Markus Schulz: We are the positivity that the world needs to see. We are the light. [Interviewing Artists]
Let’s start to talk a little bit about your latest album: We are the light. What’s the actual story behind the album?
So last year, you know I did Dakota – The nine skies project and it was kinda my response to what was happening in the world. I felt a lot of despair with all the things that were going on in the world and I needed to express myself musically. When I started this album it was almost like a rebellion. Like enough is enough. And when I wrote the song “We are the light” with Nikki Flores , that’s when it became very clear to me what I wanted to do with this album. I wanted to make something that basically said “We are the positivity that the world needs to see”. This is the message of the album. Because when you go to the festivals and you see people at the festival, all these different flags, all these different countries, all these different types of people all together smiling, having a great time and loving life together. “We are the light” is a message that we should be the example for the world to follow. So all of the songs kinda come from that idea.
“Upon my shoulders”: I came up with the idea when I was on stage at Tomorrowland looking out and seeing all the flags and the people on each other shoulders I was like: “I wanna write about this moment. I want to capture this moment and write a song about it. ‘Cuz this is amazing. This is like a beautiful image to see.” All of the songs on “We are The light” come from experiences like that.
How was the creative process of the album? Did you ever actually experienced the creators block during making this album?
I did. The hardest one was “Upon my shoulders”. Because we wrote that song with just a guitar and a vocal. And it seemed like everything that I did to it, was over producing it and taking the soul away from it. And the original version you see the video of, it was so hard to make it because I kept adding things, pads, pianos, this and that, and it just felt too much. Took away from the soul of what we came up with in the studio when we were writing it. So, that was really hard. It took me a like three months to get that one right.
How did you snapped out if it?
I don’t think I ever did. I just said that is enough. I don’t know what I am doing anymore. I am so confused. I don’t understand what this song is anymore. So I took a break from it and when I kinda went back and un-produced it. I started muting things, that didn’t need to be in there. And this was it. This is as simple as I can get it, or the complex as I can get it without losing the simple soul that it had.
How did you actually chose the vocalists?
With each one I’ve had a personal connection with. Emma and I have been wanting to do music together for a long time and she lives in Miami now, so it was a lot easier to work with her. Christina Novelli, we were on the Groove Cruise together and we were like: “we gotta make music together”. Capital Cities (Sebu) – I have an old connection with them, since their remix for Safe and Sound a couple of years ago. Jes – is a legend. I’ve known her for a long long time.
And then all the other artists: Smiley (he is from Romania) is a very good friend of ours. I spend a lot of time in Romania and when I am in Romania, I love to go in the studio. And I’ve been going to HaHaHa which is Smiley’s studio many times, and worked in the studio there. We were in LA and me and Adina wrote this song “The Dreamers” and we had a friend of ours sing the demo vocal. And I asked Adina: “Who could sing this song? It’s kind of a song about “I remember when” and we need to get back to that.” And she said: “Call me crazy, but I think Smiley would do an amazing job”. So, I presented it to Smiley and he was like: “I’ve haven’t had a song to make me feel this way in a long time. Let’s do this”.
I’ll tell you a funny story: Smiley nailed the vocals so good, so good to the original vocal production that I actually had the original vocal on one channel and I had Smiley’s vocal on another channel and I made a render of it where I accidentally muted Smiley’s vocal and left the original demo of vocals and played it. I didn’t even realise it, until Adina sent the video to Smiley: “Look at this (I think this may even have been at Untold festival) look at this. Everybody is going crazy” and then he replied back and said: “Aaaa. That’s not my voice”. I was like: “Ohh my God”. Smiley nailed the vocals so good to where I didn’t even noticed. But it’s a special song about nostalgia and “I remember when”. When all we knew, all we had was enough. Our times of innocence. When we didn’t know any better. Everything that we had was enough for us. We were dreamers.
And then my other with Alina. Alina is a very good friend of ours as well. She worked with one of our artists Novaspace and she filmed the video in Miami. So, she and her boyfriend came and stayed with us for a week in Miami and we said: “When the time is right, we need to work on a song together”. And I always knew I wanted to work with her and with this song I said I wanna do something with Alina that she hasn’t done before. So, I went to a good friend of mine. He is a legendary writer, Raz Nitzan and I said to him: “I have this friend who has a beautiful amazing voice, charisma. I wanna write a proper trance song for her. I don’t want a pop song, I want a proper trance song”.
So Raz and I put our heads together and we came up with this beautiful song, presented it to her and same thing. She fell in love with the song. One afternoon we were in the studio, we recorded it and WOW. I think both Alina and Smiley really showed how talented they really are and diverse. Especially when you listen to the acoustic versions. You really hear the beauty in both of their voices. I think Romania should be very proud.
Do you think of collaborating with them again?
Of course. We had such a great time and we are good friends, so why not?
What was the most challenging track to work on?
I said it. That us “Upon my shoulders”. Every time I would do something to it, it was changing the soul of what was originally there. It gave me the most stress out of all of them.
What is your favourite track from the album?
That’s so difficult because each one is like a baby. Each one has a special message. I mentioned “The dreamers”, it’s also a song called “Utopia” in there, which is beautiful. Also there is the “coordinates” track. If you type them down, it takes you to Eschwege, Germany , where I was born. And the song is about: “We haven’t lost our way”. The coordinates, the song means we haven’t lost our way. It’s basically saying “Me personally, I’ve never forgotten where I came from.
That’s where I was born I’ve never forgotten the people that I’ve known along the way and that’s kinda my tribute to now only where I come from, but to all the people that I’ve met and inspired me along the way”. I remember I did an interview a couple of years ago, maybe last year, right around Watch the world and they asked me: what’s next? What’s next for me is my legacy. Working on my legacy. So something like this is all about legacy. To let the people know I’ve never forgotten where I come from.
Can you define Markus Schulz in 5 words?
I can define it in 2 words. Complex and eclectic. And I think my fans they know what I mean by that. They know that I am a complex artist, I have many different moods, but they all understand them. And I am also very eclectic. When you listen to my albums and the acoustic versions and everything, you understand musically how eclectic I am. But the important thing is that all the music comes from my soul. So it has the same soul. If you go all the way back to Do you dream and Progression which were really dark songs and even the Dakota stuff and then into “We are the light” it still comes from the same soul. It still has that same soul. So I think my fans understand complex and eclectic.
Why did you actually chose trance music?
It’s the same answer. Complex and eclectic. I love trance music. Because it is complex and I love trance music because it is eclectic. You have everything from progressive to big room, uplifting trance to techy, techno, trance. Some of the new music, some of the new techno that it is out right now it’s not techno it’s trance. Same words. Complex and eclectic.
You clearly have a lot of experience in the field, but like a lot of the other artists you also did some mistakes. What was one mistake and what did you actually learn from it?
There was a mistake. But I wouldn’t change it. But I did learn something from it. It was when I did a track called Sleepwalkers under Dakota. When I first started in the music, I was a breakdancer. I loved breakdancing and always said that I wanted to recreate the Beat Street scene, a scene from the movie – the battle scene in one of my music videos one day. And we did Sleepwalkers and I said this is the video. I wanna do it. I contacted Melle Mel who did the song that the battle was on; I contacted his management and asked: Would he be interested in doing a cameo appearance in the video?
Because how cool would it be to recreate the scene and the have a cameo appearance and they told me “Not only does Melle Mel want to be in the video. He would love to write a rap on it. And I was like: you’re kidding me. Melle Mel he is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is my hero. So I am like: “Ohh my gosh, this would be amazing”.
So I flew down to Miami, I was in the studio.. he walks in: Melle Mel, Scorpio from Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five and Wonder Mike from the Sugar Hill gang. These 3 guys walk into my studio and I was just like: “Are you kidding me? This is unreal”. Melle Mel put down a verse and we released it. We put the video out and for me it was like a childhood dream. To work with heroes.
But Ohh my God. The drama that was online, it was so sad. Because my soul was so happy; to be able to work with these guys. I wish that every artist out there could work with one of their heroes. But the response online was so evil. And so bad. I learned something from that and that was that people don’t really understand. Maybe I didn’t learn anything. But it hurt me. It really hurt me. Was it a mistake? Yeah. Because there was so much drama around that. But at the end of the day I would do it again because the teenager in me deserved that moment.
Can you name a top 3 trance tracks ever?
For me Perception is number one. That song changed everything for me. I was on the dancefloor at Ministry of Sound (I think It was) and I heard that come on and it changed my life. So Perception will always be number one.
Number 2 and 3 can change: Solarcoaster by Solarstone was amazing. And let’s say also …Obviously I think we all had that moment when first heard Silence by Delerium ft. Sarah McLachlan (Tiesto Mix). It was like WOW. Everybody from house DJs to trance DJs I think they were like: “how is this possible, to have such a drive and beauty in a track. The ying and yang.
And I will mention one more: Age of Love by Age of Love (The Jam and Spoon mix).
If you could change places for one day with another artist, with whom would you change places and why?
Probably with one of the commercial pop artists, to show that you don’t have to be as cheesy as you are. And I am not going to mention any names, but you can do what you’re doing without selling your soul. You can be commercial without selling your soul. At this point, I wouldn’t even be surprised if we end up having an EDM remix of Macarena. And we will have all the Tomorrowland doing the Macarena.
Honestly. What’s next? We’ve got every trick in the book that they are doing now. It’s like a wedding dj. Now we are going to do the hokey pokey; now we’re going to do the chicken dance; now we’re gonna do the Macarena. That’s what sometimes the mainstage is like and it doesn’t have to be like that. The experience. The mainstage experience doesn’t have to be like that.
Everybody has a hidden talent. What’s yours?
My hidden talent. Hahahah. First of all breakdancing. But I can’t break dance anymore. And one of the other hidden talents that I used to have (I am not kidding. This is crazy). But I used to be a hula-hoop champion. We’ve had a hula-hoop contest and the last person standing won. I was able to do a hula-hoop for like 30 minutes; an hour. I just kept going until I was the last one. I was very talented at hula-hoop.