Ferry Corsten Talks Visual Album Blueprint, Collaboration Project Unity and New Release with Paul Oakenfold
Veteran Dutch producer Ferry Corsten is regarded as one of the innovators of the trance scene having first began his career nearly three decades ago. Corsten boasts a discography like no other with albums, singles and remixes for notable names. His latest album, “Blueprint”, takes listeners on an immersive experience with voiceovers that narrate a love story around characters Lucas and Vee. Corsten’s clever way of weaving sci-fi based themes into the album makes it all the more intriguing with the painting of descriptive visuals. We had the pleasure of speaking to Ferry while he was in town for his performance at Transmission Asia as alias Gouryella. Read on to find out more about his visual album Blueprint, collaboration project Unity and new release with Paul Oakenfold.
“Blueprint was a project of passion”, Corsten shared. “I really felt like I wanted to do a new album, but at the same time I wanted to do something different.” Corsten then expressed that nowadays, “people just put a bunch of tracks together and call it an album”, and that he “wanted something that could tell a story instead”. What he did next was put the idea of an audio book together with a music album by weaving a sci-fi love narration over the tracks.
“It’s all knitted together - almost like a movie really, and that’s what I wanted to do. There was a book that came with the album. Every track had it’s own artwork. I wanted to create something where people could listen to it and create their own interpretation with suggestive visuals.”
“Blueprint” features several tracks with vocalists HAILENE and Eric Lumiere, and it was interesting how the artists worked around Corsten’s hectic touring schedules. “There was a lot of back and forth,” he explained. “I've been to LA quite a few times cause they both live there, so we scheduled quite a few moments where I would be there in the studio tracking some of the vocals and writing. But a lot of it was just me being on the plane with the files that I had while on tour, so it was pretty interesting.”
“Wherever You Are” and “Eternity” are two of the Rotterdam native’s favorite songs off the album, which he describes as “meaningful” and “interpretable in so many different ways.” “[Piece of You] is beautiful too,” he replied in response to my choice of song. “But it’s one of those tracks that is really hard to put into a dance structure because it is such a mid-tempo song. But for what it is, it’s lovely. Everything on “Blueprint”, all the songs, the lyrics - they are about something, it’s not just random.”
The storyline flowed incredibly well indeed, especially the section in the middle where Lucas found out that Vee’s disappeared. “Yeah, “Lonely Inside”, that’s the one!”, Corsten agreed with a grin. “I tried to make the story flow like a Hollywood movie - starts out exciting, becomes really lovely and then all comes down with a dramatic crash before ending on a happy note.”
Over the years, Corsten has released remixes for major acts, including Snow Patrol, Solange, The Killers and U2 to name a few. Having had such a wide range of expertise regarding remixing an already fine-tuned track, one would be curious as to whether he was involved firsthand with the remixers of the “Blueprint” album. “No, and I did that on purpose,” he laughed. “Because I put in so much of my own inspiration into these tracks. It’s really hard to snap out of that and come up with something different. I felt like I had to step back from it. I felt like I had to step back from it. I delivered the files to the guys who did the remixes and just let them take it wherever they wanted to go.”
Corsten’s latest release with Paul Oakenfold “A Slice of Heaven”, was put out several days before the interview. Corsten shared that he has had a collaboration with Paul on his “wishlist” for such a long time. “We've talked about collaboration so many times, but in true fashion, it never happened. [Paul] has been such a name for trance and electronic music in general, so I think he’s the perfect guy to kick off the Unity project with.”
Naturally, he was then prompted to share more about the project. “Well you know, coming off of Gouryella, and then Blueprint, a year and a half in the making, it didn't leave me much time to work with other people other than the vocalists on the album. Often in festivals like these, you sit there talking to other DJs -”
“But you never get the chance to!”
“No! Never happens,” chuckled Corsten. “But since I've been doing all these tracks on my own, why not announce a concept where every one of the tracks is a collaboration with someone.”
The aptly titled “Unity” was started by Corsten as a way of bringing together the trance community of producers. “[Trance] is not as prolific as it was before like ten, fifteen, years ago. I think one of the reasons for that is if you look at the bass and EDM scene, they're all massive very strong where all the acts support each other.” He feels that there is a disconnect within the same scene where the “140 BPM acts don’t play anything of the 128 BPMs, and vice versa”. With “Unity”, Corsten aims to curate back to back collaborations with producers of all kinds within the genre and make trance as a whole movement a lot stronger.
“Speaking of passion and how much I love trance, I also tied [Unity] in with a charity concept. The organization is called “VH1 Save The Music”, and what they do is basically bring the music of all aspects to underprivileged children and their schools.”
That night, Ferry was performing at Transmission Asia under his alias, Gouryella 2.0, which was first introduced back in 99’ as a collaborative project between Tijs (Tiesto) and himself. Speaking on the reason why he decided to bring the alias back and turn it into a full-scale live performance, “there was almost like a demand”, he shared. “My music tastes changed [after the fourth Gouryella album]. But today, every time I post something random on my socials like “I have a walk in the park today”, someone would comment “Is there ever gonna be new Gouryella music?”. So I knew that people really wanted it. I was also getting a bit tired of the “Put your fucking hands up!” and stuff. I want to bring back music that has real emotion.”
As time was running out, the final question to ask was on whether he thinks it is easier for current day aspiring artists to break into the scene compared to how it was back in the days. “It might look easier because you have more access to Soundcloud, Spotify, Youtube, whatever, but at the same time it’s easy for everyone else too,” Corsten began. Theoretically speaking, that would make it possible for anyone to become a DJ/producer, but Corsten believes that “to stand out is even harder”, before adding that the problem back in the days was how to make music as equipment was incredibly expensive.”
It was then pointed out that nowadays, producing music is very accessible with the option of being able to download it right off the internet. “Right! So now you have to come up with a way to be noticed. That’s the other problem. It’s not as simple as one would think - it is easy to create, but not to stand out,” ended Corsten with a knowing smile.