Happy New Year! I hope this finds you all doing well. By the time this gets published and you’re reading this, I’ll have brought in 2012 a lot earlier than most of you, spending New Year’s Eve in Sydney as part of a hectic Australian tour over the next few days.
It’s been an incredibly busy time for me over the past few weeks with not even as much of a break for Christmas, but I wanted to keep up one of my traditions and deliver an end of year blog for you all today. The end of the year is always a time for us to reflect back on our lives over the previous twelve months, so I’ll attempt to do the same here by presenting a selection of highlights of my year on the road, before looking ahead to what is in store for us in 2012.
So if you’re reading this on New Year’s Eve getting ready to go out and party the night away, or on New Year’s Day with a bit of a foggy head, hopefully you will enjoy the 2011 journey through my eyes.
Prague – The Compilation and Transmission
You could pick any year from the last six and I’d list Prague as one of my annual highlights, but I think for obvious reasons, 2011 stood out as the absolute best.
This time last year, I was putting the final touches on what would be the Prague ’11 compilation, and it’s one that I’ve looked back on and really enjoyed the fruits that it yielded. For the first time we tried to organise a release party around the album, and very proudly sold out the SaSaZu venue in record time. I hadn’t been able to play an extended set in Prague for a couple of years, so it was amazing to be able to deliver something to one of the most passionate scenes anywhere in the world.
I guess the next step is to attempt to do a full open to close at the venue; that’s something I’d love to do for 2012. What I will say though is for any of you who have never been to Prague, I can’t recommend it enough. Even if it’s not to come see me play, it’s definitely a city that will capture your imagination when you’re there.
Fast forward to November and the Digital Madness themed-Transmission, where another emotional night professionally and personally would unfold.
Transmission is one of those nights you dream about when you start out DJing. And when that dream becomes a reality, you sacrifice those few extra hours of sleep to prepare yourself as best as possible for the big dance. And of course, being given the honor of playing at practically every single one of the strand’s events is a career highlight, along with the privilege of producing three themes.
This was also the year where Transmission finally got to hear the Coldharbour remix of Breathing for the very first time, and one of the most poignant memories I’ll take away was the touch of class from the Above & Beyond boys with their message dedicated to my father through their visuals.
Here’s hoping that next year’s Transmission will be bigger and better than ever, and I’d only be delighted to come back and perform for the Prague Coldharbour addicts again.
The Return Home to Space in Miami
When I eventually hang up the headphones, there are certain clubs around the world where I’ll be forever grateful to have been given an opportunity. I’ve been living in Miami for over ten years now, and one of my proudest accomplishments since moving here has been the nights we have shared at Club Space. Coming back to play there in December 2010 after so many years away meant an incredible amount to me personally, but we were able to take things to the next level in March.
Due to the split between Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Week, I was originally given the opportunity to play two nights at Space – the Friday of each respective week. Now you guys know how much I love my solo sets; being able to perform and control the entire night musically from open to close. My excitement levels increased even further when on the first night, I got a phone call to say that due to both gigs selling out, they were putting on a third show on the Sunday of Ultra Week.
All three gigs were very memorable in their own way. The first gig was my traditional solo set, and was the first chance for me to play the majority of the Thoughts Become Things II album. A week of intense studio work finalising the album followed, and was finished by the time the second gig rolled round, which featured good friends Wippenberg and Jochen Miller and got the World Tour treatment. Then the Sunday night was arguably the most fun, probably because it was the most unrehearsed.
We managed to sell out the final show, making it three for three, and it became a bit of an unofficial Ultra / ASOT 500 Miami after party. I started off playing the first two hours, then guests Cosmic Gate came to the decks. We were up for a bit of back to back action so that really got the crowd going, then Wippenberg came along and it became a quadcore German style. Late into the night I took over again and played after 8am, and it reminded me what great nights of clubbing should be all about. Add in some great nights over Independence Day and Labor Day weekends, and I couldn’t really have asked for a better way to “come home”.
So it’s definitely a goal of mine to do more of the same at Space in 2012. I will be back playing for my hometown peeps sooner than you think
Ibiza and the Summer Festival Season
Looking back at the list of festivals I played this summer, there are a couple in particular that stand out to me as being special. When Electric Daisy Carnival moved to Las Vegas this year, there was a large degree of unknown involved – would it take off, would Vegas be capable of handling a big outdoor rave in modern times.
The answer to which was a resounding yes. That gig alone I think showed that electronic music in the United States is thriving right now. You had your new generation of clubbers mixed in with the long-term dedicated fans and it made for an atmosphere quite difficult to describe. I think we’ll look back on this year’s event as the moment the scene in Vegas moved up to another level, and I’m proud to play a regular part in that though the residency at Marquee.
You’ve read me speak about my hometown of Miami fondly, but being German born and bred, there is a very special place in my heart for the Nature One festival every summer. It was incredible to be back playing there for the first time in five years in 2010, and was delighted to be part of proceedings again on the main stage this year. But it was a varied range of emotions, because Nature One was always synonymous with our friend Tillmann Uhrmacher, who sadly was taken away from us too soon back in June. When I arrived at the venue to do my usual interview with the station, they had pictures of Tillmann everywhere, and you could definitely feel his presence throughout the entire event.
I think that coupled with my dad being there it motivated me to push myself even harder for the gig, but it was worth it in the end. Nature One 2010 will go down as one of my most important gigs ever played, but this year might very well have topped even that.
The Ibiza season was busy and a change of scenery for yours truly with the move to Space. Seven nights in total; with the highlight being the extended set out on the terrace towards the end of July and a legion of fans from different countries staying to the end for Gypsy Room as an encore.
All of the Global Gatherings were a highlight as always, particularly the double header where I played in Gdansk and Kiev on the same day. And of course Electric Zoo in New York which continues to get bigger and bigger each year.
I have to admit though that it gets harder and harder as each summer season passes. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have my own private jet! So the travelling does take it out of you a lot, particularly when going to places that require three or four flights to get there. I keep saying to myself that I’ll be more prepared, but no doubt summer 2012 will be even more chaotic than ever before.
Best of the Rest
Looking through the rest of 2011, it was another year of progression with the Ministry of Sound residency in London, which included another solo set that was well received. I guess that with me now being into the fourth year of the residency, I’d like to step things up to another level with the Gallery boys. Maybe aim for two solo sets in 2012 or try to do a show at the hallmarked Brixton Academy – just down the road from Coldharbour Lane.
As always like any other year, I had some wonderful nights playing for the great trance communities at Pacha in New York and at the Guvernment in Toronto, but like London, maybe these are cities where we need to move forward and play more often. Although I do see gigs at both clubs pencilled into my tour schedule in the first quarter of the year, so we’re off to a good start in that regard
On the Global DJ Broadcast World Tour front, we’ve had some big nights featured on the broadcast over the past year. The New Year’s Eve party at Ruby Skye in San Francisco in particular was a memorable one for me. The most popular episode was also one of my favorites, from the world famous Green Valley in Brazil. Mmmmm cheesybread…. :p I’ve been told by the promoters there that it’s rare for a DJ to be booked to play at the venue more than once in a year, so I felt very privileged to visit the area in January and September.
And back in April, two massive nights for me personally occurred through the A State of Trance 500 events in Buenos Aires and Den Bosch, with two of the best crowds I played to anywhere all year long. It’s only a matter of weeks away until the 550 celebrations, and I’m delighted to be part of them again. The hard work of preparing for those sets will begin towards the end of this month. Who could forget the wild night at Privilege in Buenos Aires where the power went out twice in the first half hour, but we recovered and ended up rocking the party past 8 in the morning!
Looking Ahead to Los Angeles ‘12
Since the last blog you will all know that the chosen destination for the 2012 city series compilation will be the city of angels – Los Angeles. My affection for the area goes back many years, although it took me quite a while to feel comfortable playing there. Every time I used to be booked for LA I’d get so nervous and intimiated, because it’s one of those cities thoughout the world where you’re faced with a test – and one where you’ll either sink or swim quite quickly.
As the years grew and as we moved towards the middle of the last decade, I started gathering a following of very loyal and dedicated fans – people who I’m lucky to have as friends today. They’d hit the message boards and encourage more and more people to come out and support me at my gigs. Then on New Year’s Eve in 2005 I got my big LA breakthrough – playing at Together as One for the first time – my first “massive”. That was the moment where I knew we were developing something and for me personally, it made me feel that I could take my career to another level.
Three Monster Massives in successive years followed, with club gigs scattered in between, and two more Together as One NYE events (the 2009 edition featuring on the Global DJ Broadcast World Tour), as well as the Electric Daisy Carnival prior to its move to Las Vegas. LA had been in my mind for a compilation berth for a few years at that time, but it was the long sets and late nights at Avalon where I felt the tipping point.
That Sunday night on Memorial Day Weekend 2010 was a big swing. It was the night featured on the Do You Dream DVD, and I’d been on the road all week and playing my fourth gig in four nights. Tired, delirious, I don’t know, but it was a vibe that made me feel so happy that the club scene in LA was so vibrant. Two 6+ hour sets within the space of three months in 2011 sealed the deal.
So like Prague in 2011, Los Angeles in 2012 is a reflection of my affinity with the people in that particular city. Since the end of September I’ve been working hard on securing tracks and working with every producer to make the necessary changes in order for the flow of each CD to blossom. It’s not quite 100% done yet at the time of writing, but I have a test version of each disc on my iPod and I’m absorbing it during my travels, tweaking something every day.
You’ll be able to find out the tracklist in a couple of weeks, but I can tell you that it will feature a brand new and unheard track from yours truly, under my own name for a change! It’s a deeper track aimed more for home listening, but one I feel will hopefully work well in my longer sets going forward.
And come President’s Day weekend it’ll be time to party, with two special gigs taking place on Saturday February 18 and Sunday February 19 at Avalon, where I’ve started preparing my sets for both nights already. Tickets for the Saturday show are very close to selling out and Sunday is going well too, so make sure you grab them before it’s too late. Really looking forward to seeing my LA tranceaddicts along with any of you travelling to the big weekend, I will work my hardest to deliver something special. Time to make history.
Reflecting on 2011 Overall
2011 has undoubtedly been a year full of ups and downs for me, just like pretty much everyone else. The tour schedules are unforgiving, and the demand to satisfy and please keeps getting larger as the weeks go by.
I know there’s been a debate among my own fans about the direction I’m going in musically, and there has been a period where it seems anything I played or anything I tried to do resulted in me seemingly being the worst person in the world.
My honest thoughts are this – I felt that after 2010 with the whole “where trance went wrong” nonsense that I needed to make a statement in a musical sense, and that meant going back into the clubs and coming out with a more raw edge. And I think that I did accomplish that this year.
But I think that it’s now maybe time for trance to dust itself down and come back fighting again. I will say this – there is nothing more inspiring to me than a good melody. Heck I think there were some lovely melodies on the Thoughts Become Things II album that a lot of people seem to have forgotten about. But my biggest fear for trance right now is that it’s almost getting to the point where it’s too vocal driven and the breakdowns are becoming too long. This might sound silly, but I fear for the day where I hear Celine Dion’s Titanic theme My Heart Will Go On playing over a trance breakdown.
So I think going forward that there will be a little more balance with my livesets next year, particularly with a brand new Markus Schulz artist album coming. Some of you hardcore may have noticed already that I’m trying to fit some more melodic-driven tracks into my livesets now. I don’t think the so-called “pitch-bend” era will immediately drop away, but I don’t think it will last forever either. But I’m counting on all the great producers we have on our Coldharbour roster to continue contributing yet more anthemic moments for us al to cherish, myself included.
I’ll be candid and admit that sometimes I’m guilty of not refreshing my liveset playlists enough, and although it’s very difficult, and being the studio geek I am, time consuming to not only find these new tracks but edit them in a manner which fit the flow of my sets, it is something I’m consciously going to try next year, particularly for the World Tour recordings. Although maybe I’m just more open to criticism in that regard because there were no less than thirty of my livesets broadcasted in 2011, which I was told was more than double any other international trance DJ. Food for thought.
So 2011 is about to become 2012. No one knows exactly what it will bring, but I’m hoping that it will be a great one for all of us.
My first wish is for everyone to be in good health for the next year. I’ve had my fair share of problems and stress to deal with this year, not least the trauma of having to deal with my brother’s coma in May while I was on tour in Asia. I don’t know how long my father will still be with us, but I hope he keeps fighting his battle and can come to some more of my gigs.
I hope that somebody will come up with an invention where we can add as many extra hours in a day that we want in order to get everything done. I hope that I can deliver a new artist album and compilation that you will all embrace and love, and I hope that I can perform to my absolute best each and every time I step onto the decks in whatever club, arena or festival you find me playing.
Most of all, I hope that 2012 is the year where I’ll be able to count on each and every one of you for your support throughout the next twelve months, because to be honest with you guys, I can’t achieve anything without you. We all share that dream of one day being able to put on a full Markus Solo stadium show, but we have to continue to grow together and continue reaching out to every corner in order to make that happen.
So in closing, I’d like to wish you all a very happy, healthy, safe, prosperous and joyful new year.
You’ve heard me say this countless times before but I’ll say it again – thank you guys so much for everything you do for me; whether it’s going out to the clubs or events, listening to Global DJ Broadcast or A State of Sundays, buying the singles and albums, being part of Coldharbour Day or just generally having me as part of your life every day – thank you.
I have only one resolution for 2012, and that is to work harder for all of you than ever before. Hopefully you are willing to go on that journey with me side by side.