Ferry Corsten started making dance music in 1986 at the age of 13. By the time he was 16, he had released his first track after buying a professional keyboard with the proceeds of the cash he earned from washing cars, selling mix tapes and doing odd jobs around his home town of Rotherdam in Holland. Nothing was handed to him – he earned it, allowing him to develop a grounded personality which saw him retain his birth name and most importantly, integrity, while performing sets around the world. Today at the age of 40, Ferry Corsten is a DJ’s dj and I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time, aboard his new boat party, that was sailing out on its maiden voyage to Es Vedra, for a sunset trip of electronic beats. Professionally, I knew Ferry from his impressive back catalogue of solid and original Trance tracks, such as the classic Gouryella, the hands in the air thumper, Out Of The Blue, the very much underrated, Carte Blanche, not to mention the unmistakable, Punk, the uplifting, Cry and his award winning remix of William Orbits, Adagio For Strings.
His music played a pivotal role during the Golden era of Trance music from, 1997 to 2001 and many people of my generation will reminisce as to why it all had to end. Memories of those joyous moments in the halcyon days of my time on the island of Ibiza, came flooding back to me as I stood in the middle of a crowded dancefloor for the closing party of Full On at Eden nightclub last September. The following day, I was to interview him as he played an exclusive set with his good friend Markus Schulz under the New World Punx collaboration aboard one of the most stylish boat parties of the year.
When you meet Ferry Corsten, the first thing noticeable is the way he easily fits into a crowd. There is no fanfare or big ego, the guy is just like anybody else and this is reflected in the way that he chats to his many fans aboard the boat, as if he knows them all personally. Its a mixed crowd of young and old, Spanish, English, Dutch, Irish and German, who have come to see Ferry and Markus in such an intimate and classic Ibicenco setting. My first question to Ferry, is to ask him when he first came to Ibiza. “Back in 2001 with Judgement Sundays at the old Eden” he replies. “The New Eden is hardly recognisable from my early days at the club. It is so beautiful now and I really like what they have done with it, the sound quality and acoustics in the place are some of the best on the island”. I then ask Ferry about the season just finished up “In general good.
The season itself was pretty tough. We had some good weeks and some difficult ones and that was really noticeable this year than ever before….we found it tough to compete with Playa Den Bossa on Sundays but the whole point behind Full On is to step away from the manicured nights in Ibiza- the this is his set time, that’s another set time and dont go over, not by one minute type of party. Full On Ferry is not about the perfect set – its all about the fun, nothing else – freedom, back to back sets, different styles, spontaneity with old friends dropping in…… like a good old jam session”
When dance culture arrived into Europe, Trance was one of the first underground genres to emerge with industrial Techno in the rave era. When I started DJing it was all about German techno imports on 12″ white labels and trance tracks, from labels such as Platypus records at £8 a go – there was no file sharing or downloads, you needed a job to afford to buy them. For me trance music always had integrity and remains one of the deep rooted dance music genres, because you cant really mess around with trance, unlike house music it does not allow itself to be manipulated or commercialised like a processed chicken nugget – the style of fast food, sanitised music we have today. I ask Ferry about his views on the current music scene in Ibiza “The sound today is so wide. You can actually listen to a 128bpm track that is slightly melodic, has a good house groove which some of the house DJ’s will play, but I would consider it trance and vice versa. The celebrity, big room stuff is not really my thing. I am sick and tired of “the drop”.
What I hear now too much, is like the same same thing over again, 50 tracks you stack on top of each other and they all sound the same. Everybody is playing the big top 40 hits mixed up with something. Any DJ on a street corner can play that quality so its easy to pretend to be a celebrity DJ. For me its more exciting to play tracks that nobody knows, educate and build a set into something more than just a drop. Its an easy way out just to drop in the hits, the sure-fire response that packs the floor, but when you have three DJ’s that do that, play the Beatport Top 10, then you have three of the same sets – maybe different running order but the same and this is what irks me at the moment – no creativity. I really hope the scene goes the more unexpected route soon. What Pacha are doing now is really awesome because they have decided it should always be about the music and I agree with that”.
I then ask Ferry about the current health of the Trance music scene ” Its in a healthy place at the moment. For me Trance is an underestimated genre that was never cool enough, even for the British media. I don’t really know why, maybe it was because it attracted a younger crowd at the beginning. There are some good young DJ’s coming through like KhoMha from Colombia and Armin is the new poster boy after Tiesto departed the scene for Las Vegas”. I then ask Ferry what he thought of Tiesto’s stunt where he said he would return to Trance if fans voted him the Worlds #1 DJ ” Tijs was always across the board in his style as his inspiration came from other music. I think it was inevitable he would go the direction he did, but to put a condition that I will only go back to Trance if I get X…..then where is the love of music…. what do you really love?” For Ferry Corsten his love has always been Trance and to this day, he remains true to his roots. I ask him how he hopes to influence the genre that he loves so much, “I would like for Trance to get a bit more of a rock and roll attitude, not so formulated and clean cut – everything is so shiny and polished right now. I wouldn’t mind having some balls back in the scene again”.
As the sun sets magically behind the visually powerful panorama that is the mystical Es Vedra rock, the boat glides effortlessly through the calm seas. Marcus Schulz and his girlfriend then make an impressive entrance by speedboat, as it circles around the catamaran to the cheers of the crowd. Ferry smiles to himself – the Dr Watson to Sherlock Holmes dramatic entrance. “I have to go and play my set now…. it was nice to talk to you” were his departing words. Ferry Corsten has always been that type of DJ and reflects the understated image of the genre he works in. He may not be uber cool, flashy or play in Las Vegas but what he does have is pedigree, substance, respect and integrity. He is an icon of the Trance genre and what is likeable about him, is that he doesn’t go around thinking that he is. His sets are solid and always about the music and for young aspiring DJ’s looking for inspiration, they could do well to take a leaf out of Ferry Corstens book and go see his fluid and smooth technique in action. Ferry Corsten is looking forward to returning to Ibiza in 2014 “I love Sundays in Ibiza, so it would be something I would be keen to return to but that could all change, as a number of people have approached us about next year and our options are open at present, both for Full On and New World Punx”. The island it seems, is now recognising the unique talent of the Dutchman as it continues its search for substance to balance the burgeoning style. Ferry Corstens best days may be still ahead of him.
Update 27/3/14 Ferry set for new residency at Space. Read more here