The mastermind behind not only his own artist brand, but a well-seasoned label owner, mentor, and visionary, Markus Schulz remains in the top tier of our most highly-respected list. Captivating listeners whether by shutting down venues across the world with his marathon sets or reworking sonic classics like Ave Maria, you can rest assured that Markus is always on the hunt for new methods of expression, or recharged creations of old.
As is tradition, he returned to hosting his annual Amsterdam Dance Event open-to-close at Melkweg, one of the city’s most breathtaking and highly-respected venues. An idyllic platform to speak his mind through compositions, Melkweg lends itself beautifully to Markus’ signature sound and design, creating the ultimate all-nighter year after year. The crowd is just drawn to him, nearly in a state of awe as they danced beneath rocketing lighting fixtures and vibrant light beams. As you might expect, the masses stuck it out until dawn was calling and day four of ADE was already upon the city of Amsterdam.
We got to chatting with Markus at the breathtaking Hotel Estherea in Amsterdam’s city center, and dug deeper into his latest album projects, We Are The Light and We Are The Light (The Remixes) as well as music video concepts, audiovisual pairings, his upcoming album, and this year’s In Search of Sunrise compilation. Read below for the full interview:
Nocturnal Times: Welcome to another year of ADE! Share with us a bit about your plans for the week – you’ve got your open to close on Friday again. How do you think this set will differ from last year’s?
Markus: So I played on Sunday into Monday at Stereo in Montreal, and I was really deep all night long. For ten and half hours I was just really deep, and I just loved it and I really hope I can stay that way. The beautiful thing about open to closes is you take people on a journey. But to be able to effectively do that, you have to also read the crowd. You have to be in tune with the crowd. The idea is that I know what I want to do, but I’m also going to feel the crowd out and go with them, like if they need something a little more, I’ll give it to them. But the wish is that I can stay deep down in the rabbit hole all night long, and I think that will be a little different because over the years past I kind of went up down, up down, up down, but I’d really like to just stay down all night long. So we’ll see!
Nocturnal Times: What else are you doing here for the week in Amsterdam?
Markus: Today for example I’m doing an appearance with Ruben at his party, so I’ve got parties and meetings. The difference between Amsterdam Dance Event and Miami Music Week is Amsterdam Dance Event are a lot, a lot, a lot of meetings. Miami Music Week is a lot, a lot, a lot of partying. But everybody loves both! To set up meetings, working with people and grinding it out all year long, and then meeting them in Miami and celebrating your work is very good. Here is where everything gets set up for next year, so obviously we’re very busy with a lot of meetings. I have my whole crew here and we’re all scattered around the city doing meetings. I also have the A State Of Trance event on Thursday, and then I do another surprise appearance that same day with W&W as well. Then Saturday the idea is to kind of get out of the city and do something chill, but Ferry has a show on Saturday too so who knows, maybe we’ll wind up being with Ferry.
Nocturnal Times: When you’re here this week are you mainly focused on yourself and your artist plans, or are you doing just as much work here for Coldharbour?
Markus: Exactly – a lot of both. That’s the beautiful thing is since Coldharbour is directly in line with what I’m doing, all my meetings and conversations have everything included in it. The staff, the crew, they kind of follow up with more detailed things, but when I have meetings it’s like hey, I want to try this or do things this way this year. Iron it all out, and then the rest of the crew goes and finishes all the details. It’s kind of weird because you see it in movies, like my people and your people will take care of the details but you know that’s kind of how things work. You kind of set things up – the ideas, the strategies, and then you go on to the next meeting and everyone follows behind and makes sure all the I’s get dotted and the T’s get crossed. And by the way, that’s the boring part of the meetings!
Nocturnal Times: Working backwards from last year when you were here setting things up for the year, what was one of your biggest projects that ended up coming to life?
Markus: I think the new album. We’re putting together a new album for 2020 but at the same time it’s like, I have no idea. Usually at this point I have a title for the album, I have a concept, I have everything. I have nothing. I have about 18 songs done, and they’re sketches, but some are finished ideas. But I want to do something different. I want to do something that bends the rules a little but at the same time strikes emotions in people. I have it in my head, and I’m just trying to get out what’s in my head, and sometimes it’s just easier said than done.
Nocturnal Times: Based on what you do have so far, do you think it’s going to be drastically different from We Are The Light?
Markus: Okay, maybe. Not drastically. We Are The Light I think had one instrumental on it, and I think this one is going to have a lot more instrumentals on it as well. I’m trying to experiment with the instrumentals a lot more. For example, I was saying that we’ve been living between 128 and 138 for 20 years, and the minute you type a number into your sequencer, you already know what the song is going to sound like. So it’s like typing in a random number like 150, and all of the sudden it’s like what is this going to sound like? I don’t know! Let’s see where this takes us. So there’s been some really interesting things, and some that didn’t turn out. So the idea is that things that I find very, very interesting, I have on my playlist and I’m seeing, does it have legs? Does it last? Three or six months from now am I still going to feel that excited about it? Or will I revert back to the traditional stuff that is also on my playlist? So we’ll see. But at the same time it’s very rewarding. I wake up every morning excited going to the studio, not just going to the studio, type in 128 or 130 and already know what I’m going to do.
Nocturnal Times: Looking back at more recent projects, you had the We Are The Light remix album come out. What would you say are a couple of remixes that you want to pick out and share a few words about?
Markus: The Richard Durand remix…the track that I did with Alina Eremia, that was absolutely stunning. I mean wow…wow, wow, wow. And she’s amazing too. When we recording that song in Bucharest, she even said to me, this song speaks to me. It’s beautiful. It was on the album and it just kind of lived there on the album slowly gathering fans, and it’s the very last single from the album, with a full blown Richard Durand remix that he knocked out of the park. And the video turned out beautiful so it was just an amazing moment. It’s kind of amazing to end the album cycle with that.
Nocturnal Times: The message that stands behind the album is also amazing.
Markus: Exactly, and that’s what I’m kind of stuck with right now. What does the world need, and what do I need right now? And I think what I need right now is to just experiment. I don’t want to give out any political message, I don’t want to give out a social message, because I’ve said what I needed to say. And now I’m at a point where I’m searching for something. And through that journey of searching is when beautiful things happen. I shouldn’t rush. It’s better when you’re not searching for it…when it kind of just comes naturally.
Nocturnal Times: In the past year you’ve created some very cool music videos. Is there any kind of concept for a music video in particular that you’ve thought about and would love to bring to life?
Markus: Adina is the one that kind of handles the music videos. She loves that and she is an amazing director. Our whole concept has always been to find amazing locations, and then just let the location be the star. She took Emma to Bonaire, and they filmed the music video for “Safe From Harm” there, and Adina and Emma and the film crew were just running around down there and you see how beautiful it turned out. I think that’s the idea.
Also when we filmed “We Are The Light” we went up to the mountains in California and we got stuck in a blizzard. We didn’t know it was going to snow, so here we are not prepared at all. Poor Nikki is running around in a blizzard with this little top on, but it turned out amazing. So I think that’s the idea with the videos is just find amazing locations. The one with Christina Novelli we did in Santorini which also had a very interesting landscape. It’s also a way of showing the fans and people in the community some of the beautiful places in the world. So many people were messaging saying oh my god this is amazing!
Nocturnal Times: Also in line with experimentation but more on the performance side, there’s been more and more of all these very crazy audiovisual experiences. What are your thoughts on this takeoff?
Markus: Well we’ve been doing time coded video shows since the beginning, and now people are kind of re-twisting it or repurposing it but the concept and the technology, we’ve been using already for almost 10 years. But I love it because when you’re in the studio working, you’re not just like in the studio making a song. You’re also thinking about visually what am I going to do in this spot? What do I want to happen in this spot? So it’s quite cool and there’s a lot of amazing video producers out there who produce amazing content, and it’s great when the two come together because the two really do go hand in hand. You just gotta have the right stage setup, and that’s the thing is that not all places have the right stage setup. Some festivals have their own custom visuals and they don’t bring outside visuals in, but at the same time these shows that do the visuals are really well done.
Nocturnal Times: Do you have any larger long-term goals of starting something new like this?
Markus: Well I did the Dakota project. The whole thing was time coded and visuals and telling a story, but I only did that in nine cities. I wanted it to be very exclusive, and then the DVD is out there so everybody can watch it. I think for the next album I’m still trying to figure out what the whole concept is going to be – whether I want to make it more visuals, or make it more like shows and bring Emma along, bring Adina, bring Alina along, and have them sing live and that kind of thing. I don’t know! We gotta see how it’s all going to look in the end. It’s a beautiful thing.
Nocturnal Times: Coming out of this Summer and the rest of these closing months for the year, what are a couple things you’re most looking forward to?
Markus: Well I’ve got the In Search of Sunrise compilation coming out. We’re working on that all year long, quietly. And it’s a pleasure to do that because it’s such a legacy – a legendary series. And to bring it back up to the level when Tiësto was doing it is what the goal is. And the beautiful thing about it is we put songs for it aside all year long. With the label we get demos every day, and then you get something in and you’re like oh no – let’s save this for Sunrise. So it’s a lot of stuff that we’ve been holding onto for this special occasion, and I think it turned out to be a beautiful journey. I’m really excited for the release of that!
Featured photos via Markus Schulz Instagram and Facebook.
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