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Interview: Ferry Corsten on the state of trance

"Trance is more than ‘put your fucking hands up and fist-pump’. It’s a bit more intelligent, it has a timeless quality"

No serious conversation about trance can be had without mentioning Ferry Corsten. A true legend of the scene, the Dutch DJ, producer and remixer has been at the forefront of the genre almost since its inception, penning some of its most iconic tracks. Growing up in Rotterdam in the 1990s, a young Corsten experimented with some of that era’s more prominent styles – including hardstyle and Rotterdam’s gabba sound – before finding trance, culminating in the 1998 release of Out of the Blue under his System F pseudonym. The track, which entered the top 20 of the UK singles chart, saw his star rise rapidly. He was soon highly in demand for both his uplifting live sets and as a collaborator – he teamed up with a young Tiësto in 1999 to form Gouryella, whose self-titled debut track quickly became entrenched in the trance music canon.

Nearly 20 years after the release of his breakthrough single, Corsten remains one of the most sought-after DJs in the world. Ahead of his set at Pacha Macau’s Summer Love Pool Party this fortnight, we begin by asking Corsten how he got started...  

How did you first fall in love with trance music?
It started out as a hobby alongside my productions. I played around with a few sounds – hardstyle, house etc – but gravitated to trance as that scene was starting to grow. When I released Out of the Blue, Ministry of Sound asked me to do a Trance Nation mix for them. The first edition sold over 400,000 copies and suddenly I had requests coming in from fans who knew my name. It was a crazy experience that led me to play some amazing events like Cream and Slinky.

You’ve described your latest LP, Hello World, as a concept album and you staggered its release in three parts before releasing it as a whole. Why?
I wanted to change things a little from the normal method. So instead of releasing an album all at once, I decided to break it up and split it into pieces for a full album. The lifespan of the project lasted longer and it also fed into the anticipation of the entire release. So instead of each EP just having a small number of tracks, I could deliver a bigger selection for the listener to enjoy per release. This allowed me to keep all the music fresh and current to my present state as a producer.

You recently brought back your Gouryella alias after a long hiatus, and as a solo act. What sparked that decision? 
I felt the personal need for trance with big epic melodies. Too much of today’s trance has become borderline EDM. For me, it has started to miss that turn of the century sentiment.  

The recent commercial rise of tropical house is a reaction to the rise of more commercial dance music. Where do you see trance in the electronic music landscape today?
Trance is currently in a very healthy position. To many, it’s perhaps taken a backseat throughout this recent EDM boom but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s allowed the scene, the artists and the fans a chance to grab a sense of what they hold dear. Within trance, you can have so many different styles but they’re all based on the element of emotion. Whether you do that with lyrics, chord changes or big swelling sounds, it’s more than ‘put your fucking hands up and fist-pump’. It’s a bit more intelligent, which kind of gives it a timeless quality.

Speaking of the EDM boom, can trance maintain its distinct identity? Can the two coexist?
Absolutely. Fans, like DJs, have varied tastes in music, so I see no reason why the two can’t coexist. What I feel is important is that we as artists continue to push our scenes forward with integrity and passion, and don’t lose our collective identity in search of cheap ideas or whatever is the fastest avenue to fame.

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