TF Archives

Markus Shulz interview: Coldharbour Vibes

Author: Clare Dickins
Friday, March 3, 2006
After time in Miami, Arizona and London, trance don Markus Schulz has settled in Berlin, where he's busy redefining the genre.

Don't mistake Markus Schulz for just another trance DJ. Such a tag is underselling the scene-shaping American.

If Lasgo and DJ Sammy dragged trance through the mud in the early part of the naughties, then progressive trance renaissance men like Schulz and compatriots Gabriel & Dresden are putting it back on the top shelf again.

It's a frost-bitten -17C morning in Berlin when we catch up with Schulz. Once a struggling industry battler, the American is now one of the most wanted DJs on the planet, with a sound generating more hype than a Paris Hilton porno.

But Schulz isn't in it for the hype, nor the fame. Similar to Richie Hawtin, Markus has uprooted himself from his Miami base to settle in the German capital to re-focus and re-energise his creative juices. "In the last three to four years, Miami has turned into another Hollywood, where it's all about the glamour scene, so that's why I've relocated to Berlin. I'm really looking forward to drawing my inspiration and influences from here."

In a dance music world peppered by 20-something upstarts and teenage prodigies, Schulz is a statistical anomaly. To many, he may appear to be a new name on the world scene, but in reality Schulz has been slugging it out in the industry since the early '90s. He's lent his production skills to labels like Yoshitoshi and Renaissance and was a resident at Arizona's clubbing institution The Works for seven years.

But it's Schulz's scene-shaping 'Coldharbour' sound [named after his old street in London] that's made the most impact. Developed during a soul searching time in London between 2000-2002, the sound has successfully bridged the gap between house, progressive and trance and has heralded a new era in dance music.

Surprisingly though, Markus says it was London's burgeoning drum'n'bass scene, which chiefly inspired the Coldharbour sound. "I've always been into the housey grooves, but with a melodic edge on top of it. I've never been a big fan of the whole over-the-top trance stuff, so I've always sought out a darker sound," he says. "London is heavily influenced by drum'n'bass, so when I started experimenting with combining D&B basslines, with trancey melodies and housey beats, that's when the whole Coldharbour sound came about."

Chat to Markus and it's clear his time in the UK had a profound effect on him. Its influence was more than just musical. "Moving to London was a pilgrimage for me. I was trying to find myself and my place in the world," he says. "Previously I had been living in Arizona and was inspired by things like the Grand Canyon and the desert - it was beautiful and breathtaking. But I needed to have that edge. When I moved to London, it gave me that darker edge. That's what I was missing, that inner city style and sound.

"For a while in London I lived in my studio, which was right under the train tracks in Brixton. If you know anything about London, you'll know Brixton is not the best part of town! So I ended up going from the beautiful desert, to the living under the train tracks of Brixton, but it's where I found myself. It was exactly what I needed and I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't have done that."

These days Markus now runs his own imprint Coldharbour Recordings, and is signed to Armin van Buuren's Armada label. Every Sunday night he presents the internationally broadcast radio show Global DJ Broadcast, a role that has seen his profile soar noticeably. In general, Markus attributes his rise up the ranks to be indicative of trance's move away from the uplifting fluff it was once characterised by.

"People have said to me that trance died in '99/2000 when the whole Global Underground and Bedrock thing exploded. Now in 2006, people are saying that trance is dying again and it's the whole Coldharbour crew that are blowing up everywhere.