Ferry Corsten ready to spin for Boston

BMS talks with one of the pioneers of trance music

, Staff Writer

A pioneer of trance music, Ferry Corsten has been producing music and DJing for twenty years. He recently released a new album, Twice In A Blue Moon, his third album under the name Ferry Corsten. Corsten has also enjoyed a great deal of success under his many pseudonyms, particularly System F. We caught up with him earlier this week to discuss his& special& appearance& tonight at The Roxy.

Boston Music Spotlight (BMS):& Thanks for agreeing to talk with us. How’s it going?

Ferry Corsten (FC): It’s going great, thanks.

BMS: How’s the tour going? Is it any different being out there in promotion of an album of yours?

FC: It’s going really well, actually. I’m playing more tracks off of my album in my sets than I usually would – that’s really the only difference. Later in the year I’m going to tour with a full Twice In A Blue Moon show, a full production with a lot more live elements.

BMS: What’s it like touring around the world, DJing for tens of thousands of people?

FC: It’s adrenaline! It’s really great to play for so many people. You need to reach that person all the way in the back, and that’s a challenge. You want to make sure the whole crowd goes home with a smile on their face. It’s difficult to get everybody on the same wavelength, so it’s great when it works. It’s really the best feeling, since I’m also a producer, when I play my own stuff and that gets everybody dancing.

BMS: How much of your knowledge of producing goes into the layout of a mix?

FC: With mixes, I’m thinking about myself how I’d like to be [feeling] during a set. I give myself room with beats and build up and everything so I can change things up if I need to. My particular style, trance, is a lot more dependent on melodies and keys and stuff, so I make sure that I give my tracks enough room on both sides, intro and outro, to be able to get the next track mixed in without having two different keys clash, or, if the songs are in the same key, that they blend [together] flawlessly. That’s only for me [as the DJ], though. The most important thing for the crowd out there, when I make a dance floor mix, is that it has the right amount of anticipation built in, making the dance floor literally explode.

BMS: How much of the mix is decided beforehand and how much of done on the fly?

FC: I do a lot on the fly. What I do decide beforehand is the track I’m going open with. But now, with the album tour, I know already which tracks I want to play and pretty much where to put them in the set. I also keep in mind that there is always a number of people who’d like to hear some of the classics, the older Ferry Corsten tracks. So I try to put in one or two of those.

BMS: So do you choose tracks to play on the floor?

FC: Well, I receive so much music every week, an incredible amount, especially since I have my own radio show, Countdown, and lots of good stuff coming out. Every week that [music] changes, so I do choose a lot of the music right there on the spot, apart from the tracks that I have sort of reserved for the night.

BMS: How do you make those choices?

FC: You know what they say, too much of one thing is not that good. So if I’ve been banging it out for the last three or four tracks, and I see the crowd still dancing, it could be better just to take one or two steps back, give a bit of room. When I start seeing signs of people being ready for another one, I bring it back up.

BMS: What do you think of the advent of digital turntables? Are you a vinyl purist in any way?

FC: Not really. I mean, of course I do love the days of vinyl. But nowadays, I’m traveling so much, and to travel with a fifteen to twenty kilo record case every time is just impossible, what with flying and security and stuff. I’m happy with CDs. People would like to see the traditional DJ working decks, regardless of if they’re CD or vinyl. Ableton [music sequencing software] is great, and I use it a lot in the studio, but to really do something with it on stage and stare at a screen for the next four hours is for me personally a bit like “Hmm…” But I think I’ll have to pick my battles, and since there’s not much vinyl lately, I’ll stick with CDs.

BMS: What does having two vehicles for your music, “Ferry Corsten” and “System F”, allow you to do differently under each name?

FC: One led to the other, basically. I have produced music under about 200 different names, so I’m sure there are plenty of people out there playing my music without even knowing that it’s me. At that time, I was not DJing yet, just producing music. I was producing at such a high rate that I was simply doing too much for one label, and since all record labels want exclusivity on the name, I came up with pseudonyms, placing projects with this label or that label. So I did that for a while, and eventually started my own record label, Tsunami, and I had no artists signed yet, so I created these different names: System F, Gouryella, and so on.

Then I started DJing and remixing and doing compilations under my own name, and the moment came like “Ok, why do I still need System F and all these different names when everybody already knows my name?”

BMS: Your previous album, L.E.F., is kind of a protest against the predictability of trance music. How did you achieve that?

FC: I have been making trance music since 1996, so quite a number of years. Basically, around the time I came up with L.E.F., everything was just so same-y and formulated. Every track sounded the same, everyone using the same rolling bass-line, pre-set melodies, there no adventure anymore, especially compared to ‘99 when trance music blew up big time.&

So I’ve always been a big sort of electro fan, like late 80s early 90s electro, and I wanted to have a go with that influence in trance music, just to spice it up a bit to give it a bit of a different face. I guess that was basically when L.E.F. came out. When I’m in the studio doing something I don’t like, it can never be good, simple as that. [L.E.F.] was my sort of protest, “I’m just gonna go step away and do my own thing with it.” And now it’s basically the same [situation] with this whole electro sound: I’m kinda done with that, and with this album [Twice In A Blue Moon], I’m sort of like going back to the trance roots.& &

I’ve been making music since 1991, and have been releasing records since then. I’ve done everything from drum ‘n bass to hardcore gabber to ambient to funkyhouse, you name it. After trying all those different genres, I noticed trance was my forte. I have a soft spot for melodies. Whenever I produced a hardcore gabber record and went to the label they said “It’s great but it’s too melodic, not rough enough”. So I think trance was always the thing for me. I started doing the pure trance sound in ‘96 and had a big breakthrough in ’99 with “Out Of The Blue” and my Adagio For Strings remix. So, this latest album is definitely a return to that more melodic kind of sound instead of the dirty electro thing.

I really think trance is one of the most adventurous genres out there. You can really go from a minimal-sounding track and still call it trance, all the way to hands in the air, full-on crazy stuff, which is also still trance-y, all in the same set. It’s very diverse, very open-minded, and that’s what I love about it and was hoping to do at the time with L.E.F.

BMS: What’s it like to collaborate with other big names like Tiesto and Armin Van Buuren? How does collaboration with other DJs work?

FC: I did Gouryella with DJ Tiesto. We put out three releases, and I put out one on my own. I’ve been good friends with him for years. Basically, this was before we both had had a breakthrough, so this was really just sitting in the studio as friends, having fun, not with any aim of having success on the dance floor, just having fun. That’s why I think those records sound the way they do: it was all very spontaneous. Same with Armin Van Buuren , I did a track for my System F album as a collaboration. It was great fun. But that was all within a different time, when we were not as busy.

If you do a collaboration, you can’t go 100% for your own taste and ideas, because then why the hell do you do it? It’s finding the middle ground, and sometimes you end up in a big argument, but in the end it’s the other person’s opinion that could make the record more interesting. It’s definitely finding a balance. If you really click with each other, then it’s basically feeding off of your partner that creates the perfect record.

Ferry Corsten will be appearing at The Roxy nightclub this Thursday. Tickets are $35 in advance or $45 at the door.

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