Few have had an impact on modern dance culture as much as Liverpool’s Yousef. Now, entering its fifteenth year, Circus is well and truly established as one of the UK’s prime party events. The key to any successful brand is its openness to adaptation, and Yousef’s Circus has gone above and beyond, evolving into a global platform for internationally renowned names and establishing artist and cementing itself as a key element in the growth and excitement of Liverpool’s ever developing rave scene.
Adding string upon string to his creative, technologic and business bows, Yousef paints a portrait of just what you can achieve when you maintain a glorious blend of dedication and passion. We caught up with the man himself ahead of his show alongside John Digweed at Sugar Club, Derry, to talk stand out memories, advice for promoters and cultural influences.
Growing up during Liverpool’s rave scene of the 90s must have been interesting. Was it during this period that the source of inspiration began for Circus? If not, what was the source of inspiration?
Yes, I was a raver at Cream from day one and watched it grow from a small cool club night to a global brand. I was musically schooled there in its early days too, very much connecting with the American and European underground house & techno sound. After years of dreaming about it I was eventually asked to play there and was made resident. As the years went by musical differences led to me wanting to leave and Circus was born. Even though our musical paths were very different, as in myself and Circus has always stayed close to our original roots, where Cream books what’s popular, I still use Cream as a blue print for success in many ways.
Circus is turning fifteen this year and has truly established itself at the forefront of rave culture and electronic music. Do you have any advice for those trying to embark on their own journey of creating a great club night or label?
I would always say stick to what you love, following what’s popular is good for a business model, but if you are putting on parties to enjoy the music and be inspired by DJs and artists then there is only one way to go. It’s incredibly hard to continue but the peaks outweigh the troughs. You must be prepared to take chances and always follow your instinct and remember it’s meant to be fun.
I’m sure there are many memories that stand out to you over the course of the last fifteen years. If you had to choose three from your Circus nights what would they be?
The first party was very important to us, after leaving Cream to start on our own (with long time business partner Richard McGinnis), feeling the authenticity of the first night and witnessing its unexpected success was an important start.
Then I’d say the first time Laurent Garnier played for us, giving him free reign to playing anything and he delivered, levelling the theatre at Circus like no one before.
Then the 500th essential mix, being asked by BBC Radio 1 to host the event, which could have gone to any club anywhere in the world was quite an honour. Watching Richie Hawtin destroying the theatre while being broadcast to millions around the world was really an incredible moment for Circus.
Circus has contributed massively to the shaping of Liverpool’s club culture since its birth. How has the city’s clubbing climate evolved since you first started the project, in your opinion?
I would say the musical landscape of many (not all) of the other smaller club nights are solely focused on the music Circus (and myself) have been pushing for 20 years. Many of the other nights in the city were historically commercial music, rave pop and big room house, but as time as progressed most of the other nights began to book underground house & techno which is great for the musical landscape of the city of Liverpool. I have to say pound for pound there are more quality house & techno parties in Liverpool than probably any other city in the world.
How have you personally evolved as an artist since your first journey into sound?
For 100% certain. I started on acid house & rave and early jungle, then got decks and would play anything I could afford, or any tracks I’d managed to blag on mailing lists. But it was house music that was really my love, after hearing the masters (Todd Terry, Roger S, Derrick Carter) I followed that sound and stuck with it. I have to say as time as moved on I’ve evolved playing and making more techno and even vocal records too, but everything still has the heartbeat of house.
Any favourite releases from Circus Recordings? Tracks that you just can’t get enough of?
LOADS… hidden gems like ‘The Butcha’ by Harry Romero, that guy is a master, the Bontan remix of Sabb, my own ‘I Can Hear Aloud’ and of course the Davide Squillace remix of Carl Cox, all immense!
With Circus established as a world renowned brand you have flown all over the world. I’m sure the cultures of the globe have had a significant impact on your views on music and the sound you produce. Is there a particular culture or country that has inspired you in your production methods or the sound you dictate?
I’m inspired daily by people, cultures, moments and places. I’m fortunate enough to be able to follow these inspirations and turn them into a wide range of ideas in the studio, or on the label, or at my events and mainly in my DJ sets, it’s important for me to be creative every day.
You’ve pretty much done it all. Is there anything still on your bucket list in regards to your own production and Circus?
Although I’ve had success with Circus and the label and my touring and some success over my 100 releases, I would still love to release an iconic record, that makes it into the halls of house history, that’s my goal. Not a radio hit, something that is globally respected and everyone loves cross genre, like Knights of the Jaguar. A real masterpiece! My track ‘Come Home’ got close but not quite..
Is there anything you particularly look for when signing an artist to Circus Recordings?
The Circus 15 album, it’s going to be impressive!
Any future projects you can let us in on?
I’m busy yes! With previous releases on Desolat, Bptich Control, Cocoon, Defected and Ceceile, and new music signed and ready to be released this year on Crosstown Rebels, Knee Deep in Sound, Hot Creations, This & That as well as Circus Recordings. 2016 saw me tackle remixes for The Glitz, Diego, Frank Storm and provide a powerful ‘Yousef Circus Rework’ version of the legendary Chaka Khan.
My Circus event in Liverpool rolls into its 15th year and will embark on its first worldwide tour with 15 events across the globe in 15 of the finest locations such as London, New York, LA, Sydney, Milan, Berlin, Paris and Barcelona.
Easter Monday sees Jika Jika, Derry, host John Digweed and Yousef for a night of splendid house and techno.