It’s Friday, January 19th, 2018, just after 11:30 pm at Royale in downtown Boston. Ilan Bluestone is warming the crowd up with hits of his very own as well as others from the likes of crowd pleasers Above & Beyond, Armin Van Buuren and trance moguls alike. Meanwhile, we are here in the Green room with legendary Ferry Corsten to chat him up before his headlining set of the night. An open book, Ferry tells all about his vision behind the BluePrint tour, his effort to redirect the art and integrity of his album and the upcoming projects he’s been working on.
Ashley Feldman: Hey Ferry! How are you doing tonight? Where did you just come from?
Ferry Corsten: I’m great! I just came from Tahoe. I had the luxury of a few days off so I went to ride some slopes.
AF: Were you playing any shows before that?
FC: I was in Miami, then Charlotte and then flew to California.
AF: You’ve come a long way since Gouryella, tell us a little bit about that. What is Gouryella?
FC: Well, Gouryella started inside the trance bubble, around the time that things started to heat up around ‘99. It was a project I did together with Tiesto, Tiesto being in it more as the DJ and me more so as the producer. We did a few songs together under that name.
AF: So it was an alias?
FC: Yes, like a collab. So for the first three years, we worked together and then Tiesto kind of moved on to his own endeavors, in pursuit of other interests. I lingered on the project a bit longer, producing another track under the Gouryella name but then my sound changed a bit so I decided to leave it for a while.
Over the past 12 or 13 years I’ve continued to receive messages from fans asking if there would ever be more from Gouryella and although I didn’t have an answer at the time, I try to never say never. More recently…and I don’t know how else to put this… I’ve gotten sick and tired of the “put your fucking hands up” bullshit, and I realized I wanted to get back to a more melody-influenced, authentic sound…real goosebumpy stuff, ya know?
The absence of Gouryella gave it this mystified quality, like a holy grail sort of essence within trance. So, I made up my mind to bring it all back, but in a way that would do it justice and set the bar high. The melody of “Anahera” is what brought the project back after all this time. Now every year, I release one track and no more. Just to keep it special and pure.
AF: How has the release shaped your artistry and direction today?
FC: The meaning of Gouryella is heaven in Australian. “Anahera” means angel in Maori, and so on..every title falls under this umbrella that encompasses the philosophy and theme. It represented the big questions I had in regards to the universe…what is really out there?
AF: Do you consider your sound as Ferry different then?
FC: Ferry could be a bit more left… a bit more right, even stuff that is borderline techno or EDM; stuff I would never play in a Gouryella set.
AF: Tell me a little bit about the BluePrint tour. What was the idea or theme behind your vision for this one?
FC: Gouryella has continued to be an inspiration for me across both aliases, and because of how thematic it is, it spilled over to Ferry; stuff that I do under my own name. The funny thing is.. I’ve always had a desire to do something with storytelling in my music. A trance musical, something different.
One day I was watching the “Anahera” music video with my dad and we both came to the conclusion that it represented elements that just aren’t as present in today’s modern dance music landscape. The drama, the intricacies…everything. Somehow War of Worlds by John Wayne got brought up; an album based off of the book, which was translated into a rock opera and followed the narratively closely. The storyline was about aliens from Mars invading earth and was re-enacted on live radio in the 70’s. It was so believable, people actually thought it was happening.
Something like that has never been done with electronic music and I knew that was my idea. I just needed a story. A narrative that I could tell throughout a long series of tracks.
AF: What’s the story!?
FC: It’s about artificial life that sends a signal down to earth and is received by an unsuspecting kid. The whole world tries to decipher the code but he’s the only one who can do it. He figures out it is a blueprint instruction set, if you will, to build a robotic woman; and she takes him on a journey to crazy worlds.
So when the story was finalized, I chopped it into chapters and each chapter helped me identify the landscape or trajectory of the music. When that was all done, I created the instrumentals and vocals of each track to deliver a message corresponding to a particular part of the storyline.
AF: I can imagine that process was challenging. So would you suggest listening to the album in chronological order?
FC: Yes! You know, I understand the Spotify culture that we are living in these days…something I myself am a part of too, you know, jumping around and skipping tracks. It’s become so normal that the art of an album is almost lost. In an attempt to break that pattern, I hoped that if I anchored the listener in a story they’d want to know what was coming next. It’s an audiobook musical…that’s what it is really. But, I also kept in mind my audience. I knew that voiceovers wouldn’t be for everyone…at first, so I made two versions of the album; one with and the other without the narrative. Luckily, it seems like most of the skeptics have come around.
AF: That must be really rewarding to learn that people are willing to experience the art and give it a chance in its entirety.
FC: Yeah! Because you know what, there’s such a lack of imagination these days…it’s all about instant gratification. If it doesn’t interest you in 2 seconds “it’s shit.” We are living in a society where there is no patience. With that being said, I know I took a chance with this release when it comes to wanting instant success and hits. But that wasn’t what I was going for. I hope in 15 years from now, people will still think it’s amazing.
AF: That’s inspiring. Looks like you’re going to be a busy guy over these next few months. What is the tour life like for you? Anything you can’t live without?
FC: Being on the road feels very free, despite being dictated by an agenda, it’s better than staying home and doing the same thing every day..and even this club for example (Royale) I’ve played this venue many times and yet it’s always different. New challenges and experiences. Three hours ago my beard was 3 times as long… I looked like a mountain man *chuckles* and now I’m sitting here.
AF: I understand you recently broke the 500th episode of Corsten’s Countdown, seemed like the event was a success. In hindsight, how does a landmark episode like that define success for you and how has it motivated you, if at all, to be more innovative with your brand going forward?
FC: Yeah for sure. You know, when you keep going you don’t really think about it as much…500 episodes, I mean, it all kind of blends together. But, we did put in a lot of prep work for the 8-hour broadcast. For those who don’t know what Corsten’s Countdown is, I play ten tracks on the show and then people are free to vote for their selections. The highest voted tracks, I play in the next show. But, for the monster sets, like with 500, I ask people to vote for their favorite tracks out of the last 500 episodes.
AF: That must be cool for you to reflect back on all the past music you’ve featured.
FC: Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff that I’ve forgotten about…even my own tracks! haha!
AF: Speaking of music past, I remember seeing New World Punx at Madison Square Garden during an ASOT show a couple years back. Are you still involved with that?
FC: I was just with Marcus last Friday actually. That MSG show was right around the time that we first started playing together under the new alias. Before then, it was mostly just B2B stuff under our own individual names. Our premier had been just a week before that in Miami, we spun like a 6-hour set. That was fun.
AF: How have collaborations, such as with Markus Schulz, allowed you to explore different parts of your musicality?
FC: When you are always producing yourself, in your own studio…in the zone, it’s very easy to get lost in that reality of your own existence. So, to go out and work with other people sometimes opens things up. In that, you are exposed to the ways people work differently than you. Different ideas, different mindset. It gets you out of your bubble, pulls you from your habits. Collaborating is definitely a skill because it teaches you to not be so egocentric and stuck in your ways. That’s not even the point of working with someone, just the opposite.
I’ve done many (collabs) throughout my career but something just clicked with Marcus. We had the same sort of interests. When we first started out Marcus was known as the guy with the grooves and the dirt and I was the guy with the melodies…over time, with New World Punx, the roles flipped. That was the really cool thing. At the end of the day, we’ve had a good run with it but we do have our own careers, and decided to give the NWP thing a bit of a break…it’s not finished, just paused!
AF: So as we wrap up here, any new music you are looking forward to playing tonight? Any new projects on the horizon?
FC: There’s definitely stuff planned for 2018… a string of collabs that I can’t yet talk about at the moment, but I can tell you there’s one I have going with Ilan. Also, I just did my first movie score which I loved, for a piece called “Don’t Go,” an independent film coming out in September. A new challenge for sure, working on that side of the industry. If I get another chance, I’m going to keep doing stuff like that.
AF: How can we best keep in touch with your travels?
FC: Just always, follow me on the socials.
AF: Thanks, Ferry!