YOUSEF is a name synonymous with Liverpool. Topping the bill on Circus posters everywhere you look, those six letters are burnt onto the retinas of every music lover casually checking the listings. So how has he become so deeply engrained in the fabric of the city?
You would be forgiven for thinking that most of his time is taken up with running Circus. But add to that a dizzying tour schedule, a Circus Reworks EP and an upcoming artist album in 2011 alone, and you begin to wonder how Circus even happens at all.
My preconceptions of a man with an un-silencable phone and an eye on the clock could not have been more wrong. Yousef is instantly likeable as we discuss his passion for classical music, being beaten in a marathon by a woman dressed as a chip and how so much chart music tastes like McDonald’s.
Having just released his Circus Reworks EP featuring remixes of artists as disparate as Four Tet, Giles Peterson and Sven Vath, he is evidently no stranger to pushing himself in new directions. “I wanted the EP to be essentially reflective of my musical taste but also guide it into what’s happening at Circus.”
Taking the lo-fi skittering of Four Tet’s Love Cry as a starting point, Yousef crafts a house monster that whilst remaining faithful to the songs motif, builds into a dance-floor hit. The centrepiece is a take on Moby’s chilling Wait For Me that loops a snippet of piano and layers it with emotive strings underpinned by a satisfying bass line.
Listening to the EP’s final track (and Yousef’s own) Come Home the song is elevated skywards as he eases off the beat for a moment of arpeggiated euphoria. It’s these occasions that hint at a broad spectrum of influence. “I listen to a lot of jazz, funk and loads and loads of authentic, proper disco. I can’t listen to anything on Radio One.”
There is little in the way of gimmicky build ups and bass-drop moments on the mix. “People have got lost in making things loud. If you listen to classical music it’s got a dynamic range of peaks and troughs. If the track is loud from start to finish, all it can do is get louder and more distorted.”
To counteract the noise of Radio One he immerses himself in classical music. “All I listen to at home is Classic Fm or Chopin. I go to the Philharmonic at least once a month, I strongly recommend it. I love the way the music makes you feel.”
This appreciation of subtlety in sound enables the mix to rise above what he calls “popstep” and find its own sound. “A lot of drum n bass and dubstep is just a different variety of synth pop. It’s McDonald’s; it looks tasty, it might taste good but ultimately it makes you feel sick. No nutritional value whatsoever.”
The analogy is a sound one and if anybody has the right to make such an assertion it is somebody whose clubnight has been running for almost a decade and shows no sign of stopping. He believes the success of Circus is down to a mixture of hard work and a dedicated crowd. “I think a lot of people misunderstand the effort we go to to make Circus happen. People don’t understand that I pretty much do it for nothing as well. For me it is the best night in the country from a DJ’s point of view. Obviously, I’m biased but it’s down to the crowd. DJs come to play and say ‘What the hell is this?! It’s great!’”
Yousef is a complete workaholic. “I’m always working my ass off. I had a day and a half off and I looked out the front door and the garden was like a jungle, I couldn’t even see the cat! I spent all day doing the gardening then got into the studio and felt like I’d had two weeks on holiday.”
In these rare days off many would be content to just chill out but not Yousef. Finding a bit of spare time whilst living in London he ran the London marathon for local charity C.A.L.M. “During the training I listened to a lot of Greg Wilson mixes but on the marathon you just don’t need music. You soak up the atmosphere. On the last stretch I got overtaken by a woman dressed as a chip. Chiplady beat me! Maybe she did it to piss me off, she’d been following me for 25 miles.”
Yousef is currently working on an artist album so watch this space. The Circus Reworks EP is available now for one month on Beatport to be continued on itunes and all other digital stores thereafter.