An honest and genuine headliner is hard to find or maybe even doesn’t exist. Markus Schulz is a pioneer and leader in Electronic Dance Music that squashes that myth. The “unicorn slayer” and Global DJ Broadcast host has released a new single, “Upon My Shoulders” with Capitol Cities SEBU. The new single is an unfamiliar sound from the “Nine Skies” producer but his unmistakable signature makes its stamp. With a new album on its way, We are the Light, Markus sits with OneEDM to share what’s in store. A man with a purpose and who has no doubt about it. Markus Schulz’s talks his early inspirations, and forthright perception in this down reaching and deep-seated interview. Get to know the heart and mind of this bona fide and sterling musical virtuoso.
OneEDM: You have released a brand new single back in August with SEBU from Capitol Cities titled, “Upon My Shoulders”. Can you please give us a brief backstory to how the collaboration came about?
Markus Schulz: It all started with a writing camp that me and Ferry Corsten were doing. I went into a studio by myself with a writer from Australia and we were like what are we going to do? What I wanted to do was write a song about how I see it from the stage. I just got done playing at Tomorrowland and we began trying to paint the picture, what do we see? Well, I see people with their hands in the air, I see flags, I see people on each other shoulders. So we just kind of brainstormed and we came up with the foundation of the song and sat on it for a while. I started writing this new album, We are the light and I pulled the unfinished track off of my hard drive. Since that time, we had already worked with Capitol Cities doing a remix of their hit “Safe and Sound” so I thought this might be interesting with Capital Cities. So I sent it to SEBU and he loved it. He asked if I minded if he rewrote it. The original lyrics were, “carrying my girl upon my shoulders” and SEBU sent it back singing it as “carrying you upon my shoulders”. In it’s earliest stage it was acoustic. That’s how I like to write, with just a guitar or piano, because that is how you get the real soul of the song (sometimes great songs get lost in technology). When we all heard it after SEBU’s changes we all stopped and new it was magic. SEBU’s voice is unmistakable and carries an energy that you just don’t hear often. From there I took and turned it into different versions and that’s how it came about.
The lyrics read “carrying you upon my shoulders, now you can let go”. Figuratively speaking who in your life is someone that would carry you on their shoulders so YOU can let go?
I always think of me being the one that carries someone. To be honest with you, it would have to be the fans. I don’t let go very easily, that’s the thing about most musicians and artists. For me, the fans are my guide. I feel that I am who I am because of the energy from the fans. It is said that if you’re doing something and you’re not getting the response you can burn out. But I have never felt burnout because the love, the feedback, the response that I get from the fans constantly regenerates my passion. Even with this album I never felt like I hit a roadblock. I go up on stage, looking into their eyes and just get inspired. They are the ones who would carry me so I can let go.
“Upon My Shoulders” is leaning more on the indie pop side of music. Do you think there is a place for the unicorn slayer in pop radio?
I have been asked, would you ever work with someone like Britney Spears? The answer is 100%, yes but the whole magic of it would be to bring them into my world. I do not want to go into the pop world, I want to bring the pop world into my world. I would love to take someone like Britney Spears or Selena Gomez and take them to Stereo in Montreal when I’m doing a ten-hour rabbit hole set. Where the sound system and the fog machine are on full blast. So from there, we would go right into the studio. That would be my vision and my version of working with a pop artist.
Is it your intention to have your audience’s emotions come alive?
Absolutely, my whole foundation is to take people on an emotional rollercoaster. I want people to feel emotionally inspired and exhausted at the same time after listening to my sets/music. There is a whole strategy with my sets, I always have parts of my sets where its down and almost on the cusp of despair. Then comes the Phoenix, the rising, the empowerment and the grand finale where we all feel amazing. I remember when I was young I loved alternative music and classic rock. I went to a concert to see The Cure and I love them, all their songs are amazingly depressing. After leaving the concert I felt awful because it was so emotionally draining for me. It was so sad and you would end up feeling worse leaving than how you entered. As I grew as an artist that is one thing that I said to myself, I never want my audience to leave my show with that kind of feeling. I want people singing in the parking lot after they leave my show, to smile as they walk out of the venue. When I’m producing I look for those “goosebump notes”, they are the notes that you feel in your nerves.
When you grab the mic and you start asking everyone to turn to the person next to them and to put them up on your shoulders, what is going through your mind at that moment?
I’m hoping that maybe somewhere it will create a lifelong friendship between two people. It would be the ultimate ending or cherry on the cake to hear people say I met my friend/lover at a Markus Schulz show. When he asked us to put the stranger next to you on your shoulders.
Do you feel fan interaction, off of social media, off of the stage, one on one is important?
I think its really important because, with my music, I write it from me directly to one person. So to have that one on one connection makes me able to write that way, especially the Dakota project. It was a one on one interaction kind of album. “We Are The Light” is a bit more of a community spirit.
Global DJ Broadcast has been on for many years. What have changes have you seen in yourself? Have you seen your skills grow and recognize its value?
When I first moved to the USA I didn’t speak English much. The culture was different, I was 13 years old moving from Germany and listening to the radio was my escape. That was my salvation, to get lost in the music. As I grew in the music industry that was what I wanted to do. Repay that gift radio gave me and maybe touch somebody else who is in need of guidance. A voice or a soundtrack can do that. Hopefully, it can get them through the dark times in their lives. It’s very rewarding for me when I get messages from people telling me of how they wanted to quit school or how they struggled with whatever they were going through, but the music helped them. For a radio show to have that sort of mission is important and it feels good to know I’m doing well at being that light for them.
You have your Linkin Park “In the End” trance mix, regarding Chester and even Avicii’s untimely death, what would you like the public to realize about artists stress levels?
Artists were different, we think from a different side of the brain and artists need to be protected. Art is a beautiful thing it makes this world colorful and amazing. Knowing that the most amazing art comes from unexpected parts of an artist who is in a different headspace than the rest. Artists can be outcasts and they need to be protected. We need help from the outside, we aren’t quick to raise our hand and say “hey, I need help”. There is a whole industry out there that is just preying on artists and that doesn’t help. I definitely support organizations that are trying to help artists, to give them a safe platform to express themselves and show their art.
Please tell us how did your performance with Ferry go at the Ministry of Sound? How much did you enjoy working with your old friend once again?
It’s very therapeutic, whenever I play with Ferry we forget that we’re on stage. We have so much fun. Someone handed their phone to us and it read, “It’s so good to see two people working together while having more fun than the audience”. They fed off of that and that sums up what it’s like working with him.
The theme of that performance was #UNITY. How does the message of unity fit into the We Are The Light album?
The whole mantra of “We Are The Light” refers to all the mess you see in the world currently. We’re all looking for someone to show us some guidance ya know? The point of it is that we are the light, we are that hero we all need. We are the guidance that needs to be there for the people. When you go to festivals you see people from all over the world. All different, religions, cultures, colors, shapes, and sizes all together. I travel the world and the thing I can say is that no matter where I am everybody wants to enjoy life. It goes perfectly with Ferry’s UNITY project, we are all unified.
Do you ever surprise yourself with the music you produce?
Oh, yea everytime. You usually don’t realize it until you listen back. Sometimes when I’m working on music I don’t even remember how I do things. You’re like where that come from and when you listen back you’re like, wow! I think that’s the energy that keeps you going when you surprise yourself. If you don’t surprise yourself its kinda like you’re just painting by numbers.
What do you look for a vocalist when you feature them on a track?
I don’t look for anything in a vocalist. You know when you hear it. The most important thing is when the vocalist and I write we write something that people can relate to. For me it doesn’t matter what level an artist/singer is at, they have to fit what it is I’m trying to express as an artist.
You’re in different countries night after night, week after week, how do you keep your engine running? What are the must-haves in your life?
That’s easy when you’ve dedicated your life to it. At some point, I realized that this is my mission in life. When you come to peace with that from the outside looking in one would ask how do you do that? But from the inside, there is a rhythm to it. I live by that rhythm. It’s funny, I really don’t even get jet lagged anymore, I sleep when I need to sleep and I eat when I need to eat. I sum up enough adrenaline to jump around on stage for a couple of hours then I got back to the hotel room and collapse.
We Are The Light album has been said to be the exact opposite of Dakota. What did it take to create that polar opposite?
It actually comes from the same place. We Are The Light comes from a dark place but it is supposed to be uplifting. “9 skies” comes from that same dark place. We Are The Light is saying, we acknowledge these dark times but we need to be the light to light up the darkness. Dakota was an introspect, it was about how I feel about the confusion in the world that I see.
On the In Search of Sunrise 14 album, you have a song with Arkham knights titled “Something about you”, what is your process and method of writing as Markus Schulz and as the alias Dakota?
When I’m writing as Markus Schulz, I’m writing what I’m seeing from the fans. It’s like I’m writing from the fans or to them. When I’m writing as Dakota, its who I am inside. It’s me in a closet locked away expressing how I feel. I’m writing about that with no outside influences or interactions. It’s a very personal production.
You have very loyal fans that become friends and sometimes friends become family. What role does Markus Schulz play in the trance family?
My role is just to inspire. I always felt that the thing I wanted to do is inspire people. In every family, there is always somebody who is the spiritual leader, whether they mean to be or not. I’m not campaigning to be the spiritual leader but I’m hoping I’m able to inspire and be a spiritual leader within the trance family.
What is the rabbit hole you so often speak?
The rabbit hole is the time of the night when things start to get a little bit weird. I always say you don’t know when you’re in the rabbit hole until you’re in the rabbit hole. Sometimes I get stuck in the rabbit hole and Adina will say “it’s too dark”, and I’m like, I’m stuck here! I can’t get out! Sometimes you can’t get out but its an adventurous place.
Can you please give the definition behind, the theater of the mind?
The theater of the mind to me is when you’re sitting or laying in your bed by yourself and you close your eyes and you’re imagining. For example, I was way too young to ever go to The Paradise Garage here in NYC. It is one of the places where house music was born. When I was growing up I would hear people tell me stories about Larry Levan at The Paradise Garage. In my mind, I would envision what it must be like to witness Larry Levan doing it all. That image in my mind became my goal. I strive to be this person that I am imaging in my mind. That is what the theater of the mind is. It’s the creation in your mind, create the image. It might not be reality but in my mind it is.
Ferry Corsten’s #UNITY has partnered up with VH1 Save the Music. To bring music class back to schools. Music was very important to you growing up. What would you like to see music in schools do for children?
First of all, It’s a topic I can talk about for hours. I remember being that kid sitting in the back of the class hiding in his headphones because I couldn’t relate with what was going on around me. For teachers to see that and point the kid in the right direction would be huge. It could save people. It would save many people who have a path and don’t even realize it. People are steered and pushed down a path and direction that society says we have to be in. I understand the importance of academics, of course. But to encourage and nourish art develops another part of the brain. Look at the rewards the world has received because of art. What if there were no Beethoven, or an Elvis Presley, or Pink Floyd? The planet would be very dry and for me a very dark place. Not just music but art needs to be back in school it just has to happen.
After all the festivals, all the tours, all the open to close sets, collaborations, and radio shows do you still see room for growth? Is there still more to accomplish for you?
Oh yeah, absolutely. You know I started thinking a couple years ago what’s left for me to do? What do I want to do? It’s about legacy now, leaving a legacy so strong that in 100, 200, 300 years from now, it continues. That’s why I write albums the way that I write albums, to touch people. They might not make five number one singles but maybe in the future, someone would listen to my music and say, he was ahead of his time.