‘Watch The World’ is the sixth studio album by Trance producer & DJ Markus Schulz which has been highly anticipated by the global trance community.
On this album, Markus has collaborated with various vocalists such as Lady V, Delacey and Adina Butar to name a few. His ever growing success can be attributed to his determination and passion for music. We had a great opportunity to get into the mind of our beloved Unicorn Slayer and his journey in this ever changing industry. Read our chat below.
Rasalika – Firstly congratulations on the release of “Watch the World”. How does it feel knowing you now have 6 albums under your belt?
Markus Schulz – Thanks so much. It’s a mixture of relief and happiness, because I have dedicated two years of my life, two years of my studio work towards this project.
The main goal I wanted to achieve with Watch the World was to write meaningful words; words which as a community have meaning and connect us worldwide. It wasn’t just the melodies and beats that I wanted to make, it was the words and messages that hopefully people will remember long beyond the release of the album.
With this album, it feels like I am sharing my personal stories and life happenings through the words more than ever before. So my hope is that it’s something that the fans can attach to.
Rasalika – While this is a solo album you have worked with a few vocalists, how do you choose which artist to work with when it comes to vocals?
Markus Schulz – My management team kindly arranged me to attend several writing camps, spread between Los Angeles and Bucharest, with the bulk of the production being done there, as well as Miami, Berlin and London.
So the majority of singers I met for the first time were through those writing camps. It was a case of meeting them, sharing the stories I was trying to convey through words into creating a song, and striking a chord of familiarity between the words and their voice. The likes of Destiny, Summer Dream, Leaving LA and the new single Love Me Like You Never Did featuring Ethan Thompson, were created in this fashion. Out of the Bucharest sessions yielded Facedown, Soldier and You & I.
As well as the new singers, some of course are familiar faces from previous work, such as Victoria Horn / Lady V, who had worked with me on Erase You and Winter Kills Me. I’m delighted to have her as part of this album, and indeed on the title track. And of course Adina Butar featured on each instalment of the Scream series with Caught and Muse, and appears again here with You & I. She was an incredible guidance to me and the singers with her insight into songwriting.
What I appreciated with the camp approach was working with respected singers – people who have been nominated for Grammy awards in the past, and they were giving me positive feedback on what I was writing. Confidence is the main aspect I have taken from this album process.
Rasalika – You have managed to remain loyal to the trance community, keeping the Markus Schulz sound around without having moved to a more mainstream feel. How have you been able to keep that sound intact?
Markus Schulz – It’s very kind and humbling if people think of me in that regard.
I think the most important proof one can evaluate whether or not their heart is into something, is what comes out of the speakers. If you don’t produce music that you love dearly, or play DJ sets which have no connection to yourself, then over time burnout will take over.
What I’ve always strived to do with every single production, whether it’s under my own name or an alias, is to make something that represents my mind and my soul, and is something that fans can recognise and appreciate..
Where I have been so fortunate is to find an acceptance and following within the trance community, and out of all the dance music genres, the trance fans are by far the most loyal and passionate. They love this music; it means so much to them and plays an enormous part of their lives. I speak regularly with DJs of other genres, and they admit an element of jealousy when they look at trance DJs and their connection with the fans.
Rasalika – Take us through your inspiration for “Destiny” featuring Delacey.
Markus Schulz – Destiny came about because of my personal relationship, where you meet someone in your life that you never knew before, but felt destined to be inspired by them beyond belief.
I met Delacey for the first time during a studio session in Los Angeles, and I got into detail about the song, and the story I was trying to tell. When she sang it back to me, it was one of the most touching moments I have ever experienced. Collectively, we said to ourselves, this could be special. But when you’re in the studio, you just never know whether or not it will connect with a listening audience.
Musically, what I wanted to do with Destiny in particular was to present more of an old-school musical arrangement. Nowadays everyone is producing tracks where the extended mix is barely passing four or five minutes in length, but with Destiny I wanted to present the aspect of a journey within a journey, resulting in the extended mix clocking in past the ten minute mark.
I can’t express enough how incredible the response from the fans has been. And that response was the primary catalyst towards Watch the World being more of a songwriting-based project.
Rasalika – It’s been 2 years since your last solo album, how has the journey to put together this album been different from “Scream 2”?
Markus Schulz – The main theme of this Watch the World album is that it has been built on the backbone of a personal adventure for me, diving in to the world of songwriting, where everything begins with a pen, a guitar and a piece of blank paper.
After completing the two Scream albums, I was at a point in my career where I wanted to evaluate and see where I wanted to go in the future. What was the next step to take me forward and make things more exciting?
So when I undertook a period of reflection, my mind cast back to the days of my youth, and the things I enjoyed. When I was at school, the one subject I excelled at was creative writing, and my teachers would always be encouraging me to try it as often as possible. However, even at that age, having fallen in love with music and listening to the radio, I was so determined to chase my dream of becoming a DJ, even at the expense of everything else.
When doors began to open for me on the DJ front, the next step for me was moving into production. And when you are at that young age, you expend all of your creative energy into the music – playing around with the synthesizers and turning the knobs. So my desire for creative writing began to fade away over time.
But now, having completed this album, on a personal level it’s very gratifying to me to delve into an interest that was there in my youth, but had faded away as my DJ career began. It feels like a flame inside me has been reignited. 17 tracks later, the Watch the World album is ready with amazing stories waiting to be heard by everyone.
Rasalika – Is there any significance behind the title?
Markus Schulz – The decision for that came quite late in the album process, when I had a relatively strong idea of how the tracklist would shape up. Ideally, I wanted to name the album after one of the track titles. And in analysing the names, I had to determine which would best paint an overall portrait of what the album is about.
From that perspective, the words “Watch the World” took on greater meaning. When you think about it, how many stories are being developed and shared in various locations around the globe on a daily basis? And with the album being built around songs based on life stories, it became the most appropriate and poignant slogan to use. The track itself is beautiful, and having a history with Lady V in the past, through the likes of Erase You and Winter Kills Me, our chemistry was strong with Watch the World itself.
Rasalika – With all the work on the album as well as the world tour, how do you manage to stay as energetic from the time you step on stage at the first event till the last step, off stage at the last event?
Markus Schulz – It’s undoubtedly tough! And you have to make so many sacrifices in your life to do this for a living – you miss birthdays, weddings, Thanksgivings and so on. However, where I have been very lucky is to have a collection of friends and colleagues who understand what I have to do, and those very close to me are making the same sacrifices in their own lives to help me along the way.
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.
Rasalika – “Without You Near” was your first release via Armada Music back in 2005, almost 11 years later and you still continue to have a major impact the industry. How has the music scene changed throughout the years for you?
Markus Schulz – Well, life certainly has become so much busier! Prior to Without You Near I was still relatively unknown on an international scale, and my main gig schedule was the residency at Space in Miami and perhaps some other shows across the US. I had never been to the likes of Australia and South Africa before – and now I’m visiting those countries every single year. So I’m very grateful that people have gradually embraced me and what I represent as the years have passed.
Competition is probably tougher than it has ever been before. For instance, a decade ago, internet radio was in its infancy, and very few DJs had their own show. I remember getting the likes of Sander van Doorn on for a Global DJ Broadcast just as he was finding his feet in the scene, and it was a big deal at the time. But now with internet radio, satellite radio and podcasting, the options for fans out there to listen to dance music are endless.
Unfortunately the side effect of internet growth has been the rise of illegal downloads, and the opportunities to release music on physical media such as CDs or vinyl are being squeezed as a result. I think there is something special about being able to hold a CD copy of your work in your hand, look at the artwork and read the booklet or sleeve notes inside, so I hope that the market for that survives in the long term.
And of course with production software on the rise, it has provided people the opportunity to make their own material and release it almost instantly. There is the adverse effect of quality control, but it provides opportunities for amazing talents to be discovered and accessible, whereas in the past those doors remained closed.
Rasalika – As we all know putting together an album is no easy task, what is the greatest challenge you faced when sitting down and deciding to put it together?
Markus Schulz – The biggest challenge at the outset was determining whether I was on the right path with a songwriting approach, and whether this would touch the same frequency as the fans. But because of the response to Destiny, the confidence was a key driver towards generating what Watch the World became.
Another challenge was that I wrote over 40 songs for the project, eventually having to whittle the final tracklist down to 17. There are some tracks which didn’t make the initial cut that I want to revisit at some point later this year, and do some revisions and possibly release them further down the line.
Rasalika – Thank you so much for taking time off from your unicorn slaying life to chat to us!
Markus Schulz – You’re very welcome as always, and many thanks to you guys for the continual support. Hope everyone out there immerses themselves with the Watch the World album and finds a story in there that resonates on a personal level with you. See you somewhere along the travels.