How Ferry Corsten and Tiësto Made a Trance Classic in an Attic

Over his long career in dance music, Ferry Corsten has tried on several alter-egos. For fans of uplifting, melodic trance, some of Corsten’s finest moments have sprung from his Gouryella project. After a long hiatus, the Dutch DJ revived Gouryella this year with “Anahera,” with plans to launch a live show in 2016. “I’ve always loved the musical qualities that make up the Gouryella sound,” Corsten says. “When so much trance is swaying too far to EDM, I want to bring big melodies back to a scene I’ve spent my entire career championing.”

While Gouryella is now a Ferry Corsten solo project, it started life in the late 90s as a team effort. Corsten’s partner at the beginning of Gouryella was none other Tiësto, and together the young producers created the now-classic single “Gouryella.” Their illustrious studio space: the attic at Ferry’s family home. Tiësto eventually moved on from the project, but the duo’s early releases still stand as examples of a golden era in trance. For the latest entry in Beatport’s How I Made That series, Corsten remembers how the collaboration came together.

“At the time when ‘Gouryella’ came out, the scene was completely different. It was a lot smaller, and everybody was way more connected.

I live in Rotterdam, and we have this record store here called Basic Beat. There was a fellow who worked there in the late 90s, and his name was Tiësto [laughs]. And he was kind of the guy who understood exactly what kind of records I was looking for. I was after this really epic melodic stuff, which there wasn’t really a lot of at the time.

It was a few years before all those big trance records in ’99, and there was this whole movement that had come out of Frankfurt in Germany that was considered the first real trance—Sven Väth was even part of it. I was looking for that particular sound, and Tijs [Verwest, aka Tiësto] knew how to pick out those exact records from the shipment that came in and say, ‘Hey Ferry, I think you’ll like this, this, this and this.’ The store was more known for a house and techno clientele, though I was one of the few people who came looking specifically for that music.

Because of that, Tijs and I clicked instantly, music wise. He was already DJing a lot in Holland, and I’d started producing. There was a moment when were all hanging out there. Tiësto was there and working in the record store; the guys from Rank 1 were always there. We would always hang out there on a Friday night and buy new records.

I remember I came in with a dat tape at some point, playing my new track ‘Out of the Blue’ to those guys in the record store. Soon after that Tijs and I decided to do something together. I wasn’t really DJing at that stage, I was just making music. And Tijs hadn’t really started producing music, he was just DJing. So I think we both really strongly had the feeling we were in this together. He would tell me what would work for him on the dancefloor, and I would tell him this and that about the melody. And that’s how we made the original ‘Gouryella.’

I was still living with my parents at the time, so my studio was at home in my attic. The roofs in Holland are this pointy shape, supported by these big wooden beams, and I had my main console tucked underneath the roof. I was there every day, so I knew exactly when and where to duck so that I didn’t bump my head into that beam. With Tiësto being really tall, I remember him constantly bumping his head [laughs].

It was all within a year or two when that whole sound just exploded. Along with ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘Gouryella,’ there was Paul van Dyk’s ‘For An Angel,’ Thrillseekers’ ‘Synaesthesia,’ Armin van Buuren’s ‘Communication,’ and Rank 1’s ‘Airwave.’ It was that year that really set the tone for a lot that came after that. It eventually changed, as things always do, but I’m really feeling the urge to go back to those days and shop around a bit for that feeling.

I do miss those typical melodies that were so typical for the turn of the century kind of trance. And that was my motivation to resurrect Gouryella earlier this year. I’ve been walking around with the idea for a while, but I couldn’t just come up with the next melodic record and call it Gouryella for the sake of it.

I think there was a certain era between ’99 and ’04, where the use of certain melodies was very specific, and it gave everything such a specific kind of emotion. We haven’t really had that kind of emotion in the past decade, I’d say. Maybe the odd record here and there, but not in general. I’d really been searching for one of those evocative melodies prior to writing ‘Anahera’ this year, for quite a while actually. So you do your research and listen to some old stuff, and there’s a lot of sentiment that comes back. Memories, goosebumps…It’s fun to listen to that stuff again.”

Angus Paterson is a Beatport contributor. He is on Twitter.

Listen to Ferry Corsten on Beatport: Store | Streaming
Listen to Gouryella on Beatport: Store | Streaming