20 Questions With Ferry Corsten: The Dutch Icon on How Trance 'Hits You In the Feels Like No Other Genre'

While he’s created music under many aliases and as part of myriad side projects — Moonman, System F, Gouryella, Veracocha and New World Punx among them — Ferry Corsten remains one of the most consistence presences in the global trance scene.

The Dutch producer has made his name(s) on music that both soars and throttles, blending delicacy, groove, raw emotion and shimmery synths into tracks that lift listeners into the state of transcendence that is the genre’s namesake. A longtime regular at every major large-scale global dance festival, Corsten is currently off the road and posted up at his home in the Netherlands, where he’s spent his quarantine hanging with his wife and children, tinkering in the garden and working in the studio.

His latest release, the Trance Wax collab “Black Lion,” dropped last week, with more music and a new album — which will be Corsten’s seventh under his given name — on the way. Here, the producer talks about his early output, the best parts of quarantine and the unique, enduring appeal of trance music.

1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?

I’m at my home in the Netherlands! The setting is pretty good, actually. Mostly the studio, and I’m lucky to have a spacious garden. With the heatwave we’re currently having in the Netherlands it’s nice to work on my tan.

2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium? 

My very first piece of music was a 7-inch vinyl of Full Force’s “Alice, I Want You Just For Me.” I was smitten with that tune at the time.

3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do they think of what you do for a living now?

My dad was a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company for pets, and my mom worked in a clothing store. They have always been very supportive of my career choice, as long as I followed my passion and my heart. My dad later started working for me in my company, so he has always been very much involved.

4. What was the first song you ever made?

It was an EP on Hithouse Records by Spirit Of Adventure. It was me with three friends goofing around in the studio. This was in 1991. The main track of that EP was called “Total Distortion,” which became the blueprint for The Tellurians’ “The Navigator,” a big rave hit in those days.

5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance music, what would you give them?

Not so much a “dance” album, but definitely electronic — it would be Singularity by Jon Hopkins. I draw a lot of inspiration for my own records from it. It’s so good!

6. What’s the first thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as a DJ?

I actually started out as a music producer. The DJ thing came later for me. All the money I earned with my first productions and remixes, I invested back into my own studio. Studio gear was very expensive in those days, since it was all hardware. So by doing that, I could build out a better studio for myself and come up with better sounding music.

7. What’s the last song you listened to?

Actually my new single under my FERR by Ferry Corsten alias, called “Please.” Coming soon on the Stillpoint imprint of Flashover Recordings.

8. What’s one song you wish you had produced?

“Opus” by Eric Prydz.

9. How are you filling your time during quarantine?

Spending lots of time with my wife and kids, which has been great. I can’t remember when I had this much time off to spend with family as I do now. However, I can’t wait to pick up touring again and get back into that rhythm!

10. What’s distinctive about the place you grew up, and how did it shape you?

Well, I grew up in a town just outside Rotterdam, but Rotterdam basically is my hometown. What I love about Rotterdam is its avant-garde vibe. It’s always evolving but always staying true to itself. Rotterdammers are straightforward people with a no-BS attitude, which I love.

It’s a metropole — however, it has that feeling of a small city where everything you need is nearby and everyone knows each other. This brought me in contact with a lot of producers back in the day who I collaborated with.

11. What’s the first dance music show that really blew your mind?

This is a while back, mid ’90s, but it must have been one of the first MayDay events in Germany. The scale of that event was like nothing I had ever seen before.

12. What do your kids think of what you do?

They are super proud. They love to come into my studio and check out what I’m doing, and their faces light up when they see me on YouTube or something.

13. What is the first thing you do when you get back to your hotel room after a show?

Grab a warm shower, fall asleep almost immediately, and try to delay my alarm as much as possible, haha!

14. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happening in the crowd during one of your sets?

In the middle of an immense crowd in Australia, I saw a guy in a wheelchair being lifted up on his friend’s shoulders. He was bouncing around for a few minutes to my music before going face-first back to the crowd. I hope he was okay.

15. What is the primary appeal of trance music? 

Of course the connection of the trance family is very strong, but also I think the melodies play a big part. I think a good trance record hits you right in the feels in a way no other genre could possibly could. The emotions paired with the genre are hard to describe.

16. How is the trance community different from communities in other genres of electronic music?

Trance has become more like a culture rather than a genre of dance music. Trance fans are loyal, and they’re so open-minded. I know so many fans who were strangers to each other but by connecting through social media and events became best [party] mates for life. How great is it that you literally make best friends for life on the dance floor?

17. Why is so much trance music made by Dutch artists?

I think we were right at the forefront when dance music started to go really global. At that time, trance was massive in the Netherlands, and has since stuck with many producers. But we have many great house, techno and hardstyle artists as well.

18. What’s the best part of being off the road right now?

Spending time with my kids, as they had quite a long time off school due to Covid-19 as well. And I’m being creative more than ever in the studio, so you guys can expect a new album in the future.

19. Any advice for other producers on getting through this challenging time?

Use this precious time to keep developing yourself as a producer, and keep challenging yourself. Being a great producer means you are able to create music from different angles and keep experimenting with sounds.

20. One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Perhaps I would have told myself to stay with the artist name Ferry Corsten only, instead of the million aliases I had over the years.

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