Ferry Corsten is an integral part of dance music's past and present, acting as a power player in forming today's current culture. The Dutch producer has performed under many collaborative aliases: System F, Gouryella, Veracocha and now his latest with Markus Schulz, New World Punx. This week, he teamed up on "Collision" with fellow Dutch producers Bassjackers. "Collision" is an acidic, rock-infused track that sounds like it could be a classic but is contemporary with a more melodic take on electro grinds.
Before the infamous and unfortunate events that happened in New York this weekend though, Ferry made it in to perform a massive live set at the fifth annual Electric Zoo. Playing new tracks like his own with Giuseppe Ottaviani, "Magenta," surprising us with his own classic "Beautiful" and closing with the historic and newly relevant "Gouryella," it was obvious that his massive repertoire of experience still lends well to the choices he makes up on stage. Before the festival, we got to sit down with Ferry for an impressively candid conversation where he discussed his roots, the current dance culture, the inevitable search to find quality music as the movement expands and future projects.
Earmilk: Growing up you worked really hard to get your music out there at a time when electronic music was still pretty peripheral and experimental. What was the environment like in which you were doing that? Were people accepting of your music? Was it more of a niche thing?
Ferry Corsten: It was definitely a niche thing, and because of that it might have been a little bit easier in the sense that there was not so much around. Like right now, everyone's making music and wants to have their music heard. On the other hand, social media wasn't there. It was more about getting to know some of the record label people personally. I was lucky that at the record store where I used to buy my records, one of the guys there was working in A&R as well at a record company, so I was able to give him some demo tapes and because of that was able to get my records signed. I never really did the mixtapes thing because I was always a producer before being a DJ (DJing was more of a hobby for me). After some years I had a string of hits in the UK with my productions, so it automatically generated all these requests for shows for me to come play. So before I realized it I was playing at some of the biggest super clubs the world, and because of the hits, it really went like that [snaps].
EM: So how did you decide that you were interested in music? You started at a really early age.
FC: It was always a hobby since the beginning. It's funny because I still see it like that: it's a passion. Early on, I started listening to this kind of music when I was like 11 and started playing with this music on two turntables with a tape recorder. I had my first record when I was 16, and my inspiration was the music from the 80s from when I grew up as a kid. We also had this specialized radio show in Holland called The Soul Show, and they were playing what was happening at the discotechs, at the clubs. It was not perceived as top 40 in the 80s, but more electronic stuff and hip hop. Italo dance was really big at the time – the very melodic stuff – and that really had its influence on me as well.
EM: Were you surrounded by music growing up?
FC: My mom used to sing back in the day. I've always been surrounded by a little bit of music, but not like crazy amounts.
EM: Since you've been doing this for so long, do you have any tips for people trying to make it now?
FC: The most important thing is to get your music out there. I think Soundcloud is a really good vehicle, Twitter as well, and to make sure you link all of your media together. If you listen to the music out there, there's so much that sounds exactly the same: you really can hear 50 new tracks and they just all sound the same. So, don't be #51 that sounds just like it, try to be different and do other stuff instead of the same old that everyone else is doing. That's really the biggest advice I can give, because if I've heard those 50 tracks that are sounding the same and I hear 1 that is just a little different, it gets all my attention.
EM: Your musical style is pretty recognizable, do you feel like it's changed over the years?
FC: I've always done everything. I had my big breakthrough in trance, but before that I had done house, ambient, drum and bass, and so on. After my breakthrough with trance I stuck with that for a little while but I started to play around with different styles again. If I do something for a little while, after a while it's just a natural thing that I want to move on. Maybe I'll come back to that one thing again later, but I like to explore.
EM: And as listeners sometimes we do that too. So I recently saw that you had a campaign to bring back "Gouryella" to the top of the Beatport charts. Where did that come from? Was it some sort of challenge to your fans?
FC: It was actually a fan who did that! On twitter he goes by the name @tranceclassics and they had this whole thing where it was like, "we need one of those massive trance classics back at #1!" So we decided to start with "Gouryella" Gouryella. And so I saw this whole hype explode on Twitter and was immediately like, "I need to support this, this is really cool." So then I got in contact with Tiesto about it and said "let's take all the royalties that come out of this and let's donate it to charity," because this is something that would not have happened if it wasn't for this guy putting that campaign together. So I think we made it to #3, which for a track that is 14 years old, I'm pretty happy about!
Ferry Corsten and Tiesto released a few uplifting trance tracks under the name Gouryella between 1999-2001. Over time there have been over twenty remix EPs surrounding those few tracks, indicating the impact they had on the dance world at the time. The self-titled "Gouryella" was by far the most successful record, reaching gold record status.
EM: I feel like there's a movement brewing where really hardcore trance fans are trying to get the old stuff back on the map.
FC: It's really a signal that shouldn't be ignored. There's a hunger for that kind of sound again, the big trance sound instead of "trance v2" or whatever you want to call it.
EM: You've played all over the world. What do you think about the new American dance music culture that's arisen, especially versus that in Europe: Vegas vs. Ibiza?
FC: First of all, I'm really happy the American dance culture is now acknowledged by the American media as well. The one thing where my toes sort of curl up in my shoes about is that every DJ who plays here plays the same set, made up of the same hits. There are only so many "big hits," so if everyone starts playing those hits it's going to be the same set. So again, guys please be original! Don't be too scared to play an underground record: let them get to know it. That's the one thing that I'm really iffy about with the American scene exploding – the overall quality of the music has gone down drastically. It was just a matter of time though, really.
EM: So with that said, do you get excited to come to big festivals like Electric Zoo and show everyone "this is how it's done?"
FC: Yeah! It's very easy to get caught up in that as well, the "I've gotta play all the hits as well" idea. But it also gives you a great feeling of being rebellious in a way. Take it or leave it.
EM: So what can we look forward to from you for the rest of the year?
FC: The whole New World Punx thing with Markus [Schulz] is definitely a focus right now. That's something that is in a way created by the fans because they all of the sudden started really liking what Markus and I were doing, so we decided to give that a chance. There's a bunch of shows scheduled in Europe and in November we'll be working on a tour here (we'll have some dates soon). We're working on a couple of ideas for a new single: we are constantly shooting ideas back and forth, so it's a lot of work behind closed doors.
Check out further tour dates for Ferry Corsten and New World Punx below:
- Sept 7 – Arenele Romaine – Bucharest Romania
- Sept 24 – A State of Trance Closing Party at Privilage – Ibiza Spain
- Oct 25 – WaMu Theater – Seattle Washington
- Dec 31 – Oracle Arena – Oakland California
Ferry Corsten, Bassjackers
- Tiger Records