TMN Resident Artist Interview – Markus Schulz [EXCLUSIVE]

Markus Schulz
GDJB Dec 26 2013 Markus Schulz Flashback Episode

Well it’s finally here, a new year full of endless possibilities. This past year, TMN launched our resident artist program. Each month we had the opportunity to showcase the amazing talents of an artist for our readers to get to know on a more intimate level. We couldn’t have asked for better artists or a better response. So as we wrap up this year we wanted to end with an artist who we have respected for many years, one who constantly is changing the ways of dance music. For the final hoorah for 2013, we have the pleasure of getting to know Markus Schulz just a little bit better.

TMN: Markus! First off we just want to say we are such huge fans of you and all of your music. Thank you so much for wrapping up 2013 with us.

Thank you so much guys. It’s been another hectic and productive year.

TMN: Let’s start from the very beginning. Now you were born in Germany and you immigrated to the United States when you were young. Where did you grow up in the states?

Growing up in Germany was difficult for me. My step-father was in the military, so every couple of years we would have to move locations, and therefore any friendships you had forged with other kids vanished overnight, because the technology and means to keep in touch just wasn’t there. I was one of the so-called “army brats”.

It took me a long time to come out of my shell and show my personality to friends, but when I eventually did, it was time to pack up and move again.

I emigrated to the US when I was 13, and lived just outside Boston. It was a massive culture shock for me, and I struggled to fit in anywhere. I didn’t know any English, so had to learn the language quickly too. Music for me acted as a form of escape, and for a long time, it was the only friend I really had.

markus-schulzTMN: Now let’s talk about your early influences when it came to music. Do you remember the first tape or CD that you owned? What did you like to listen to as a kid?

Haha I do actually, it was Zapp’s More Bounce to the Ounce, many years after it came out.

When I was growing up, I would listen to the radio at night and get lost in the music. A lot of people will be surprised when I say this, but most of my influence comes from classic rock. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, ELO and Manfred Mann. On the electronic side, the likes of Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode were really pushing boundaries, and that captivated my imagination too.

When I moved to the US, the breakdance scene was massive (hence buying More Bounce to the Ounce). So the likes of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Scorpio were really important influences for me too – that’s why it was a bit of a boyhood dream coming true when I got to work with them on the vocal version of Sleepwalkers.

TMN: How about the first time you ever heard “dance music”? How old were you and what were some of your thoughts when you heard that music?

I was quite young to be honest. Because I didn’t have many friendships growing up, radio became an essential companion for me.

Listening to the radio allowed me to discover the big mixshows coming out of New York – DJs such as Mr. Magic, Red Alert, Tony Humphries and the Latin Rascals. I was fascinated by the different layers that made up an individual track, so every time I heard something I liked, I would listen out for a particular aspect and try to understand why it was part of the song.

When I would come home from school, I’d always turn on the radio and start listening. When it was cloudy, I was able to pick up a lot of college stations from further away, and at night they would play more interesting music beyond the mainstream, and some of them would focus on dance music.

Eventually I would begin to collect records and start learning the music behind them.

TMN: You started DJing at quite a young age. Can you tell us about an early DJ memory that you have, either playing at a show or at a party or anything like that, just an early experience that stuck with you and why it stuck with you?

When I was a teenager, I was immersed in the breakdance scene. My friends and I would all make mixtapes and trade them with each other, and because more and more people were loving 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.

TMN: A lot has been said that when your music started to really blow up, it was really noticed by a lot of European DJs. Do you think when it comes to dance music, Europe has always been a bit ahead of everywhere else?

Yes and no.

I think if you examine the scene in North America it has always been healthy in the major markets. The likes of New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Chicago have a rich history of musically respected venues and events, and even though Las Vegas is absolutely booming right now, it had a huge backlog of legendary raves throughout the years.

The European fans however have been really kind to me, and in some instances, they embraced me in territories before anywhere else. The likes of Prague for example, I have a deep relationship with the scene there because of all the Transmission events over the years; London with my history of living on Coldharbour Lane and the Ministry of Sound residency, and of course Amsterdam because of how the Dutch fans embraced me through Armin and Armada’s support.

Nowadays though, because dance music has become this phenomenon in America, the newer generation emanating out of there is leading the way. How long it will last is anyone’s guess, but the more and more people who fall in love with electronica can only be a good thing for our scene in the long term.

Markus-Schulz-Scream-ReleaseTMN: Now, let’s talk about that moment when you realized that you were making it doing what you love. Many artists talk about a specific moment or place or show where they remember just realizing how much they had and how far they could go with their music. Please tell us about your coming to music moment.

It’s strange you know, I don’t think I’ve ever really had a huge individual breakout moment.

If you look at my career overall, the progress has been steadily consistent year after year. It has been more about a gradual accumulation – Global DJ Broadcast becoming established out of Miami and more people tuning in online, the Without You Near artist album, the start of the city series compilations, the Coldharbour remixes of Telepopmusik’s Breathe and so on.

It’s probably down to endlessly working but I’ve never really sat back and taken everything in, because there’s always that next big project around the corner. I’ve always tried to keep my feet on the ground and I honestly mean this when I say it, there is always that fear that people will think your next performance won’t be as good as your last.

What I will say however is that I take absolutely none of this for granted. I thank my lucky stars every day that I am able to do something I love for a living, and being able to support my family in the process. It goes back to what I’ve always believed in – anyone out there to takes time out of their lives to support me in some way gets my respect. It doesn’t matter if I am playing for 50 people or 50,000, I want to give them my absolute best and let them have some of the best times of their lives.

TMN: Besides being an amazing artist, you are also the proud developer of Coldharbour Recordings a very well known label. Talk to us about what goes into choosing artists to represent on your label, what is it you look for?

Coldharbour’s main ethos from the outset has been to provide a platform for upcoming and developing talent to showcase their sounds. The label is very much a family – where each producer might have their own unique style, the common bond is the soul of the music. The Coldharbour sound for me can always be related to the kid that never fitted in at school or nobody understood.

As my career has grown the label has broadened along with it, meaning that the tracks signed over the years have become more diverse than its earliest days. But I would like to think that if you listen to the tracks deeply enough, there is a soul underneath that resonates. I am as proud of signing Fisherman & Hawkins’ Apache as I am of Probspot’s Blueberry.

What I seek with these producers is that they share the same passion as I do, and are capable of making things that can inspire me as much as the fans and listeners. With the label, I work with every producer before the final product; providing feedback and giving advice on any changes. In most cases, I am their eyes and ears for testing the tracks in the clubs, so I can assess whether or not a track is resonating.

It’s a really exciting time for the label; now that we are branching out into the Coldharbour Nights. It’s a nice little legacy builder – being able to take people under your wing, guide them, and give them the platform to take on the world. Also the abiility to present something like Coldharbour Day – a huge radio marathon where all of the family get to showcase their talents – is something I’m really proud to do, and hopefully is something that allows the fans to connect with us in a special way.

TMN: Should I also call you Dakota? This was the name of your alias you took on a few years back to help bring in new fans, correct? You are not the only artist who does this so can you kind of describe why you chose to have this alias, resurrect this alias and why you think other artists do the same thing?

Dakota_TBT2-Booklet.inddThe Dakota alias actually goes way back to the late 90s, when I was putting out productions and remixes on labels like Bedrock, Renaissance and Yoshitoshi. It’s named after the street I used to live on in Arizona.

Generally, producers will come up with aliases for two reasons – either as a workaround to release something on a different label, or to have something conceptually that has a unique style.

The main ethos of Dakota is the instrumental, clubby side of my sound. The biggest difference between it and the Markus Schulz tracks / albums is that with Dakota it’s just entirely me from start to finish, making conventional club tracks that fuel my DJ sets. The tracks tend to be a little deeper and slower.

There was around a 7 year period where the alias was quiet. But after I got done with my second album Progression, I still felt lots of really cool ideas in my head, and thought it would be a bit of a waste not to go into the studio and experiment a little.

When BBC Radio 1 asked me to put together my first studio Essential Mix, it acted as the catalyst to produce something special for that set. Fast forward a couple of months and with the Toronto ’09 compilation on the horizon, I felt the same way. So those two projects alone yielded 4 Dakota tracks, and it eventually led to the first Thoughts Become Things album. It proved to be so popular with the fans that demand for the second chapter was natural, and I know so many out there keep asking for a third!

Even though most of my focus over the past 12 months has been on Scream 2, I have still kept the Dakota alias active. Baraccas was actually the last thing I worked on before putting the Buenos Aires ’13 compilation together, and of course there was Doors Open – a 22 minute long track that has acted as my opener when I play my open to close solo sets.

I have a couple more projects ongoing that will help me get ready for the long sets in 2014.

TMN: You also have an amazing Global DJ Broadcast show that is now in it’s 7th year right? This station can be heard all over the globe and has broadcasted from areas where you have had your World Tour gigs. Talk to us about why you decided to start this show and why you enjoy doing it so much?

Believe it or not, it’s actually in its 12th year! But you are correct in a way because the World Tour concept within the show is in the 7th year.

Doing the show goes back to my love for radio. A lot of fans who have followed me from the days I was beginning to build a reputation will know that I actually had quite a bit of radio experience before Global DJ Broadcast began – through the days of Hot Mix and then hosting the Edge Factor in Arizona.

After taking my sabbatical to London in order to rediscover myself musically, I moved to Miami. There was a station there called Party 93.1 that wanted to branch out into dance music, and obviously with Miami being the host city for Winter Music Conference every year, they wanted to cover the event with a known DJ. So Global DJ Broadcast was born out of the 2002 conference, initially as a one-off, but the broadcast was so popular that it became a weekly show a couple of months afterwards. It would broadcast on Sunday nights at 1am right through to 5 or 6am.

In a bittersweet moment, the station closed in early 2005, meaning that the show didn’t have a home for about 6 weeks. Thankfully though internet radio was really starting to take off; and picked it up for Thursdays along with Armin’s A State of Trance. And now the show is reaching new audiences every week, because it’s airing on Sirius XM’s Electric Area and on over 80 FM stations worldwide.

GDJB is still one of my proudest career achievements. For me, I try to envisage it as a one to one experience with the listener, because that’s how I felt when listening to the radio myself. And then with the World Tour concept, it’s giving people a taste of club culture from locations thousands of miles away; and for those who attend those gigs in particular, they’ve become mementos of the night to live on forever.

Creating Global DJ Broadcast is a big challenge every week, because not only are you trying to break new music and new artists, you also want to present something that will stand out over other shows in the market. I could still see myself doing the show beyond my days of touring. Radio for me is still one of the greatest communication methods today.

TMN: Before we move over to some fun questions, 2014 is just around the corner. What can we look forward to from you in the upcoming year?

You know, when one year finishes and another one begins, I always say to myself “well there’s no way this next year will be as busy or crazy as the last one”. And I’ve been wrong for about 6 years now!

scream two album release partyThe first big focus of the year will be the release of my next artist album, Scream 2. The past few months especially have been incredibly intense for me; dedicating a lot of studio time in between all the other usual responsibilities. But I managed to get the album wrapped up just before Christmas and I’m excited to present it to the world in February. It will pick up from where the first Scream album left off, featuring a nice balance of cool melodic vocal tracks with big anthemic instrumentals.

Some of the tracks from the album will be familiar with fans already, because of them being featured on my Buenos Aires ’13 compilation – the likes of Remember This, Mardi Gras and Towards the Sun (my collab with Rex Mundi). Another instrumental track, Destino, has been getting really big reactions in my sets, ever since opening with it in my 7 and a half hour set at Stereo in Montreal back in October. And at the recent Transmission event in November, I debuted a track called In the Shadows. There will also be a few surprises in there – including a track with one of the legendary voices in our scene – the one and only CeCe Peniston.

On the touring front, there are 4 huge parties celebrating the release of Scream 2 in February – Los Angeles, Miami, New York and London. I’m also confirmed for two ASOT 650 shows so far (the first with Ferry as New World Punx inUtrecht). March will mean Australia and Winter Music Conference in Miami, and I’m already counting down the days to Bal en Blanc’s 20th anniversary in Montreal in April.

TMN: Alright Markus, now shifting to some other fun questions. Miami, where you reside, is known for sun, fun, and some plastic surgery. What is your favorite thing about the city?

I love Miami. When I moved back to the US from London I began thinking about what was the right city for me. I knew that if my bookings started to pick up internationally then I needed to be somewhere on the east coast. The other factor was the climate, and naturally enough you would want to pick somewhere with warm weather all year around. So Miami was as much of a logistical choice as anything.

I’ve been a Miami resident for 13 years now and have loved it. The nightlife is there if you want it; and the city is home to some of the best clubs in the world like Space and Mansion, along with WMC.

I actually split my time between home in Miami and an apartment I have in Berlin. If I’m in Europe touring for a few weeks in succession, then it’s nice to have the option of Berlin to cut down on travel. It’s very useful especially during the busy festival season in the summer.

TMN: Since you have those German roots, are you much of a beer man or do you prefer a different poison?

I’m a total lightweight so generally I don’t drink a whole lot. If I do though then more often than not it’s vodka and cranberry juice.

TMN: What are three things that are always in your fridge?

Flavored water, milk and fruit.

TMN: You have played all over the world, in so many countries and states, tell us about the craziest festival and/or show you ever played at and what made it so wild?

There are a couple of instances that stand out, and ironically enough, they took place only a couple of months apart in 2010.

In May of that year I was given the honor of playing in Buenos Aires for Argentina’s Bicentennial celebrations (one of the core reasons why I dedicated the most recent city compilation to BA). I was flying from Madrid and it was without doubt the biggest white knuckle experience I have had in my life. The turbulence was so bad that I honestly started thinking that we would never see dry land again. Somehow we made it and I felt like kissing the ground after landing, but you can imagine how upside down I was feeling afterwards.

But of course you strive to put on your best performance, and the Argentinean fans are so passionate towards me that I was able to get a second wind for the show. I was due to play for 2 hours, but wound up playing for almost 6, and was one of the most memorable gigs I have ever had. As we went into the morning, the go-go dancers started noticing me pulling some breakdance moves in the booth when I was getting lost in the music with the crowd; so they decided to challenge me to a dance-off at the afterparty. There is footage of it on my phone but it has remained under lock and key since.

Then in August that same year, I had one of those crazy 24 hour stretches where I played 3 gigs in 3 different countries. I started playing the closing set at a gig in Barcelona; then it was straight to the airport for the Netherlands, where I played late afternoon at Dance Valley.

The final gig was in Glasgow, but there was a problem with my immigration papers when landing. So I ended up being detained at the airport – handcuffs and all! Eventually the problem was resolved, but the delay meant I had to go straight to the club and perform. I was never so happy for my head to hit the bed pillow as soon as it was all over.

TMN: If you were deserted on a desert island and could only listen to one artist over and over and over again, who would it be?

Out of all the influences, Pink Floyd would have to be the one, especially their Dark Side of the Moon album.

For me, it’s still one of the most influential pieces of music ever created, and I still find new inspirations and ideas through listening to it today. If you have never heard it then it’s an essential item for anyone’s collection, because it was so ahead of its time when it was first released.

TMN: Who do you believe has the best DJ name in the industry right now?

Can I be biased and say New World Punx? Haha.

There are quite a few cool names that have emerged in recent years. Deadmau5 has been a game changer. Strip away everything and he’s an incredible producer that has made a massive impact and influence on others, but when you analyze his brand, so much of it is brilliant and forward thinking.

And for Ferry and I, the whole New World Punx thing has been so fun to do from the outset. It was something that had to be branded organically because so many promoters wanted to book us to play together, so it was cool to label it as one collective item.

TMN: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, from Lady Gaga to LeBron James, who would it be and why?

LeBron would be a good one actually. I’m a huge basketball fan and being a Miami native I support the Heat, so being able to play to his standard would be a bit of a dream. He’s probably going to be up there with Michael Jordan when he eventually calls it a day.

TMN: What is a habit you wish you could break? We all have them, even as adults.

I’m guilty of overanalyzing things too much. Even after doing the radio show for so many years, I still go back and listen to the mix after it has aired and self-critique, and sometimes I can get bogged down in the little intricacies too much. Sometimes I wish I didn’t naturally react like that all the time.

TMN: And last but not least, if your music were an animal, what animal would it be and why?

A unicorn! Haha, only joking.

Probably a lion. It might be big and aggressive looking, but there’s a big heart and soul underneath the surface.

TMN: Markus, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. Hope the rest of the year goes amazing and good luck in the New Year, we can’t wait to see everything you have in store!

Thanks as always for the support. It’s a new year so new challenges and lots of new adventures together.