Markus Schulz: “Trust your instincts implicitly.”
When you’re one of the world’s leading names in the game of EDM, you better play it well. Luckily, Markus Schulz knows all about match point, check mate and high scores. His new album, ‘Scream’, was released this Friday and reached #3 in the US Dance charts. Bursting with club-captivating tunes, vocal masterpieces and future classics from across electronic dance music’s spectrum, ‘Scream’ builds further on the solid foundations of Schulz’ career. We hooked up with Markus, asking him all about the process of the album, his slight change of sound and the balance of doing what the crowd wants and doing what he loves. Markus:”You have to trust your instincts implicitly.”
Hey Markus! Congrats on the release of ‘Scream’! What’s going through your head right now?
Markus:”Thanks guys! What’s going through my head? Well it’s Wednesday today. The album is out on Friday and the tour kicks off in Miami and New York this weekend. I’m kinda feeling like I’m on the rollercoaster, it’s at the top of the drop and I’m staring down and the big rush is right there before me!”
You’ve heard the first online reactions and, of course, ran a few road tests along the way of release. So, all in all, what’s the status? Are the fans loving it?
Markus:”They certainly seem to be! The responses on ‘Caught’, ‘Loops’ and ‘Love Rain Down’ have all been better than I dared hope. Now we just have to see what the good folk think of the rest! There’s a lot on there, so it could take a while!”
The sound you produced around 2005 was dark, deep, proggy and diverse. Are we right to say that THAT musical side of you is reserved for the Dakota project, and your Schulz sound is now far more trancy and melodic?
Markus:”I’d say that sound was more reserved for Dakota, but there are elements of those adjectives – especially (I like to think) ‘diverse’ – that find their way into Markus Schulz tracks. Alongside the melodic elements on ‘Scream’, there’s some more deeply oriented material too. A fair amount in fact. The biggest dividing line between the two I’d say is ‘more vocal’, and with Dakota ‘almost entirely instrumental’.”
For an artist album it’s got lots of tracks, 23 in total! Was it too hard to pick your favourites, or did you feel like giving something extra to your fans?
Markus:”In terms of cutting it down to the tracks that made it on, it was murder! Pure and simple. Each time you cut a track, for whatever reason, it a total gut-wrench-er. You know how much time you spent in the studio on it. You’ll have people saying ‘ah man, I can’t believe you lost this/that production, it was kicking ass’. But you know that there’s an even better endgame for the album as a whole. You have to trust your instincts implicitly. As regards ‘giving something extra’ – always! ‘Scream’ was bumped nearly 3 months off its original intended release date because I felt there was still more musically inside of me that I wanted to say.”
It’s a 12 vocal tracks against 11 instrumentals. Was that a conscious choice?
Markus:”I was aware of it, so ultimately yes. But not when I sat down in the studio on the first day of production. Mentally you shouldn’t plan it like that. You stand the danger of boxing yourself in. That doesn’t do anyone any good.”
We can imagine that after all those years of experience, you’re somehow getting used to the pressure that comes along with the process of creating a new album. Do you feel more at ease, more able to do what you want, nowadays?
Markus:”I never remember feeling not at ease producing an album honestly. There are pressure points, sure. Nothing’s ever going to ennnndlessly flow your way. You hit a bump from time to time. I try to look upon those as positives though. If a challenge comes up, I view it as an opportunity to make something even better than it otherwise would be. To put that into perspective, one vocal track that made the final cut of the album went through three entire backing track changes before it was wrapped.”
You’re always keeping an eye on the listeners of your Global DJ Broadcast show. Have there ever been times when you were in doubt of a certain track due to the comments? Or do you always hold on to what you feel is right?
Markus:”Good question. First up that’s right, I’m always reading the comments on the GDJB forums. When a new track goes out its always interesting to see what the first feedback is like. That’s where the story starts though, and far from where it finishes. First of all, ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘so-so’, all you’re getting is an initial impression. Everyone has a ton of tracks that they didn’t like or weren’t quite sure on first time they heard them that they went on to like or love. Where a record proves itself isn’t on its first play on the radio. It’s what reaction it provokes on the floor or how often its requested on a station subsequent to that. I don’t assess or doubt a track anytime in the first 3 months. From experience it doesn’t make sense to do so. Hence I always believe you should hold on to what you believe is right.”
We can imagine there can be quite a big contrast between pleasing the crowd and doing what you love most. Has that ever bothered you in the course of your career?
Markus:”Maybe, but that time is so far in the past I can barely remember it! What every artist is working towards is a place where ‘pleasing the crowd’ and ‘doing what he or she loves most’ are one and the same. I’m happy to say I reached that place quite some time ago. The days of having to be heard playing ‘the biggest track’ out there went out with vinyl.”
Now, on to some of the talents you’ve worked with. On ‘Scream’, there’s quite a few new vocal talents, such as Seri and Adina Butar. But there’s also singers that haven’t worked in EDM yet. How did you discover these names?
Markus:”I’d say that Adina and Seri ARE the singers that haven’t worked in EDM yet. How we came by them varies. Adina for example connected through Facebook and then sent us some of her demos. That was all I needed to hear. They were exceptional. Seri came to us through an old acquaintance at a New York Management company. She had a great song ready to go with ‘Love Rain Down’, so we were off to a flying start there!”
One of the biggest successes so far, is ‘Loops & Tings’, the remake you did with Ferry. What makes things between you and Ferry work so well?
Markus:”Ferry and I have always just clicked! The Holy Grail is getting in the studio with someone and feeling like it’s not work at all. We just get in there, run riot, mix ideas up and BOOM the track pops!”
We reckon there’s a big Scream tour coming up! Where will your fans be able to find you in the upcoming months?
Markus:”Where won’t they be able to find me! As I said 31st/1st we’re the opening weekend show and then I’m off to places like Russia, Mexico, Canada, Columbia, the UK, Germany, Czech Republic – a whole load of places. It’s gonna be insane! Hope to see you all out there along the way!”