Listening, it’s hard to envisage, but Markus Schulz’s most “up” album to date – originated from a remarkably dark place. With his seventh long-player out now, the DJ / Producer / Songwriter took the opportunity to share insights into the album’s production path and what lay in its bedrock.
T.H.E – Hey Markus! “We Are The Light” is your 7th album, and with every album, there’s a certain story that you want to put out. And, there’s a certain kind of difference that you want to bring out for your fans.
Markus Schulz – That’s correct, yes.
T.H.E – How different is this album compared to everything you’ve done in the past?
Markus Schulz – Well yeah, I mean, you know it’s the 7th album. They say your first album is a lifetime in the making so everything from when you were born through your growing up years, up until your first album, you take all those emotions and memories and you put them into your first. And it’s like then every other album after that is almost like a snapshot of where you are in your life at that point. And if you listen to all my albums you can hear how I have evolved in the industry, as a person. And this album is very much different from everything cause it’s almost rebellious but in a different way. Like ‘Scream’ was rebellious too. ‘Scream’ was saying, “I just want to have fun now, you know. There’s too much, you know of…… of analyzing or… critiquing. Let’s just have fun, this is beautiful music, let’s have fun!”
But “We Are The Light” is like rebelling against all the sadness that was happening in the world when I started working on this album. It was just like enough is enough, you know? I mean, I know it’s quite some time in the past now but the Orlando shooting, the Vegas shooting – that was all happening when I was in the studio writing “We are the Light with Nikki Flores.
So, when we came up with that song, I knew what direction I wanted this album to take. I wanted this album to be uplifting but rebellious, rebellious against all the negativity that’s happening. And the whole idea is – We are the light, that the world should look at right now. Because when you’re at the festivals and everything, you just see all these flags from all over the world. All these different types of people from all over the world. Everyone just kind of enjoying life together. So that was, that’s the snapshot of this album. And where I am right now.
T.H.E – How long has the album been in the works?
Markus Schulz – You know I finished some of the tracks as part of the writing camp for ‘Watch The World’ but they didn’t get finished or it wasn’t right, you know. For, like an example, ‘Upon My Shoulders’, we wrote that track and it was originally called ‘Carrying My Girl Upon My Shoulders’. And it just was like… ummm, I wasn’t too sure, and I put it on a shelf.
And then when I started going through some of the old hard drives and seeing what else I had, I remembered that that was something special but there was something not right with it. And I sent that to Sebu, I said what do you think about this? And he came back, he was like do you mind if I rewrite some of the lyrics? I was like, by all means you know. And he changed it from ‘Carrying my girl upon my shoulders’ to ‘carrying you upon my shoulders’ and it felt perfect!
Like oh my god, that simple. And that’s the beautiful thing about music. Sometimes it’s a simple adjustment or a simple change… changes everything, you know. And so yeah some of the tracks that I had and then, but for the most part right after I finished ‘Watch The World’, I was working on this. But I also kind of took a detour and I did this Dakota project last year.
T.H.E – Yup.
Markus Schulz – So the Dakota and ‘We Are The Light’ was kind of going simultaneously but that’s why it’s interesting. Both the projects come from the same source. A source of darkness, a source of trying to figure things out but it’s still very different messages, yeah. You know one was me trying to figure out what’s going on in the world and this is me saying to everyone hey, we should be the light that the world looks to right now.
T.H.E – Specifically talking about the album. If you look at the kind of songs titles that are on there, the kind of album name, the kind of press pictures you shot, right? It signifies a very positive light sort of a theme, correct? It’s very different compared to everything you’ve done in the past.
Markus Schulz – Yeah because, you know, I started off as the dark trance guy.
T.H.E – Exactly! So, have you always sort of been like, you know, focused on the fact that your album is going to take this direction ever since you started working on it?
Markus Schulz – Yes! Yeah, 100%. Like I said when we did ‘We Are The Light’, the song, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this album. Like everything became clear. And when we were in the studio writing we’d be writing words, lyrics. And I had a very clear sense of what not to say and what I wanted to say, you know? Writing different phrases just because I want to take this direction. So yeah, it was a conscious effect to make the message positive and uplifting.
T.H.E – Compared to your previous albums, your contribution when it comes to songwriting has been a lot more on this one, right?
Markus Schulz – Mmm. Yeah, it’s.
T.H.E – So how did that happen?
Markus Schulz – Well since ‘Watch The World’ I’ve been more, I’ve been like 100% in it. I think when I first started producing, I was messing with the knobs and everything. And I would just work with singers and I didn’t have confidence in myself. But I used to be, when I was young, I was a creative writer. I used to write a lot of stories. I mean, that was one of my strong points when I was in school. I love writing and, you know, when you start making melodies and twisting knobs on keyboards, you kind of give that up. When I met Adina, we wrote together some songs, both on ‘Scream I’ and ‘Scream II’. And through that, it gave me more confidence. And then when we started when I wrote Destiny.
T.H.E – Yeah.
Markus Schulz – That’s when I was like oh my god, you know, I can do this! Like my words, you know, can resonate with people.
T.H.E – Yeah.
Markus Schulz – I think the biggest thing was not having the confidence because hearing words come through the speakers, your words, is a totally different feeling than hearing your melody coming through the speakers. You know what I mean?
T.H.E – Definitely!
Markus Schulz – And so after I wrote Destiny, that’s when my confidence shot up.
T.H.E – Yeah.
Markus Schulz – I wanted to be involved with every song going forward, you know. Cause I feel like I want to write lyrics that connect the community. Not just empty words about, some girl walking down the street and love, or her heart broken, whatever. That’s not what I want to write about. I want to write about us as a community!
T.H.E – And you’ve been very clear in terms of the kind of message that you want this album to have. How did you identify the kind of collaborators that you wanted to work with, who will help you in delivering that message?
Markus Schulz – Yeah, actually, that was quite easy (Laughs). That was quite easy because it’s like I have a connection with everybody on the album. So, it’s almost like I made this album with 14 of my best friends, you know? Even Ferry was involved with a couple of songs on this album. So, it’s funny how it’s just you, you get in the studio and just jam out. Let’s see what happens, you know? It wasn’t like I need to work with you and there’s all this pressure we got to make something happen.
I mean, you know, like Emma Hewitt and I we talked about working together for a long time. So, there was pressure, but it wasn’t really pressuring that you hate, you know? It was like hey, yeah, we’re gonna just like see what happens, you know? With Christina Novelli, that was a little more interesting cause we had just met in January on the Groove Cruise. I mean, we’d seen each other at shows and stuff but on the Groove Cruise, we hung out. Myself, Adina and Christina were all just hanging out and we’re like, ‘we got to work together’. And right away, when we were done with the Groove Cruise, we were back in the studio. So yeah, it’s just like I said, it felt like making an album with 14 friends (laughs).
T.H.E – And when it comes to taking the decision to make an album, right. How does that happen, like do you start producing, keeping in mind that you’re working towards an album?
Markus Schulz – For me, yes. You know, like for me, I love theater. I come from a theater background. You know when I think about a night, especially open and close. When I think about it, to me it’s like theater. When the curtains open, when people walk into the theater for the first time. Every little detail, I like to set the mood. So, when I started making music, I think about how I’m going to put this into my sets. So, for me, with albums, it’s like I want to make a show. I want to make a, you know, We Are The Light show. So, when I make an album, it’s about how is this going to look.
T.H.E – Yeah.
Markus Schulz – Almost like a Broadway play, you know. Like how is this all gonna be one experience? An experience during the night so yeah, that’s how I approach. Doing albums is trying to make it a show.
T.H.E – When it comes to your open and close sets, right. I mean, obviously, you’re known for those open and close sets. You set the perfect mood, you’ve been doing it for quite some time, right? What is it you keep on doing, that makes it fresher every single time you play?
Markus Schulz – What, my open and close? How I make my open and close different? I think I just, you know, my fans know that I am very eclectic. I have very eclectic tastes in music. And I’ve always kind of followed the deeper music. And you know, not only that but that’s how I started my career, as a resident DJ. So, I just evolved with the times, you know, like my open and close sets. I’m just as a big fan of the music I am playing as the people out in the audience. They’re unscripted, the open and close, so it’s like when you get into that time of the night when you are surprising yourself. You’re like oh my gosh… like wow… this track… like wow, you know?
T.H.E – Yeah.
Markus Schulz – Some of the tracks, I only play them during the open and close sets so when I’m playing them, and I hear them on the big system and see the people going crazy, I’m like wow as well, you know. And that feeling is always trying to capture that moment is what makes this open and close set special for me.
T.H.E – And from a mental point of view, obviously making an album is a very exhausting process, right?
Markus Schulz – Yeah.
T.H.E – Because there’s one narrative that you’re trying to deliver on so many tracks? How do you constantly find inspiration? How do you keep yourself inspired to ensure that you do it?
Markus Schulz – Yeah, it’s funny because I feel more inspired now since the album is done then when I was making the album. Because now, I feel the weight is off my shoulders.
T.H.E – Yeah.
Markus Schulz – And now I’ve made another track last week just messing around because I was inspired. So, trying to keep the inspiration going while you’re making an album takes discipline. But at the end of the day, it’s still about the love of music, you know? I love making music so no matter how much pressure is on. There’s nothing like being in the studio! You know what I mean?
T.H.E – How do you deal with all that pressure? Like is there something that you constantly do?
Markus Schulz – No, you got to take a break when you know that you gotta take a break. You know, it’s like, I just need to get away right now. I just need a break. And then usually, you know…. one day… two later, the fire comes back. Sometimes, you should definitely shut off and refresh.
T.H.E – Lastly, how has 2018 been for you and what are your plans going forward now?
Markus Schulz – 2018 – it’s been so fast, just because I’ve been busy finishing the album and touring and everything. It’s done fast but we’re setting up 2019 right now and We are the light is going to be a big part of that.
T.H.E – Are there any album tours that you have already planned?
Markus Schulz – There’s… no, because I think that what we are going to do is select shows. Like we have a big show coming up in Montreal at New Gas City. And another one coming up at Rebel in Toronto. And these shows are spread out through the year. And we are bringing our singers and Sebu as well. And yeah, we are not going to do it at every place. We’re just doing to do it sporadically.
T.H.E – At select shows, yeah.
Markus Schulz – Yeah, select shows through the year cause as I said, I come from a theater background. So, for me, I want to have… I want to put on a show.
T.H.E – An experience, right?
Markus Schulz – An experience and it must be the right venue.
T.H.E – You have accomplished quite a lot. How do you constantly keep on meeting your goals?
Markus – Yeah, that question came up after my last album. They’re like hey you’ve done so much, what’s next for you? And that’s how a lot of inspiration from that question goes into this album too. The answer is… my legacy. Working on my legacy now. You know what I mean? It’s like I want to make music now that is going to be around 100, 200, 500 years from now. I want people to discover my music 500 years from now and go, ‘wow, you know what…. you know, this is something that I like! You know because we discover classical music and classical chord changes and everything in classical music and it’s like wow, you know. And that’s what I want to do. I want to leave a legacy!
T.H.E – Thank you so much!
Markus Schulz – Thank you!