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Markus Schulz on Australia’s trance scene and reveals details about his extended Melbourne set

Markus Schulz is a regular fixture at some of the world’s biggest & most famous clubs, arenas and festivals including Stereosonic, Tomorrowland, Space Miami, EDC Las Vegas, Electronic Family, Transmission, just to name a few.

Responsible for some of the most spine-tingling melodies and outrageous basslines in the world of dance music, the Coldharbour master will be heading to Australia for a massive three-city tour, reaching Melbourne on October 2 (special extended set), hitting Brisbane on October 3, and Sydney on October 4.

We caught up with Markus in an in-depth interview and fired away with questions on his successful career, we found out which artists inspire him, and he shared what trance means to him.

Hi Markus, we’re very excited for your return back to our shores this October! What do you love most about Australia’s trance scene?

Hi guys, thanks for having me.

Really looking forward to coming back and seeing everyone. Stereosonic last year feels like it was even longer away.

What I enjoy about the scene here is that even though it’s usually just one annual visit, the fans are so supportive and keeping in touch all the time. I receive quite a few emails and tweets from fans in the country who enjoy the productions and listening to Global DJ Broadcast. With the time difference, I guess having the podcast available has helped expand the fanbase with you guys.

Do you have a favorite place in the world to perform these days?

That’s such a difficult question to just give one answer. I’m really lucky to have a lot of cities around the world where the fans treat me as one of their own. So I guess the best way is to talk about a few of them and give reasons why.

Space in Miami is an obvious choice, because it’s where I’ve lived for over 10 years now. It was thanks to my weekly residency in the club, coupled with Global DJ Broadcast; that helped establish my name on a worldwide basis. Back when I was a resident I would be warming up for all the big international DJs, so every time I come back after travelling all over the world, the same friends and fans are there supporting me, which make the nights feel so special. When I was preparing for my solo set at Space during Winter Music Conference, I felt like a kid at Christmas. And I’m really fortunate to be able to do it again on New Year’s Eve this year.

Another obvious one is Prague, and that is primarily because of my close association with Transmission and the people, and how much it means to me on a personal level. In many ways, Prague acts as the epicentre for eastern European clubbing, because not only are you housing the Czech locals, you are bringing in clubbers from Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and many more countries.

Montreal houses one of my favorite clubs in the legendary Stereo. It’s one of the few clubs remaining in the world that has that dark and dirty vibrancy; the innocence of clubbing. It’s a really intimate setting, and because Montreal is so unique with its clubbing habits, their peak hour is at 6am rather than 1am. I would encourage everyone to go clubbing in Montreal at least once, either at Stereo or Bal en Blanc.

London is another city where I have great affection, stemming from the two year sabbatical on Coldharbour Lane. It’s a pretty incredible story to go from being a clubber watching the big names at Ministry of Sound, to then become their international resident. I first performed there as a DJ in 2008, and after the first experience, they made me a resident to play there more several times a year. And because of that, you gain a familiarity with the crowd, and establish a trust to debut material in your sets before everywhere else. And because London is so accessible, it houses a large number of fans who travel in from mainland Europe to attend the nights.

I guess that’s one of the things that are missing from my connection to Australia, “that” venue to build a legacy in the country.

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What’s the best way to stay sane on the road?

Undoubtedly, the most difficult aspect of the job by far is the travel involved – the amount of time spent at airports, flying through multiple time-zones, jetlagged so much that your body clock is completely upside down, but at the same time you have to gather yourself and deliver an A-grade performance, because the fans are paying their hard earned money to be entertained as best as possible. I play around 175 gigs a year, with maybe even up to 300 days away from Miami.

I guess the easiest way to approach things is just to take things on a day-to-day basis. When you are entrenched in the work, it doesn’t really feel like a massive deal. But every little element plays an integral part to the full presentation – Global DJ Broadcast is an important testing ground for new material to filter into the livesets, Coldharbour Recordings is the outlet for showcasing the upcoming talents, and acts as the fulcrum of my sets, and Schulz Music Group is the platform to help deserving people strive towards their dreams.

One of the tricks I have utilised over the past few years is that once every few months I will have a “switchoff” day – usually a random Monday after being on the road. During that day I’ll turn off the laptop and turn off the phone, and generally try to decompress. If I can get one of those days in without distractions, then it’s helpful to recharge and get back on the grid again.

What can fans expect from your upcoming special extended set in Melbourne?

The date of the Melbourne gig coincides with the release day of my entry in the acclaimed Ministry of Sound Trance Nation series, which I was quite honored to be asked to do. There are loads of exclusives held back specifically for the CD, so now that it’s coming out, I can happily play them out in my livesets.

The Melbourne show is also going to be recorded for the Global DJ Broadcast World Tour. I was examining the cities we have covered on the show in recent years, and the past few Australian visits have all been Sydney recorded, with the last in Melbourne being in 2009!

So I think the fans there are overdue to be heard by the listening audience.

How did you know that producing and DJing was something that you wanted to do? What gave you that push and drive to want to be heard by the world?

When I was growing up, I would listen to the radio at night and get lost in the music. I can’t stress importantly enough how important the radio medium has been in my life, because without my fascination towards it, I honestly haven’t got a clue what I would have chosen as a life and career path.

A lot of people will be surprised when I say this, but most of my influence comes from classic rock. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, ELO and Manfred Mann. On the electronic side, the likes of Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode were really pushing boundaries, and that captivated my imagination too.

When I moved to the United States, the breakdance scene was massive. So the likes of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Scorpio were really important influences for me too.

My friends and I would all make mixtapes and trade them with each other, and because more and more people loved the experience, it eventually led to the stage where we had to organize a party.

So we hired a venue inside a hotel for the “big” event. The idea was that we would all take turns to DJ throughout the evening, and everyone was excited at the prospect. But on the night itself, everyone else got cold feet, so I wound up DJing for the entire duration of the party. The owner of the hotel was impressed with what he saw, so he offered me a job. And the rest as they say is history.

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What was the first record you bought?

It was Zapp & Roger – More Bounce to the Ounce.

I bought it quite a few years after it was first released but it’s one I still value a lot today. Reminds me of my teenage years emigrating from Germany to the United States and getting into the breakdance scene.

Not quite sure if I can bust a groove to it as well as I used to though!

You’re responsible for some of the most spine-tingling melodies and outrageous basslines in the world of trance. What inspires you to create such mind-blowing productions?

Nowadays, I take my biggest inspirations from meeting the fans and seeing their reactions while performing on stage. It helps me harness that passion to put my soul into all of the studio work. One feeds the other – the fans inspire me to get into the studio, and when I am in the studio, I’m inspired by the thought of playing a new track out for the fans.

You see some of those incredible photos of the big shows – Transmission in Prague with all the lazers, the spectacle of Tomorrowland and EDC, or the intimacy of Ministry of Sound or Space, and they are rich sources of inspiration. I’ll regularly change my screen saver to a photo of a previous visit to a certain club or event, and my brain becomes very active when focusing on the picture on a daily basis.

I think there’s something absolutely magical how a melody can connect so many people around the world and unite.

Which artists inspire you the most these days?

A lot of people will be surprised when I say this, but from the outset and even today, most of my influence comes from classic rock. Bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. The Dark Side of the Moon album for me is one of the greatest pieces of music ever made, and I still listen to it to find even more influence year after year.

I admire modern day bands like Coldplay too, and over the past couple of years I have admired Lana Del Rey’s work.

Danny Tenaglia would be probably the biggest influence towards me playing marathon sets, and how he had the ability to keep a crowd entertained for a long period of time. I’ve always admired Eric Prydz’s work too, and have a lot of respect for the sets and production he puts together.

Of course I have to mention good friend Ferry Corsten, otherwise the New World Punx project would have never happened! We have so much fun when we play as a group.

And last but not least, I am inspired by the family of producers who contribute regularly to my Coldharbour label. You can appreciate new ideas every day by listening to these young talents.

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Are there new tracks you’re making now?

I am at the very early stages of working on the next Markus Schulz artist album. I have written around 40 songs in the past year, so the process will soon begin to decide which ones are best suited to being converted into full blown tracks.

We are also moving into the final quarter of the 2015 city series, where each month this year I have produced a brand new instrumental and dedicated it to a particular club, event or city. The most recent is a more deeper affair, and a bit of a throwback to the very early, Bedrock and Yoshitoshi days of Dakota. It’s dedicated to Stereo in Montreal, and is called Cathedral.

And I’ve also been busy remixing. Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been given the privilege of remixing the title track of Giorgio Moroder’s latest album, featuring the vocals of Sia, entitled Deja Vu. I’ll have to play that on this Australian tour!

What are your top five tracks right now?

In no particular order:

Markus Schulz – Avalon (Los Angeles)
Faithless – Salva Mea 2.0 (Above & Beyond Remix)
Klauss Goulart – Bashert (We’ll Meet Again)
Eric Prydz – Opus
Nifra featuring Seri – Army of Lights

What does trance mean to you?

To me, trance will always be defined by the melodies. If you examine how much influence the EDM / big room genre has borrowed from the melodies in trance, it’s incredible really.

What I will say is that even in the last twelve months, there are still some incredible melodies that exist within the trance genre. If a listener can emotionally connect with a melody and appreciates the soul within a track, then that is trance at its most beautiful, regardless of the other elements weaved around it.

If you take Remember This for instance; it has the modern day basslines and percussion, but the melody probably wouldn’t sound out of place in the millennium trance era. What I’ve always tried to do is somehow present my soul and feelings into all of my tracks, and hopefully it’s something that resonates.

And then even a vocal track like Destiny, which is a very special track for personal reasons; one of the most conscious aspects about the track was to present it in an old-school arrangement – over ten minutes in length.

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What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened during your one of your sets?

There was a phase a few years ago where go-go dancers were regularly falling off stage at my gigs. Maybe they were dancing too much?!

There was a gig I played in Buffalo around six years ago, I think it was around a week before Christmas. During the set, there was a fire performer on the left side of the stage. She spilled the kerosene she was using and part of the stage went up in flames.

The craziest part was, everyone thought it was part of the show and started cheering. Then they came out in an attempt to put out the fire by using bottles of water. I was thinking, oh my god, we’re going to burn this entire place down by the end of the night.

Eventually they found a fire extinguisher to put it out, but it was one of the craziest things I’ve encountered during a gig for a very long time.

Not quite an on-stage incident, but happened before getting on stage. I had one of those crazy 24 hour stretches where I played 3 gigs in 3 different countries. I started playing the closing set at a gig in Barcelona; then it was straight to the airport for the Netherlands, where I played late afternoon at Dance Valley.

The final gig was in Glasgow, but there was a problem with my immigration papers when landing. So I ended up being detained at the airport – put handcuffs on and everything. Eventually the problem was resolved, but the delay meant I had to go straight to the club and perform. They didn’t let me keep the handcuffs.

Any last words to your Australian fans?

Can’t wait to see you all again after such a long time. I get in to Melbourne a few days before the gig so I’ll have a day or two to explore and take in the sights, so don’t be afraid to say hello if you happen to pass me.

And to all the cities, bring your passion and bring your voice, since your country is being represented on the next Global DJ Broadcast World Tour.

Tour Dates & Tickets:
Friday 2nd October – Billboard The Venue, Melbourne. Tickets available now (special extended set)
Saturday 3rd October – Family Nightclub, Brisbane. Tickets available now
Sunday 4th October – Marquee Sydney. Tickets available now

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Written by Miguel Ramirez

My name is Miguel, and i'm a trance addict.

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