Markus Schulz Interview with Trancemag.br
1) Hi Markus, thanks for speaking with us today. First off, congrats on the release of your new album ‘We Are the Light’. Our readers are clearly big fans already. When did you start working on its production and when did you finish up?
Hey guys, thanks for having me, and thanks for the kind words.
From start to finish, the We Are the Light album took around two years to make – beginning almost immediately off the back of the Watch the World album, and wrapping up towards the end of this summer.
Of course, there was a bit of a detour throughout that two year period, with the creation of the Dakota album The Nine Skies. However, I would never have been able to create what you hear on the We Are the Light album had it not been for the undertaking of The Nine Skies, because while stylistically they are different, they both come from the same feeling of the soul.
2) What was the first and the last track to be recorded for it?
Well, strictly speaking, the answer for both instances is actually the same, and it was for Upon My Shoulders.
It was initially called “Girl on My Shoulder”, and started out life as a demo for New World Punx actually, that Ferry Corsten and I worked on while on a writing camp together. However, we couldn’t get the concept of the song hammered out properly, and ended up scrapping it. The track sat on my hard drive for around 18 months, and I always kept coming back to it, because for me the idea for the song was so strong, and I really wanted it to demonstrate the connection us DJs have with the fans, particularly in a festival setting like Tomorrowland.
So during the process of creating the We Are the Light album, I continually revisited the idea, and got in touch with Sebu from Capital Cities, having already established a connection with him through remixing Safe and Sound a few years ago. He liked the track a lot, but said it could be even better if we changed some of the lyrics. When he changed the line to ‘Carrying you upon my shoulders”; all of a sudden, everything made sense.
In terms of which track was finalised and I was able to play it out in the live environment, that would have been the first single from the album, Safe from Harm, with Emma Hewitt.
3) You began songwriting on ‘Watch the World’. How much of a hand did you have in the lyrics of this album?
It continued in the same vein, where I was deeply involved with the songwriting process again. Having Adina on hand helps me a lot in that regard, because she’s continually giving me the encouragement to write about what I feel.
To me, when there are words that you write yourself which emanate through the speakers of a club or a festival, they resonate so much more.
However, there was one person who I was glad to reconnect with in a writing capacity for the We Are the Light album, and that was Raz Nitzan. He’s one of the all time great writers of lyrics for trance music, I would have worked with him in the past for the likes of Surreal with Ana Criado and Unsaid with Susana. He helped a lot when creating You Light Up the Night with Alina Eremia.
4) In your words, how should readers translate the meaning of the title ‘We Are the Light’?
When I was writing the track with Nikki Flores, it became apparent quite quickly that We Are the Light needed to be the paramount message regarding the album’s theme.
There is a line in the song that says “what if we pray to the earth; and not religion”. To me that sums up everything with current events. We all need to get along and enjoy the time we have on earth together.
Ironically, when we went to shoot the video for We Are the Light in the Redwood forest earlier in the year, we hadn’t forecasted doing it in the middle of a blizzard. But the end result was stunning, and the fans have been so kind in their feedback towards it.
My goal with the album is to share an important message with the fans and community, and it was something demonstrated evidently at EDC in Las Vegas back in May; on the back of the shootings from last year.
What hit me about that incident was the resilience and determination of the responders and the residents of the city. This was exemplified further with EDC back in May. At that point I realised that ok, today’s world isn’t really that good right now; but the determination you see from the people to lead by example and be the shining light to move things forward, I think that is a powerful mantra that we can embrace together.
5) A lot of the titles of the tracks are noticeably very positive and optimistic. Was this coincidence? Or all part of the theme of the album’s plan? What’s the story behind 51°11′17″N 10°3′10″E (We Haven’t Lost Our Way)?
You could say that, but to be honest with you, I have always given deep thought towards the titles of my productions. They have always had a spiritual side to them. If you examine The Nine Skies album as Dakota for instance, it came from a place of despair, where the beginning is clouded by darkness and uncertainty, through the process of finding yourself as the journey of the album, and indeed life itself, progresses.
The co-ordinates for We Haven’t Lost Our Way… if you put them into Google, you will find that it will show up Eschwege in Germany, which is my birthplace.
That’s right. To me, it’s a way of saying that even though I have travelled all around the world, I have never forgotten my origins as this journey throughout the years continues.
Miami may be my home, and I may spend a lot of time in Berlin and also in recent years in Romania, but you only have one birthplace, and Eschwege is it. I’ve never forgotten the people that I’ve known along the way; and that’s my tribute to not only where I come from, but to all the people that I’ve met and inspired me along the way”.
I remember I did an interview a couple of years ago, right around Watch the world and they asked me: what’s next? What’s next for me is my legacy. Working on my legacy. So something like this is all about legacy. To let the people know I’ve never forgotten where I come from.
6) There’s some vocal talent from Romania on the album. (Both Alina Eremia and Smiley are big stars in their own right inside the country). How did you connect with them to sing on it?
As mentioned, I have been spending more and more time in Romania in recent years, so Adina can be at home for a bit and see her family. But when I’m there, obviously I want to spend some time working as well, and need a studio to be creative. So I have been doing a lot of work at HaHaHa Productions, and that’s also where Smiley is based.
Adina and I were in Los Angeles writing, and we were in the process of creating what would become The Dreamers. I asked Adina: “Who could sing this song? It’s kind of a song about “I remember when” and we need to get back to that.” And she said: “Call me crazy, but I think Smiley would do an amazing job”. So, I presented it to Smiley and he was like: “I’ve haven’t had a song to make me feel this way in a long time. Let’s do this”.
Alina is a very good friend of ours as well. She and her boyfriend spent a week staying with us in Miami a while back, and we agreed that when the time was right, we had to do a track together. With her voice, I wanted her to do something that would work so beautifully on a trance song, and that’s where the expertise of Raz Nitzan’s lyrics helped me a lot. When presenting it to Alina, she fell in love with it right away.
7) And Adina is on there of course! How did you decide on ‘Breathe Me to Life’ as being the track on the album she would sing on?
During Miami Music Week, Arny from Black Hole told me about his plans to revive the legendary In Search of Sunrise compilation series, and it was such an honor to be asked to mix one of the discs.
When you listen back to the history and prestige of those ISOS compilations, the expectation and pressure is there for you to deliver something worthy and fitting of its legacy. So for my mix, I knew that the final track, the crescendo; had to be a big spine-tingling, emotional piece.
But then one day, a few weeks into working on the ISOS project, Adina and I were at home, sitting in silence, and simply looking out at the ocean. It was so inspiring that we went to the studio and laid down what would become “Breathe Me to Life”. It isn’t a particularly complicated track; even the lyrics are just two lines long, but it carries that wave of emotion that I think the In Search of Sunrise journey can end on.
It also has the double effect of playing an uplifting role in the We Are the Light album too.
8) While a lot of trance artists seem to do more and more in-studio production collaborations on albums these days, you seem to do fewer. What is the reason behind that do you think?
Well, I’m not sure if I would particularly agree with that, but I can understand why it’s something you would suggest, because of the composition of songs for the We Are the Light album. You are right in saying that outside of vocalists, the only fellow producer on there is Omnia, but he was somebody I was finally glad to tick off the wishlist for collaborating.
However, running concurrently with the We Are the Light album promotion, I have also just put out a brand new EP called Aferdark, and it’s also the debut release of our new label, Coldharbour Black, which is dedicated to the darker and twisted sounds of the rabbithole, afterhours vibe. There are two collabs from me on that – one with Jam El Mar called The Lotus, and one with Arkham Knights called Something About You.
And to let you in on a little exclusive… you will hear a first-time collaboration between yours truly and Talla 2XLC in 2019.
9) Any clues as to what the next single will be!?
I flew to Greece a couple of weeks ago along with Christina Novelli, to film the music video for Symphony of Stars, and I’m really excited for the fans to see the final product. So that will most likely be the next single. The original album version is quite slow and laid-back, but I have a special festival version I have been playing in my livesets, which has been going over hugely.
10) Thanks for speaking with us Markus. Hope to see you in Brazil soon!
Many thanks again guys, and yes, I hope that I can come to see all the great fans in Brazil again, particularly during the We Are the Light tour. Speak again soon.