“Not so straightforward, is it?” remarks Markus. Both generally and rhetorically, he’s passing comment on life. However, in the closing weeks of 2017 & opening months of 2018, he could as easily be talking about the ‘how,’ ‘what’ & ‘why?’ of Dakota’s stage show and its December-released 18-track LP companion, The Nine Skies.
The tipping point for The Nine Skies didn’t occured last year, and the aftermath of the attack on Florida’s Pulse nightclub. “The final spur in the side,” was how Markus saw it at the time. “All the shit that’s happened after that has really changed things, but somehow that all seemed to start with Pulse. It just devastated me. Shook me to my core. It woke me up to the idea that, in general, we’re not on the right path. I believe to get us back there, to turn things around, anyone who is able has to do their bit. The Nine Skies is me trying to do mine in really the only way I know how.”
In respect of ‘The Nine Skies’, Markus’ own awakening started predominantly through books. “I started reading, he says, like a lot!” “At home, in hotel lobbies, on flights, in the studio. I’ve always had a lingering interest in spirituality and the desire to make some sense of life. It’s something I share with people that are close to me. We like to chat about the nature of things like dharma, prajna, true-self – all that stuff. It is how – over time – the ‘Skies’ came into being.”
Markus has always seen Dakota not as an alias but as a persona – an identity even. “Sometimes I’m wearing Dakota’s head; other times it’s Markus Schulz’s” he says. “Through that division, I’ve found the artistic space to make darker, moodier, deeper music. More exploratory and experimental gear… if that’s where my current state of mind is taking me.”
Atypically, the entire The Nine Skies project – concept, show, album, et al, was wrapped and complete before but a word of it was breathed. “This, expands Markus, gave me an opportunity I’d not had before. It gave me a chance to shake up my usual release pattern. So in keeping with the progressive spirit of The Nine Skies/steps, rather than coming with dozens of shows and an album’s worth of new material frontend, I brought it one stage and single at a time. I felt it would give the audiences more time to digest and absorb what is undeniably a broader concept.”
The underlying theme of each of the 18 tracks on the album broadly falls into one of the Skies’ nine realms. “That, cautions Markus, is not something that’s going to be immediately apparent the first time you listen to it. Give it time though, and over subsequent spins I think, you’ll get an ever-greater feel for the transitional passage the album is taking. From Sky.One’s The Follower, transcending right the way over to the ninth Sky: Nirvana.”
The Nine Skies is now available on all download and streaming portals. Get it here.