For years, Dutch DJ/producer Ferry Corsten has been one of the trance genre’s greatest ambassadors.
With hits and remixes presented under a variety of pseudonyms (Moonman, System F, Gouryella), a long-running worldwide radio show (“Corsten’s Countdown”), and spots on the biggest festival stages, Corsten’s resume would seem complete.
Yet, the Rotterdam-based artist continues to challenge himself and this year he accomplished something new – a sci-fi concept album called Blueprint. Working with screenwriter David H. Miller (“House of Cards” and “Rosewood”) and actor/voiceover artist Campbell Scott (“The Amazing Spider-Man”), Corsten was able to realize his vision of uniting emotional, melodic music with a compelling storyline. We recently caught up with Corsten to discuss the process of “Blueprint” and a few other things.
DJ Times: How did you begin DJing? Any musical background?
Corsten: DJing always been a hobby of mine since I was a kid. No background – I think a good ear is enough. I was around eight-years old when I started playing with music.
DJ Times: When was your big break?
Corsten: My big break was when I released my first track called “Don’t Be Afraid” in 1996 under a pseudonym called Moonman. It was a track that all DJs played and, since then, my career has always been up and up.
DJ Times: Which DJs and producers are you into right now?
Corsten: I have to be honest, a bit of self-promotion here, but there is a guy on my label [Flashover] from Spain called Dimension, and he’s got that old-school, turn-of-the-century trance vibe to his sound, which I really like. I’m a big fan of all the Anjunabeats guys – Above & Beyond, Andrew Bayer, Ilan Bluestone – they are good mates of mine, so I have to give full support to those guys. Of course, Markus Schulz, who is a big buddy of mine. I love where techno is headed right now – not that I can really throw out any specific names. In general, with techno going in the way of trance, there is that real trance feeling going back to the turn of the century.
DJ Times: What kind of equipment do you use in the studio and the DJ booth?
Corsten: I still love the old-school way of DJing, so in the DJ booth, I stick to the CD players and my USB stick. I use the CD players pretty much as I did before with record players, so that’s very easy. In the studio I’m on [Steinberg] Cubase. Everyone, especially in this country, seems to be very surprised by that, but I think Cubase is by far the best. With all the DAWs – Logic, Studio One, Cubase – it’s just whatever you are used to. But, along with Cubase, I use Ableton and then I have a million plus plug-ins.
DJ Times: What are some of your favorite venues and festivals?
Corsten: In the U.S., my favorite venue by far is Exchange in L.A. It’s just amazing. I love Womb in Tokyo, which is very cool. I also enjoy this festival in Europe called Transmission – it’s done in Prague and it’s unreal.
DJ Times: Your new album, Blueprint, was written with screenwriter David H. Miller and was narrated by actor Campbell Scott. What was the process?
Corsten: When I sat down with David, we quickly realized that we both had a love for sci-fi – an instant connection. Having the story first, it was time to write all the songs. While doing this, I was already listening to tons of voice actors for the narrative and I didn’t really know what type of voice I wanted to go with. Did I want to have been an English-sounding gentleman to give the story a reality feel or did I want to go Maxi Jazz/Faithless – half-spoken, half-rapping kind of thing? Going through all these voices, without looking at the names, I stumbled across this one voice, this deep voice – it turned out to be Campbell and the rest just worked out perfectly.
DJ Times: Where did album’s inspiration come from?
Corsten: I’ve always wanted to do something more than just a standard music album or a single, whether it would be a 30- to 45-minute long track that has all these storytelling moments in it or something else. For this, I brought back Gouryella, a side project from two years ago. I toured this show, which was already very storytelling. I was going over the footage and the music with my dad when he was like, “Fer, why don’t you take it to the next level? This would be amazing with an actual story being told.” So, my dad was actually the one who gave me the idea to do a storyline album.
DJ Times: Favorite track from the album?
Corsten: You got 17 children – shoot all of them but one! [laughs] It’s hard, but I really have this soft spot for “Reanimate” with Clairity. She did a wonderful job on the vocals and the whole track is just… whoa.
DJ Times: Why do you think the album works?
Corsten: I think it is a combination of the story and the way Campbell tells the story – you hear part of the story and then the music starts. In the meantime, you can’t wait for him to continue that story, like… what’s happening? It’s the story plus the way he tells it and narrates it that keeps you intrigued.