Ahead of His Tokyo Show, Legendary DJ Ferry Corsten Talks Trance Music, UNITY and Collaboration

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Considered one of the pioneers of trance music and its many sub-genres, Ferry Corsten has been producing and performing on stages around the globe for almost 20 years. Hailing from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Corsten’s first experiment with electronic music dates back to when he was only 16 years old.

After his debut album, Out Of The Blue, charted in Japan’s Top 10 Singles charts for three consecutive years, he became a regular guest at Tokyo’s legendary Velfarre nightclub before its closure. Last year he produced the soundtrack to Don’t Go directed by David Gleeson, a first in his career. He’s now back on the road – appearing February 8 at Womb in Shibuya – to promote his latest musical project, UNITY, which includes collaborations with other iconic trance acts such as Paul Oakenfold.

You’ve released music under a handful of aliases. How is UNITY different from your past projects, and how it is similar?

UNITY is a project where I try to unite trance music. Many genres, like EDM, have such an amazingly strong fan base, which we lack in the trance scene. Because the music as a genre is divided, our fan base is divided. We have one side that plays no faster than 130 bpm and the other that plays only 140 bpm, and yet both claim to be “trance.” The problem with this is that nobody plays each other’s music anymore because it doesn’t match their sound. 

I’m doing these different collaborations with DJs and producers from all sides to find a middle ground. This way, we hope to reach more people and create a stronger, more united scene. We also teamed up with a charity organization called VH1 Save The Music to do something greater with the reach we have on social media as artists.

You collaborated with David Harrington Miller, one of the writers of House of Cards for Blueprint. How do you choose who to collaborate with, and how do you approach any disagreements you might encounter?

I look for people who inspire me. David did exactly that when I was looking for a writer for my ‘story’ album. He was writing with suspense and he also loves sci-fi. So that was an easy connection.

The most important thing when collaborating is having an open mind. If you let someone come into your production process, you need to give them space. Even if you do not agree with their direction, you need to have the patience and listen to see where they are going with your idea. Only after you’ve heard them out can you address anything you disagree on. Most of the time you will learn from it as they just come in with a different perspective.  

Last October you produced the motion soundtrack for the film Don’t Go. How did you approach the project with your trance and electronic music background? Did elements of that inspire you or was it a completely different method?

It was quite a different method. Although trance is also based on emotions, scoring a motion picture implies a different set of rules. The type of movie wasn’t one for banging trance beats, so I made my music very cinematic and moving, combining orchestral and electronic composition.

I have been to Japan so many times and I’m falling in love with it more and more.

You mentioned in an interview with Digital DJ Tips that the crowds in the UK have really inspired you to keep producing. Would you say it’s your favorite crowd to perform for, and what can you say about the Japanese crowd?

It’s definitely a crowd that has a special place in my heart. The UK crowd was the very first crowd to recognize me as an artist and has been very influential at the beginning of my career.

Japan was the second country to embrace me as an artist, in the beginning as System F and later as Ferry Corsten. I have been to Japan so many times and I’m falling in love with it more and more. I also had the chance to work with quite a few Japanese artists like Ayu. The crowd here is always so cheerful and upbeat. Not many crowds are like the Japanese crowd.

Off the stage, what is your favorite thing about Japan and the culture?

Besides it being incredibly beautiful, I just love the way Japan is so safe, clean, well-mannered and focused.  

Do you have any messages for your fans in Japan?

I am extremely happy to be back in Japan again. This time I was able to enjoy a few days of snowboarding in Nozawa Onsen and Hakuba. I can’t wait to be back at Womb again and see you all there. Get ready for an emotional ride.

Find information for Ferry Corsten’s February 8 show at Womb on the TW events calendar.

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