When German trance legend Paul van Dyk fell from the stage at Utrecht’s A State of Trance earlier this year, the ripples permeated the furthest fringes of the dance communities. DJs from Tiesto to Paul Oakenfold and Ferry Corsten sent their regards and fans held their breath waiting for news on the recovery process.
Though we can all sigh deeply in relief that the producer is doing well enough to make a return bid to EDC Las Vegas on June 18, the alarming truth is that Van Dyk’s injuries were significantly worse than anyone feared. His camp has posted updates throughout his recovery, but much of the grisly details have only recently been released through Van Dyk’s candid interview with Billboard.
According to the interview, the producer made a move to the front of the stage to interact with fans and fell through an unmarked swath of fabric that appeared to be solid ground in the low light setting. Van Dyk was immediately airlifted to the hospital and Armin Van Buuren promptly cancelled all mainstage events for the remainder of the festival out of solemn solidarity.
When the dust settled, Van Dyk had broken his spine in two places, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, and had an open wound on the back of his head.
“If you imagine that you break your spine and that’s the easy thing, then you can imagine what the last three months have been like. And what the future months to full recovery will be like.”
Any one of those injuries could have been fatal and doctors warned his family he would likely not survive, but due to the love and support of his fiancee and his fans, the producer was miraculously able to pull through.
“Because of the brain injury, I had to learn to walk again… I had to learn how to speak; I had to learn how to eat. I can do a lot of things that I was able to do before, but it’s still a long way until I’m at the point where I want to be — and the point that I came from.”
Though Paul was slated to release a string of new music this year, he says that he has taken the back burner to recovery and selective life performances. Despite the challenges he faces completing routine tasks–making coffee is still a struggle–the prospect of performing again is too exciting to refuse.
We’re doing substantially less to make sure that every single time I play I give the 100% that people are used to. The last thing I want is being on stage and not feeling able to do it. When I play, I will be there 100%. I have to play less shows simply because I’m in the process of recovering.
The electronic community at large can only be grateful for Van Dyk’s fortune, but the incident is an unsettling reminder of just how hard we push working DJs in the current circuit. The EDM renaissance has certainly mollified a generally contentious relationship between electronic music and mainstream culture, but it’s come at a cost. Recent appeals from Laidback Luke and Avicii only highlight the intensity of the modern DJ’s rigorous lifestyle and acts like Steve Aoki and Skrillex have clocked 200 and 322 shows in a calendar year, respectively.
Van Dyk himself has been outspoken against these issues in the past–berating the pressure against DJs to crowd pander with cheap antics and top 100 tracks–but maintains the crowd has always been the focus. As Van Dyke notes ruefully:
“I fell doing something that’s part of any DJ’s performance: interacting with your audience.”
There’s still a long road of recovery ahead, but Van Dyk says he’s ready for the undertaking and is simply grateful for the support of his fans and the overwhelmingly positive responses he’s gotten since the fall.
I would have never thought how much love there is out there for me and my music. I can only say thank you to all the people who took the time just for a second to write a little note on Facebook or Twitter, to send me a card. Those little things gave me the energy to move on. I want to express my sincere gratitude to anyone that took a moment to think about me.
All photos courtesy Paul Van Dyk/Billboard.
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