This past weekend at Dreamstate San Francisco, the incomparable Ferry Corsten took some time to sit down and chat with EDMTunes. We dove hard into his UNITY project, talked about the state of music today, and also joked about partying with Russians while Arty was in the room. However, one special moment to kick things off, to give you an idea about the kind of person Ferry really is:
Upon entering the packed green room area, Ferry Corsten talking to Arty and Alexander Popov, this writer was a bit intimidated. With everyone around trying to get a word in, Ferry feels his phone ringing. He picks it up to find the voice of his 10-year old daughter on the other line – today is her birthday. His face lights up, and he tells her how much he loves her and how he wants to be there with her. Then, amidst the chaos of the night, proceeds to sing her “Happy Birthday” right on the phone. With all the celebrity and fame that he has earned, a moment like this still takes priority. Talk about class.
1 So Ferry…2017 was the year of Blueprint. 2018 appears to be the year of UNITY, featuring collabs with Paul Oakenfold, Dim3nsion, and Jordan Suckley in the books. How do these tracks come about, and what is the main goal?
Well we start with a blank sheet. Jordan actually first sent me a melody line with about a 50% production on it, so I took the melody and worked off of that. We sent it back, forth, back, forth until it was completed. With Paul, I came up with a framework and sent it to him. He said, ‘Oh, I love this,’ and added his ideas from there. The track ‘Safe With Me’ with Dim3nsion was actually supposed to be on Blueprint originally, but we just couldn’t find the right spot in the story for it. We knew it was such a beautiful song, and when we couldn’t fit it on Blueprint, I knew it was going to be a UNITY collab.
It can be tough, though. These days it’s impossible to be in the same place at the same time, everyone travels too much. You have to rely on e-mail and phone calls to get the track completed. But since everyone loves to see artists collaborate, we make it happen for the fans.
2 What about future collaborations – who else do you have on deck?
The next one [for UNITY]…the next release that is finished, is with Saad Ayub. He’s a Canadian trance DJ, up-and-coming, and he’s got a great sound. But I got Gabriel & Dresden ready, I got BT almost ready, you were just in here when Arty and I were chatting. Markus [Schulz] is coming on, and I’ve been in talks with Gareth [Emery]. I actually have a track in the works with Ilan Bluestone, as well.
3 We saw the Carl Cox post on social media – anything in the works with him?
(laughing) You know, to be very honest, that was last week at Medusa Festival in Spain. We were just hanging out and thought “What if?” But man, the response for that photo on social media was so unexpected! I was expecting a lot of “boos” from the Techno scene, but it was actually the opposite. Some people said we should start making a techno record together, then a trance track. Carl and I working together would be great…I may reach out to him. I mean if he’s seeing this, takes it serious…I have talked to Carl in the past about a collab which never really materialized. He’s actually, going back through so many interviews I’ve done and been asked who my favorite artist was, I’ve always mentioned Carl. I’ve got the maddest respect for that guy.
4 You chose to partner with VH1’s “Save the Music” Foundation on UNITY. Why choose that specific organization? Have you seen any of the good your partnership has brought?
It’s still so fresh. I haven’t seen a result yet coming strictly off of UNITY, but the reason why I picked this foundation…I could have chosen something broader, such as UNICEF or contributing to the #metoo movement, which are wonderful causes. However, I wanted to support something near to me, dear to my heart. This organization does everything in it’s power to bring music classes back into schools. I know firsthand what music has done to my life, and so do all the guys that I work with, you know? So, it’s very close to us.
5 In a nutshell, why do this?
For kids to be able to learn about music, play with music, touch music however they can is important. With all the cost-cutting going on, not just in the States, but all around the world, it’s amazing to play a part in bringing [these programs] back. As long as the proceeds keep helping the cause, we will keep doing UNITY as long as we can. Guys like us…we have a reach on social media. Some people choose to post about the extravagant things they do or places they go. But for me, I look around and say “How can I do something bigger?” For me, I definitely gravitate more towards the latter.
6 You’ve given interviews where you mentioned how segmented the trance community has become, between Psy, Uplifting, Vocal, Big Room, the list goes on. Are these collaborations helping to “unify” these sub-genres?
Somehow all genres have an overlap. By collaborating, you create something so new and unexpected, which is more and more what this scene is needing. I would love to see [with UNITY] me working with someone that is coming from the 140 bpm type of trance, someone coming with the Anjuna-style, vocal, housey, groovy trance. For me, what makes it so interesting, is what will come out of it. Put together someone who does 140 and someone who does 128, and see what happens!
It might still be too early to see if we are unifying groups, I haven’t seen it yet, per se, but hopefully artists hear the signal I give, the main message – stop staying in your lane. You look at bass music, and you look at EDM, and they are all one, massive movement. That’s why those sounds are so big and popular. Trance is a big movement, across the board we have so many dedicated fans, but within the trance bubble, there is really the “140 camp” versus the “128 camp,” and there’s hardly anything in between. Back in the day trance was just a melodic sound, some faster, some slower, that made you feel good. Everyone was playing whatever, mixing it up.
Now, the 140 guys only play 140, the 128 guys do the same thing. I’m just trying to break that cycle, and remind everyone that we are all part of the same thing. Rediscover the common ground. If you put out a hit at 140, try to find someone to remix it at 128, or at least something different. We don’t have to be so black and white. It’s not about the tempo – it’s about what the emotion of that track does to you. I even get goosebumps from a minimal techno track at 123 bpm and for me, that is trance.
7 We saw the teaser video – is System F returning at Dreamstate SoCal?
(laughing) For the time being, that is still just a teaser. (We now know the truth)
8 Final question, and it’s going back to Blueprint – what was the biggest similarity between you and your character, Lukas?
The one thing that is in Lukas is the constant hunger and hunting for some exploratory kind of figure. I’m always looking for something new, my mind is wide open to everything, and I don’t want to narrow myself down to anything, and that’s what Lukas has as well. He’s out to find the next thing, has that same exploratory mind that I have.
To finish things off, I offered Ferry a homemade bracelet with the phrase “Follow You” on it, a track of his that has gotten me out of some dark times. After his set, I grabbed a photo with him – he was wearing the bracelet. It’s the little things like this that make Ferry Corsten so special.