An advocate of authentic DJing, Yousef has little time for the modern EDM culture's EFX tomfoolery. These days, to call him a workaholic would be an understatement, the Liverpool-based DJ's global calendar is jam-packed and his Circus label is now part of techno/house music's club night DNA.
As a producer, Yousef's manic schedule has tended to prohibit him from working in a fixed space. However, with his new EP 'Are You Ready', he's finally taken time out to create a dedicated space that will add a greater dynamic edge to his mixes.
What's your opinion on the continued EDM invasion into DJ culture?
"Each to their own; it's just that I think the music is rubbish and the culture attached to EDM is cringeworthy, although EDM does not essentially bother me as I don't listen to any of it.
"In fact, EDM and its populist explosion has, if anything, brought a new massive audience to electronic music in general, which is starting to positively filter down through all the genres and subcultures."
If you could review your new EP Are You Ready, how would you?
"I did a short series of collaborations and had an acclaimed release on BPtich Control but really wanted to make a multi-dexterous three track EP. I think the track Are You Ready opens the EP with an eccentric stamp of authority. It's full of swirling analogue acid, block percussion and my trademark weighty production, which swells to an almighty crescendo before dropping back into the groove.
"Although the track Touch Me is only 120bpm, it's a huge-sounding techno track with pulsating drums and bass throughout and edited vocal chants that raise the heat to fever level. It's thunderous. The final track, WannaBee, is more stripped back with analogue drums, stabs and busy programming sneaking into play, which gives it a classic '90s techno texture. I'm proud of all three tracks."
Are there any collabs on the EP?
"Not this time. After recent collaborations with Kydus and Bontan, I wanted to go it alone for a change. I do have some other collabs done with Uner and Reboot, and Harry Romero, which is a strong record - in fact all three are in their own way."
Can you elaborate on the concept behind the tracks and their evolution?
"I wanted to aim at the wider range of all the techier cuts I play, leaving proper vocals out on this occasion. They're more club tracks than music tracks, which tells its own story.
"After releasing an album, then two songs back to back that were not entirely reflective of me as DJ, I'm concentrating on just making music that I play in my sets again. I enjoy the spectrum of what I make, but for now it's strictly dancefloor-only material."
How long did it take to bring these tracks to fruition?
"Tracks take me anywhere from a few hours all the way to 'never ready'. I would say that these sit somewhere in the middle. Because I'm so busy with touring and many other projects, I tend to chip away at music and I'm happy to let the tracks I'm working on brew a bit. That said, without question the best tracks I've made are always pretty much done in a day - not including a proper mix down."
Did you test the tracks in your DJ sets before reworking them?
"On this occasion, yes - as club tracks I made sure they killed the dancefloors before getting them out there. The feedback on all three has been very strong up to now and I'm really happy with how the crowds are reacting to them. DJs like Nic Fanciulli, Carl Cox, Marco Carola, Dusky, Reboot and Davide Squillace are all hammering it I'm happy to say."
Due to your heavy DJ schedule, do you write on the road?
"I used to always write on the road, but I now prefer to dedicate actual time in my studio to focus on the creative process. I might add Cubase to my laptop again, but a full setup gets better results and, obviously, I can't take my analogue keyboards on the road, as much as I'd love to! I use an Arturia 61 keyboard that's set up in my real studio, along with a Moog Little Phatty, which provides the dynamic width I need from working in a proper studio."
Have you updated your studio over the last couple of years?
"Every few months I tend to add bits; new software updates, keyboards and sound proofing, but I don't go overboard. I'm a pretty self-sufficient producer, but not a super tech geek like a producer/DJ - I'm more of a DJ/Producer that makes his own music. I guess the most recent addition was the Arturia, which works fluidly with the classic synths that come in the package, like the Prophet and the Jupiter."
Last time we spoke to you, you were planning on getting an analogue desk - did you ever?
"Not yet, one day, NEVE, feel free to send me one!"
Are there any software plugins or VSTs you're using that you're excited about?
"To be honest, I've not updated in a few months but I understand the new Soundtoys 5 is extremely powerful. Soundtoys, Arturia and Guitar Rig are all essential parts of the studio, along with my trusty Cubase 8."
What's your processing chain?
"In the box for me. If I'm on the road a lot and need a good mix down but don't have enough time to meet deadlines I sometimes get a stem mix done by a couple of people. But that's not often, and more often than not I'm not happy with the results.
"They tend to have a different understanding, or at least a different take, on my music, and they tend to use analogue so it's interesting for me to see if there's a serious difference between what I've achieved and what they've added - or taken away in most cases. From a certain perspective it's actually a pretty good way to progress."
How do you balance between making music for clubs that consumers will also listen to on laptop and mobile devices?
"Sometimes, other than a full club test of a track, the question I ask is, does the final version of your track cut through on laptop speakers? If it does, you tend to have a good mix down - again, from a certain perspective."
Are you still learning things as a DJ?
"Of course! Each gig adds a new story to my history and understanding of DJing. Above all, I want to rock the club or festival, so learning even the most seemingly insignificant attribute at a gig adds to the aim of becoming a master!
"When I first started out, a friend of mine who was many years older than me suggested that 'every gig was important' and that I'd take something even from the crappy gigs I'd do when first starting out as a DJ. He was definitely right. All the hard work and hours I put in when I was playing gigs just to be playing out became very useful when my actual career begun.
"Each gig is different, and as a DJ you have to be ready for any environment, so experience is key for me, and of course a passion for fresh new music."
How's the technology progressing in that area, are you still updating your gear?
"I'm still using a CDJ2000 and a mixer. I'm considering adding some EFX and possibly stems to my setup, but I'm not sure if flicking more switches is going to improve my show as a DJ or that the crowd is going to enjoy it more.
"I'm seeing SO many DJs arse about with too many EFX and loops and all sorts of options, which are cool if used sparingly, but overused sound shit and look stupid to me. I think that's far from enjoyable for the crowd to actually dance to, which, let's not forget, is the whole point of DJing."
How's everything progressing at your label, Circus?
"It's going really well. Circus Recordings artists like Acid Mondays, David Glass, Kydus, Scuba, Yost Koen, DJ Fronter, Krankbrother, Lewis Boardman, Bimas, and myself, are all throwing it down right now.
"The label is growing nicely and the profile of the label is building steadily too. Many of the world's best DJs and producers are hugely supportive of Circus and want to be involved too."
Have you noticed the much talked about increase in vinyl sales?
"It's a myth! Making money, or even a return, from vinyl sales is incredibly hard and I'm not sure how long I will continue doing it to be honest. As a small label, you can sell 250 copies, but that's globally, so more people are buying smaller numbers of rare music, which is really cool for the consumer, but a bit of a nightmare for a label."
The new Yousef EP 'Are You Ready?' is out now on Circus Recordings. For more information check out Yousef's Facebook and Twitter pages.
- Circus: Return to Camp and Furnace Saturday 28th November, 2pm-11pm
- Circus: Christmas Special - Sunday 27th December, 6pm-2am