Markus Schulz, we all obviously know who this man is! Known even better as the Unicorn Slayer of Trance, this extremely talented German – American DJ burst into the scene in the mid 90’s and has had a firm hold on the trance ever since. Schulz has released six mix compilations and four artist albums under his own name. He has also released productions and albums, Thoughts Become Things and Thoughts Become Things II, under the alias Dakota. When not in the studio working on new mixes, Schulz maintains an extensive international touring schedule. He originally held a seven-year residency at The Works in Scottsdale, Arizona where he developed his style. Since then, he has continued to perform at clubs all over the world including Avalon, Club Space, Green Valley, Ministry Of Sound, Ruby Skye and Zouk.
While he eagerly awaits the response to his fifth artist Album Watch The World which was released on the 29th of April on the coveted label Black Hole recordings along with preparing for an Album launch tour, we steal a bit of his time from his busy schedule to have a few questions answered.
Get the album here: markusschulz.choons.at/watchtheworld
1) Hi Markus! It’s an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to talk to you! As you look forward to releasing your 5th studio album “Watch the World”, what emotions surge through you? How does it feel?
Hey guys, nice to speak to you again. It’s another big moment in my career, so you get a mixture of nerves, excitement and relief, that two years of your life, two years of your creativity and especially with this album, you feel like you are bearing your soul for the public to hear.
Now that it is completed, I can say that it is the most personal album to date for me, because of the varying emotions I endured. After completing the two Scream albums, accumulating five artist albums and two Dakota albums at this point, I wanted to evaluate and see where I wanted to go in the future. What was the next step to take me forward and make things more exciting?
So when I undertook a period of reflection, my mind cast back to the days of my youth, and the things I enjoyed. When I was at school, the one subject I excelled at was creative writing, and my teachers would always be encouraging me to try it as often as possible. However, even at that age, having fallen in love with music and listening to the radio, I was so determined to chase my dream of becoming a DJ, even at the expense of everything else.
When doors began to open for me on the DJ front, next step for me was moving into production. And when you are at that young age, you expend all of your creative energy into the music – playing around with the synthesizers and turning the knobs. So my desire for creative writing began to fade away over time.
But now, having completed this album, on a personal level it’s very gratifying to me to delve into an interest that was there in my youth, but had faded away as my DJ career began. It feels like a flame inside me has been reignited. 17 tracks later, the Watch the World album is ready with amazing stories waiting to be heard by everyone.
2) What inspired you to pick the name “Watch the World” for your album?
The decision for that came quite late in the album process, when I had a relatively strong idea of how the tracklist would shape up. Ideally, I wanted to name the album after one of the track titles. And in analysing the names, I had to determine which would best paint an overall portrait of what the album is about.
From that perspective, the words “Watch the World” took on greater meaning. When you think about it, how many stories are being developed and shared in various locations around the globe on a daily basis? And with the album being built around songs based on life stories, it became the most appropriate and poignant slogan to use. The track itself is beautiful, and having a history with Lady V in the past, through the likes of Erase You and Winter Kills Me, our chemistry was strong with Watch the World itself.
3) You are always on the run, may it be in terms of various tours and performances, along with running the radio show (Global DJ Broadcast) and even coming out with compilations and albums! How do you manage such a busy schedule?
Undoubtedly, the most difficult aspect of the job by far is the travel involved – the amount of time spent at airports, flying through multiple time-zones, jetlagged so much that your body clock is completely upside down, but at the same time you have to gather yourself and deliver an A-grade performance, because the fans are paying their hard earned money to be entertained as best as possible. I play around 175 gigs a year, with maybe even up to 300 days away from Miami.
I guess the easiest way to approach things is just to take things on a day-to-day basis. When you are entrenched in the work, it doesn’t really feel like a massive deal. But every little element plays an integral part to the full presentation – Global DJ Broadcast is an important testing ground for new material to filter into the livesets, Coldharbour Recordings is the outlet for showcasing the upcoming talents, and acts as the fulcrum of my sets, and Schulz Music Group is the platform to help deserving people strive towards their dreams.
One of the tricks I have utilised over the past few years is that once every few months I will have a “switchoff” day – usually a random Monday after being on the road. During that day I’ll turn off the laptop and turn off the phone, and generally try to decompress. If I can get one of those days in without distractions, then it’s helpful to recharge and get back on the grid again.
4) A question to which I would personally like to know the answer. What inspired the track “Destiny”? And how did the collaboration with Delacey take place? Any story behind this song?
Destiny came about because of my personal relationship, where you meet someone in your life that you never knew before, but felt destined to be inspired by them beyond belief.
I met Delacey for the first time during a studio session in Los Angeles, and I got into detail about the song, and the story I was trying to tell. When she sang it back to me, it was one of the most touching moments I have ever experienced. Collectively, we said to ourselves, this could be special. But when you’re in the studio, you just never know whether or not it will connect with a listening audience.
Musically, what I wanted to do with Destiny in particular was to present more of an old-school musical arrangement. Nowadays everyone is producing tracks where the extended mix is barely passing four or five minutes in length, but with Destiny I wanted to present the aspect of a journey within a journey, resulting in the extended mix clocking in past the ten minute mark.
I can’t express enough how incredible the response from the fans has been. And that response was the primary catalyst towards Watch the World being more of a songwriting-based project.
5) What is the one track that you connect the most to from your new album? And why do you connect the most to it?
I think based on the story behind Destiny you just heard, then that would be the primary connection out of all the tracks, because its resonance with the fans gave me the confidence to pursue creating an album with a songwriting path.
However, each track has to mean something to me on a personal level; otherwise it wouldn’t have made the album. I wrote over 40 songs for the Watch the World project, so there was a process involved in whittling that list down to the 17 track cut.
What matters to me the most is that each song contains a message that I think is important for us as a community – words and stories which bind us.
6) You’ve been in the scene for more than two decades. Now, you’re a legend. What’s the biggest difference in the scene now from when you first started back in the mid 90s?
Back then, the internet was nowhere near as widely available as it is now. All music was produced with hardware, which meant that it was expensive, and everything was pressed on to vinyl. So unless you were really lucky to have a limited promo copy of someone’s track, then your luck was out.
Also, because of no internet, unless you were broadcasting nationally on radio or had been in the scene for a while, and knocked out an album or mix compilation, then nobody knew who you were. I spent most of the 90s as a weekly resident at a club called The Works in Arizona, and it was vital for my DJ education, but it was so difficult to grow outside of the state. I couldn’t feel the pulse of what was going on in Europe unless I travelled there.
But the internet changed everything. Back then there were only a few select radio shows dedicated to dance music on FM stations – now there are multiple internet stations and anyone can have a radio show, regardless if you’ve never produced a thing in your life or never DJed in a club. With the gradual migration of production from hardware to software, costs have reduced dramatically, and anyone with a computer and the knowledge of the software can produce something.
So nowadays the competition is much fiercer, but the means in which you can be part of the competition is so much easier than it was before.
7) Your open-to-close sets are brilliant. How do you plan those sets and how do mould your sets when you’re in a more intimate setting as opposed to a massive festival?
Well physically alone, it’s a huge challenge, and you start thinking about how to properly train your body for the endurance from a few weeks out – like increasing the length of my cardio workout, cutting out alcohol and so on. On the night itself, I actually don’t eat much beforehand, and don’t drink any alcohol at all during the performance. This way, you basically sweat everything out of your system while you are jumping around on stage; and it makes a bathroom break less of a necessity.
For the solo sets, I try to imagine the overall night as three sets combined – you have the opening portion, where you play the deeper progressive grooves and keep the mood low; allowing the ambiance to slowly build as the crowd assembles on the dance floor. Then you have the main portion which is the usual peak hour chaos and lighting, with the big tracks and hits that you would expect in an everyday Markus Schulzset-length performance.
And finally, when you have the room grooving in unison, then you enter the afterhours, or the rabbithole, where things get weird and trippy with various techno tracks and classics.
For the music itself, I’ll spend months in advance preparing; digging deep into Beatport and promos and on most occasions, I’ll be listening with the mindset of “this I’ll save for the solo set, and this one, and this one”. So when you slowly accumulate tracks like that over several months, you’re essentially putting together the building blocks of the set, and the graft in assembling what goes well harmonically can begin.
8) Which setting do you prefer when it comes to performing? A more initimate club gig or a festival? What do you think is the difference between the crowds in either of the areas?
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 fanbase. However, my favourite 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.
9) Can we expect anything new from The New World Punx anytime soon? Also, can we expect a New World Punx performance in India in this year? Or just a classic Markus Schulz Night? We will almost settle for anything you give!
I believe India is in the works at some point this year, but I’m not sure under what exact guise that will be. I’d love to come back after the really nice tour across the cities in April and May last year.
Obviously right now my priorities are with promoting the release of the Watch the World album, and Ferry is keeping busy bringing the Gouryella concept to many festivals and special events throughout 2016. However, we are regularly in touch, continually trading ideas for producing new material, and there will almost certainly be a new NWP single in the summer, since we will be playing quite a few festivals together. I’m looking forward to it, Ferry is tremendous company as well as being an inspiration when in work mode.
10) How did you get branded as the Unicorn Slayer?
Even though most people would associate me as being a trance DJ throughout my career, the type of trance I’ve played was never the typical 138+ supersaw formula. Somebody years ago tagged me as the “anti-trance trance guy”. As years went on and trance started to become dominated by love songs with three minute long breakdowns, I tended to steer away from overloading my sets with those tracks, or the “rainbows and unicorns” feeling.
So one night a fan tweeted me and described me as being “the unicorn slayer of trance”. I retweeted it and it really caught fire. Within weeks people were making their custom unicorn slayer t-shirts and wearing them to shows. Now it’s gotten so big I don’t know where it’s going to end. The greatest compliment I can pay about it is that it was entirely fan generated. There was no corporate slogan or brainstorm behind it whatsoever, it’s something the fans took and ran with.
11) What is your expectation from the fans in terms of receiving your new album? Any special track which you expect to be received very well by the fans?
We are a week into the release now and much like the initial response to Destiny, I am incredibly humbled by the kindness shown by everyone out there so far; having passionate people feel that I am musically on the same frequency as them. So I thank everyone reading for that.
When making the album, there was one track I wanted to define as a true dedication to the fans, and particularly the people who participate in the amazing Schulz Army group, and that is called Soldier, featuring Naguale. These people are effectively the foot soldiers who are helping spread the word of what I am about and represent, and I am eternally grateful for all they do.
Thank you so much for taking out the time to answer the questions. We wish you the very best for the release of “Watch The World” and for all of your future endeavours!
Watch The World releases on the 29th Of April.
For more information visit: http://www.markusschulz.com/
For more details on the Watch The World tour and tour dates
Visit : www.markusschulz.com/tourdates
To join Markus on his daily adventures, follow him on snapchat.
Snapchat ID : markusschulz
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