festival for many years before his fall, it’s unlikely that van Dyk will ever perform as part of A State of Trance again. His voice trembled with anger at the lack of support afforded by the festival’s organisers.
“Up to this point, none of these guys involved picked up the phone to call me and ask me how I am. Look, legal stuff is one thing, but there is a moral thing to this as well,” he said. “If you come to my house and slip and break an arm, I will call you and see how you are doing. But with these guys, no way, it goes to tell you about the characters of the people involved.”
A State of Trance has yet to respond to Van Dyke’s comments at ADE.
Despite the emotional and physical trauma, the accident has not robbed van Dyk of his enthusiasm for creating music. Last year he released the album, From Then On, which was full of the cinematic style of trance music that is responsible for his success. He is also maintaining a steady touring career, with a string of big festival and club appearances, which included a show at Dubai's Zero Gravity in April. But due to the severity of his injuries, the days of his marathon, five-hour sets are over for now.
“I still have some limitations from the accident,” he says. “I am doing 50 per cent less than before when it comes to shows. The sets are not the usual three hours and are now one-hour-and-a-half, or maybe two.”
Despite the clear trauma of the accident, van Dyk still finds a lot to love about stepping up to the DJ deck. “For me as an artist the best feeling is not just when I play one of my big tunes and everyone goes bonkers, it is actually much more exciting if I play something brand new that no one has heard before and people like it,” he says. “That to me is actually much more rewarding to experience.”
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