When trance gone electro, house and big room DJ and producer Ferry Corsten isn't making music or spending time with his family, he's likely got one thing on his mind: tearing down a mountain on his snowboard.
Corsten, who plays at Maya Day and Night Club in Old Town Scottsdale on Friday, June 13, won't be able to get his snow fix here in Phoenix, but he will be able to indulge his other passion.
Corsten has been an influential figure in dance music throughout the past decade and then some, starting in Holland, and working with fellow global DJs like Tiesto and Benny Benassi at the start of the millenium, when dance music was slowly coming into mainstream consciousness in America.
Up On the Sun caught-up with the DJ this weekend, right after he landed in Las Vegas. Up on the Sun: You'll be in Arizona next week, do you remember the last time you were here?
Ferry Corsten: Yeah, I can't remember the name of the club. But it was across from where I'm going to play this time. I remember it because it was the closing night of that club, and they said like, "Next time, ya know, you'll play at the Maya. That's being built right now." I can't remember the name of the club.
Yeah, I think I know which one you're talking about, was it Axis-Radius?
Yeah, that's the one.
Does anything stand out for you about Arizona? Any memories?
Well I've got a few friends from Arizona, and, ya know; we always hang out there. We always go to the best sushi in the world, in the middle of the desert! They always take me there before I go on, it's Sushi Roku or something, is that right?
Nice, that's really strange that you mentioned Sushi Roku, because I interviewed Paul Oakenfold about a year ago and he said that, too. Now I'm thinking, "Do they have a set-up with you guys, with free meals or something?" [Laughs.] It's almost like standard DJ dinner, "What do I want to eat, sushi, I'll go the sushi place." [Laughs] So no endorsement deal in place.
I've heard you're really into snowboarding, is that true?
Yeah, I love it.
So what do you listen when you ride? I have a lot of friends who are really into it and they seem to always have specific style of music they have to tune into when they do it.
I don't think so. Honestly, for me. It's quite the opposite. I actually do not listen to any music, because I love the sound of my board carving in the snow. Ya know, I listen to music all year. So when I'm in the mountains, I love the quiet, I don't want any music.
Get away from the bass.
Yeah, exactly. If there would be music it would be very chill-out stuff instead of the music you would expect with snowboarding. It's more like rock or drum-and-bass, or stuff like that. That is what I would be listening to, if I would be listening to music. Would be drum-and-bass for sure.
You've got a pretty busy summer. ... How do you put together sets for a club versus a festival and an American crowd vs. a European crowd? Is that different for you at all?
It used to be. There used to be a difference between Europe and Asia and the U.S., but not anymore now. Everyone knows the same music around the world, and I think that's just because of the popularity of electronic dance music in general, worldwide. I mean for club versus festival, for festivals you usually do a shorter set, an hour or hour and a half. Ya know, you only have that particular moment where you have to show what your worth basically. You have to capture that, keep the crowd there, and make your music go to that last person in the back. It's usually a bit more powerful at festivals. At clubs, you play longer sets, which leaves room for experimentation. Ya know, try new tracks, see where the crowd wants to go, and how hard you can push them. So clubs or festivals, I like them both because they're both really different.
You have a daughter, right?
Yeah, she's 5-and-a-half now.
How do you balance being a dad with the DJ lifestyle?
It's usually... right now I'm here for two weekends, and a week in between, so that's 10 or 11 days. That's the max that I'm away from home. Then when I get home during the week, I've got my studio close to the house, my office is there. During the week when I'm home it's almost like a normal weekday. I drop her off at school, I go to the studio and do my thing there, pick her up in the afternoon, then at night we just spend time together. Then on the weekends I'm gone. Wednesdays she has the afternoon off of school, so I always take her to nice places like fun parks or theme parks and fun stuff. I try to make sure I spend enough time with her.
How has becoming a parent changed your career, if it has at all?
Well, not much, apart from the fact that I only do touring for a maximum of 10 days, where as before, where I used to do a month or so. I fly more, actually. That's the only difference, other than that, not really.
I read that when you were getting into DJing and producing in the '90s, that you went to school to be an electrical engineer.
That's right, yeah.
Have you always been a technical person? What were you into as a kid?
Always sort of technical stuff. That was always my drive, to pursue what I'm doing now. Not the electrical engineer stuff. Ya know, between economic direction or the technical direction, ya know, I think economics was a bit higher, laughs. I guess I was destined to go here.
OK, so do you tend to take that mathematical and systematic approach to making music?
Yea, actually, too much sometimes. It's almost more like a science than, well, it starts with a feeling, then it becomes pure science almost. A little too much sometimes, where I lose a lot of time doing it, where I should just go, but I can't laughs.
Are you a perfectionist?
Yeah, yeah, a little too much. When it comes to that.
So you've had almost a 20-year career in dance music, how do you keep things interesting? From touring to making music, how do you keep from not getting burned out or sounding repetitive?
Well definitely giving myself a few weeks a year on a snowboard. That helps [laughs]. Just changing things up, the music I make is not always the same, same stuff. I like to go from left to right because I want to keep triggering myself, and that can only happen when I change things up. Shows as well. I mean, I make sure the agenda isn't only, for example, the states, but also Asia, Australia and, ya know, just being in different places, and taking off enough time when I can.
Do you ever feel pressure to consistently push the envelope and be different at all?
If I want to, I can feel pressure, yeah, definitely. I just put that away, I just do whatever, the best I can. I never really felt any stress or something. If the fans don't like it, then whatever. It's almost like, I dunno, It's a bit bold, but it's almost like "the fans will like, the fans will have to like it." That's how an artist should think.
So you started DJing before there was millions of dollars to be made
How does it feel having 18- to 21-year-olds, sometimes even younger, just killing it and making tons of money. Do you ever think about that?
No, I'm just doing my thing. I've been here for a long time and, ya know, I had a very quick life as well from not playing anywhere to playing at the best clubs all over the world -- within months, basically. So I know what it's like, now there's a whole money factor that comes with it. If you do it only for the money, then how long will you make it? That's your choice. I've been DJing at this level for 14, 15 years now, it's always a good question, to see how long you can do it.
You worked a lot with Markus Schulz ... and Tiesto, not just recently but over the years. Your Instagram account has a ton of pictures together. What is it like evolving with the same people over the years and sharing that experience of success in dance music together?
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With Tiesto, we lived in the same area, he worked at the record store that I bought my records from. We had a connection with music together, but that was a very long time ago, laughs. So we became very good friends. Markus is more recent, I've known him for about 10 years. We teamed-up, basically because we were at Ibiza, at a bar talking about music. Reminiscing about back in the day, and before we knew it we were like "let's just go to the studio and make something together," and see where it goes.
Is there anything on your to-do list that you still haven't done yet in your career?
Well, ya know, I'm playing a lot more in China lately, and I would really like to explore that place a bit more. It seems like there's a lot more happening there now. Yea, um, I dunno. I love the mountains and I love snowboarding, maybe I would love to do a sort of hike for a few days in the mountains. Something like that, while snowboarding down. I've been thinking about planning something like that.