This week we managed to grab 30 minutes on the phone with global trance pioneer Ferry Corsten to discuss his brand new album concept 'Blueprint' and coinciding world tour that culminates in a grand finale here in London at the almighty South West Four Festival.
Blueprint is Ferry's fifth album and easily his most unique and ambitious to date, a conceptual long player that gives nods to the proses of iconic sci-fi authors such as Jules Verne, Hugo Gernsback and most distinctively HG Wells. A Storyboard crafted by the minds of David H Miller (of House Of Cards and Rosewood fame), and of course Ferry himself.
How are you Ferry? What has been happening for you over the last few days?
I’m great thanks, I have just come back from Brazil. I was knackered last night but I’m ok now! As you know my album Blueprint has just been released and we kicked off the tour a couple of weeks ago in London recently at Ministry. There’s always a few kinks and glitches to iron out and we’ve been able to do that over the last few weeks and it’s really shaping up nicely now! I’m really happy with the way things are going!
You new album Blueprint has recently hit the digital shelves and you have adopted a very unique and ambitious theme for the project, please can you tell us more?
Yeah, I mean I wanted to do something very different for my next album, something more than just a music album. An album is just a collection of music put together but I kind of wanted to give it a different twist, everyone tells me my albums tell a story and I wanted to take that literally this time!
Basically, I decided to approach things from a totally different angle, more from an audiobook perspective and make it like a narrative story that carries through the album. Taking you on that journey and almost have the music there as support for the story,in terms of emotion and energy, but at the same time the story is there to enhance the energy and emotion in those tracks!
It was quite an undertaking because once you say A you have to say B! You end up with all these different elements and moving pieces that all have to make sense. They have to sit together in terms of song lyrics that are based on the story, but not too much, as it has to stand up alone if you don’t know the story. Then there are instrumental tracks, the narrator, the Artwork and so on. It was a huge challenge but I am happy it worked out the way it did!
Is there any individual track that has been getting the most love out there?
On social-media I see a lot of different tracks that people like, everyone seems to have their own favourite. The ones that do stand out are ‘Venera’ (the latest Gouryella track), ‘Trust’, ‘Wherever you are’ with HALIENE is definitely a firm favourite, ‘Waiting’ with the Dutch vocalist Niels Geusebroek, and ‘Reanimate’ is also getting a lot of love! So yeah - there is quite a few actually!
You kick started the tour in London and you return for a grand finale at the London jewel of festivals, SW4 this August. Was there any particular reason for starting and ending the tour here?
I love playing the Gallery, I have a long stand relationship with Ministry of Sound and it was just the right choice to host the launch there, Also, in terms of the release date we were looking at, It was like a one and one is three situation! Yeah SW4, I got the booking a couple months into the album thing and thought we would have probably shaped up a little from where we started at Ministry by that time. I thought yeah - let’s make that a Blueprint show as well! On a larger-scale of course! (Laughs)
There are many vocal collaborations featured on Blueprint, how did you decide which vocalists to work with this time around? Was there anyone who you were unable to include but wanted to perhaps?
The album first of all was very organic, there was no real sort of wish list of who I wanted to work with. I was already in touch with Eric Lumiere through Twitter and we were like “yes, let’s do a collaboration at some point”. This might be great for him especially when the story started to develop with Lucas and Vee, a very strong presence of two characters in the story! I thought “maybe I can get Eric to personify Lucas in a way?”.
For Vee, I received an acapella from HALIENE that was pitched by her manager. I was like “wow, this is actually the type of voice I am looking for, for Vee”. So, I got on a Skype call with her and explained what I was doing and she sent me some demos. She wrote some amazing songs on those and the click was actually really strong! As a result, I asked her to have a larger part in the whole process! I kind of wanted to have this cohesiveness by having a couple of tracks done by the same vocalists.
At the same time, to break it up a little, I decided to have one track in there with Niels Geusebroek. Another Dutch vocalist who I have been following for quite a while and his voice is just amazing. With an album like this, I wanted to work with at least one Dutch vocalist, something I have never done in the past and I felt like this was the right moment. He is also one of the very few Dutch vocalists that doesn’t have a thick Dutch accent (Laughs). It may sound exotic to some people, but it doesn’t sound exotic to me and I didn’t really want to have that on my album! Clarity who does ‘Reanimate’ sent me a demo and it just happened to fit perfectly at that place in the story, that was just luck in a way! Her voice is just really different and cool.
You have been at the top of your game long enough to have witnessed many changes to the landscape and the way people listen and react to trance music, if you could relive one specific year of your career all over again, which would you choose and why?
You know it’s hard, every period of trance music has been great. Some periods have obviously been bigger in terms of the energy of the crowd and how music has been received in that time! Without getting too sentimental I definitely think the period between 99 and 2003/2004 was the trance heyday.
Not only because that was the era in which I broke through, but if I still listen to some of the sets back then, either by Armin, Tiesto or Paul Van Dyk. I think there is something in that music, the way it’s structured and the type of melodies that were used back then.
We call it trance now, but if you really listen to it, the whole attitude is a lot more rave than when you listen to trance now. I really love that, especially when you listen to the live recordings from events like Gatecrasher etc, and you hear the bells, whistles, air horns and all the crazy stuff that was happening on the dance floor. It was almost overpowering the music. That not only says to me that people were just enjoying the music but were really living it. That’s something that, as strong as the scene is today, one element that I really miss!
There has been much public debate recently in the trance community about certain DJ’s and producers “returning to trance” from various other styles in the last year or so. What are you own personal thoughts on this hot topic right now? Is it a travesty when this happens or should people be a little more forgiving when it comes to artists experimenting with new styles?
I do think that some of the trance purists out there should really lower their tone a little! You’ve got to realise that when you are a creative person, you go through phases right? I mean, honestly I can say I am “back to trance” right now and I love it, over the years I have always been with trance. So, I stepped away from it a little and came back again, stepped away, came back, and honestly for myself I need to do that.
When I am in the studio creating trance record after trance record, after 5 trance records I am like “Here we go again!”, you just want to do something else. The comment instantly is, “it’s for the money”, No! Dude it’s not for the money! if it was for the money, I would’ve stayed with trance, that would have been for the money, and I’m not!
I’m always trying to bust my balls, break my neck doing something else! sometimes I may fall flat on my face. That’s not doing it for the money and I hate that comment. People need to lower their tone and just accept that from time to time, creative people need to step away from the thing that they have always done!
I do love it that everyone seems to come back to trance and I think that’s an answer also to the current changes in the scene. I think the whole “Put Your Fucking Hands Up!” bubble has burst and people are drawn again to towards things like house which is becoming like real house again where grooves are allowed. There’s more air and space to breathe, not so much “Dang, Dang, Dang!”. I think that echoes in everything, whether that’s techno, house or trance. Trance is changing and going back to its former musical glory if you will, and I think that attracts the older trance producer again!
It’s been simply amazing to see you breathe new life into your Gouryella pseudonym once more, I bet it’s been pretty special playing those classic melodies again, coupled with the insane production levels at events such EDC, Tomorrowland and A State of Trance. How does it compare to when you were touring these tracks first time around in the late 90’s? Is it now a different feeling playing them live?
Yes, it most definitely is! For the Gouryella, in order to make them sound like they stood the test of time and stand up to the new Gouryella material (such as Anahera), Sonically I had to make them match again. All those old Gouryella tracks that you hear in the shows, I re-produced completely from scratch.
I took a good look at where I would filter something in the original and how I originally created those sounds. I re-created everything again just to make it stand up next to the new material. By doing that I had to dive into my old projects, re-visit Ferry Corsten 15 years ago which was very cool! You have a different way of producing today than back in the day, when you were just doing whatever you felt was right at the time. (Laughs). There was not much thought behind it. It was very refreshing to see that again, to see that it was a lot simpler than I thought it was. That was really cool! When I play these tracks out again now it’s a mixture of Pride, Sentiment and just wonder. It’s like “Wow, I did that and look what it still does today!”, It’s great!
Now a question you probably get asked a lot, is there any new Gouryella music on the horizon?
Yes, on Blueprint there is obviously ‘Vanera’, the track we released recently. I kind of wanted to integrate Gouryella into Ferry Corsten, especially with Blueprint because it’s such a story-telling album. When I brought out Anahera (the new Gouryella after 13 years), I also made a promise that there would be a new track every year again, like back in the day. I’m already keeping my mind open for ideas on the next project.
Your own label is never far away from our top 10 here at Trackitdown, any exciting new artists or releases we should be keeping an eye out for from the Flashover camp?
Well, you guys always feature our Flashover releases! An artist that we are very much behind at the minute is Dimension, Spain’s new trance hero! He has that sort of old school type of melody in his fingers, he comes up with great melodies and I really think he can come long way!
Whilst we are on the subject of labels, it seems to be expected nowadays that DJs and Producers at all levels need to have their own label (and if you like brand behind them), Do you see this as a positive or negative model for the industry as a whole?
I’m a little torn between two ideas there! On one hand, I do like it because it gives everyone a strong sense of identity, which is something that is lacking in the scene with too much copy/paste cookie cutter stuff going on right now! If you walk around festival main stages, you may hear a certain DJ play and think, “oh it’s that guy”. and when you show up it’s not. It’s like “you just played that?” ’It makes no sense! That’s the lack of identity! At least by having your own label this gives you that again!
At the same time because of that you get a lot of DJ’s who have their own labels and play only the stuff on their own label, or music that is very similar to that. So, on the other hand that is going too far the other way. You start to think too much about your own neighbourhood, if you will? Protecting your own guys too much etc. Back in the day you would just play anything you want by anyone, there was no political motivation that comes with having your own label these days!
You are set to appear at Clapham Common for SW4 festival on Sunday 27th August. How was the experience for you last time around? and what are your expectations from this year’s show?
I love being at SW4! The reason I say that specifically is because it’s pretty much the only festival in the world apart from Ultra in Miami, which is actually really in the heart of the city. Even in Miami it’s a little to the side. SW4 is like smack bang in the centre of residential London which gives it a whole different sort of feel. London itself is such a melting pot of people whether it’s people vacationing there, or people living there. There are people from all over the world and that’s what you see at that festival which is why I like it so much!
What can people expect from your set at SW4? Obviously being the Blueprint album tour you will be focusing heavily on this, will there be any other surprises?
Yes, the focus will definitely be on Blueprint but by the time, but who knows? Maybe tomorrow I will have some crazy idea to remix one of my old tracks, a new edit or something! I always try to sprinkle in some classics that I know people will enjoy, without doubt that is going to happen as well!
Ferry plays in The Gallery arena at South West Four on Sunday 27th August.