Miami-based DJ Markus Schulz recently unveiled the eighth annual installment in his city-themed compilation series. Like the earlier entries depicting the late night/early morning sounds of Los Angeles, Prague and Ibiza (to name a few), Buenos Aires ’13 features a handful of new music and remixes from Schulz, as well as a selection of tracks from a number of other contemporary trance and house artists. Schulz’s hefty global touring commitments allow him to witness club culture all over the world and he believes the way audiences are responding to dance music has changed significantly in recent years.
“It used to be very similar, you know, with the internet things got to be very uniform all over the world. I would say in the last two years countries where maybe dance music wasn’t as big have suddenly exploded, and [in] countries where dance music used to rule it seems like the intensity is starting to slow down.”
Schulz was born in Germany but in his early teens he and his family moved to America, which is where he found his footing as a DJ. It’s in these two countries that he identifies a major shift in the popularity of different forms of dance music. “In Germany [it] has always been techno and also traditional German music. I’m seeing that the kids in Germany now are hungry and they’re crazy for really aggressive dance music. It’s the same thing in the USA. The USA used to be ruled by hip hop [but] now it’s loud everywhere. You turn on the radio, there’s dance music, you go to the shopping centre, there’s dance music playing in the background. It’s just a huge, huge difference.”
Schulz himself is pinpointed as a generative figure in the EDM revolution in the US and has repeatedly been ranked in the top 20 of DJ Mag’s yearly Top 100 DJs poll. Despite electronic dance music’s current ubiquity, Schulz says gaining exposure for music has become more difficult.
“What’s going on now is you’ve got these big branding hype machines. That never used to be part of the scene. It always used to be about the music, people sharing the music on the internet, people discovering new artists on the internet – it didn’t matter where you lived, you could be heard on the internet. Nowadays it just seems like you have to have a huge marketing team behind you in order to get heard.”
Although the avenues of music distribution are increasingly volatile, Schulz remains a favourite in clubs all over the world as well as a festival circuit mainstay. There’s quite a contrast between a tightly packed club and an open-air festival arena and Schulz says it’s necessary to adopt a different approach to performance in each situation.
“If you’re playing a short festival set, a lot of your set is going to be predetermined. I regularly do ten to 12 [or] 13-hour sets and during those sets you can really improvise and really set the mood of the night and take the night through different twists and turns. That’s when you really get to read the crowd.”
Schulz will come to Australia next March for the dance music extravaganza, Future Music Festival, and he offers further insight into the tactics he uses to get crowds moving at festivals. “The tracks are a lot shorter, you get right to the main point quickly, bigger build-ups and you try to put more theatrics into your set when you have those shorter festival sets. When you’re playing the ten to 11-hour sets that’s when you can spread your wings and some of the tracks sound better when you let them build organically. You let the track unfold and tell its story on its own.”
Although he clearly relishes the freedom of an extended club set, Schulz doesn’t spurn the festival stage and he enthuses that both environments have an influence on the next time he plays. “I love them both. I could be at a festival and get like, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to get back into a club – I want to experiment with some different ideas.’ And then when you’re playing in a club, you try something and it makes the place go crazy and you’re like, ‘Woah! I can’t wait to try this in front of 30,000 people at a festival.’ It’s constantly exciting and you’re always looking to make the best of each situation.”
In addition to his seemingly non-stop world travels, Schulz hosts a weekly internet radio show, Global DJ Broadcast, and runs both the Coldharbour Recordings label and artist management company Schulz Music Group. It’s thus no surprise to learn he’s an obsessive music listener and always on the lookout for new things.
“My father was a musician; there was always music playing in the house when I was growing up, so for me to not have music playing in the background, to not be searching for new music or something, I don’t know any other way. I’ll listen to techno sets or trance sets, or maybe a big set from a DJ who’s really hot at the moment. I just like to hear what other people are doing. Then of course I still listen to a lot of classic rock and also some of the Ibiza chill-out stuff, that stuff is still on my iPod.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
*Image: Jason Howard Photography
Markus Schulz plays Future Music Festival with Deadmau5, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Phoenix, Hardwell, Rudimental, Eric Prydz, Kaskade, Porter Robinson and more at Royal Randwick Racecourse on Saturday March 8.