‘The anti-trance trance guy’: Markus Schulz opens up about ‘Scream 2,’ next chapter in artist album career
Markus Schulz finally arrives in Piramar, coming from Mar Del Plata, and is on the phone with media within minutes of traveling Argentina without cell service. As I tune in to the long-distance call, I catch Markus at the backend of a mini-lecture on the state of trance.
He’s pointing out where trance purists became too serious, where people (himself included) subsequently stopped having fun, but that he loves, and would never turn his back on, the genre. I’m fresh off listening through Scream 2, an album that had controversy as the furthest thing from my mind. And despite offering an opinion upon request, the questions surrounding trance don’t seem to be anywhere near the center of Markus’s attention either, as the album is approaching its February release date. The humble tones in which he speaks on his surroundings as an artist are unscathed by the aforementioned purists, driving my curiosity through the roof as we’re about to set conversation in motion.
Before we do, however, his final comment directed elsewhere sparks my curiosity and leaves me with a grin that would last the duration of my Saturday afternoon; (on the topic of his Unicorn Slayer nickname) “Someone once said that if trance is rainbows and unicorns, then Markus Schulz is the unicorn slayer. I’m the anti-trance trance guy.” Explaining this in terms of sound, he refers to his aggressive in-your-face builds ups that juxtapose his more uplifting melodies. And, well, it’s clear the Unicorn Slayer showed up for his latest artist album chapter.
Scream 2 is coming as the follow up to your previous artist album. What was the workflow between these projects and in moving forward with a sequel?
I didn’t feel like I completed the story when I finished Scream . I’m always working on tracks, so when I started again right after it was still inspired by tracks on Scream 1. Even when it comes down to individual songs. “Nothing Without Me” was such a big anthem and I wanted to do a sequel. There’s a track on Scream 2, “Erase You,” that’s, in my opinion, the sequel to “Nothing Without Me.” It’s cool to get into the studio and create with inspirations and energy that’s still left over from another project.
The first thing that struck me about this album is that it wouldn’t disappoint fans, that it would please them across the board. How do fans play a role in your artist album process?
My biggest inspiration is the fans. It’s kind of like a cycle, they inspire me then they’re inspired by the music. It makes for a beautiful relationship between an artist and fans when they’re in tune with each other like that. The whole Scream project, both one and two, was inspired by the fans.
Constantly moving from place to place, where was the album recorded and how did surroundings across the world make an impact?
When I finished up Scream 1 I still had so many ideas and things I wanted to do, so I just started working right afterwards. A lot of those tracks were sketched out on a jet plane or in a hotel room, and then when I got back to my studio in Miami I directed it. A lot of the vocal tracks, I collaborated with the vocalists in their studios or studios in their cities. Songs were just made all over the world. “Muse” was a song that was made in Romania, “Revolution” is a track that was made in the UK. The nice thing is that each track has its own story because of that.
There’s an all-star cast of vocalists on the album that younger fans may not be familiar with. Can you talk about how CeCe Peniston, in particular, became part of the album and what her legacy means to dance music?
CeCe Peniston is an artist I’ve known for many years. Fifteen, maybe twenty years. When I lived in Arizona, one of my good friends was one the writers on her song “Finally,” and I was working in a studio, taking out the garbage back then. So we just started hanging out and talking about old times. To work with CeCe Peniston symbolizes something for me, in my career. Here’s someone that had a number one song when I was just taking out the garbage in studios, and now I’m working with them, they’re a featured singer on my album. She’s an iconic diva. I remember when “Finally” was coming out and there was an interview with Janet Jackson. They asked Janet Jackson “what’s your favorite song right now?,” and she said “this song by this new singer CeCe Peniston called Finally.” Everybody knows that “Finally” turned out to be one of the biggest dance songs of all time.
You mentioned there being stories behind each song. “Destino” has an interesting tale, can you unveil that record?
“Destino” is an instrumental track. There’s a new hotel in Ibiza called Destino. I had a week off and I sat there out by the pool overlooking the city in Ibiza with my headphones on and made that track. When I hear the melody, even when I’m in front of 20,000 people, watching the sunset over Ibiza town, that’s what comes to mind.
You mentioned that “Reloaded” is special to you, how did that track come about?
It’s very epic, very cinematic. I made that track because I was thinking to myself, I want a track that I can play as an intro for the Scream 2 tour. The whole song is me imagining the opening of one of my sets. There’s many stories behind a lot of these songs.
What is the significance of album release parties and what can be expected as you mark the completion of Scream 2?
The release parties for me are a celebration of my new artist album. It’s not exclusively material like I’m going to mix my new album from track to track. It’s more of a celebration, and the guest of honor is the new album. There will quite a few tracks from the new album, remixes from old albums. I always treat album release parties as a celebration of the accomplishment of a new artist album. It’s a year in the making to do an artist album like that, some will take two years. It’s an opportunity to celebrate with the fans the accomplishment. Even for me, I sit back and just say “wow, we did it.” It’s a special night for me and I hope that the fans as well, it becomes a special night for them.
Scream 2 will be released February 21st via Armada — preview the album with Markus’s mini-mix, follow its tracklisting, and pre-order it today.
02 Revolution (with Venom One feat. Chris Madin)
03 Blown Away (feat. Liz Primo)
04 Remember This
05 Erase You (feat. Lady Vee)
07 Muse (feat. Adina Butar)
08 Dancing In The Key Of Life
09 Lord Knows (feat. Liz Horsman)
10 Fireworks (with Klauss Goulart feat. Paul Aiden)
11 In The Shadows
12 Make You Fall (feat. CeCe Peniston)
14 Mardi Gras
15 Gravity (feat. Amy Kirkpatrick)
17 Towards The Sun (with Rex Mundi)