Yousef: From Techno God to Geek
Liverpudlian-Egyptian house DJ, producer, club promoter, record label owner, jogger, extensive traveller and sometime house redeveloper Yousef can now add another string to his multi-talented bow: techno geek.
NOT techno in the electronic dance music sense; more the technically-savvy techno geek who keeps up with the pioneering developments in the computing and technological world.
A prominent and ever evolving player on the Liverpool house circuit for many years, Yousef is the city’s treasured acid-house aficionado. He launched Circus Recordings in 2008 following his feverishly infamous monthly acid house party, Circus (since 2002), which continues to pull outstanding support from heavyweight honchos like Laurent Garnier, Luciano, Loco Dice, Dubfire, and Eric Prydz. He’s also provided space for Sven Vath and Cocoon at Circus and pulled in Richie Hawtin, Sasha, Aeroplane and Pete Tong to host a special Radio One Essential Mix party.
But now he’s embarking on a new mission: launching muso.dj – an online live statistics and analysis tool for the electronic music industry. It’s concept: to provide an innovative way for all working DJs to see how they are progressing in the electronic music market by offering up-to-the-minute fan growth, plays, blog mentions and even illegal uploads of their music.
‘I’ve got the beta version working and it’s amazing to see the geographical data when I release a record or play a big event,’ Yousef says. ‘You can now see your fans growing, and where, and if they are into your music and better still, where it’s been illegally uploaded. It’s all very interesting and will be a very useful tool for DJs.’
We spoke to the techno god-turned techno geek – who describes his sound as ‘a mature take on house and techno, skipping from deep disco through to house’ – about the industry, Ibiza, travelling and adding more notches to his musical belt.
What have been your highlights of 2010 so far?
‘Probably going to South America in January to hang out and get to know my DJ agent, who lives in Uruguay. It was a very relaxing time and I played a few amazing gigs in Argentina and Chile too. I also managed to find time to remix Moby and I did some great work booking Circus. I came back feeling very refreshed and walked into a very happy new relationship. A very nice start to the year.’
You’ve travelled extensively – what is your all-time favourite venue in the world to play?
‘Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to play in some amazing venues. Space in Ibiza is unreal, as is DC10 with Circo Loco. Womb in Tokyo and Fabric in London are incredible too. Pacha in Buenos Aires and D-Edge in Sao Paulo are among the best but all of them fail to meet the heart and vibe I have at my own monthly Circus night in Liverpool. Nothing feels quite like it.’
Can you tell those who aren’t in the know about Circus and the concept behind it?
‘It’s a simple concept, great music and fun times. A welcoming attitude and a place to hear the best and most exciting DJs in the world, in a small-ish club in the middle of Liverpool. Eight years in and we have booked everyone we wanted to, we are very proud of where we are at now. And we are very grateful for our loyal and ever-responsive crowd. We’ve also got our eighth birthday coming up on Saturday 25 September. I will be playing, and also some very special guests to be released shortly.’
Where in the world have you never been that you would love to go?
‘I want to go to South Africa! It’s the last place I’ve never been to. I love Africa and I’m North African myself, I’m half Egyptian. It seems such a magical place. I wanted to play there for many years but it’s never worked out, maybe one day. I will go on vacation soon if I don’t get invited there. It looks so beautiful.’
How important is it for you to play in Ibiza?
‘It’s vital. Ibiza is the heart beat of the world’s electronic music scene and development. If you can cut through and build a following in Ibiza, you are very likely to be able to do it the rest of the world over.’
What do you most like to do when you’re off duty in Ibiza?
‘I like to relax, read, eat fruit and go for a long run. And then work on some new music. It’s great when you get to do other nice things as well as the late night lifestyle.’
How have you seen Ibiza change over your years playing on the island?
‘I’ve been coming for 13 years now. I’ve seen things change a lot and I’ve changed a lot myself. Ibiza used to be more free of course but there’s no doubt it was more dangerous, it used to be like the Wild West at seven in the morning, which led to a lot of people getting hurt and messed-up.
‘I welcomed the new highway very much. Vibe-wise I miss the early daytime parties; they were a lot of fun and beyond silly, which I loved. But it’s a safer place now and the good parties are still good parties and not dragged-out. Everything changes so I’m cool with that. Maybe because I’ve seen both sides of Ibiza – from chaos to calm, and I’m a bit older now so I can reflect on the changes in the good way.
‘The island is still in great shape and more and more people now appreciate the beauty of Ibiza as well as its amazing club scene. That said, villa parties are better now than they have ever been, so fun and always with proper friends.’
Who inspires you creatively?
‘DJ-wise I love DJs who love their sound and really feel the music personally. It translates to the crowd. DJs like André Galluzzi, Ricardo Villalobos, Loco Dice, Luciano, Carl Cox, Greg Wilson, Sven Vath; they all play for me in Liverpool so I see them first hand.
‘More musically, I love black and rhythmic music. Quincy Jones is my hero! I love Earth, Wind and Fire, most quality disco, Prince, James Brown, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder and all the greats. I also love more melancholy music like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Depeche Mode and The XX. All the above music is authentic to me.’
Who is the most exciting DJ in the world right now?
‘I would say Ricardo Villalobos. There is such an experienced ear and approach to his DJing. I love the way he takes chances to give credit to the crowd for being music lovers too.’
Can you tell us about Explanation/Dis Information and the creative process behind them?
‘My Explanation was made after a night out at Cocoon. I listened to Ricardo and Luciano back-to-back. It was immense and I felt as excited about clubbing as I did when I was 18. I listened to them work the crowd with heavy congas, Chicago beats and random build ups and breakdowns. I took all that energy back to the studio and created a track based on that night out. It was literally my explanation of that night out.
‘Dis Information was made after I got re-tuned back into disco. I was asked to do a DJ mix and some music for an installation at the TATE gallery in Liverpool. The mix went from ambient to disco and beyond. I listened to so many tracks that I heard a lot of great hooks and made Dis Information on the train on my laptop after I used some samples – which I hardly ever do – so it was a fun project.’
What releases can we expect from you in the near future?
‘My new releases come on super cool and fantastic Canadian house label Monique Musique. It’s a two-track EP called The Road the Medellin/Icarus. I will be doing a total of three EPs for Monique.
‘The Medellin is featured on this mix. After that I have a more techno-style EP coming on seminal German label Harthouse. I will be doing two EPs for them. I then have a release on Carl Cox’s Intec records. A very music house and techno hybrid that Carl is a big fan of. Remixes for Fourtet, Fatboy Slim and Jimmy Vallance will also appear soon. I will also be working with super talented singer, songwriter and musician Penny KITTENS. Look out for that!’
Do you think that dance music will ever die?
‘Dance music evolves, it always has; it runs parallel to technology. For me the question is: what’s next?’
First published on I Voice, Ibiza, August 2010.
© Abbey Stirling