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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ferry Corsten discusses the evolution of electronic music

  • Flashover Recordings

Dutch producer Ferry Corsten is widely regarded as one of the most important figureheads in electronic music since beginning his career nearly twenty years ago. Just a few hours before his sold-out June 8th show at Club Opera in downtown Atlanta, we talked briefly over the phone about everything from his latest album WKND, all the way to his thoughts on the latest trends in the world of EDM.

Ever since the early 90s, you have become one of the biggest sensations worldwide in the EDM scene. Over your career, you've covered everything from major remix tracks of some of music's biggest names such as U2, The Killers, and Public Enemy. Not to mention selling out festival after festival in nightclubs all over the world. After all this time, what are some of your proudest accomplishments?

The remix for U2 was definitely one of my personal highlights, because I've always been a big fan of that band, and to actually work with them on such a classic song, "New Year's Day", was just amazing. So that's a really big personal achievement, but in general, I feel that my biggest accomplishment is when I see people say something very positive on Twitter. For instance the other day someone tweeted me, "I just came back from Afghanistan, it's hell out there. But your music is what really pulled me through!" Personal stories like that, that's really something that gives me goosebumps. Because I get to do something that I love, and eventually it has a way bigger effect on other people than I could have ever imagined.

The latest release, WKND, has some of your strongest vocal collaborations to date. The energy of your tracks makes for smooth and powerful performances from soulful singers such as Ellie Lawson, Aruna, and Ben Hague. What was the recording process of those particular songs like?

I initially wrote those tracks with two guys from the Netherlands who came up with great lyrical content, and I actually wrote a lot of the music already before reaching out to vocalists. To give you an example, when I hooked up with Ellie Lawson for the track "A Day Without Rain." I had made that track already, and I really wanted to include some sort of soft, angelic female vocal over the drop. So I went and explained to my producers, "I'm looking to find this type of voice." Most of the lyrics should be in a positive sense. Its still music for a club setting, music for the weekend! You don't really wanna sing about breakup stories. I also always like to look for new, undiscovered vocalists. On my previous album, I made the track "Made Of Love" with Betsie Larkin, and Betsie was unheard of at the time. She was a folk-rock singer from this underground scene in New York. And then we started doing music together, and now she's touring all over the country!

Starting on June 24th, you've announced you're bringing the highly anticipated international live show Full on Ferry to the popular Eden nightclub over in Ibiza, Spain. Tell me about why you chose Ibiza to showcase this year's edition of the series.

This is basically the second year of Full on Ferry. It started as a big event in Holland, Amsterdam. We initially were supposed to do three only, but then after we did the last one and we had a break from touring, there were so many requests coming in from around the world, promoters saying "Hey are you doing any more of these Full on Ferry events?". It's quite a unique event! With me being the host of the night, I play my own set, but I also bring my friends and guest DJs, I play back-to-back with everybody. It's like a real big family experience on stage. For me, to tour with that, it's too much hassle to go with a full on massive production show, so we've down scaled everything into more intimate settings. Last year, we were playing at a club in Ibiza called Sankeys, brand new club at the time. But it wasn't really quite the setting that I was looking for. Eden, on the other hand, has been around for a long time, I've played there many times, it's an amazing club. It's very big, been running for years, so this year we decided to move the Full on Ferry event to Eden instead. It's going to a be huge event!

Over the past several years we have seen a resurgence of EDM in not only mainstream music, but mainstream culture in general, with genres such as dubstep and electro taking the forefront. Have these recent trends caused the audience for trance and house to change, or is this just the evolution of electronic music at work?

I think it's moreso the evolution of electronic music. Right now, it is a very interesting time. Every music genre is borrowing from influences from others. When you look at the current House sound, which is spearheaded by groups like the Swedish House Mafia. If you listen to that stuff very carefully, you'll actually hear something that sounds a lot like a 1999 trance record being slowed down, that's how I look at it at least. The big thing about the 1999 trance at the time, was the big, hypnotic, synthesized melodies. And then you listen to the current material, and it's exactly like that! The only difference is now it's 177 BPM. If you listen to trance nowadays, it's slowed down! The average trance record is usually between 130 and 134 BPM, instead of 138 and 140. So a lot more groovy, slowed down kind of tracks. Those genres are definitely gelling a bit. Also, if you listen to some of the dubstep, and what's known as drumstep, it's also very melodic! It's borrowing from some of the oldschool trance techniques if you will. I think in a sense, electronic music right now is evolving into a big melting pot. For me as a DJ, it's great, because I can play everything! I can play any record that I like, and I don't really have to limit myself anymore.

Last April, you broadcasted the 250th episode of your radio show "Corsten's Countdown" on SiriusXM. It was an eight hour interactive extravaganza, and even became the top trending topic on Twitter several times that day. How was the experience of dealing with your fanbase in such a hands on environment?

It was really cool! Usually on "Corsten's Countdown", it's a standard one hour show. All the time, when the shows over, I see so many people on Twitter complaining. Saying stuff like "Why is this only a one hour show, why not two hours?". But I think that's an example of why the show is so successful, is because it's only one hour. All the momentum is confined in one hour, so I think that's the secret. To celebrate the 250th episode, however, I decided "Why not make it one work-day?". The whole day, eight hours straight, and we stick with the concept of listener participation. Were going to ask for your requests, send your requests in, I will play as many of those requests that I can play! It was live on the spot, I was mixing right from my studio in NYC. We had a whole interactive platform on the "Corsten's Countdown website", there was fun facts about every track that was played, Twitter messages from people. One of the coolest things was, again, the listeners could still vote for the top ten tracks of the day. It was a really great experience to be apart of. I was destroyed at the end of the day, but very fulfilled!

Tonight, you play a packed out show at the Opera Nightclub here in Atlanta. Has the set for this tour been more focused towards the new WKND material, or do you have any surprises in store?

I'm definitely playing quite a few pieces from WKND, of course. Also some of the newer, big tracks that are out, it's usually a combination of that. It's gonna be a highly energetic show, that's for sure!

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