Markus Schulz talks to Rabbits: An interview about ‘City Series’ and The Groove Cruise
The Groove Cruise has played host to some of the world’s most celebrated dance music artists over it’s 11 year run which has made it the world’s largest floating dance music festival. While many artists have rocked the decks, beaches, and stages of this unique music festival experience, there are a few who have already cemented themselves in Groove Cruise lore. It took just one solo set, surprise secret pool party, and open-to-close marathon to vault Markus Schulz into legendary status with the Groove Cruise faithful. While Markus prepares for the next chapter in this story, a New World Punx set on the Groove Cruise Miami Xi at the end of this month, he’s also thrown himself into one of his most challenging studio pursuits yet. For the past eight years the trance superstar has created a compilation mix dedicated to a special city that had inspired him that year. Ever evolving and never settling, Markus has decided to reimagine his yearly compilation mix as the “City Series” in 2015. Each month he will release a new track and dedicate it to a city he will be playing in that month. He will then record the live show and incorporate the sounds of the venue into the final studio recording of the track. It is an ambitious project for a performing artist that seems to never stop touring and is always pushing the envelope of his live performances.
Every year presents a new challenge for Markus to conquer and goal to accomplish, and he’s already set 2015 up to be a year that stands apart from the rest. We caught up with Markus to talk about the newly announced “City Series” including a reveal of the next two cities, what to expect from the New World Punx set on the Groove Cruise Miami, and what has inspired him this past year.
Rabbits Black: You just announced the “City Series”, your new take on your yearly compilation. What was the inspiration for this new approach to the compilation?
Markus Schulz: If you remember a couple years ago, I did a “World Tour” compilation and it basically was tracks from my label. It was cool and when I look back at it, I love the whole idea of it. I was thinking to myself, I want to do a combination of that and the “City Series”. Because with most of the tracks on the “City Series” I either invite people into my studio and work with them on the tracks or I send them notes and work with them that way. It’s not like I went and downloaded the hottest tracks and then put them together on a compilation. Every one of those tracks I’m involved in the production, so I was thinking to myself that I want to do something that combines the two, but to also dedicate something to each city and make something for each city. I may even do some collaborations with some of the artists from those cities and create this story about the whole year. That’s what I have carved out and I’m super excited about it as well! At the end of the year I’ll put together all of these tracks into a compilation with some unreleased tracks and we’ll have a whole story. The plan is that when I play these tracks in these cities, I record the tracks live and then when I put together the compilation we’ll have crowd noises from all these cities on a unified compilation and you can really hear the different crowds, the different nuances and the different vibes in these cities.
Rabbits Black: That’s very interesting. So you are going to record the live elements of the show and incorporate that into the studio version of these tracks. Is the compilation going to have a feeling like that of a live Global DJ Broadcast but with more studio polish?
Markus Schulz: Yes, that’s exactly it. You’ll have all the crowd noises from all these different cities and then I’ll take the live version of all these tracks and mix them together. It will be an amazing story, and I want to be able to look back at 2015 and through this compilation really be taken on a journey. I want to be able to bring back memories, not just from one city but from all these different cities.
Rabbits Black: It really seems like a project that is going to grow and change throughout the year. That’s very exciting and we are looking forward to seeing how this turns out.
Markus Schulz: You know, I’m the type of person that when I get tired of something or bored of something, I say “that’s it, it’s time to do something different”. It’s not that I was tired or bored of dedicating the compilation to one city, but I felt like I had done this now and I was really itching to do something different. I wanted to be creative and think of something that brought the “City Series” to the next level and so that’s how this whole thing came about. How can I take this and do it at another level and add another layer to it. I decided this was the year I wanted to do that.
Rabbits Black: We’ve heard the preview of the first track from the “City Series” which is ‘Bayfront’. The track is dedicated to Miami, where you played an open-to-close set on New Years Eve at Space. You mentioned that this track is also going to play a pivotal role in your appearances at Groove Cruise and Ultra Music Festival. What does that mean?
Markus Schulz: It’s kind of ironic because the track is called ‘Bayfront’ and yet when people think of the bayfront in Miami, they think of Ultra Music Festival. To be honest with you, it’s really inspired by Space and my gig on New Years Eve there. ‘Bayfront’ is an EDM festival track but it has the atmosphere of a low-ceiling and intimate smoky room with a packed crowd that’s going crazy. It’s a combination of Ultra and Groove Cruise, because the breakdown has this melody that takes me out to the sea, with beaches and palm trees, but at the same time, it plays with a really heavy inspiration from my years at Space. When my career started off, I was a resident of Space in Miami, so I call it my “spiritual home”. Space is right across the street from the bayfront, so it’s a dedication to this whole month of January with the show at Space and Groove Cruise. In March I’m going to play the track at Ultra and I expect to get the Miami fans to feel proud and unite during that song!
Rabbits Black: It looks like you are lining up the cities that really mean a lot to you for 2015 and this “City Series”. I know last year, you played a very special set in a city that means a lot to you as well. On September 20th you played your final show at The Guvernment in Toronto. You even made a special track under your Dakota alias called ‘Doors Open’. What an amazing track. Tell us a little bit about that track, why you chose it to fall under the Dakota name, and that special night in Toronto where you played for over 11 hours!
Markus Schulz: First of all, the ironic thing about The Guvernment is that as I started getting more popular at Space in Miami, The Guvernment was one of the first clubs to book me outside of the country. For a long time I’ve had this great fondness for The Guvernment and hearing that it was closing, it was something that kind of tugged at me. So doing my last open-to-close solo set there was definitely something special.
Dakota is the darker, deeper, and more clubby stuff. I love opening up a room, and this isn’t the first track I’ve made for when the doors open. When I make these tracks, I picture the club in my mind. I picture everything from the barbacks filling up the ice to the security meetings happening on the side, and then management asking if I am ready for the doors to be opened. I’ve always believed there needs to be an intro, not just an intro to your set, but an intro to the night. You know it takes a minute for people to get in the doors, check their coats, get their first drink and then find their place on the dance floor. For me to make a track only 5-6 minutes long, you can’t accomplish everything that comes with the doors opening in one track. I’ve always believed in the theatrical beginnings to a night and so I love to make tracks for that. I’m actually working on a doors open track for 2015 that I will be using for all of my solo sets in 2015 as well. It’s just something I love doing and I was really inspired by theater when it comes to this aspect of a club night.
Rabbits Black: It’s really an amazing track and we are always excited to see something come out under the Dakota name.
Markus Schulz: If you listen to the live recording from of the track from The Guvernment you can hear the loop going and the ambiance going, and if you listen closely you can actually hear someone from management say to me,”Are you ready for doors?” You can hear me say, “Yep, let’s go!” The night sort of evolved from there. Everybody that I played it for and pointed this out to, they’ve all gotten goose bumps and said wow that is fucking cool! Put on some good headphones and you can hear the room ambiance and all the things going on. There was actually a problem with on of the CDJs not being plugged in, and you can hear me bitching to the guys. Come on guys, the doors are open and you guys are still plugging shit in and screwing in light bulbs!
Rabbits Black: We noticed you have a San Francisco date at Ruby Skye already scheduled for this year. I know the fans in San Francisco are very excited about the show in March. We’ll be there of course. It’s been two years since you’ve done an open-to-close set in San Francisco and we wouldn’t miss it.
Markus Schulz: I’ll tell you now that in February I’m dedicating the “City Series” track to Bucharest. I have an amazing relationship with the Romanian fans. Then in March I’m going to dedicate it to San Francisco, so the cat is out of the bag on the first three cities. New Years Eve has already passed and Groove Cruise is coming up, but Bucharest and San Francisco are the two I’ve got circled on my calender and that I’m really looking forward to.
Rabbits Black: We never miss your pool party sets in Las Vegas. It’s not something that you do a whole lot of, and when you do they tend to be pretty special. But this New World Punx set on the Groove Cruise Miami Xi is going to be on a whole different level- on a private island on the beach in the Bahamas! What’s the mindset going into this party.
Markus Schulz: You know what, it could get really messy! When we do our New World Punx shows, one of the things that Ferry and I said was that we wanted high production value. When he flies out, his team might fly out with my team, and they both have great instincts for the lights and visuals. Everything is rehearsed and synchronized in a really good way, but at the same time we’ve done some of these pool parties together and we really just have fun! In the day time you don’t have the lasers and those effects, so I think we’re planning on that set on the island to be more of a party. Yes, it’s a New World Punx set, but you’re not going to see what you see at a festival, with the lasers and all this crazy production, you’re just going to see me and Ferry throwing down and making an amazing party. That’s what we’re really aiming for and looking forward to- just being messy and partying with people!
Rabbits Black: Does the unique nature and set up of the Groove Cruise allow you to do this compared to a nightclub where you don’t have as much freedom?
Markus Schulz: The Groove Cruise is a special gig. Some of these clubs that are special to me, I’m not there to put on a show, I’m there to party with everybody. I want to be part of the party and I think that the Groove Cruise is exactly that. I’m staying on the entire four days and I’m going to be having breakfast with people, and I’m going to be having lunch with people and hanging out by the pool with people. I want to be part of the party and the whole New World Punx set is going to be me and Ferry being a part of the party and hoping that it’s going to get messy!
Rabbits Black: Let’s talk about the first Groove Cruise you performed on- Los Angeles in 2013. You played on the first night, and you put on a great show in the main theater. But you stayed on the boat the whole time, and some rumors started going around that you might play a second set. Well, you ended up being the surprise guest DJ set on the final night on the way back from Ensenada. I remember that set vividly. In fact we selected it in our recap as the best set of the cruise. How did that surprise set become a reality?
Markus Schulz: I told them, look, I’m here let’s do something! I kept telling them that I wasn’t going anywhere. To be honest, I just remember I wasn’t planning on leaving and that I was planning on being there the whole time. We mutually figured that we could make an amazing party happen. We had this amazing mindset about it, and maybe that’s why it was so special. I’m here and we are just is going to do it! I don’t remember all the details but I remember I wasn’t leaving the boat and even if I had to find a corner somewhere, I was going to plug in my USB and start playing somewhere! To be honest with you, on this upcoming Miami Groove Cruise I know we got the New World Punk set, but I’m going to find some place and plug in my hard drive and we’re going to have another party somewhere else as well!
Rabbits Black: We actually just released our “11 Must See Artists” on the Groove Cruise Miami and we said it would be a shame if you only played once on this cruise!
Markus Schulz: I remember last year there was a little club, and one night they were playing all House classics. I told Ryan Fitzpatrick from the Groove Cruise that I was going to bring my classic mix next year. Even if I do an hour there or whatever, we are going to have a party somewhere. Even if I have to put speakers in my room and invite everybody in there, we are going to have a party somewhere!
Rabbits Black: You are obviously well known for your open-to-close marathon sets. I’ve heard you say before that you can’t do these sets in just any city. Why is that?
Markus Schulz: Once people have been in the scene for awhile, they don’t got out every weekend. They pick the right weekend and then they plan it. That’s what the open-to-close solo sets are about. They are destination weekends. I like to do them in cities that can really be a host- you need cities where there are other things to do. I like people to fly in from all around the world and then have stuff to do leading up to it. Miami, NY, SF. These are all amazing host cities, the type of cities that have the infrastructure to host the Super Bowl. There has to be other things around these solo sets. When I get done at 9, 10, or 11 in the morning, many people go out and get breakfast somewhere together. There are pre-parties before and then pool parties the next day. People fly in and see friends from other parts of the world that they don’t always see except at festivals and these special kind of events. That’s what I mean when I say that these solo sets don’t work everywhere.
Rabbits Black: The Groove Cruise Miami got the open-to-close treatment last year. I would think that the Groove Cruise is the perfect crowd and place for a marathon set.
Markus Schulz: The Groove Cruise is one of those things, its a destination now. People fly in from all over the world. You will see it when they have the Represent theme party- you will see flags from all over the world. Its the perfect opportunity to bring people together from all over the world. It’s not just partying with the same people you see every weekend in the same club. It’s different and special.
Rabbits Black: We couldn’t agree more. It’s a truly unique platform for artists. We can’t be more excited for your Groove Cruise set with New World Punx and also your second or third set on the cruise… where ever that may happen! Before we let you go, New World Punx was just announced as a performer at Coachella this year. Why Coachella and why now?
Markus Schulz: It goes back to the whole production thing that Ferry and I really wanted to evolve to with New World Punx. Coachella is the perfect avenue to show our next level of production and everything that goes into it. I think everybody goes into Coachella saying, “I want to put on an amazing show.” That’s what we want to do with New World Punx. Like I said, the New World Punx set at Groove Cruise Miami is not going to be a show, it’s going to be a party and a mess, and that’s the way we like it. But at the same time, we are artists and we are inspired by theater and stuff like that, and Coachella is the perfect avenue to show the theatrical side of our art.
Thank you to Markus Schulz for taking the time to speak with us in his busy schedule. You can catch Markus with Ferry Corsten as they perform as New World Punx on the Groove Cruise Miami Xi setting sail from January 28 – February 1.
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