World-renowned, German-American DJ and Producer Markus Schulz is no stranger to the spotlight. Between polling 10 years straight on DJ Mag’s Top 100 chart to winning DJ Times’ America’s Best DJ in both 2012 and 2014, his accolades pile high. Based out of Miami, he’s known for his curated sets at his massive shows, his influential trance sound, and his weekly radio show, ‘Global DJ Broadcast.’
With his new album right around the corner, fans are itching to know more. The album, entitled Watch the World, is set to be released next Friday, April 29. (Same night he’ll be coming to Exchange LA I might add…just one more reason all you Angelenos should get some tickets now.) Though you’ll have to wait until Friday for the full album to drop, you can check out its tracklist and your download/listening options now.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: You’re known for some of the most well-crafted sets at your performances. What’s your creative process and how do you go about your choices?
That’s very kind of you to say, many thanks.
First of all, it’s the melody and soul of the music that is by far the most important ingredient. Ultimately you have to play something that you love. And if you have music with amazing melodies, you can inspire people.
The best advice is to be well-prepared, but don’t go in to a performance with the mindset that you know what exact order you’re going to play tracks from beginning to end. Sure, you’ll know the first three-four tracks you’re going to play; that’s normal. But after that, it’s a reactionary process. The most important skill for any DJ is the ability to read a room, and react appropriately with your musical choices.
Because I’ll play a vast range of styles and set lengths, it’s crucial to have your music organised in some way. The Mixed in Key software is an essential piece of kit for me, because you can run your music through that and it will identify which tracks best fit harmonically. After that, I will relabel all of my tracks in the format of Key - BPM - Track Name, which makes folder navigation easier when flicking through your library on a USB stick or SD card.
And lastly, don’t just download the Beatport Top 10 and call that your set. Spend the hours digging deep through the releases and find the gems, because you want to distinguish yourself from everyone else. And with the music you do like and can’t easily fit into your set, then use the production software available to edit, reconstruct and tailor it to find a place.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: We caught your last show in DC and have since heard it on your Global DJ Broadcast. We must say it was fire. Can you talk about your set choices there?
The mindset for the Echostage show was a little different. Many of you who follow the Global DJ Broadcast radio show will know that once a month, I’ll record one of my liveset performances to air as part of the World Tour series. And when looking at what I had coming up at the end of January, coupled with a list of the cities and venues covered, I couldn’t believe that we had never showcased the Echostage venue in the history of the World Tour, and it had been years since Washington DC was featured. So it made perfect sense to choose that gig.
With the World Tour sets, you have to satisfy two audiences - the live crowd there in person on the night, and those who will be listening weekly on Global DJ Broadcast on the radio or through the podcast. And because of that, you are more eager to debut things that will intrigue the listeners, which is sometimes difficult in practice, because many crowds you play for want to hear your staple tracks that you know already. Although with DC that is much less of an issue; because you know you’re playing to a well-educated and trustworthy audience who want the surprise of something debuted.
Judging by the reactions on the social media pages, soundcloud and the podcast feed, it was a set that got quite a lot of attention!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: This winter, you played your final show at Pacha NYC. How was that, bittersweet?
Very much so. Pacha was one of those venues that embodied the characteristics where the art of DJing can be honored. What I mean by that is that even though the electronic boom in the United States has been fantastic, because of the options for grand events and festivals and a new legion of talent coming through, many have forgotten about the clubs which provided the foundations for the scene to become so big today. So to have lost both Pacha in New York and the Guvernment in Toronto within the space of a year is really disappointing for me on a personal level.
I owe the city of New York a lot, despite never living there. When my family immigrated to the US I was 13 years old, and I resided outside of Boston for around four years. When I got into breakdancing, I would be drawn by trips to New York almost every weekend, and in my head, I’d be visualising the wild moments at Paradise Garage that I would read in magazines. So sentimentally, New York has meant a great deal to me, and the fans there have been embracing and supportive.
Hopefully I can find a new home in NY for the open to close experience.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What's been your favorite crowd you've ever played for?
If you had to pick just one, that would be very difficult, because each city and country has its own nuance and intricacy that appeals to me.
So in mentioning a few - in terms of passion of the audience, the two cities that immediately spring to mind are Mexico City and Buenos Aires. The fans in both of those cities are absolutely incredible, and they make me feel like I am one of them. It’s so humbling when you speak to these people in person or online and thee first thing they say is “thank you for coming ‘home’ to us”. That’s incredible really. A few years ago, when Argentina was celebrating their bicentennial, I was invited to play in Buenos Aires. The atmosphere turned a two hour set into almost six.
Then of course you have the hallowed clubs where I am given the opportunity to play the open to close solo sets - Space in my hometown of Miami, Avalon in Los Angeles, Stereo in Montreal, Ministry of Sound in London among others - there is a special connection with the fans in those cities because of those magical nights.
I sit here after saying that and remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do this for a living.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: What are you most excited about for 2016?
It’s going to be another important year, and that is accentuated with the release of my sixth artist album, entitled Watch the World, which I just wrapped up in the past couple of days. Artist albums are such huge milestones in a DJ and producer’s career, so I feel a mixture of nervousness and excitement with presenting it to the listening audience at the end of April.
And as is tradition with the release of an album, there will be an extensive club tour starting on the release day itself, and that will take things right through to festival season in the summer. And that’s before I even think about the day-to-day things like Global DJ Broadcast and Coldharbour. So busy as ever, but that’s the norm for me nowadays.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: You’ve mentioned that you’ve been enjoying crafting the stories for the tracks on your next album, which we're definitely excited for! What’s your inspiration for these stories? (Any hints on some of your favorite tracks?)
Yes, the main theme of this album is that it has been built on the backbone of a personal adventure for me, diving in to the world of songwriting, where everything begins with a pen and a piece of blank paper.
After completing the two Scream albums, I was at a point in my career where I wanted to evaluate and see where I wanted to go in the future. When you’re younger, there’s nothing more trilling than playing around with equalisers and sounds, but now I am at a point in my life where I find the art of songwriting incredibly gratifying.
Destiny was the first result of that, and I was overwhelmed by the support it has received, including the IDMA nomination for Best Trance Track. And the words in that song are about me, where you meet someone in your life that inspires you to the point that you feel it was meant to happen. So the reactions of Destiny gave me more confidence to undertake more songwriting.
Facedown, the most recent single you will have heard, was actually inspired by my appearance at last year’s Tomorrowland. I was one of the privileged three asked to participate in their Daybreak Sessions - opening up and setting the tone for the rest of the day on the main stage.
So I got into the booth and was setting up, and people just camped out right there by the main stage, waiting for it to re-open. I looked out and I saw them just laying there holding each other; they had nothing. They didn’t have a tent, they had just a blanket, or shirts, or whatever, and they were just laying there. That inspired me. The lyrics of 'Facedown' describe somebody who doesn’t have anything, but it’s the most amazing moment. It’s about having nothing; yet you party the troubles away.
There is one track on the album that is dedicated to the amazing people who contribute to the Schulz Army fan group, and that track is called 'Soldier'. 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.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: As a long-time leader in electronic music, you have a unique perspective on the evolution of the industry. The 90s are coming back in a lot of ways - what aspects of the 90s would you bring into the modern EDM scene today?
You’re right in saying that. The scene in the 90s was a time of innocence, and it does feel now that the sense of innocence is returning, which is fantastic.
I suppose the one thing I wish we could see would be more patience and tolerance. It’s incredibly difficult for music to have any sort of shelf life nowadays. That’s probably just a characteristic of modern society in general, where the desire is a click, click, instant gratification feeling.
To be honest that’s one of the reasons why I tend to be more patient with releasing tracks on Coldharbour, because you want people to be able to grow and love these tracks over time, rather than throwing them out and being yesterday’s news almost immediately.
And I hope that as more people from the new generation become immersed in this music we love, there will be less hangups on boxing tracks specifically into tight genres. The more patient we all are with each other, then the happiness of the scene will blossom.
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: If you weren't an EDM artist and you could be in any other genre of music, what genre of would you choose?
Well, my biggest musical influence is actually from classic rock. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, ELO and Manfred Mann. When I was putting together the concept of the Bus Tours for the Scream albums, my vision was actually inspired from the stories of rock bands on tour, the life and times on the road from city to city.
Around eight years ago I was able to reconnect with my real father for the first time, and I found out from talking to him that he was actually a drummer in a band. So maybe that is there the musical side of me, and the wild misbehaving side of me comes from!
EPIC PRODUCTIONS: Do you have a current pump-up song?
Arkham Knights - 'Legacy'. I have been using it as the opener in many of my sets since November, and the energy combined with the melody in it is infectious. These guys, among the other amazing talents in the Coldharbour family, are going to continue to get bigger.
Special thanks to Markus Schulz for taking the time to chat with us. Look out for his new album, Watch the World, coming this Friday, April 29. You can find his upcoming tour dates on his website.
AUTHOR CREDIT: RACHEL NOVOSAD
PHOTO CREDIT: STEPHEN POWELL