Markus Schulz and Dakota may be the same person. But as personalities, they both stand apart drastically. The world saw the rise of Dakota in 2009 with the release of “Thoughts Become Things”. The moniker channeled a deeper and a more spiritual side of Markus that none of his followers were exposed to earlier. He now releases his third album, “The Nine Skies” under his Dakota alias. On this occasion, we take the opportunity to get an insight about the album and his year. Read on to know more!
1) Hi Markus! Congratulations on the release of The Nine Skies. How has the response to the album been? Are you pleased with the way it has been received?
Thanks so much. The reaction has been extraordinary, and it has meant a lot to me particularly that when people are listening to it, they understand that each piece forms part of an overall story and journey.
It has been an interesting way to approach an album process. Normally you make the music and then take it out on the road after release, but this was the first time I made music specifically for an entire conceptual show, and created an album based on it.
It’s something that I want to have played a very important role in my overall legacy within the scene.
2) Watch the World had a very happy and summery vibe to it. The Nine Skies channels a much deeper and darker side of your personality. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
It is quite a contrast between the two, but both were driven by circumstance.
Watch the World presented me with a wonderful opportunity to delve into the world of personal songwriting for the first time, and it was something I had been eager to reignite since my days of creative writing in school. It represented what the Markus Schulz productions represent – the special connection with the fans, my experience with them, and what I see while on tour.
Dakota however has always been a more personal, introverted approach.
The various tragedies going on in the world, along with all the other nonsense, made me sit and reflect deeply a lot more. The attacks in Paris were the instigator, but the tipping point was the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando; somewhere close to come, that shook me to my core.
It was at that point where I needed to reach down deep inside of me, painstakingly at times, and try to represent something I felt that needed to be expressed.
I deliberately went quiet on social media for a while, because it felt like such a disconnect to be posting about the gigs, touring the Watch the World album and having a fantastic time, while all this tragedy was happening in daily lives around the world.
This downtime prompted me to read a lot more often than I normally would, and found a fascination with Reiki and its influences.
3) What were the emotions you were trying to throw the spotlight on through Dakota? What were you trying to showcase to the listeners of this album?
I tried to present The Nine Skies as a means almost like a self help book – something where people can pick up and listen not just today, but in 10, 20, even 50 years down the line and be inspired by the story it embodies.
We continually go through life, regardless if we are a child or a grown adult, we all wonder and ask ourselves why we are here. We ponder and ask questions, and if we don’t get answers, then we go searching for them.
I’m not particularly someone who tweets or makes commentaries on various social events, so the best way for me to express everything that I was feeling on the inside was to do it through music, and this album in particular.
It is something that is very personal to me, and one I genuinely hope everyone out there will take time to listen and appreciate. I think it will be one of those albums that many people will not fully understand the journey after only one or even two listens, but eventually I hope that the path laid out towards enlightenment will become clear for everyone who embraces it.
4) What was the idea behind the concept of “The Nine Skies”? How did you come with the idea of the 9 levels?
In Reiki, the message is that we can go through nine different lives in reincarnation. But when I began to think deeply about the concept, it hit me that it was something that could be applied to our own, normal lives.
The Nine Skies, as a concept, can be described as the nine steps undertaken in our path towards enlightenment. Whether we find ourselves at the beginning, as an outcast or following orders; seeking pleasure by meeting different people in environments where you share a singular, common bond; or embracing the role of an activist where you feel you can change the world, and make it a better place by inspiring others – we are all on this path.
This is where The Nine Skies was born, so I undertook the challenge of designing a full-on audiovisual presentation; the first time I have ever done anything of this nature in my career.
The preparation lasted around a year, and continued to evolve with new tracks after the premier edition at Dreamstate in San Francisco, and most recently at Transmission in Prague. After the live show was created, the next challenge was to take the music that made up the live presentation, and turn it into an album.
18 tracks later, and everyone can hear the end result.
5) You are known for your extensive touring schedules. What is one thing you enjoy the most and one you enjoy the least?
The hardest part of the job by far is the travel involved, and being away from your family.
When you get to a certain level, the touring can be absolutely brutal, especially in the summer, where you can sometimes play three gigs in three different countries within the space of 24 hours. It is incredibly difficult to constantly be on the road, upside down due to jetlag, and somehow find the strength and energy to give it your all for the fans. But you have to, because they are paying their hard-earned money to see you perform. I wish we could invent a teleporter so we could eliminate airports and jetlag.
However, you endure all of that because ultimately, this is my dream job, and I honestly could not imagine myself doing anything else. I have said it before, but I believe I was put on this earth with the purpose of connecting and uniting people through a love of music, and I am absolutely one of the lucky ones out there able to do that.
6) Your remix of “In the End” garnered a lot of positive reviews. How did it happen? Was there a reason as to why you picked this track?
It was one of those spur of the moment things that I was inspired to do.
The lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, passed away the day before the first weekend of the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium. I remember specifically the moment the news broke, because it happened at the tail end of the annual Global DJ Broadcast Sunrise Set being played on the radio.
Linkin Park’s music was an influence on my own, and I still had the heavy feeling of Chester’s passing; and the circumstances of that passing when you think of the chorus of In the End. So after playing at the Trance Energy stage on the Friday evening, I went back to the hotel and immediately started working on ideas to incorporate In the End into my own sound, and found myself sitting up almost all night engrossed in the piece.
I had to play in Bucharest on the Saturday, and again at Tomorrowland on Sunday for the Daybreak Session, but when I got to Berlin on the Monday, my goal was to get the remix finished to debut the following Friday, again at Tomorrowland.
Thankfully I got it done in time, and it proved to be such an emotional and fitting closing track to my set at that event. I still watch the video of it on YouTube now. I gave the remix away for free in the spirit of his music, and I am grateful to everyone out there who supported it.
7) Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows about.
I am a very good singer in the shower. So I have been told anyway!
8) Did you finally get your share of Butter Chicken this India tour? 😉
I did! Just once though, the night before EVC. It was a quick hello and goodbye to India this time around, just for the one show, so I didn’t really have time to explore unfortunately.
Without too much persuasion and with the lure of more butter chicken, I hope that I can return to India sooner rather than later. It’s such a wonderful country and a scene where trance is on the rise, so I would love to come back more than once a year, and supplement a festival show with an extensive club tour around India.
Hopefully in the future we can do it.
We hope to see Markus very soon too!
To know more about the album and get it, visit thenineskies.com
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