Markus Schulz: breathes the City of Angels
The twinkling lights of a nocturnal scenery have once again been translated into sound. From the glamorous hills of Hollywood to the calming sea-side of Venice Beach, there’s many things of inspiration to be found in Los Angeles. But what really inspired American DJ/producer Markus Schulz to name his new city compilation after the city of angels, is its vibrant, promising nightlife. To celebrate the release of his ‘Los Angeles ‘12’, we named Markus our artist of the week and ask him all about his fascination for this beautiful city.
First of all, you’ve just released the ‘Los Angeles ‘12’ compilation! How was the release party at Avalon, LA?
Markus:”It was incredible, without doubt one of the greatest and most inspirational weekends in my life. Feeling the tiredness quite a bit today though. We sold out two back to back nights at Avalon months in advance and I ended up playing a combined 17 hours! Nights like these reminded me of why I got into the dance scene in the first place, so I need to take a moment and thank everyone who attended the shows.
Each night was special in its own way for me. Saturday was a ten and a half hour open to close solo set, which meant that I was effectively playing the role of warm-up, headliner and afterhours / closer all rolled into one. These are the nights where I can genuinely provide people with the full spectrum of the Markus Schulz sound. Sunday night was different but still just as fun. We had Grube & Hovsepian warming things up then Jochen Miller taking things on, and then I took to the decks for five and a half hours playing on my own and doing two back to back sessions with Arnej and Mr. Pit.
I guess one of the most satisfying things about both nights is the reaction from the audience towards the new tracks featured on the compilation, because it means that I’ve got a few gems in place for my live sets going forward for the next while.”
When was the moment you really fell in love with Los Angeles’ dance scene and you decided to dedicate your compilation to it?
Markus:”I have been playing gigs in LA for many years, and when my career was starting out I used to get quite overwhelmed by visiting the city. People have so many options and so many clubs to visit on a Friday or Saturday night so you have to work really hard to develop a following there. Luckily I had a great set of people on the Tranceaddict boards and elsewhere who embraced what I was about quite early, and they helped spread the word to others recommending to see me perform.
The real watershed moment came at Together as One on New Year’s Eve 2005. It was probably my first experience playing for a massive rave audience in the US, and afterwards it made me feel that I was really gathering momentum in my career. I went on to play TAO on New Year’s Eve again in 2009 and 2010, as well as three straight Monster Massive events between 2006 and 2008 and the Electric Daisy Carnival in 2009.
But the tipping point towards giving the city a compilation berth was the beginning of my long nights at Avalon. The first was filmed for the Do You Dream DVD Documentary back in May 2010, and could feel an immediate vibe that this was a venue I could express myself truly and develop a story there. Last year I did two shows there in May and August, and both nights I was only scheduled to play for three hours, but wound up playing for seven. The one thing I noticed about these shows is that it wasn’t exclusively just an LA crowd - you’d have people flying in from San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and even from as far away as Sydney. So it felt like an international congregation with LA being the centre cub for fans to unite and party.”
Some of the names whose tracks you’ve featured on past compilations, have returned with new, quality tracks for ‘LA ‘12’ as well. Which producers never fail to create a special track - no matter what city compilation you’re at? Any producers that blossomed and sort of grew along with the series?
Markus:”Quite a few! Rex Mundi is the first name to spring to mind; since he’s contributed to every compilation since Amsterdam ’08, and had some real iconic moments like ‘Nothing at All’ and ‘Opera of Northern Ocean’ along the way. ‘Valley of Dreams’ from Prague ’11 last year was massive and he features in a big way on LA, with his tracks ‘Opaque’ and ‘Shocking Blue’ blowing up in my live-sets recently. Beat Service delivered a monster in ‘Outsider’ for Prague and ‘Fortuna’ looks like it will do the same for me this year. Mr. Pit has consistently been there and he made an absolute beauty in ‘River of Hearts’ to close out disc 2.
KhoMha announced himself in grand fashion through ‘Rainy in the Night’ on Prague and he’s never been out of my liveset playlists ever since, and his tracks ‘Mind Gamer’ and ‘Artemis’ on LA have both been huge for me this year. And also, Grube & Hovsepian had a big breakthrough last year with ‘Invisible’ featuring on Prague. They’re back this year having teamed up with my buddy Elevation to deliver ‘City of Angels’, and to be honest with you, that could well end up being a track of the year contender for many.“
Considering dance is flourishing there so much, all eyes are focused on the US now, it seems. What’s your opinion on that one? Europe, move over, USA is going to be ‘the place for EDM’?
Markus:”Despite being German born and bred, I feel so proud of what is happening to the scene in the US. It’s taken such a long time for the scene here to catch up with what has been happening in Europe for many, many years now, but finally I think it has. So I think ideally we’ll have a worldwide scene that is as vibrant on both continents and elsewhere in the world. Luckily for me I hold residencies at venues on either side of the pond, from Ministry of Sound in London to Space in Miami and Marquee in Las Vegas, and of course Ibiza every summer too.“
You told us that in LA, a new generation of clubbers is uniting with long-term fans. Being a part of the dance scene for so long, I think we’re safe to ask you: is change always a good thing?
Markus:”I think there are two sides to this. First and foremost it is great that we have a new generation of clubbers coming through, because it shows that our scene is going to remain in good health for many years to come. And from this generation, you’re going to find producers with fresh and amazing ideas that we’ve never heard before. That’s always been the mantra behind the Coldharbour label - finding these young talents and giving them a platform to develop and showcase their talents to the world. With the younger fans there is this ‘wow factor’ - everything to them is new and with that comes this aura of excitement and energy.
My biggest fear however, and I think the long-time fans will understand what I’m saying, is that the actual art of DJ’ing and programming a DJ set could be lost. Nowadays you see so often producers who score a big hit and are thrust into a hectic tour schedule, where they are basically learning the ropes about DJ’ing on the go. I have the fear that in 15 or 20 years we may not find the genuine DJs who know how to tell a story and develop something with their set progression - the Danny Tenaglia’s, Sasha’s or Paul Oakenfold’s of this world for example.
This is why I make such an effort to try and secure these solo nights in the big cities, because it means that I can properly build a night and not only satisfy the younger fans with the peak-hour section and the hits, but cater to the long-time fans who are the ones that are there from the first minute to last. It is not in my interests to cast aside the fans that have been there for me and helped me grow in the first place.”
Different subject! In these past few weeks, you’ve invited Arnej, Mr. Pit and Dennis Sheperd into your studio. When can we expect to hear the results of that?
Markus:”Some of you may already have without realising it! I did the collab with Dennis Sheperd during one of the weeks I was staying in Berlin in between gigs, and been road testing it in my sets since December. Haven’t debuted it on the radio yet but I think it might be something to showcase to the world during one of the ASOT 550 live events. Arnej flew down to Miami just before Christmas to work with me in the studio and I’ve been tweaking it over the past few weeks, not quite finished yet but won’t be far away. Mr. Pit just came over to Miami last week and will be staying here for a while. He’s going to be doing a few gigs in the US while he’s here; the first of course was the LA Release Party at Avalon on Sunday night.”
How far along are you with the follow-up to the ‘Do You Dream?’ album? Any idea when we can expect it?
Markus:”Right now I’m in the process of working with singers and songwriters for the next Markus Schulz album. These albums take much longer than the Dakota albums as a result, because with song writing you have a lot more emotional investment rather than producing straight-up tracks specifically for the clubs. All of my time in between gigs is being spent on the album and the radio shows, so hopefully you may see the results later in the year.”
Then, last but not least – some questions from our Twitter followers!
Imran Bahloo: What is his favourite synth plugin / VST and why?
Markus:”I still love the ease of Sylenth1. I like to make my own sounds and Sylenth1 lends itself perfectly to that. I also love Massive, much for the same reasons. Massive has a much bigger sound I find, and all of the editing parameters and not right in front of you as in Sylenth1 but nonetheless it makes great sounds. For percussion I have really fallen in love with Metrum. It's great for coming up with great sounding kicks while on an airplane or in a hotel room.”
Suraj Mandavia: What’s your favorite breakfast after a gig?
Markus:”It’s funny you should ask that since I’ve just been in Los Angeles. There’s a great little place called Kitchen 24, where they serve the wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey. That hits the spot each time. If you’ve seen the Do You Dream DVD then you’ll know the place I’m talking about.”
Christian T Media: Which city in USA would be perfect fit for being capital for trance as New Orleans for blues?
Markus:”That’s a really interesting question and to be honest I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer. You have so many candidates - New York because of the great nights at Pacha and the Electric Zoo festivals, Chicago has always had a great scene, my hometown of Miami since it hosts Winter Music Conference year after year and the residency nights I’ve had there, Los Angeles because of all the massive raves and the nights at Avalon, and Las Vegas, which thanks to places like Marquee, is now being seen by many as the North American equivalent of Ibiza.
I think we can just be proud of what is happening in these cities and the country overall. The one thing I’d like to stress is that with the Los Angeles ’12 compilation, I’m not necessarily showing favoritism over other US cities. Hopefully it is something that everyone living in the US can embrace and be proud of, because now clubbers and fans from all over the world want to travel here to party and experience this scene from all four corners of the world.”
Markus Schulz Los Angeles '12
Markus Schulz Los Angeles '12 is out now on iTunes, Spotify, Beatport and as 2CD at ArmadaShop.com.