(Photo Courtesy of Markus Schulz)
I got the chance to sit down with the one and only Markus Schulz this past weekend at Escape: Psycho Circus. Despite more than 20 years in the game, Schulz doesn’t let up. He has been keeping busy in 2015 releasing his “city series” of tracks and maintaining his rigorous international tour schedule. The trance legend and I discussed several topics including his famous open-to-close sets, travel, his new tracks, and his take on the future of trance music. Here’s what Markus had to say.
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?
“Well, I think now it’s obviously such a grand scale. But, all the things I used to dream about, fantasize about, have come true. What I mean by that is I used to imagine playing a set composed totally of my own music and being able to take pieces from other songs and turn them into your own thing. I guess, the technology is really what changed, because all of those things I used to imagine about and wish you could do back in the day, you’re able to do now. And then on top of that, the stage productions and club productions are just out of control now, it’s amazing.”
Your open-to-close sets are legendary. How do you craft those sets and those vibes when you’re in a more intimate setting as opposed to a massive festival?
“The open-to-close sets I do it in special clubs in special cities where I’m really able to have that vibe. I program it like a journey: a beginning, a middle, an end, and then there’s some craziness in between. Whereas these big festival sets are just kind of like a snapshot of what you’re going to see in the middle of my set. When I do my open-to-close sets you’ll always hear like an hour-and-a-half, two hours, whatever, of what you would hear during a festival, but then after that part is over, it’s like we start twisting down the rabbit hole. So, I think the biggest differences in the more intimate club settings, the open-to-close sets, I’m able to kind of spread my wings and just explore different sounds.”
You’re quite the globetrotter, what’s the best part about touring internationally and what, if any, are the drawbacks?
“Well, the travel is the hardest part. The people that you meet along the way and the places that you get to see that’s the amazing part, which totally compensates for any of the hard stuff that goes on. I can’t believe some of the places that I’ve seen in my life, you know, and the people that I’ve met along the way have been fantastic, as well. It’s a beautiful international scene, it’s like a true international community.”
Tell me about some of the new tracks, you’ve said “Facedown” was inspired by the fans, what inspired it and what’s the message you’re trying to send.
“It was really inspired by Tomorrowland. I was doing the daybreak set, so I was setting up and everything, and people just camped out right there by the main stage, like waiting for it to re-open. I just 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, and it just kind of inspired me. Because the lyrics about “Facedown” are like somebody who doesn’t have anything, but it’s the most amazing moment, you know. It’s about having nothing, and then just kind of like partying the troubles away. So that’s really what kind of inspired “Facedown”. And, when I did it, I sat down with a guitar and a singer, and we just kind of like crafted out the lyrics, and the melodies, the harmonies, everything. And then it was when I was producing the track I said, I want to make a version that’s really focused on this guitar and this mood that I wrote it in. So that’s why I thought it was very important for the video and the original version, the first version everybody hears, is that version that’s kind of like just the guitars, minimal percussion, because I wanted them to hear the story in the song. After a few days I released my version that you’ll hear me play here, but I wanted everybody to hear the kind of emotional, raw version.”
And “Dancing in the Red Light” is, of course, about Amsterdam. Tell me about your experience at ADE this year and how did that influence the track?
“I was doing a party with Paul Oakenfold, and it was my label Coldharbour vs. Perfecto, so I wanted to make a track to start my set with, but something that really just kind of like takes it from the Coldharbour sound and then takes it up to a melodic place. Because I was going to build into the Perfecto sound, because Oakenfold was right after me. The amazing thing about it was, about 30 minutes before my set ended, I had Ferry Corsten come up in the DJ booth and we did a little B2B for 30 minutes. And then Oakenfold came out, and at one point it was me, Oaky, and Ferry up on the stage together, and it was just a really amazing moment.”
What can the fans expect in 2016, new album perhaps?
“Yeah, I am working on a new album, and I’m really, really pleased about this album. I’ve been writing a lot of songs, not just writing the melodies, and making the beats and the drops and all that stuff, but writing the stories within it. And I think that’s what I’m really the most proud of in this next kind of step in my production career.”
Any messages for the fans before you go on at Escape?
“I’m really excited to be able to play main stage. It’s a chance to win people over, and show them trance music. This is not anything that they expect when they think of trance music. It’s not love songs, and violins and flutes, and fairy dust and unicorns. But, it’s really amazing to get on the main stage and give people just this euphoric experience, without the unicorns.”
Check out this clip of the trance legend entertaining the crowd at Escape’s main stage on Halloween night.