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Interview: We chat to Ferry Corsten ahead of SW4

The Dutch trance legend tells us about the festival scene, his passion for music and his latest album.

With a sound that encompasses several genres of electronic music, Ferry Corsten is one of the most widely respected DJs and music producers in the industry. Not only are his fans fiercely loyal, but he regularly tops polls naming the best DJs in the world.

Corsten debuted his first music track in 1991 with the single Spirit of Adventure. Today he’s got six studio albums under his belt, including the recently released Blueprint, a concept album that mixes tracks and includes narration in order to form a complete story.

Corsten is a regular on the festival circuit and he’s appearing at South West Four during the upcoming August bank holiday weekend. We got to talk to the forward-thinking artist about his upcoming appearance and much more.

You’re well-established on the festival circuit and just did Tomorrowland? How was that?

It was good. ­I did the first weekend, two shows. I did the Trance Energy Stage which was amazing. They used that stage for other bands as well across the whole two weekends, and what they did with the production, with the screen over the roof… it was really amazing. Then I did another show on the Future Sound of Egypt Stage, so that was my Tomorrowland weekender. I just did the one weekend and it was good.

Have you been before? Are you a regular there?

Yeah, I’ve had my own stage for a couple of years full-on, and then last year I did the main stage, the Daybreak Sessions. I’ve been there quite often.

 

Do you think the festival scene has changed over the years? Have you seen it change?

I’ve seen change in the sense that the commercialism of dance music, EDM, is almost more pop-oriented. The stuff has really taken over, especially the main stage – it’s all really poppy and commercial. At the same time, you also see a resurgence of good ol’ techno and house, like really proper house coming back. Trance is coming back too in more of a traditional form. There’s definitely a change going on. My only question is: how much bigger than what it is right now can it be next year? Do you want to go bigger? Or do you want to focus more on something else? I don’t if bigger is the way forward for them, because it’s absolutely massive. I don’t know if bigger is better.

There are a lot of DJs around these days, but you’ve been regularly voted as one of the best in the world. How does that feel?

I just do what I do and this is my best. And I’ve always done it out of pure love for what I’m doing. To have that as a result is fantastic, of course. It means that with what I love doing I seem to be making a lot of other people happy as well. But I just keep the focus on what I’m doing in my own little bubble and hope for the best results.

Where does the drive and passion come from? Have you always been a huge fan of music?

Yeah, as a little kid I was always playing with music, back then with tapes and vinyl. I’ve always been really drawn to music and then when I started creating my own music it was like the possibilities were endless – especially nowadays with all the crazy software and gadgets that are around to make music and to play with sound really. It’s just amazing. So I think this whole thing stems from a love for music, but it also comes from that bit of a nerd in me, the techie.

You’ve just released your new album Blueprint. Can you tell us a little about how the record came about?

Well, I’ve done several albums throughout the years and with this one I felt I really wanted to do something more than a music album. I wanted to do something more than a collection of tracks. I wanted to do something that’s more like an experience.

It all came around at the same time, about two or three years ago, when I brought back Gouryella after so many years of silence with that. It was a storytelling, epic, trance sort of sound. My dad at some point said you always like doing the storytelling stuff, why don’t you just tell a story? And when he said that, well, he just gave me that nudge that I needed. So basically I decided to combine an audio book with a music album and came up with what is now Blueprint, which is a fully narrated concept album.

With streaming and people making their own playlists and picking their own tracks out, that sort of artform may arguably have been lost in the last couple years. The fact that artists like you are creating these concept and storytelling albums is a really cool thing.

I think you said it exactly. I call it the Spotify culture. I love the platform because I hate radio nowadays. I want to hear the music I like, and don’t force any bullsh*t music on me. That’s why I love Spotify. But at the same time, it also creates such easy access to all kinds of music that it makes it easy to say skip and skip. So the artform of the album and the patience to listen through the whole thing is disappearing. And if everyone is anticipating that in their production end and in the way they put their music out – like probably after two seconds if people are not triggered with something then they’re going to skip – then let’s produce it in a way that they won’t skip, so you get all this very nervous energy especially in electronic music.

With this album I’m going against the grain. If instead of coming up with that trigger musically, maybe if I just anchor everyone down with a story, then you’ve got to hear what the guy is telling you, what the story is about… so that you stay with the album throughout, you stay with the story.

With that in mind, how are you going to approach your set at South West Four this year?

Obviously, I’ve been thinking about that. Am I going to bring some of the narration back? I decided not to, but just in the intro there’s a bit of it. You really have to follow the story further along to know what any other part of narration would be about. If you just hear fragments you might get lost, and it doesn’t add any energy to something I put out on the stage. But I am going to play a lot of the tracks from Blueprint. Some of the tracks are more like chill versions as I have other versions specially made for the live set. So there’s a lot of Blueprint stuff coming for sure, mixed with some Gouryella.

We’re all looking forward to hearing Ferry Corsten at SW4, being held at Clapham Common on 26 – 27 August 2017. Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.co.uk.

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