"I wanted to create as many beautiful stages for the music I love as possible so that more people could find and enjoy it"
Markus Schneider lives in Saarbrücken, Germany, is a psychedelic house and dark disco DJ as part of The Robot Scientists, co-founder of Emerald & Doreen Records and curator of the Something Spaecial DJ podcast series.
Hi Markus! How are you?
Fine, thank you.
How are you dealing with the confinement of C19 with your work?
Basically, not so much changed for me, I have a small office room with a kitchen where I usually work alone. But leaving the house feels quite weird every day currently.
Has this situation influenced your creative perspective? What social and musical implications do you think this situation can lead to?
I had my “I want you to panic” moment in 2014. Since then, I read a lot about how we people, how our society and our economy work. I think we need change everywhere fast, and this virus is our chance to renew everything, business, work, mindset, the list is very long. Trillions of Dollars have been spent to save banks ten years ago, now we should invest trillions to create the world we want. I keep my fingers crossed for us because the Orwellian dystopia is closer than ever before.
Artistically, I have the feeling that especially dark disco artists, label makers and podcast series hosters anticipated that there is something deeply wrong with the world we live in. Similar to the Cold War times in the 1980s, you can hear the threat in the music: melancholy, disgust, despair, mysticism, revolution, it is all in there. I as DJ personally like to oscillate between these darker vibes and more optimistic, happier and more futuristic themes and mix them both together. This is more a reflection of how I am, an open-minded, diversity-loving, optimistic, romantic, melancholic futurist. I think that this situation now can help everybody to reflect and re-focus on what they really want to do with their lives.
At a time when everyone seems so eager to start a label / promotion venture, what was your main motivation for starting Something Spaecial? And Emerald & Doreen?
I wanted to create as many beautiful stages for the music I love as possible so that more people could find and enjoy it. As I have a professional background in marketing and product management and as I love to try out new things no matter how big the obstacles seem to be, I thought we can also do a label ourselves. My brother Oliver is a great graphics designer in Berlin, he helped me a lot to turn my ideas into stylistically perfect shape. The Emerald & Doreen logo, the Something Spaecial artwork and the Robot Scientists logo are all by him.
When I met my old friend Stefan Maurer again after many years and we started with The Robot Scientists in 2007, we quickly became quite a hit on MySpace, getting 9000 friends in a couple of months.
Our “Musica da Batticuore” vinyl-only mixes with obscure space disco and italo disco tracks got more than 20.000 downloads back then, I think half the world listened to them, haha, because there were many artists among our friends.
Then David Caretta of International DJ Gigolos fame asked us to do a single for his label Space Factory. We teamed up with Eric Schemer and Fred Scholl to produce them, and they founded go nogo back then. I knew Eric from the University of the Saarland where we studied English Literature and Linguistics. That was back in the Hacienda “rave” days of the 90s, we all loved the Charlatans, Happy Mondays and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.
From 2001 until 2006, we had a radio show together called “Musique Elliptique” on Bermudafunk in Mannheim. One of my biggest dreams ever was to run an own record label, we had a band, they had a band. So the next step was easy: we started Emerald & Doreen on the 11 of November 2011, 11/11/11. A magical date. The first release came in early 2012, the second Robot Scientists single “Black Hole”.
The label still has two A&Rs, Eric and me, and we sign different styles, Eric is more into Indiepop and more mellow vibes, while I am more into Dark Disco and New Wave, Synthpop is our common denominator. This makes the label so eclectic and unpredictable.
The podcast series “Something Spæcial” was born a bit later, in 2014. Back then, the “guest mix” idea came up. I thought it would be a beautiful idea to invite DJs, producers and artists with a similar mindset to do podcasts...and as we all have this love for space and spaced out sounds,and with the Robot Scientists we had a mixtape and event series called “Spaced Out Disco”.
The name was found when listening to Kolombo – Waiting For (Michael Mayer Remix) which has a line “Something special, something pure”, I added the “space” by turning the a into an æ, so spæcial means “spacial & special” in one word and is pronounced like “special”. I didn’t know back then about Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnston’s fantastic club night ALFOS, A Love From Outer Space, this I learned a couple of weeks before the launch of the series. Great to see how being of a similar wavelength influences your reasoning.
Do you recall the first acid record you heard that made you think, that’s it, that’s the kind of sound I want to do/play?
In my case it was an Italo Disco record. In 1984, 1985, we had quite a few bigger places selling ZYX records at 12,90 DM, about 6,50 Euros. One of them was a huge Karstadt department store in Saarbrücken. I happened to be there with 14 Deutsche Mark pocket money and as there were only about 30-40 12 inches which looked cool and mysterious, I picked Mr.Flagio, I liked the strange minimal orange artwork of the sleeve and the weird font combination with “Italo Disco” written on it. As all the headphones for listening were occupied, the Djing cashier lady said, “I am going to play it loud”...I was almost a bit frightened because I was unsure whether such a potentially wild club track would be suitable for a Karstadt loudspeaker and all the normal people in there...then she put the needle on the record....and when the track started, the whole place turned into a robo-disco-spaceship for me, I literally was blown away into another dimension for a minute! I still think this is the best electronic dance track ever made, even better than “I feel love”.
When we started with “The Robot Scientists”, we knew that this track is always at the core of our hearts and our sets always evolve around the “Take A Chance” vibe, around analogue synth arpeggios, cold vocoder melodies and futuristic, hot, dubbed out funkyness.
Stefan and I lived in Völklingen, back then a pretty busy and also quite rich place because of the steel works. There was the second biggest discotheque in the South-West of Germany, called Chic, in our town, and the DJ Ronald Springer played a lot of Italo, New Wave, EBM and HiNRG back then. So we literally danced to “Spacer Woman” back then under the neon lights and laser beams, and this changed us forever.
What’s your musical background; can you list your all time top tracks or albums?
I have hundreds of favorite songs and quite a few favorite albums, but these here mean most to me because I was there in history when they “happened”, and they all had a deep beautiful emotional impact on me.
Mr. Flagio – Take a Chance
Bobby Orlando – She has a Way
Red Axes – Waiting for a Surprise
Dreems - We Shall Be Found (Multi Culti's 'In The Gobi' Dub)
Black Light Smoke – Morning Comes (feat. Leah Lazonick)
Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell
Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy
Daft Punk - Homework
Glass Candy - Beatbox
Woolfy vs. Projections – The Astral Projections of Starlight
How do you go about discovering new music?
I started to buy digital files only last year for Djing. I usually use Beatport for digging if I don’t receive the promos from the labels directly. I also still buy 5-10 vinyl records per month and discover them via my favorite online stores decks.de, deejay.de, hhv.de and discogs.
Is SoundCloud your number one source of music supply?
Not really anymore. A couple of years ago, there were many cool tracks and remixes to get there for free and I was into digging for them, I made two mixes called SpaceDa(n)ze only with those tracks, they are still great and on Soundcloud. Soundcloud today is key to get our music heard. Reach dropped a bit last year I think due to Soundcloud monetizing some tracks which then get more plays, but still quite ok for us as we have a loyal base of followers.
How did you catch the electronic music virus?
I used to listen to the British top 100 singles charts back in the day on Sunday nights on German SWR3 radio. There I discovered Depeche Mode: they played “New Life” (1981) because it entered the UK charts and I fell in love with them. I knew Kraftwerk, but it sounded too cold for me back then, I literally was afraid when I saw them perfoming “The Robots” live on TV back then with their plastic faces! Depeche Mode had this punky simplicity and romantic melancholy I have never heard before. So I went to our local record store with the piece of paper where I noted the band name that night, and I can remember, I wrote “Depêche Mode” because I just had started to get French lessons in school and I wanted to write it correctly. They had to order the record from the Mute distributor and a couple of days later, I received a limited version with the picture of the front cover as a iron-on patch, a version that gets sold today for 1000 Euros and more...I wouldn’t sell my one, but I wouldn’t get a lot of money for it, because it is really wrecked from hundreds of plays and I don’t have the iron-on-patch anymore. Back in 81, I wanted to put it on a grey sweater, but that did not work out well, because when ironing, I tried to remove the back paper too early and thus ruined both the patch and the shirt. Sad day, especially because I didn’t let my mother do it because I was afraid she would ruin it.
Any founding experience or seminal launch that has sparked this interest?
It all started when I was 10 years old. Back then, I can remember vaguely, I played around with one of my father’s records, I think it was Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, and somehow I put too much pressure on the record while bending it and - I broke it! That literally broke my father’s and my heart, and I think this subconsciously kickstarted my vinyl collection obsession. On top, discovering always more of a totally hidden but wonderful global music underground, with Depeche Mode in 1982, Italo Disco in 1984 and UK Indie-Pop (The famous “NME’86 compilation”) in 1986, all that really turned me into a total vinyl and electronic music nerd. I have seen Depeche Mode on their “Construction Time Again” tour, back then I was 14, and I have about 3000 vinyl records at home, mainly Synth-Pop, Italo Disco, New Wave, Space Disco and Psychedelic House, classics from the 1970s and 1980s, and the best releases of the last two decades.
Do you remember the first album you bought? And the last album that stunned you?
The first album was a compilation called “Super Hits Original”, it had David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” on it, but I loved Bonnie Tyler’s “Lost in France” back then more.
What is your criteria for selecting artists and labels?
I usually start from what I know already, Artists, Labels, and check out what they did and with whom. This way, I do not have to invest too much time, I don’t think I dig more than two or three hours per month.
Can you live from your work as prs? Is it difficult to live from this?
Still the label and DJing is a hobby. We run the label with three people, otherwise we could not release so much. It is by far too much work for almost nothing in return in regards to payment. We do it because we love music. We still hope that maybe one day with the help of a bigger label or partner, we can reach the next level. I wouldn’t mind at all to do the label or the DJing full time. But I also don’t like the idea to sell out and do mainstream stuff because I love the underground. I think bringing both together could be interesting because mainstream music never sucked as much as today, haha. But now we have to cope with the virus crisis first and see where we go from there.
What makes you happy?
Playing in front of a crowd that really enjoys our set, spending a nice day in nature with my family, listening to a great track no matter when and where, joking around with friends and people I like, swimming in the ocean, making dreams come true.
What pisses you off?
To have a better time, I am working hard on keeping my moods stable and I am getting better at it, so it is getting harder and harder to piss me off, but I really can’t stand people who lie to me because I can sense it which makes it twice as bad. And I sometimes have Weltschmerz, that German mood for feeling a pain about the bad state of the world and the fact that I cannot change it. It really pisses me off that there are so many people suffering in the world although we had enough knowledge and money to care for them all.
Can you tell us something about your current or future projects?
Well we keep releasing great artists on Emerald & Doreen. No matter what comes, we will be there for the global artists community. The first half of the year is quite packed, the second half we still have many open slots, so let yourself surprise what is coming up. Apart from that, there are some new mixtapes coming from The Robot Scientists which are pretty awesome I think...if you love electronic music, it is a great idea to follow us... and listen to hundreds of hours of great music on: