Ferry Corsten Unravels Dutch Dance Music Dominance

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Profile shot of DJ Ferry Corsten, eyes closed with black background
The secret? One word: Product

We checked out Ferry Corsten at the Amsterdam Dance Event, at the “Synergy” party held at the cavernous Passenger Terminal—a real life, double-deck, cruise-ship terminal that accommodates over 200,000 passengers annually. To us it drove home the reality that trance is as big as ever.

As soon as we walked into the wave-shaped, glass edifice, it was hard not to feel carried away by Cosmic Gate’s heady mixture of pretty chords and driving thump. The Dutch crowd—a very tall bunch indeed—were bounding with every peak and swaying with each crashing breakdown. By the time Dutch favorite Ferry Corsten hit the decks—his smiling mug visible to all on huge screens—the place was going mental.

Showcasing material from his double-CD mix, Once Upon A Night, Vol. 2 (Premier/Black Hole), Corsten leaned into a more song-oriented set that had the audience singing along, arms waving. He also dropped a flurry of his own buzzbomb productions (2006’s “Beautiful” and 2001’s “Out of the Blue”). By the time he slowed things down for a moment of Coldplay’s “Nobody Said It Was Easy,” he’d turned the Docklands venue into a big, sweaty, strobe-filled love fest. Back on planet earth, we connected and re-connected with Corsten to find out his DJ secrets.

Why are the Dutch so good at this business? Historically, that’s always seemed to be the case—in a lot of endeavors. It’s just a very straightforward approach. “You have what I want and this is what possibly you could be needing.” And that’s the way, I think, we look at dance music as well. It’s a product, but it’s also how you deliver the product. Also, for example, if you look at the level of production at the festivals, it can compete with any big rock or pop festival in the United States. I think we just like to deliver the best possible quality.

The Dutch scene has always been strong, not only with trance, but also with techno and house. Why is the scene and why is this culture so receptive to dance music? Well, I think it’s geographically where we are. We’re surrounded by some markets—Germany, England, Scandinavia—that all have their qualities. I guess we take all the influences. That’s how Holland has always been, historically, as well. We take influences from what happens around us, and that’s the case with the music as well. We take the best, put it in one big pot and stir it up.

Why are trance music fans so dedicated? As opposed to many house music fans, who may not like their favorite DJ the next year. I feel that the message in trance is one that’s very strong. It’s all about happiness and happy days, basically, whereas other genres of music can bring a message of… “you need to be cool” and all that.

So what’s different about trance? I don’t think trance has that. It’s a very open genre where you feel comfortable instantly. I think that it attracts a lot of different kinds of people and the people that it does attract have an open mind as well. They’re very receptive. They’re proud to be part of that sort of community and they welcome people who are like that.

How do you see that attitude manifested? On the forums, when I come to New York, for example, on the night of my show, I’ll see on the forums people saying, “Hey, let’s meet up and go out to dinner, and go out.” It’s a real community.

What advice would you have for a DJ just getting started today? Or there some do’s and don’ts? Do’s are being original and to keep on trying until you have that specific sound or melody. Don’ts would be: don’t copy from others and don’t use the same presets like everybody else does. I can hear when a new preset has hit the market. A lot of demos come in with the same sound.

For full interview, check out the next issue of DJ Times.