TBA: Would you tell us who is Markus and who is Dakota? And what are you trying to communicate your audience under these names ?
MS: I guess the best way to define each is to think of Markus Schulz as the extrovert and Dakota as the introvert.
I like to imagine the Markus Schulz productions as being about and for the fans. It is based on my interaction with them and what I see.
Through the Markus Schulz productions, I can express myself through an array of options – through inspiring melodies, written words into song and collaborating with others, and learning from them.
With Dakota however, it is something much deeper within my conscience, and requires the right setting and circumstances in order to be creatively resonating.
TBA: Your new project The Nine Skies was kinda big deal for us as fans, what did it mean to you personally and how did you come up with the idea?
MS: It was the most soul churning project I have ever undertaken in my career.
The Nine Skies was a year in the making. When I started touring the Watch the World album, there was a lot of tragedy in the world, and everyone felt a sense of unknown and fear due to everything that was happening, politically or otherwise.
When the mass shooting happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, it absolutely shook me to my core, that something so
terrible could happen in an environment that I could well have been in myself; and in a city very close to home in Miami.
At that point, I pretty much went dark on a personal level on social media, and left my team to get the word out about upcoming gigs and releases – because to me, I couldn’t feel comfortable with embracing this party and good vibes atmosphere when the world around us was suffering
I did a lot of reading and studying in my downtime, taking on board a lot of Reiki influences. The story of a person finding themselves as a lost soul, but find the right pieces to set themselves on the journey towards enlightenment is something that essentially applies to my own life, and something I hope that can inspire others as well.
TBA: Which one of these Nine Steps to enlightenment was the one who really forced you to look inside yourself?
MS: I don’t know if it was one particular step, but it was more a case of figuring out how to represent this path towards enlightenment as a complete story.
Originally, when I thought about the concept of a full
Dakota show, it was going to be all out techno – imagine 90 minutes of music with the core sounding like Mota-Mota for instance.
But when examining each step, I knew that this wouldn’t be the correct approach.
So in the beginning, we are lost souls, and in many cases, we feel sadness and anger. And in order to proceed the journey from this phase, we need help and guidance. Therefore the beginning of the show is very techno driven with militant style percussion. But as we transition into the later skies, the melodies and tones begin to brighten, towards the culmination in the final sky – the nirvana.
TBA: Did this project change you somehow?
MS: If anything, it made me a lot more emotional. I cannot tell you the number of nights I wound up in tears as a result of working on this entire process.
The Nine Skies makes me think about my overall legacy more. And my hope is that people can look at this album and treat it almost as if it’s a self-help book of guidance, whether it’s this year, next year, or 50 years down the line.
TBA: Can you also tell me something about your Watch the World album’s creative process?
MS: Working on Watch the World as a project was an enormous challenge for me because of stepping very much out of my comfort zone, and delving deeply into the world of songwriting for the first time.
It was actually a revisit to days of my youth in school, where I excelled at creative writing, and the teachers would encourage me to try it as often as possible. But in those teenage days, my heart had been set on chasing the dream of becoming a DJ. It meant that I slowly drifted away from the writing aspect, and along with DJing, finding gratification in playing with synthesisers and turning knobs.
But with the sixth album on the horizon at that point in time, I needed something beyond the music, and it was writing words based on what I felt on the inside. I felt it was risky at first, but thanks to the overwhelming response towards Destiny, based on a story about my personal circumstances and relationship, it gave me confidence to explore this songwriting path further.
TBA: How do you deal with your success? And what is your relationship with social media ?
MS: It’s fine. At the end of the day I’m just a normal person like everybody else. I never got into this business for the fame of it or winning awards.
People who come to the shows will know how much I value the support, and make every effort possible to spend time afterwards with them and give my thanks for coming out.
Social media has huge positives for DJs, along with every other public figure, because it gives you a window to show that you acknowledge and care about the support of your fans. And I think most fans nowadays are smart enough to figure out whether there is a genuine warmth and care about this connection. My golden rule in life is that no matter what
happens or what privileged position you end up in, always and forever remain humble. And that was reinforced further when reflecting and contemplating towards what The Nine Skies would become.
I remember a few years ago when my brother was in a really bad car accident in Germany, and ended up in a coma for 10 days. At the time it happened, I was in South Korea, and was about to tour India for a week.
And honestly, I felt so incredibly alone and afraid. However, when I wrote on social media about what had occurred, having the sympathy and appreciation of the fans genuinely helped me get through it.
TBA: What is inspiring you most of late?
MS: I say this often but it’s the next wave of producers taking Coldharbour by storm that are my biggest inspiration. We have such a healthy and broad-ranging roster right now.
You have Nifra who is the flagbearer for females in trance; Arkham Knights are tearing things up with this tech-trance fusion they have going, Solid Stone is one of the biggest contributors to the progressive scene right now, and you have guys like Anske who are slowly carving out a sound in
their own right.
Helping this talents grow and achieve their own dreams is one of the biggest achievements I can speak of.
TBA: Any new projects in store for us anytime soon?
MS: My priority right now is finalising The Nine Skies album as Dakota, which I am hoping to be able to put out around shortly before this year’s ADE.
But if you have been following my travels closely, you will have guessed that I am already planning my output for next year, and you will have seen the photos of me working in the studio with the likes of Nadia Ali.
I can’t say too much for now, so let’s keep the focus almost entirely on The Nine Skies album, but know that there is something new on the horizon to come afterwards.
TBA: Your music is always evolving but also true to itself. What is your secret?
MS: Ultimately, you have to put your heart into absolutely everything you do – whether it’s the productions, the DJ sets, Global DJ Broadcast or anything
else. If you are making or indeed playing music that you don’t enjoy, you will burn out very quickly in this scene.
There are so many talented people in this industry who don’t make it or catch that essential break, meaning that they have to give up their dream and secure a different job to support themselves and their family.
So I take absolutely none of this for granted. Of course there are many sacrifices in your life you have to make along the way, but I count my blessings every day in the knowledge that I am one of the very few lucky ones who gets to do what they love for a living.
What’s interesting is that because of the big EDM explosion in this decade, there has been a huge influx of new talent thrust into the rigours of touring. And many of them say to me “this is too tough, I’ll do this for a few years, make my money and get out”, but for me I want to keep going as long as my health allows.