Markus Schulz opens up about “Watch The World” & Czech Republic
“Watch the World” marks the sixth artist album by trance pioneer Markus Schulz. The project, which took more than two years to complete, showed up a different side of the Coldharbour Recordings founder, presenting 27 tracks, 9 of which in a pure acoustic form. Two months after its release, Schulz has been touring the world for a series of album release parties, featuring live vocals by Adina Butar. Ahead of his open-to-close set in Prague this Saturday, May 21st, we had a chat with the unicorn slayer himself about his new album, new direction and connection to what can be called his third home – Czech Republic.
Your new album “Watch the World” has had a very different approach taken to its production. Can you explain what that approach is?
It certainly has. Artist albums are always huge milestones in the career of a DJ, so because of this, having already completed five of them in the space of a decade, I wanted to spent some time reflecting and evaluating on what would be an appropriate and exciting next step to move forward. Therefore, during this initial brainstorming period, my mind cast back to the days of my youth. Having experienced a difficult childhood, I found more solace than normal with 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. The first production which was born out of this approach was Destiny, featuring Delacey, and as we know it has gone on to become one of those very special moments in my livesets today, because of how deeply fans worldwide have attached themselves to its subject matter. Because of its success, it gave me more confidence to spearhead an entire album with a songwriting backbone.
But now, having completed Watch the World, 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.
Your album includes 27 songs in total, but 9 of them are presented as both original and acoustic versions. What do you think are the particular rewards and risks of doing this?
With the exception of Destiny and Fears, the acoustic versions that appear on the second disc of the album were produced prior to the original, disc one versions. This was mostly prompted through the creation of “Facedown”.
Because of the story involved in “Facedown” – where two people who have screwed up in their lives to the point where they have nothing but each other, and their plea is for each of them to stick with the other through this difficult time, coming out on the other side intact. The radio edit, a more acoustic driven version with basic percussion, was deliberately the interpretation I wanted people to listen to first – to listen closely to the words and understand the story, and of course the big club version with the trance riffs would be the one you would hear me play in my live sets.
Following on from that, and because people appreciated the value in the story, it became more apparent to me that writing the song with a basic guitar melody was the best way forward to complete the Watch the World album. So that was how the “acoustic disc” so to speak became a reality, and of course it made sense to go back and do Destiny in that style.
It was a risk of course in putting the acoustic version of Facedown out first, because inevitably there would be a portion of people freaking out that it was such a different sound to what they expected from me, but I continually emphasized that the main version everyone would hear would come soon after, and when people became used to the song, it didn’t become an issue anymore.
What I have learned through this album process in particular is that if you have written a song that is great, then whatever music you surround it with, it will also sound great. That really hit home with me above everything else, and exploring that side with the acoustic versions was a very valuable experience.
You were working for your new album with some artists we know from your last two Scream albums already, but there are few new voices too. How did you find them?
Meeting the majority of the singers came about thanks to a series of special writing camps, which were kindly arranged by my management. There were four in total – three in Los Angeles and one in Bucharest, with additional writing and production done in London, my apartment in Berlin, and of course at home in the Coldharbour studios in Miami.
It was a case of meeting the singers, 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 and In The Night, 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. She was in LA at the same time I was attending one of the camps, so she came over and we created what ended up being Watch the World. I’m delighted to have her as part of this album, and indeed on the title track.
What I have always strived to achieve with every album is provide a platform for new singers to be showcased, and it’s a passion for me to seek out new talent and share ideas with them. Having such a rich array of talent to work with through the writing camps was a blessing for me. I am also a believer that being able to work with a fellow collaborator in person is so advantageous, because it means that if a sung lyric line or technique needs to be changed, it can be done on the spot in the studio, rather than having to wait back and forth while working remotely.
Your new video for “Love Me Like You Never Did” went online last week. What was the story behind this particular song?
Yes, that came about during the week of the Los Angeles camp when both Ferry Corsten and I were there together, primarily for developing ideas for future New World Punx material, but with the agreement that if there was something in the works that either of us wanted as material for our own individual careers, then we would give each other our blessing.
We met Ethan Thompson during that week, and both of us immediately found a rapport with him. If you follow Ferry’s recent work, you’ll know that he sang on Heart’s Beating Faster, from the final Hello World EP.
As soon as I heard his voice, my vision for writing with him was to come up with something euphoric, something that would be the closing track of the night. Whether it is at a festival while fireworks light up the sky overhead or a club where the confetti flies during the last song of the night, I wanted this track to be the casting call for that moment. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
I have been using it as the closing track of all my regular length sets on this tour so far, and it has been a really nice note to round off the evening.
According to the video for the acoustic version of ‘You And I’ I would say, that this song is one of your favorites from the new album. What were your inspirations behind this song?
Yeah for sure. You know, she deserves so much credit towards being the inspiration behind unlocking this songwriting path for me, because of her own experience in the field and being able to help me find the courage to write what I felt on the inside. And she’s also my partner in crime on the road, seeing the same things I see throughout the crazy life of travel and touring, so You & I is a reflection of those experiences.
Adina will be in Prague to perform live, so I have no doubt that song will be a big favorite for everyone there.
You will present your new album in Prague during the open-to-close set. Can you tell us a little bit more about this concept?
Well, the most important aspect of the entire night is that it is an open to close solo set, which as you guys know is the type of occasion I adore the most – I need nights like these for my soul, because I am only willing to do them in cities with a deeply valued connection between myself and the fans, and of course Prague is arguably the most important city in all of Europe for me.
The “main portion” of the night is essentially celebrating the Watch the World album – showcasing the tracks in the live setting with singers and the big visual presentation, but you will also have the traditional progressive warmup and afterhours rabbit hole portions on either side. So it’s the entire journey across the Markus Schulz spectrum of sound, with the main emphasis on the Watch the World songs.
Ahead of SaSaZu, do you have a message for all the fans in Czech Republic and Slovakia?
Sure do. As always a huge thank you to you guys for your incredible support, week after week. I see so many of you commenting and supporting during Global DJ Broadcast and your messages on social media, so I am delighted to be able to come back to the country once again to compliment the annual Transmission extravaganza.
And I am so proud to be coming to Prague for an open to close solo set at SaSaZu. All week my mind has been reflecting back to the importance of the Prague ’11 release party at that same venue, and I think Saturday 21st will be among the most important gigs for me in the country. So I look forward to all the fans travelling from within Czech Republic, as well as from Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Netherlands, Germany, UK and even further afield. Let’s make it a night that the collective Schulz Army will remember for a very long time to come.
Tonight, 21st of May, Club SaSaZu will host Markus Schulz as he showcases his “Open To Close” concept in Prague.
The event starts at 10PM and will end no earlier than 5AM. Throughout the whole night Markus Schulz will take over the decks and will present himself in three different phases: opening, headline & afterhours rabbit hole set. It’s definitely going to be one of those nights for the books to remember!