A familiar name for trance fans all over, Rotterdam native Ferry Corsten consistently lands near the top of DJ polls worldwide, including his placement in DJ Mag’s Top100DJs 2018, and most recently, receiving the prestigious ‘Legacy Award’ at the 33rd annual International Dance Music Awards (IDMA’s) during Miami Music Week.
He spent the past year focusing on his UNITY project — collaborating with the likes of Paul Oakenfold and Ilan Bluestone — aiming to bring the trance community together. With the project, Ferry partnered with VH1’s Save The Music Foundation, an organization formed to help failing music programs in schools; to date, it has raised over $55 million and helped over 2,500 public schools across the US.
Ferry recently returned with a new Gouryella single, while also recently completing his first film score for the movie Don’t Go.
Following a seven-hour flight and sleeping off little bit of jetlag, Ferry met us in the green room shortly before his set at Royale Boston where we talked changes in the trance scene, Gouryella, and the Spotify age.
After some time, you just released another track, “Surga,” from your Gouryella alias.
■ The first Gouryella release was in the early 2000’s; the last of that run was 2004, then I brought it back in 2015 with a track called “Anahera.” That’s always been a project people really wanted back, so when I brought [Gouryella] back, it was being welcomed with a passion. I’ve been doing shows with it ever since 2016 because of that release in 2015. Dreamstate most of all was like, “Hey can you do a show under that alias with us?,” so I did. 2016 and 2017 had releases; 2018, for some reason, I didn’t manage to have a release then because it’s a very specific sound. Now “Surga” is out and it’s the talk of the town.
The first time I heard your music was “Radio Crash” when I was in high school, around 2008. That was a while ago, and you’ve obviously been in the scene a lot longer than when that track came out…
■ I had my first big trance run at the end of 1998 with System F “Out of the Blue” and that’s a track that is now more than 20 years old. Time flies.
Yeah, and obviously you’ve seen things changing over time. What are some of the positive and negative changes you’ve noticed within the trance scene/community?
■ The positives, and more so the positives back in the day, were that the trance crowd was very open-minded. It was usually the techno and house crowd that was like, “It has to sound like this or that, otherwise it’s no good.” That was a positive then, but it has flipped and right now the one negative thing about the trance crowd is that it’s the most narrow-minded because, “It has to sound like this or else.”
That was my next question. People are aways like, “That’s not real trance, that’s not proper trance…”
■ Apparently there’s some sort of hidden rule book I never knew existed and trance has to be 140 BPM and it has to sound like this or sound like that. I think I’ve been there from the very start and if there was a rule book, I would’ve discovered it by now — 20 years later — but there’s no rule book, you guys made it up. The beauty of trance was that the one rule was that trance was about emotion. Whether the BPM is 115 or 168, it doesn’t mater. Of course, in the first trance run around 1998-2000, it was mostly 140, but everything was faster; even progressive house was like 135 or 136. If I listen to an old Sasha record like “Expander” for example, the original is 135 which is super fast; in those days that track sounded so slow, as every progressive house track now is like 126. Electronic music in general was a lot faster then. So to say trance should be 140 is just complete BS. That’s the negative thing. The beauty I think is the trance crowd, as narrow-minded as they are in that way, is as loyal as they are. There’s no genre other than trance where people embrace the music like it’s their culture. It’s their lifestyle. A techno fan goes to the club in their cool outfit on Saturday and that’s their techno life. Trance, they wake up Monday morning and breathe trance throughout the week until the next Monday. They live for it, and like I said, there’s no other genre where I see that happening. That’s really, really cool.
Is there anything a fan has done that you’ll always remember?
■ There are certain events where they have their tattoos up. When you put a tattoo up and it’s one of the lyrics from one of my songs, that’s cool because that line could mean something really personal.
Do you ever see any of the same people at different shows?
■ Oh yeah, there are people flying all over. There’s one guy from Norway who flies to the craziest places. I had a really small show in Perth, Australia last year and he flew from Norway just to be at that show. He’s actually flying to my show in Dallas tomorrow.
That’s incredible to have that impact on someone.
■ It really is.
So now in this Spotify age, a lot of people listen on a track-by-track basis rather than to an entire album. Do you feel limited to your hits and that people are just hearing those?
■ I produce in a certain way now for Spotify; I create the extended and then a Spotify version out of it, like you’d do back in the day with a radio edit. I see Spotify as the new radio, where an extended starts with a mix of beats and the Spotify version goes straight to the point. The only thing I don’t like about the whole Spotify age, which brings me to my Blueprint album, is that people have lost the art and patience of listening to albums and appreciating an album for what it is. When you sit back and relax and let the music come to you, you give it some time. You may not really like the whole album at first, maybe you have two favorites, and then you listen again and have three or four favorites, and after six listens, you like the whole album. We don’t know that anymore because of Spotify where people listen for two seconds, decide they don’t like it, and skip to the next. My last album, Blueprint, was made into a narrated story. If you hear the voiceover telling the story, you want to know what’s going on and what’s next.
I’m sure you have a lot coming up, but what’s one thing you’re super excited for?
■ I mentioned System F earlier, “Out of the Blue” being my big track in 1998. Last year I had a request again from Dreamstate asking me to bring back System F because so many people have been asking for it. “Out of the Blue” came out in November 1998, and Dreamstate was in November 2018, so I brought that back after 20 years and now they asked me to do it at EDC Vegas, so I’m doing it again and I’m really excited.