Markus Schulz: Flying Colours

Text Hidzir Junaini
Interview courtesy of Avalon

Miami’s Markus Schulz has been one of the biggest names in electronic music for decades but the despite the accolades, festival headlining slots, stints on A State Of Trance and a legion of devotees, the man remains remarkably humble. With a multitude of acclaimed productions and three amazing albums (and more under his alias Dakota) perfectly straddling the progressively technical and the unabashedly accessible, Markus certainly has plenty to brag about. And if he won’t do it, we’ll certainly do it for him! The dance music giant’s latest trek to Singapore sees him framed by the crystal confines of Avalon for their XL Alter Bash and that’s where we grabbed a drink and a chat with Markus himself.

Tell us how you got started in music, Markus.
When I was really young, I started out working in the studio, taking out the trash and just kind of working my way up as an assistant. But I was fortunate to be around the industry. And my father was a musician and a DJ, so it’s in my blood. But I got into it through breakdancing. Hip hop, breakbeat stuff, but which we called electro back then. Obviously, it’s not the same kind of electro we know now.

What was your first experience DJ-ing like?
Well, it was at one of those breakdance parties we threw. The moment I took over the decks I had that epiphany, “Wow, this is for me, this is exactly what I wanna do.” And it just kind of grew from there.

How did it go from breakdance music to what you do now?
That’s where I started, but then I was looking for work so I did the Top 40 clubs, which I hated. Then I started DJ-ing in gay clubs and the gay clubs were the only places where you could play cool electronic dance music back then. From there, I went into the rave scene, which was how I grew my style into what is now.

Do you remember the first electronic record you ever purchased?
It was a Kraftwerk album! I’ve always been into their sound. Back then, I was into Soulsonic Force and Man Parrish and all that stuff. I still have the vinyls till this day, just storage rooms full of them. I keep them all!

Obviously your varied influences informed your music now, but most seem to label you simply as trance. Does that irk you?
I don’t mind but I think the educated people realise that I do something a little different thing than your usual 140bpm nosebleed stuff. I play darker and with more soul. But for the mainstream or for people just getting into the scene, they think of me as a trance DJ and I’m fine with that. You know, the history of trance has some amazing talent, so to be filed alongside them is an honour.

Speaking of being different, you also work under the alias Dakota. How did that come about?
Originally, the Dakota thing was a project I was doing back in the early ‘00s, when I was making tracks for Bedrock and Yoshitoshi and it was more on the progressive house tip. And then the Markus Schulz sound really started to develop really started to take off. But about two years ago, I got kind of bored and I began experimenting with deeper and more progressive stuff. Rather than not releasing it all, I decided to put it out under the Dakota name.

And you recently went back to Dakota with Thoughts Become Things II a few months ago.
Well, so many people loved the project but most didn’t know that it was me. So with this new one, we decided to call it Markus Schulz presents Dakota. It’s definitely different than my work as Markus Schulz – it’s instrumental, deeper and clubbier, whereas the Markus Schulz albums involve collaborations with singers, songwriters and producers. The alias is just saying that this stuff is different. And I think all my fans are open-minded and discerning enough to get it.

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