Words By: Gabrielle Nicole Pharms
Attending the North American debut of Ferry Corsten’s “Full On” felt much like arriving at my best friend’s apartment in which we all take turns playing a set ranging from guitar solos to turntable mixes.
Although Corsten allowed set times for formalities, it was a breath of fresh air to listen and see the positive synergy between Corsten and his musically diverse DJ cohorts. Even more impressive was witnessing Corsten’s high energy after he just finished a set at Electric Zoo prior to “Full On.” Here, Corsten sits with EDM Magazine to discuss his definition of trance, what can be expected at his “Full On” events around North America and everything in between.
EDM: You’ve been a DJ since you were a teenager, what’s the biggest distinct change you have noticed in the EDM scene overall?
FC: How it has become such a worshipping culture. When it first started, you’d play music, people danced to the music, that was it; eighteen year old boys chasing girls and the other way around. Now you get on stage and the whole crowd is like ‘whoa!’ the notebooks come out and they start writing down every track instead of chasing girls. That’s a big change. Also, before, people would say you played a great set, now they tattoo your name on their arm! It definitely has gone from nightlife and having fun to this whole massive culture where it’s all about your idol. The DJ has definitely changed from a DJ that plays other peoples’ music to a DJ that is more like an artist that plays his own repertoire.
EDM: When you were younger, you were studying to be an electrical engineer. Was music your first passion or did this passion evolve over time? What made you choose to go down the route of music than continue electrical engineering?
FC: Music was always a hobby ever since I was nine or ten-years-old. I’ve been playing around with music, was playing with my double cassette tape recorder making mixes; then I got my first turntables and started mixing. So, that was always a hobby. My friends at school were always playing football outside or soccer and I was in my room playing music. I never saw a career for myself, because it was just a hobby; because of that I was in school and went to a university to take a direction. The technical side was more for me. It was sort of a natural evolving. I started to have real success with my music. I started to put music out and remix requests came in. After a while, I had some track successes as well. So, that all of a sudden took over. Since it was such a hobby, it started to dawn on me that my dream could actually become true. I’ve never done anything else really.
EDM: On your latest album, WKND, the album fuses certain subgenres of EDM. Back in 2006, you came out with “Junk” in which you worked with Gang Starr. What currently motivates you and motivated you to mix subgenres together along with trance?
FC: I’ve always done that. People know me as a trance guy because in 1999 I had a big breakthrough with a couple of big trance records and because of that I stayed with that genre for a long time, and still am really. It doesn’t mean that that is the only thing. Before that, I had produced house, German based techno, hardcore, hardstyle and I’ve done everything and so many things before I had my breakthrough. After a while with doing trance stuff, I felt that I just wanted to do something else. I wanted to experiment and bring in different elements into that trance sound. In 2001 and 2002, I started experimented with more electro sounds from the ‘80s. That’s why a track like, “Punk,” came about. “Rock Your Body Rock” is made with a trance idea in mind, hands in the air kind of moment, but with big electro influences and elements in there.
EDM:I think that’s awesome. You have to have versatility as an artist so as to not get bored.
FC: Yeah, because if I do something for a long time over and over again, I really get bored. I feel like I go numb. That’s the worst thing that can happen to you as an artist. So, you just have to challenge yourself, trigger your eagerness. That’s why I’m always shifting. One record can be way more trance and the next record can be almost a house track. That’s a personal thing.
EDM: With some of the trance songs, vocals are not always included. What actually inspires you to piece together the different sounds when vocals are not added into the songs?
FC: With an instrumental trance track, in the beginning as well, I approach it as a vocal track. Instead of where the vocals were, like the first bridge and chorus, I would replace those vocal parts with a synth melody. So, you still have a pop song structure, but where the chorus would be it would be this main sort of melodic hook line. Translated structure wise, it’s almost like a pop song.
EDM: For someone who doesn’t understand what the trance genre is and what makes up trance, how would you define it?
FC: In my opinion, it’s all about melody. With melody comes emotion. For a lot of people, trance is uptempo, big synthy emotional chords and melodies, but for me, it starts with the melody. You can bring 140 BPM (beats per minute) and under it 120 BPM. It gets more sexy and you get the same sort of message because it’s so melody driven. Trance is all about emotion.
EDM: Speaking of melodies, you have dubstep that’s big right now, house and this relatively new subgenre, moombahton, which is a lot less melodic than trance. Where do you see the future of trance given that right now those three aforesaid subgenres are the biggest?
FC:I think that trance as a genre will always remain. Maybe in two or three years, trance can become massive again. As for now, it is a genre, but it’s smaller and it serves the other genres as a condiment, like salt or pepper. Trance for a lot of those genres is the flavor. Some of the dubstep that’s out there now, they really make use of some of the trance elements. I think it’s cool. It’s serving the other genres right now. That’s how I see it. It’s still a big genre on its own, only it’s just not in the limelight as the other ones right now.
EDM: You have hosted “Full On” in Asia and Europe for years at this point. What can the North American audience expect?
FC: “Full On” is all about fun. It comes with a whole production and custom built visuals. It’s basically me hosting the night inviting guest DJs that are my friends from different genres. That’s why Michael Woods is there, he does more of the house sounds. Since sounds are blending anyway right now, I find myself playing house and trance in the same set. Nothing is set in stone. We have our own set times, but if Michael feels he can come back later during my set because he thought, ‘Oh! I should have played this track,’ he can just push me out of the way and play his set. It’s the DJs altogether as one big family instead of everyone having a set time. It’s all about fun and it just being a good old jam session.
EDM: Artists can never sit still. Even though you just released WKND, do you have any current projects or collaborations that you’re working on now?
FC: I released a compilation series a while ago; it’s called Once Upon A Night. One and two already came out, now three and four are coming out later this year. That’s one thing. Other than that, I’m working on some remixes and I’m already putting new schedules up for the next album basically.