Superstar DJ Markus Schulz talks trance

Yale may not be the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of party schools, but yesterday the University was visited by a man whose full-time job is keeping parties alive all over the world.

On Thursday Markus Schulz, an international trance music producer who was most recently rated the eighth-best DJ in the world by DJ Magazine, appeared for a Master’s Tea at the Saybrook Underbrook. In front of an audience of about 60 students, the DJ discussed his beginnings as a break dancer, the changing nature of music technology and his most memorable moments on tour.

When introducing Schulz, Acting Saybrook Master Edward Kamens noted that professional DJs are a rarity on campus — the last notable electronic music figure to arrive here was Günther, the one-hit wonder known for the “Ding Dong Song.”

“I have no idea what trance or house music is,” Kamens told the crowd of about 60. “I expect to learn a lot.”

Schulz began his career in music as a break dancer outside Boston, Mass., and one night found himself DJing a party he had organized in a hotel ballroom to break dance with friends. That night, Schulz spun well enough to get hired as the DJ for the hotel’s club.

Soon after, a friend asked Schulz if he would be interested in DJing at a new concept club — a place for the “rave and gay scenes to come together in [a] crazy circus.” The new club, The Works, became Shulz’s new home, where he spun nearly every night for the next seven years until it finally shuttered.

“A [music] scene is a family,” Schulz said.

He mentioned that his time at The Works was not all just a party — during his seven years as the club’s resident DJ, he lost several friends to AIDS. The club’s community was so strong, Schulz said, that even today people have stopped him on the street, in cities such as San Francisco or Atlanta, and said, “I used to go see you at The Works. I would dance until four or five in the morning.”

Eventually Schulz moved to London and began his own record label, but more personal moments stood out. For example, at an outdoor festival in Holland, Schulz was playing when it began to pour, but the crowd largely stayed and was suddenly rewarded by the breaking of the clouds and the appearance of “a huge rainbow.” Schulz said he then spun “the most uplifting song [he] could.”

Schulz also addressed the rapidly changing nature of electronic music — when he was starting out in the ’90s, studios would invest up to $100,000 in an artist’s album. Nowadays, Schulz said he is making his records on flights between venues and then playing them at clubs from a USB thumb drive. This accessibility, Schulz added, comes with a price as well — it has led to lower-quality tracks in the dance music scene.

Julian Domo ’11, the event’s organizer and a member of the student DJ association Society Electronica, got in touch with Schulz via email in December — and was shocked when Schulz emailed back.

“He’s my favorite DJ,” Domo said. “I’ve been getting emails this past week from people excited about this music, hoping to form a stronger community at Yale, and this [talk] is like the pinnacle of that.”

Vishal Maini ’13, an on-campus DJ, noted that he was struck by Schulz’s insight into the business side of production. Schulz manages five agents and assistants, one of whom Schulz said is on-call “24/7.”

Schulz plays roughly 280 nights a year, Domo said. He added that Schulz had flown into New Haven with his wife and son from his home in Miami and will be flying to Argentina on Friday.

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