Hey everyone,

Hello to you all from the comfort of my own home this week, and after a gruelling three weeks on the road, it feels very good to be able to say that. I have been resting and gearing up for a huge weekend in Toronto, but before we look forward to that, I’m going to reflect on last weekend’s gigs in Barcelona and Portrush.

On Friday night I found myself playing at She Club in Barcelona. The clubbers there were great, many of them Ibiza regulars, so it was a sort of an Ibiza season pre-party. My good friend Brian Cross came out and we got to catch up a bit, and discuss the upcoming Ibiza season in great detaii. I am really looking forward to this season as there some nice surprises in store. As far as the club itself, it is a really cool venue with an amazing soundsystem. It reminds me alot of Amnesia in Ibiza, only on a smaller scale.

In typical Spanish tradition, it was a late night. I played until the club closed at 6am and then had to hurry back to the hotel to get cleaned up, and head right back to the airport to catch a flight to London, before connecting to Belfast. When I was in Heathrow waiting for my second flight, I bumped into the guys from Cosmic Gate, who themselves had a gig in Belfast the night before along with Judge Jules. It’s amazing how they have reinvented their sound over the past couple of years. I remember playing with them at a festival in Holland, when they were still playing trance at the upper 130 range. Following them was not an easy task! They are great guys though and I always make a point of trying to hang out with them if we are playing at the same event.

After the connecting flight to Belfast, I got picked up and took the 90 minute drive to Portrush. The scenery up there is incredible. It’s a little village by the seaside, and there are some spectacular views from the cliffs. If I ever get the chance to play there again, I hope I can stay longer so I could go and explore a bit more. Along the way is a small town called Ballymena. Many people have asked me why I named the track on my Without You Near album that I did with Airwave after a particular place in Ireland that would not be commonly known around the world. There used to be a boat that resided at the harbour in Ft. Lauderdale, close to where I live, named “The Ballymena”. And of course, the boat was named after the town.

In all honesty, I was so exhausted on Saturday night. All the flights during the week were adding up and taking their toll. But once I made it inside the Lush complex and went up to the DJ booth to survey the scene, it gave me a second wind. You know the Irish, up for any party no matter what time of the year.

The club itself has changed immensely since I last played there. The DJ booth has moved, they have huge L.E.D. lights on the balcony, and a giant screen for visuals at the front. One thing that hasn’t changed though is the quality of the soundsystem. Resident DJ Chris Davis was doing a good job warming the crowd up, and he even showed a little Coldharbour love by playing tyDi’s Russia towards the end of his set. At 11pm, it was time to start my 3 hour set, and the last on this three week stretch.

Rather appropriately for where I was, I opened the set with my intro edit of U2′s New Years Day, which I made during Christmas for the GDJB Classics Showcase. The first half hour or so of the set was spent building things up, but the crowd were begging for some heavy beats. So when I threw down the Dakota track, Sin City, the floor really got moving. My abiding memory of this set however is when I played my remix of John O’Callaghan’s Big Sky. Every single person in the club, bar staff and all, were singing along with their hands in the air. It was a sight that would give anyone goosebumps.

Once I got done I went downstairs to meet the crowd and take some pictures. The set went really well, and I loved how much the fans got into it from beginning to end. But on the inside, I felt huge relief. The last gig on this tour was over, and I knew that in a few hours, I would be on my way back home to Miami. After a couple of hours rest, I got picked up at 7am to head back to Belfast and get a connecting flight over to London, and then a 10 hour flight to Miami. Needless to say, those 10 hours were spent in the land of nod.

I couldn’t wait to get home to catch up with everything and everyone again. I really missed my dog, Star. Any time I leave home for a couple of weeks, I always worry that she will forget what I look like before the time I get back. But the jetlag badly caught up with me on Monday and Tuesday. I was walking around the house like a zombie. But once I got rested up, I hit the gym to get some energy back, and then it was straight back into the studio to prepare for Saturday.

Before I talk about this upcoming weekend in Toronto however, I am going to answer this month’s questions posted by the members over at the forum. If you have anything you would like to ask, please signup and post away, and ask anything you like. It doesn’t necessarily have to do to with music.

Here goes:

When looking at photos of your gigs from around the world, you are always wearing the coolest t-shirts. Do you pick them out yourself, and where do you get them?

I make it a point to try to get out and find some cool t-shirts when I am on the road. When I was in LA on my way to Australia for example, I hit up Melrose Avenue, where there are some really cool shops to buy t-shirts. Also Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach has some cool places. It is fun to shop for t-shirts because they don’t take up much room in your carryon bags while on tour.

Why the alias Dakota? How did it come about? When you are producing a track under Dakota, do you find yourself pulled into the darker sounds for a while, or is it easy to just go back and forth in production style?

I was just making some sketch ideas for the next Markus Schulz album and came up with some really cool, dark, more geared to the underground type tracks. I didn’t think that was the right sound for a Markus Schulz album, but I love making and playing these different styles of tracks in my sets, so I thought it would be cool to resurrect the Dakota name to release these tracks under. I used to put out tracks under Dakota around the millennium period on labels such as Bedrock, Yoshitoshi and Global Underground. The name comes from the street I lived on while in Arizona. I lived on North Dakota Drive.

I’m finishing up university in the Toronto area within the next few months. I chose to study accounting since it was one of the few things I actually liked in high school (go figure) but music has always been my true passion. I didn’t have the most glamorous childhood and had to deal with many things a child or teen shouldn’t have to deal with. It was during these times that music put me in another place and took me away from it all. I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say your music was and still is that escape from any stress or hardships – keep making great music! Your perspective as to how music should be produced (from the heart) is inspiring. Now my question: I’ve picked up music production as a hobby (when I’m not overwhelmed with school work). I’ve spent countless hours trying to learn the ins and outs of a couple of programs but feel like I’ve hit a plateau. I feel like there is so much more that I could learn, but I don’t know anyone else who produces and can’t seem to find other tutorials that expand the horizon. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to reach the next level?

I think you should focus on one program you feel the most comfortable with. Really learn the ins and outs of the program. Invest some time into finding some unique sounds and plugins. A new bank of sounds can inspire new ideas. Whenever I start a new project, I always like to find something new to inspire me. Also, if you are looking for some good production tips, check out YouTube. There are tons of video tutorials from making percussion to basslines and leads. Always remember too, that what you start with will never be what the finished product sounds like. Most of my tracks evolve over the weeks I work on them, eventually sounding nothing like what I started with.

I know you are a big basketball fan and in particular of the Phoenix Suns. Do you think they will make the playoffs this year? Which team do you think will go all the way? And finally, when are you making your next appearance on court, following your little accident?

Oh man, The Suns are a mess. I have been following them since 1993. I also used to do the music production for them when I lived in Arizona, so I had a staff badge and got to see most of their games. They have since sold the team to a new owner and he has hired some people who just do not have a clue about constructing a team, so I am pretty frustrated with them right now. The last week they have gained some momentum, but they are still out of the playoff picture. I think they can make it if they continue to play like they have the last few weeks though, but I don’t see them going deep in the playoffs. I think the Celtics are still the team to beat, but it looks more and more like a Kobe vs. Lebron NBA Championship series.

Next week is Winter Music Conference in Miami. Describe your first WMC experience for us.

My first WMC was amazing. It was the first time in person that I saw some of the names that I used to see on records and flyers. It was also my first opportunity to hear some of the DJs that I had heard so much about. The biggest thing I can recommend to first timers is to go with an open mind. When checking out a DJ that has a solid reputation, study how he is building his sets, and don’t get too wrapped up in the tunes or style of music being played. There are many things you can take away from listening to DJs that may not play the same style of music you are into. For example, I learned a lot from listening to Danny Tenaglia at Groove Jet back in the day. He may not play all the type of tracks that I like; but the way he told his story was cool.

Thanks again for your questions. I’ll answer more of them next month.

This Saturday is a gig I have been looking forward to and preparing for since Christmas. It is going to be a celebration, as the official release party for Toronto ’09 takes place at the world famous Guvernment. This night is a thank you to all the fans; who inspired me to base the 2009 compilation on the city of Toronto. We have had quite a journey over the years together, and Saturday is just going to be another momentus chapter that hopefully all of us will remember. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces out there on the dancefloor. It’s one of those gigs that I wish was happening tonight.

Next week, the world’s congregation of DJs, media and clubbers descend upon South Beach in Miami. There will be a special WMC edition of Global DJ Broadcast, where some of my friends and colleagues in the industry will be checking in with their personal recommendations of which tunes are doing the business in the clubs. While they are here, hopefully they can hang around for one of my traditional WMC poker parties.

It is a very busy week for yours truly, with gigs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Hopefully I will find some time to check in with you all next week, to tell you what this year’s WMC experience has been like.

But until then, I wish you all a great weekend. For all you readers in Toronto, I can’t wait to see you this Saturday!

Ciao,
Markus