EDMTunes Interview: Markus Schulz

Make way for the Unicorn Slayer! The trance legend, known for his marathon sets and pioneering sounds, brought us the album ‘Scream‘ back in 2012 and now he is back for round two. This time, Markus Schulz gets ready to unleash his next album ‘Scream 2‘ on February 21st out on Armada Records.

It’s dinner time in Los Angeles and raining lightly. Instead of traversing the slew of traffic on the 101 freeway all the way home, I make a detour through the lit up streets of Hollywood. I am not on my way to dinner but rather to the Redbury Hotel right in the heart of Hollywood’s hustle and bustle. Here, I have the pleasure of sitting down with the Unicorn Slayer to pick his brain about his new album ‘Scream 2‘, among other things. With no hesitation, Markus Schulz, immediately shared his thoughts about the project with such passion that I was in awe. It was apparent why this man was such a legend. Markus knows his stuff as an artist, he genuinely cares about his fans and he is all about creating moments that people will remember forever. Tonight was going to be quite a night.

A few hours later, I arrived at Sound Nightclub, one of my favorite places in Hollywood. Fans were packed inside the small club warming up to the sounds of the opener. Then it was time. There were banners, unicorn masks and posters paying homage to the Unicorn Slayer. Everyone could feel what was to come and began to chant “Markus! Markus! Markus!” Stepping onto the decks, Markus raised a hand to greet the crowd and then it was blast off! Markus Schulz took the crowd on a journey through time and space weaving in his new tracks from ‘Scream 2‘ with the masterful skill and production that make him a legend. The sound was epic and relentless. The crowd didn’t stop until Markus relinquished the decks well after 3 am. The night was full of surprises including a live performance of ‘Blown Away’ with Liz Primo, as well as the opportunity to wish Markus a happy birthday during which a giant birthday cake was brought into the booth.These are the moments that will forever be remembered.

EDMTunes: ‘Scream 2‘ is now your 5th artist album and is the sequel to ‘Scream‘. How did you want ‘Scream 2‘ to differ from ‘Scream‘? 

Well, when I was working on, when I finished up ‘Scream 1‘ I still had a lot of ideas left. Normally when I finish an album or anyone finishes an album they are just like “ok I am done, I need a vacation now”, but for me when I finished ‘Scream‘ I still had so many more ideas and I said “you know what? I’m gonna keep working and see what happens.” Through the bus tour, through the summer season and everything, next thing you knew I had all these tracks, enough for another album. A continuation of the first ‘Scream‘, they were all inspired by the crowds I was playing for during the Scream tours, so for me it was a natural thing to call it ‘Scream 2‘ , because it really is a continuation and it wasn’t really like “ok I want ‘Scream 2‘  to sound like this or that”. It was literally just continuing what I started with ‘Scream 1‘ .

Were there any particular elements you wanted to bring into it?

For me it was about making tracks that I could play in my DJ sets and tracks that had moments where people would be out on the dance floor or at a festival and these moments they remembered, so both ‘Scream‘ and’Scream 2‘  had that idea in mind. I just wanted it to be bold and I wanted it to cut through all of the clutter.

One track in particular really stood out, can you talk a little bit about ‘Blown Away’?

Aw yeah! ‘Blown Away‘, I love that track. Liz Primo, she sent me this demo of ‘Blown Away‘ and it was totally different when I heard it. It was downtempo, chill, very rock influenced and I just heard her voice, I heard the lyrics and everything and I was like “this is really really good”. I was just thinking to myself “wait a minute! What if we did it this way?” We basically started the track again from the ground up, resang the track, recomposed all the music and…yea…wow…it is a very special track. I’ve said this before but i think she sounds like Lana Del Rey and that’s what really captured me, it’s like “Woah!”. Soon a I first heard her voice I was like “woah, there is something special here” and I remember so clearly, I was on the airplane and I had her acappella, so I started working on some chords and i came up with the chord structure for it and then I just sat back in my seat and just hit play and I was like “this is it” and it just all came together. When you find the combination of music and vocals in a song like that, it just snaps together perfectly. You know that moment, you feel it.

It’s very striking.

Yea it’s a great story that track.

You mentioned how you picked Liz Primo’s vocals up, how about the other ones? What kinds of things were you looking for when choosing your vocalists for ‘Scream 2‘ ? Was there anything in particular that influenced your decisions?

I am very active, always talking to other songwriters and singers, so each track kinda has its own story. I remember with ‘Erase You‘ for example we are talking about “’Nothing Without Me‘ needs a sequel, I think it’s kinda just touching a nerve, there has gotta be a part two to the story.” We started coming up with some ideas for ‘Erase You‘ and its kinda like this angry, not filled with hate or anything, but this edgy kinda of…I call them stalker anthems. ‘Nothing Without Me‘, to me that track is, it was written from an obsessed fan’s point of view, so when we started working on a sequel to that I said there has to be a sequel to ‘Nothing Without Me‘ that has to be written from the stalker’s point of view, that’s where lyrics like “I can’t erase you” comes in. It’s kinda cool, I smile when I think about how the ideas came about and then the end result, I think for me that is always the coolest thing. People listen to the albums and they judge the tracks on what they are, like “here’s the track, I like it or I don’t like it, that’s it” but as an artist you listen to a track and all the moments of creation come back when you listen to the tracks. You understand how it started, how the track got to this point, there’s some really great moments that you look back and just smile at.

You debuted a few tracks from ‘Scream 2‘ (Remember This/In the Shadows) at some major festivals this past year, such EDC Las Vegas and Transmission’s 10 year anniversary. What was that like?

In your mind it’s all this hype. When I am making the tracks I’m imagining the crowds going crazy and this spot her I want the crowd to jump up and down and go crazy and blah blah blah. Then it’s like now is the time, now is the time to see if your ideas really worked, because maybe you played the track and the crowd goes flat, then it’s like uh-oh my idea didn’t quite translate into what I thought it would. It’s always a moment of truth I guess when you play them, but then when you see it take hold and you see the crowds going crazy to it then….wow. wow. wow.

Like at EDC.

Yea I opened with it (Remember This) at EDC. When the climax happened and the pads came in, it just feels like you are flying away, then I saw the crowd just going with it. It was like “wow. That’s cool!” Those are moments that I remember, those moments where I envision a crowd doing something and then you try it out for the first time and they’re doing it and you’re like “wow. wow. wow” and it’s more powerful than you imagined in your mind.

With your hectic touring schedule and side project New World Punx, how did you manage your time to produce ‘Scream 2‘?  

I just kept working. I was really inspired. These two albums were especially inspired by the crowds, I think you can hear that, a lot of tracks are really bold and were meant to be played in big rooms. That was the idea behind the Scream series, I wanted these two albums to be really bold. For me it was just work, work, work. I’d get an idea and put it down, not just I have and idea and then go to sleep, no it’s 4 am or 5 am I just finished a gig but I wanted to put the idea down before I lost it. For me it was just trying to make sure and not lose these moments or these ideas that I had in my head.

Just to switch gears a little bit, can you talk about your likes and dislikes of short festival sets compared to your marathon sets?  

I love both. There is a totally different strategy that goes to each one. When I am playing a short set, for example, I really try to make it a showcase of who I am as an artist, showcase me. I got to put the tracks together creatively, let them tell a story, but at the same time its gotta be high impact and the momentum has to be right. When you have the short sets there isn’t a lot of room for experimenting, because if you experiment in a short set and it doesn’t work out it’s very hard to recover, so it’s about momentum. The long sets are fun in a different way, because I get to program three different sets. Programming an opening set and then in the middle would be where my short set is, you know two, three hour part of the night and then you get into the after hours, more trippy stuff.

The Rabbit Hole.

Yea down the rabbit hole. I love that time. Everybody loves that time of night. It’s the best. You can’t roll into a club and just start off down the rabbit hole, cause it’s some place you have to take the journey to get there and then when you are there it just makes it really special. For me both types of sets are fun in their own different ways.

Here at EDMTunes, we are always focusing on showcasing new up and coming artists, is there anyone in particular that you have your eye on for 2014?  

One of the artists on my label that has been really hot for a year or two already, but I don’t think he’s at that level where…um…he’s still growing and that’s Khomha. Khomha, he just has this touch and everybody that has seen him play says the same thing “he’s got such a good energy to him” and his music is really unique. I think that Khomha is protege and he’s the one that I’m really proud of.

Awesome. Well we will keep an eye on him.  Okay, last question, when can we expect new Dakota material?

Soon! Now that I’ve got the Scream thing wrapped up, I’ve already started carving out some Dakota ideas and I think that’s going to be the next thing to start working on some Dakota stuff. It’s cool that the fans have been patient and or impatient, but yea for sure I’ve got some really cool ideas for some new Dakota stuff and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of Dakota.