In an industry where egos are liberally polished each and every day, Markus Schulz is one of the most down-to-earth and level-headed DJs it’s possible to imagine. So while received wisdom has it that nice guys don’t finish first, this isn’t the case with the German ex-pat who now calls America his home.
And while Schulz might not like to countenance the suggestion that he deserves the sobriquet ‘the nicest man in dance music’, he readily admits that he’s one of the hardest working DJs on the circuit: one glance back at his punishing schedule for 2010 attests to that fact.
“It’s been brutal,” he laughs, “absolutely brutal. This summer I was regularly playing three times in 24 hours. When you’re planning these gigs it’s very easy to say yes, but when it gets to it, there are so many unforeseen problems: missed flights, jet lag
As 2010 comes to a close, Schulz is determined to be smarter next year. For one, he wants a proper holiday (“I haven’t had one for five or six years,” he concedes). However, be under no illusions, he isn’t moaning. He recognizes what a fortunate position he’s in. As such, he really does sound humble when he reels off a list of highlights for this year.
“Coldharbour [his label] getting to 100 releases was a particular high point; that kept me fuelled over the summer madness, as was the release of my new album ‘Do You Dream?’.”
He’s also optimistic about the state of his beloved trance music, pointing to the bravado of countless young DJs entering the scene as helping to keep him on his toes (“They all have so many ideas”), but also the continued versatility of producers such as Michael Woods as proof that trance can constantly reinvent itself.
So while 2011 will doubtless be more of the same – despite his avowals when it comes to planning – Schulz is in a very happy place. He’s finally come to terms with the fact that his life is exactly as it should be.
“When I look back on my life, I’ve begun to realise that everything points to this. This is what I was put on the planet to do. I used to wonder what it would have been like had I gone to university and studied law. No more, I don’t second guess anything anymore. A lot of questions have been answered this year.”
Introduction: Over the last 10 years Markus Schulz has fused the individual musical identities of progressive house & trance into his own creative and now inimitable hybrid sound. Through the unique alignment of his headline DJ sets, Coldharbour label output and highly prominent Global DJ Broadcast radio show, he orchestrated a sea change revolution in the US trance scene. This success has been singularly reflected in weekly headliner sets in front of many tens of thousands, a GDJB listenership up in the tens of millions & one Beatport chart-topping release after another. Following several highly ranked positions, in 2008 Schulz punched his way into the Top 10 of DJ Magazine’s Top 100 chart, landing at no.8. In repeating the exact same achievement in 2009, he now stands, quite unequivocally, as America’s no.1 club DJ.
Early History: Born in Eschwege, central Germany, Markus emigrated to the United States. Age 13, his dance music awakening came during the grip of the country’s then-exploding breakdance scene. His early production and DJ career roughly tracked that of the Stateside 2nd coming of House and he caught his first production break in 1993 when he remixed Sagat’s ‘Why Is It? (F** Dat)’ for FFrr. Markus’ freshman production release followed in 1994 with the 6-track-strong ‘Plastik Trax EP Vol 1’. Throughout the mid to late Nineties he continued to pull in early acclaim with a range of releases on numerous US luminary labels. In 1998 he recorded ‘You Won’t See Me Cry’ for Plastik Records (his first label), a release which was picked up by Eve Records for the UK. This became Markus’ first international calling card… The world had started to tune in.
Markus Schulz – The DJ: Through his natural audience affinity, flawless (and seemingly effortless) mixing and innate tune selection, he has wowed crowds in pretty much every major district, principality and metropolis. Schulz’s DJ career has, to the greater degree, run parallel to that of his productions. In the early Noughties, having fixed focus on the hinterland between trance & progressive, he began to reach audiences further and further afield. In 2004 he was signed to the David Lewis Productions agency (also home of the World’s No.1 DJ Armin van Buuren) and his career took another big step forward. Now a regular fixture at the world’s biggest & most famous clubs, arenas and festivals, he lays down his unique trance-progressive vision on a weekly basis. In Europe, he’s smashed Trance Energy, Nature One & Dance Valley, worked tent-pegs loose at Creamfields & Global Gathering and brought gridlock to the Love Parade. Stateside the colossal Electric Daisy & Ultra Festivals have both felt the Schulz pressure and yet further afield still he’s induced floor upheaval in China and Australia (most recently at the Future Music Festival). After several significant showings in the Top 100 DJs chart, he now ranks as one of the top 10 DJs in the world and in 2008 was voted Best American DJ at the IDMAs.
Coldharbour Recordings: Schulz’s sound notably came quickest to the ears of continental European DJs. Following the formation of the Armada group in 2005, Armin sought Markus out and asked him to start compiling tracks for a new vinyl series. The Coldharbour Sessions EPs launched in 2004 (with the first 3 releases coming out on the already established Electronic Elements label). In quick succession they began to leave crater-like impacts on dancefloors and within 12 months Coldharbour the label was born. Named after Markus’ then-production base in London’s Coldharbour Lane, its output immediately brought a new fission sound to Armada. It also became a lightning rod for a new generation of prog-inclined producers – setting in motion the careers of (amongst others) Santiago Nino, Rex Mundi, Mark Otten & Niklas Harding. With 2005 under the spell of Coldharbour’s more sophisticated, minimal, but still melodic take on the prog-trance sound, Markus struck again with the first Coldharbour Sessions mix compilation. Such has been the success of the imprint that in 2007 it was joined by a sub-label, Coldharbour Red. This, in turn, was a launch pad for Marcus Schössow, tyDi, Glenn Morrison & Evol Waves and was the point of re-entry for early Schulz side-project, Dakota (see Dakota section below). Six years after its birth, in 2010, Coldharbour stands at the top tier of the world’s trance & progressive labels and stands on the threshold of its 100th release.
M.S. Productions 2005 – 2010: Perfectly intersecting the quality/quantity axis, Markus’ own productions have been the most fundamental of components in marshalling clubbers and music lovers to his sound. Over the course of the last half-decade tracks like ‘First Time’ & ‘Without You Near’ (2005), ‘Fly To Colours’, ‘Never Be The Same’ & ‘I Am’ (2007) ‘Perfect’ & ‘Cause You Know’ (2008) & most recently ‘The New World’ & ‘Do You Dream’ have each played their vital part. Markus is also a keen production collaborator. In 2005 he famously teamed up with likeminded producers Gabriel & Dresden and Departure for ‘Without You Near’ and in mid-2008 did the same with Andy Moor on ‘Daydream’ and most recently on ‘Goodbye’ with Max Graham. The impact of all the singles has been cauterized by his studio albums ‘Without You Near’ (2005), ‘Progression’ (2007). In February 2010, Schulz completed recording his third long-player, ‘Do You Dream?’, which is scheduled for release in June 2010.
The Global DJ Broadcast show: Now in its fifth year Schulz’s GDJB has continued to be a beacon for an always-growing throng of trance & progressive dance fans. Broadcast through leading station DI.fm and Sirius/XM satellite, the Global DJ Broadcast site and 50+ other FM stations around the planet, it has become every bit required listening for the EDM-savvy. Based on a regular format, the first show of each month is a two hour long mix from one of Schulz’s rolling World Tour gigs – ones that have of late included Medellin, Columbia, St Petersberg, Russia & Amnesia in Ibiza. Subsequent shows in the month feature Markus mixing his broad-span pick of the current electronic dance music best for an hour (which includes the forum-voted Global Selection track of the week) followed by guest mixes from both established and up-and-coming DJs.
Markus Schulz – The City Albums:Markus is also responsible for one of the longest running and most respected compilation album series in trance history. Kicking off in 2005 in Miami, its city-hopping concept has gone on to spotlight Ibiza in ’06, Amsterdam in ’08, & Toronto in ’09. Most recently he homed in on Las Vegas for an album that Mixmag said: “managed the rarity of living up to the hype” and “ranked as his best yet”). Providing a microcosmic view of his sound, they have become cornerstones for fans CD & mp3 collections, with each new travelogue edition bringing in a fresh wave of supporters. Notably, the Amsterdam ’08 release was nominated for an IDMA award for Best Full Length DJ Mix (in the same year that Markus took home the trophy for Best American DJ).
Remixes: Markus powered into remix action in the early 90s with a 30+ volley of high-profile reworks. Over the course of the decade he re-tooled the production works of Euro dominators like The Real McCoy & Technotronic, house masters & divas Armand van Helden & Liz Torres, legendary Nineties icons RuPaul, Bette Midler & Sandra Bernhard and fully-fledged A-listers like Madonna. As the Millennium arrived though he began to work on deeper, more intrinsically electronic dance fare… In 2000 he remixed trance innovator Pablo Gargano’s ‘Absolution’, PQM’s Renaissance classic ‘The Flying Song’ and Fatboy Slim’s ‘Sunset (Bird of Prey). Satisfied that he’d found the right dance strata to focus on Markus has gone on to rewire tracks by Oceanlab, Motorcycle, Dance 2 Trance, Cosmic Gate, Nalin & Kane, Kyau & Albert, John O’Callaghan, & Space Manoeuvres amongst many, many others.
Markus Schulz aka: Dakota: Markus has only made rare use of pseudonyms through his career – seeing them as being only valuable if they represent an outlet for something other than his ‘regular’ output. At the turn of the last decade Schulz released 3 tracks (‘Swirl’, ‘Frozen’ & ‘Lost in Brixton’) under the moniker Dakota. Over time these became focal points for the year-on-year exponential intake of new fans. In 2009 Schulz paid dividend to that by resurrecting the guise, updating its sound and directed his attentions on a whole album of new Dakota material. ‘Thoughts Become Things’ was the end product and with it came a route diversion that went into a new valley-deep sound – one that expanded to embrace the fringes of techno, house and other sub-genres. It once again fortified the Schulz’s fanbase and expanded the range of DJ support for his music. The album has thus far justified 7 single releases that have included particular fan-favourites ‘Chinook’, ‘Johnny the Fox’, ‘Koolhaus’ & ‘Mr Cappuccino’.