For more than 20 years, the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) has brought tastemakers from across the industry to The Netherlands for an experience that manages to be half conference, half festival, and all-encompassing. This year, ADE is said to have brought over 2,500 artists from around the world, satisfying fans across the spectrum with events ranging from Monstercat showcases to Berghain-inspired techno parties. Anyone who’s been is bound to have their own ADE story, but very few are able to share the seasoned perspective of Dutch icon, Ferry Corsten, who, over the course of his illustrious career, has had the opportunity of watching the event grow from his Rotterdam-based studio.
We had the opportunity to go one-on-one with Corsten to talk ADE memories, advice for newcomers, and how to stay motivated after so many years on top. Press play on the trance legend’s Day/Night themed ADE playlist and dive in.
So to start, what was the first concert that you ever went to? How much of an impact, if any, do you think that had on the trajectory of your life?
I can’t really remember at this point what first concert I went to, but I remember when I was younger going to a club in Rotterdam called Tomorrowland. It was the first real club that I went to as a young teenager and it blew my mind. I had always been into music but the combination of clubbing and seeing dance music played in a setting was mind-blowing. I think I got more hooked into making music after that.
You released ‘Looking Forward’ right around when ADE first started. Looking forward from 1996, could you ever picture the event becoming what it is today? Where do you see ADE in another 20 years?
I think that ADE is an amazing event and I applaud Richard [Zijlma] and all the guys there how they have made it into the success of what it has become. As to what ADE will be in the future, I think that just has it has evolved itself over the years, it will continue to offer the demands of what dance music will require in the future: in terms of technological developments, and trends. Nowadays, the pace of music and technology is moving a lot faster than it did many years back. ADE has over the years managed to anticipate this and I don’t see why they will not be able to continue doing this in the future.
How has your process of writing a song changed from ‘Looking Forward’ to now?
I still continue to start working from a melody line. As a music producer that has always been my start and I continue further from there.
I’ve heard a bit of controversy between the two, and figure you can chime in on this one, Rotterdam or Amsterdam?
Rotterdam all the way! Don’t get me wrong. I’m a history freak and I love what Amsterdam has to offer in terms of its history and the charm that comes with it. It’s a beautiful vibrant city and is known all over the world not only because of its picturesque setting but also because of what it has to offer in terms of business and pleasure as well. Having said that, Rotterdam as well has its own history that over the years have had a lot of impact to the world. It’s always been known as a “modern” city due to its architecture but recently I think it has become more exciting as there are more foreigners moving in and it has started developing its own style that is unique to the country and really hip!
“Punk” is a track that has stuck with us for ages. In an industry that is so flavor of the week, where releases come and go so quickly, what allows certain tunes to have that timeless edge to them? Is it more about innovating and presenting something new or sharpening your tools and striking at the right time?
I think it’s a combination of both, but in the case of “Punk” it’s just a damn catchy melody!
Many producers and DJs get burnt out on the industry after just a few years, both mentally and physically. The sense that we get is that music ends up feeling much more like work than play, and it kind of drains their passion. How do you think you’ve kept yourself so mentally in the game and creative for so many years?
I think to begin with I would like to think that I am very balanced person. To be in this industry you have to have a good sense of who you are and not “believe in the hype.” Sometimes it is good to say “No” and not say “Yes” all the time. Over the years, I’ve learned to create a certain structure in my life regardless of where I am, so it becomes easier to adapt wherever I go. For example, I make sure before I go to any event that I mentally prepare myself, have a specific ritual so it is easier to for me to “get” in the flow. I am also lucky that I have a team around and family that keep me grounded. You can go to a huge festival or packed club and feel like the king…only to go home and realize that you still have to clean up after your kids or help out doing odds and ends. It’s a crazy spectrum yet it somehow keeps you sane.
What advice would you give to those experiencing ADE for the first time?
ADE is an amazing experience as it allows you to cover so many facets in the scene. You can go to various workshops to hone your craft, talk to various labels, management, and agencies and get a foot in the door, or just talk to colleagues and other artists you look up to and talk shop. Don’t forget to try and meet the people you have been talking to online face to face. It’s always nice to physically meet someone and get to know them better.
Do you have a personal favorite ADE memory?
I have loads of great ADE memories over the years, but there was one time when I had a show with Paul van Dyk at a club and about an hour beforehand my wife had an accident and ended up having to go to the hospital. My agent at that time took her as I was going to play soon, only to realize once he had arrived, he had all my music! Thankfully he got back in time so all was well, but it was a pretty stressful evening to say the least!
When was the last time that you played a Moonman track live? Any chance we will hear some at ADE?
I’ve actually started playing the Moonman track live in my sets recently since the beginning of this summer when I released a rework of ‘Galaxia’ together with Kristian Nairn. I’ll definitely be playing it during ADE. It’s been a crowd favourite.
There’s no doubt that ADE represents the Dutch music scene on the global stage. As someone who grew up in the Dutch club world, is it a fair representation of the culture’s nightlife?
I think what ADE represents at this point has become more than representing the Dutch music scene. ADE has become a hub for the international scene. The Dutch music scene has given the world a platform to do all this. Obviously, this would have not been possible if the Dutch music scene was the forerunner of all this, but it’s amazing how we have managed to embrace this and everyone internationally to come together during this special week.
Thanks so much for your time Ferry, it’s a real honor to get to pick your brain a bit.
Thanks for the interview!
Photo credit: Getty Images