Trance Republic had the honour of interviewing DJ Ferry Corsten, also known as System F, when he was down in Singapore on the 15th of May 2004. Want to find out why Ferry’s sound is evolving? Or what’s his favourite tunes? Or how he met his wife? Then read on!
You were in KL last night? How was it?
Yeah it was good… Big circus, everyone with their hands up and stuff, it was crazy. Very nice.
Your song “Rock Your Body Rock” managed to get onto the UK Top 40 in February, congratulations. Also, you were ranked #9 in the DJ Top 100 polls in 2002 and you were #6 in 2003, so are you aiming for #1?
Nah, not really, I just do my thing. I think the list is nice, but it’s a bit transparent, you know, because trance at the moment is just the biggest style, the most popular style in the world, so everywhere trance is the biggest. So it has the most followers and therefore, all these followers are voting for their favourite DJ. So of course you can see all the trance DJs now in the top 10. Who knows maybe next year it’s house or techno, and then they’ll all be techno DJs. But I think that you cannot compare a Tiesto or van Dyk with Sven Vath or Carl Cox or Eric Morillo because they make a really different style of music, so yeah of course I’ll try to get higher. But I just do what I like and I believe in quality of music, whether it’s trance or techno or something else, and that’s the main thing for me.
You mentioned Carl Cox, and I think you did say that he was your favourite DJ. Is he still your favourite DJ? Or is there somebody else…
No… I think Carl Cox… you know the way… he’s just energy. He’s a big guy, but he’s moving, moving, and he’s sweating, and it’s record after record after record… It’s a train and I really like it.
Your music has evolved from the very unmistakable trance sound of Gouryella and System F into a more electro, maybe techno style of “Rock Your Body Rock”. How would you describe this new sound?
I don’t know. I don’t really have a name for it. Maybe it’s like new trance, I dunno (laughs). But I mean, I get sent over a lot of trance records, I get a pile every week like that, CDs… and I listen to it and everything sounds the same. It’s all the same kickdrums, the same rolling bassline, the same strings, the same synthesizers, and the same structure. There’s nothing new anymore. And I think if it continues like that then trance will be dead soon. You know everyone’s saying “Trance is dead”. Well trance is not dead, but at this point, it needs something that… it needs a new injection.
It needs to evolve?
Exactly. I’ve always been a big electro fan, but electro on its own, it’s way too cold. It’s very cold music, it doesn’t have any emotion. And trance nowadays is standing still, so what I’ll try to do at the moment is getting the dirt, the rawness of the electro sound and put it back into trance, you know like what it was back in 1999 when trance just blew up. It was all raw, and energetic and it was just fun, you know. And that’s what it’s lacking now, it’s getting too serious…
It’s getting too serious and as what you said just now, it’s all getting to be the same.
Exactly, so you know, yeah that’s my whole point. It’s getting so stereotyped, like “this is trance” and when I come up with a record like “Rock Your Body Rock” everyone started saying “Oh you’re moving away from trance”. You know, “you’re doing techno now”. No, I’m not, I’m still trying to make trance, but doing it a different way. Trying to widen the horizon again because everyone’s getting so narrow-minded. And that’s not what trance was in the first place. Trance was just emotional, explosive music, back in 1999. I wanna go back there.
So what can the crowd expect from you tonight? Electro stuff or are you going to bring back the memories with anthems?
Well, I’ll definitely play trance. It’s going to be mixed with electro, and mixed with some techno. But it’s never going to be all the way electro or all the way techno. It’s going to be this sweet mixture of a lot of energy with emotion and I’ll probably drop some oldies tonight as well (laughs).
We’re all oldies fans I guess… Speaking of oldies, you know Carte Blanche, it’s probably one of my favourite tracks.
Well actually, (softer) it’s actually in the box. I may drop it tonight.
(laughs) Ok I will drop it, I will play it.
So is there any chance of you collaborating with Vincent de Moor for any more Veracocha tracks?
Uh, not really sure. I’ve talked to Vincent about it, and he had a problem with his record deal and I have a problem with the label that he’s with, so it’s hard…
So what’s it like growing up in the Netherlands, as a kid? Were you in the Netherlands all the way?
Yeah, I was born there, grew up there. I’ve always been there. Like five years ago I started traveling all around the world and I’ve been doing that ever since. So I’m kinda alienated from Holland, when I’m there it’s there but I’m always in my studio. So when I go to Amsterdam it looks just as crazy as it looks to you guys probably. Just apart from the fact that I grew up with having a coffee shop (gesturing) there, and there, and there where they sell weed, you know. Yeah, and it’s all cool. Growing up with a holiday called “Queen’s Day” where everyone’s just really, really drunk and pissed, in the streets with beer and just having a crazy time. Growing up with Dance Valley, 60,000 people out in the sun, and it’s just crazy. The freedom of Holland, that’s something that I will never find anywhere else. It’s very free, but you can only recognize freedom if you’ve never had it. So if you grew up in a country where they don’t have freedom and this is forbidden and that is forbidden and you can’t do this and you can’t have that then you see that in a country where you have everything then you can see freedom. For me, I’m used to that. For me, smoking in a coffee shop is normal.
So you wife, Lia, she’s Asian?
She’s Filipino, yeah.
Oh she’s Filipino? So how did you guys meet? Were you in the Philippines?
Yeah that was funny. I went to a strip bar and she was a pole-dancer there… I’m just kidding (laughs).
I was doing an Asia tour, and first I did Taiwan and then I did Philippines and there was a good party and I stayed there for 3 days. I didn’t meet her at the party where I was playing. But the promoter had like a farewell party on the night before I left, and there were all these friends, and some girls, and I was just standing there and got introduced to these two girls. I started talking to them, and one walked off, so I started talking to the other girl and I kept talking to her the whole night. And the next day I left for Hong Kong, and we exchanged numbers, and then we started texting each other and started calling each other. And half a year later I went to the Philippines, initially for six weeks and I stayed there three months.
Wow that sounds like a fairytale.
And then she moved to Singapore for a year, and I flew over every six weeks for a week or two weeks. So I know Singapore quite a bit.
You mentioned that you didn’t like football.
No I’m not a big football fan. I mean, I like it when Holland plays, the national team. I used to do football when I was really small but I was really crap. I have more talent for music I guess!
So where’s the one greatest event that you DJed at? The one unforgettable moment… that feeling? I’m sure there’re a lot, but if you could pick one.
There’re a lot, there are all these festivals that are fantastic, and there’s some really cool places with a nice sunrise when you play there on the beach. But for me there are two that are actually in the same club. This club, in Toronto, it’s called the Government. Crazy club. Six and a half thousand people inside. I’ve played there a few times now, five or six times, but the last one was with me in one room and John Digweed in the other room. And the time before it was me in the other room and Sasha in the other room. And all these nights were just sold out. Last time I was supposed to play from 12:30 till 4, and I closed the door at 8:30. I just kept on playing. And the resident was like “yeah yeah yeah, that’s cool, go ahead”. Fantastic. It’s really really nice. What the people enjoy there is this trip you know, where you start really slow and you build up, and then you go to techno, and then you go to trance back, and then you go to electro and then you go back to trance, this whole journey.
So you gonna bring us on a journey tonight?
I’ll try, yeah! I’ve got 4 hours so… yeah, I’ll do my best.
You’ve done a lot of remixes, so which one are you most satisfied with? What’s your favourite remix?
William Orbit, Barber’s Adagio. First of all I love the original piece of music, the classical part. It’s such a beautiful piece, especially when I heard that music again I was thinking of “Platoon”, especially this slow motion scene where you see guys being shot down. It’s a really dramatic piece of music as well. And yeah, to transform that into some uplifting trance was really a challenge. And yeah then to see the emotion that the record has. That was for me like “wow”, and when I finished it, “Yeah, this is fantastic”.
So what’s your favourite three tunes of all time? Can be trance, can be pop, can be U2…
Uh… one song which may sound pretty strange is Golden Brown by The Stranglers. It’s just early 80’s or late 70’s, it’s just pop. It’s got this really weird vibe to it. When you find it on the internet you’ll recognize it.
No I won’t download it, I’ll buy it!
OK… (laughs). That’s what everyone says… Uh what else. Eight O Eight State’s Cubic? That’s one of my all time favourite house tunes. And I think Future Sound of London’s Papua New Guinea, that definitely belongs there.
So you’ve traveled around the whole world, and you liked spinning in the club in Toronto, but is Canada the country which fascinates you the most? In terms of people, culture? Asia? Europe?
That would be Asia actually. I really love Japan and the culture is just amazing. The people there are like… It’s just a whole different thing, a different way of thinking. But not just Japan, just Asia really, in general.
So is your favourite food sushi?
If you eat sushi in Japan, if you eat it the quality way, then it’s definitely nice.
So what’s your favourite food in Singapore?
Singapore? Um… last time I was here that was 2½ years ago, there was a restaurant called Indochine? I really liked it there.
How would you describe yourself in three words? Happy? Cool? Sexy? Family man?
No, I’m not a family man. Unfortunately. Driven, Ambitious, Music Lover.
Thanks a lot Ferry. It was an honour meeting up with you and interviewing you.
Thanks, same here.
A big THANK YOU to the guys at Zouk for granting us the interview and to the man himself, Ferry Corsten for giving his time for the interview.