Exclusive Interview : Getting To Know Markus Schulz
We know him from Global DJ Broadcast. We soak in his music as he performs. He has crafted his sound to perfection and we cannot get enough of him. From producing to constantly being on the go, Markus Schulz floors us with his presence and his music. He is kind enough to be with Mix247EDM and we are pleased to introduce him today on our interview!
INTERVIEW WITH MARKUS SCHULZ
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview with us! Where are you in the world right now?
Thank you guys for having me. I am speaking to you from my apartment in Berlin – currently around halfway through a two month period away from my regular home in Miami. I was in Asia for the past two weeks, and have gig this coming weekend in Europe, next weekend doing Ultra in Brazil and Paraguay, and the following two weeks are ADE and Transmission in Prague. Busy times.
I’ve recently gotten into trance lately when I went to EZOO, what inspired you to get into trance music? Why not dubstep or any other genre?
At the very beginning, I was trying to get my foot in the door in Arizona. I worked as an assistant in a studio – doing general errands, but having the opportunity to be a fly on the wall during studio sessions. At night, I was afforded the opportunity to go into the studio and experiment with the equipment. I landed some remixes of Top 40 acts, but they weren’t gratifying at all. It was only when I started DJing in the gay clubs in the early 90s that I was able to play interesting music – playing for people who knew their stuff.
This led to me being discovered for a nightclub called The Works, and I played there every Friday and Saturday night open to close for seven years. It was a tremendous and crucial learning experience, but eventually the club closed down, and I moved to London for two years around the millennium to rediscover myself.
London proved to be a turning point. I was living in a studio on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, alongside various other producers of varying styles – trance, house, techno, drum n bass. And it was the trance melodies that stood out in between this cocoon of sound swirling around me. When I figured out that the melody was the most important aspect of a music bed, you could weave everything else around it. And when people think of melodies, they naturally gravitate towards trance.
Where I have been so fortunate, and I think many of the trance guys will tell you the same thing, is that our genre has the most passionate and loyal fans. Many people regard trance with a stigma of being antisocial and for antisocial people, but the people who are attracted to trance LOVE this music – it means so much in their lives. There’s nothing that’s as amazing as when you hear that proper melody. When one chord goes to another, I call it “the nerve”. When you strike that nerve with a melody, it’s totally different when you hit a nerve with a drop. You change people’s lives with these melodies, you give people something.
ULTRA EUROPE 2016
You’ve recently played a 10 hour set. Do you prefer long sets like that compared to shorter ones?
There is a unique charm about both, and they are necessary methods to exercise in a DJ’s career.
With festivals, you usually only have between one hour and 90 minutes to do your thing, so there isn’t really a huge scope to explore. You tend to play a little safer, because if you make a programming mistake, it’s very difficult to recover in a short space of time. Festivals are also like a shop-window for DJs, because you’re playing alongside all the other top-tier guys, and in many ways, the fans may not necessarily be attending to see you, but have the opportunity to maybe enjoy what you do for the first time. So because of that, the festival sets are generally your signature tracks, presented in high intensity.
But with clubs however, you are almost always headlining, meaning everyone is there to see you perform, and more often than not you are presented with the opportunity to play longer.
Festivals are important, and I do enjoy the spectacular settings they present, along with the opportunity to cast a wider net to your fan base. However, my favorite gigs are the ones where I get to perform from open to close; because it means I can present the full spectrum of my sound and take people on a real journey throughout the night. I need those open to close solo sets for my soul.
I think that our biggest privilege as a DJ should be paying tribute to the art behind it. What I don’t like are the club nights where a promoter tries to present a festival-style lineup within a club, meaning everyone plays short sets and there’s no room to breathe or explore.
Tell us what a normal day is like for you?
It’s funny, because I meet so many people and they always say to me, “I have no idea how you do everything that you do, because there is just so much”. Although when you’re deep in that grind, everything really flows into a day-to-day routine.
Usually on a Monday I’ll catch up on emails and get in touch with my team at the office in Miami and elsewhere, see if there are any A&R needs for Coldharbour Recordings, and try to do a little bit of media stuff like interviews such as these. Depending on ideas, the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday will be concentrating on studio work, as there is always the next production to think about inserting into the sets. Wednesday is radio show day, meaning going through the promos and digging through Beatport, and mixing Global DJ Broadcast before sending to the stations. Thursday is more studio and media work, and then on Friday I’m back out on the road again for the weekend.
It’s quite daunting at times, but as long as you are motivated and dedicated, you can handle the workload like a daily routine. What I will try to do however is roughly once a month, I’ll take a random Monday off to recharge, with no phone and no computer. It helps me decompress and refocus for the grind ahead.
Hands down, what has been your most memorable experience as a producer / DJ?
There are so many that it’s difficult to choose, but one moment which particularly sticks with me was in Amsterdam. I got into a taxi at Schipol airport to take me to my hotel, and during the drive, The New World was played on Radio 538 – the first time I had ever heard one of my own songs playing played on an FM station.
It was surreal there and then, but I look back on that moment with such pride.
What advice would you give to up and coming producers / DJs?
For producers, it’s absolutely critical that you harness a sound and style that makes you uniquely identifiable. We are in a copycat scene – where if one person makes something unique that turns into a hit, you have 500 replicas on Beatport within a week. But if you have a sound that stands out as being different, the biggest names in the industry will be attracted to your work. My advice is to have lots of varying influences, take little bits from each, and make them a hybrid of your own.
On the DJ side, learn the intricacies behind the art of a DJ set. Study the sets of your favorite DJs and understand how the sets are constructed, and how each individual piece contributes towards an overall flow and story of an evening. The biggest asset you can gain is the ability to read a room, and react accordingly. So many of the new generation of DJs show up with a festival set for every club in every city, and more often than not it doesn’t work, because no two clubs or cities are the same. Take every opportunity you can to learn, even if you are DJing for 5 or 10 people in a coffee shop, you are still learning; you are still reading an audience.
And most importantly of all, you have to dedicate your life to this, and you have to absolutely love what you do – because quite simply if you are doing something you don’t love or enjoy, you will burn out very quickly.
What do you want your fans to take away from your music?
I just want to inspire people. The most gratifying aspect of this job is meeting so many amazing fans from around the world, who humble me with their warmth and appreciation. You meet them in person or receive messages on social media or emails, saying that my music or DJ sets have helped them through sickness or dark times in their life, and that’s what keeps me going.
And the other aspect is that I hope when I hang up the headphones, there will be a legacy established that will make people remember me fondly – paying tribute to the art of DJing. Of course the scene is dominated by the EDM gateway layer. Many of the young fans exposed to this layer will either tap out or begin to move into the next layer in order to seek more interesting music. My responsibility is to make people fall in love with melodies and fall in love with the art of a DJ set.
Snapchat or Instagram?
I like both but have a preference for Snapchat. I feel I can be more mischievous and scandalous on there! Haha.
What is the craziest thing that has happened during a set?
I could mention what happened at EDC in Las Vegas this year. The Watch the World album hadn’t been released that long, and as part of my set that night, I had vocalists Adina Butar and Ethan Thompson performing their songs live with me.
The only problem was that they were situated on a stage below me – with no lights! And the overall structure was so big that no one was able to probably see them perform, despite them singing to a crowd of 50,000 people.
We heard through the grapevine you had some crazy skills breakdancing back in the day. Have you still got the moves?
That is indeed true!
My earliest roots in the scene were as a breakdancer. My friends and I would all make mixtapes and trade them with each other, and because more and more people were falling in love with the experience, it eventually led to the stage where we had to organize a party.
So we hired a venue inside a hotel for the “big” event. The idea was that we would all take turns to DJ throughout the evening, and everyone was excited at the prospect. But on the night itself, everyone else got cold feet, so I wound up DJing for the entire duration of the party. The owner of the hotel was impressed with what he saw, so he offered me a job. And the rest as they say is history.
My body isn’t as flexible as it once was, but I can still bust a decent groove while in the DJ booth!
What is the wildest thing someone has written about you that is not true but made you laugh?
A few people have claimed that I have a private jet and fly private everywhere. I wish!! It would certainly cut down on the amount of time waiting at airports.
Tell us something we would be surprised to know about Markus Schulz?
I have a fear of heights, which sounds bizarre for someone so spends so much of their life on planes. I always try to request information from clubs about the location of a stage or DJ booth, because I do feel very uneasy about having to climb anything. There was a gig in Poland a decade ago where the stage was so high that I froze and couldn’t perform, because I couldn’t overcome the fear of climbing up to such a height.
It almost happened during my first visit to Burning Man too, but somehow I stumped up the courage to do it.
What is one song you could have on repeat and never be tired of (any genre, any decade)
That would have to be Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls.
It is such a beautiful track that touches the soul. One of the best baselines ever heard in a piece of music, and the pads are just mesmerizing. When that saxophone hits, I just melt. I think it has been quite influential to a lot of people in the electronic world, it was so ahead of its time.
Favorite TV show or cartoon when you were younger?
Spiderman. I loved it. I still have a pair of Spiderman pajamas in my collection.
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