The festival experience with... Yousef

Henry Lewis caught up with Circus don in the label's 15th year, with memories of Creamfields, busy schedules and new releases the topic of discussion.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 28th Apr 2017

Image: Yousef

Circus boss and bona fide Liverpool clubbing legend Yousef is a busy, busy man. As well as running a label, plotting his own releases and traversing the globe to bring the noise to tonnes of massive club shows and festivals, the producer is also a father and husband.

From the outside, you'd look at such a juggling act and wonder quite how he's keeping up, but with an endlessly hectic schedule in front of him in Circus' 15th year of existence, it's looking as though 2017 could be one of the busiest 12 months of Yousef's career.

His latest release, The Slopppy Kiss EP, comes via Davide Squillace's This and That label, with two out of the three tracks featuring American record producer Harry "Choo Choo" Romero. Throughout the release free flowing rhythms, stomping basslines and sweeping strings help to create a dancefloor destined collection of tracks.

As well as a string of releases via the label, Circus will also bring a specially curated bill to this year's Creamfields, with a line up that includes Jackmaster, Joris Voorn, Luciano and more. We caught up with Yousef ahead of a multitude of dates, including Circus' first ever show at Fabric, and festival appearances at Wildlife, Parklife and Field Trip

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Hi Yousef, what are you up to?

All sorts, I'm just setting up a cat flap . [laughs] Quite literally.

Its absolutely relentless my life, it just doesn't stop. It's one moment to the next, there's always something.

Have we started the interview, I can never tell, or are we just having a chat? [laughs]

I think we're in it now, let's crack on. Your schedule looks manic, what's going on with you at the moment?

What am I up to? All sorts really. This weekend I'm getting ready for Circus at Fabric so that's taking up quite a lot of time trying to make sure its successful and it's fun and everyone is gonna have a good time. It's our first event at Fabric and it's the only Circus event we're doing all year in London as part of the 15 year tour. I'm also trying to put together the compilation that's going with it, which is trying to get 15 of the world's best producers all on side at the same time.

It's quite hard [laughs]. I'm managing it but other than I'm just getting my releases organised, I've got one coming out on Friday with This and That - Davide Squillace's label, which I'm looking forward to and then another release Hot Since 82's label Knee Deep In Sound which is really kind of musical and cinematic and epic, it's very housey. Then later in the year a really important record for me with Crosstown Rebels, I'm just busy all the time.

Looking ahead to a summer of festivals, I wanted to ask about the Circus stage at this year's Creamfields. What has relationship been like with festival as a whole?

Obviously my relationship with Cream is pretty historic, because when it was just a club I was its signature raver. As in, I was on the dancefloor every week, literally every week for seven years - I didn't miss a Saturday at that club.

Then my DJing started and I started to miss Saturdays because I'd started to tour, which was really painful - but eventually I got made resident at Cream, which was kind of like a dream come true as you can imagine as I went for so many years.

I left after a few years because they were doing more commercial stuff and I was sticking down the house and techno route, but ironically our friendship stayed in a pretty strong way and over the years we've done parties at Nation which was their old venue. We've always kind of stayed, not close, but certainly amicable. As it happens I've been booked to play at Creamfields quite a lot but not in the past four or five years. I played last year which was a lot of fun, and when I was playing the stage...

Hang on a sec

Sorry mate, just in the middle of getting my house done up. 

So I played last year and after I'd finished playing Scott, the main promoter at Creamfields, said look we'll get you doing a Circus arena next year. I sent him a message a few months ago, maybe a bit longer, saying "Scott remember what you said on the main stage?" [Laughs] "I'm going to hold you to your word" and he was like "yep" and obviously here we are.

It's great to be invited of course. Like I say our relationship is so long-winded, we're friends and we've got loads of mutual friends and obviously Circus is strong in the city, everything works for a positive reason. It's good for Creamfields and it's good for us, and we're going to have a good time and the line up is just outrageous.

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Can you be quite selfish when you pick the line up?

Yeah. Basically. [laughs] In a lot of ways. The way Circus normally works is obviously I'll go out and get on the front line, book the DJs myself with my partner Richard. When it comes to something like Creamfields, obviously they've got some many considerations, it's better for them to do all the booking themselves, so on this occasion I sent them a hit list or a hope list, and they got pretty much every single one of them in.

Was Creamfields your first ever festival then? As a DJ or a punter...

You know what, it probably was thinking about it. I'd been to club raves and stuff, bigger raves back in the day. But Creamfields when I first came to Liverpool, which must have been 18 years ago, I went to the first one which was great to see a very big festival so close to the city limits of Liverpool. I don't think anything like that had happened in the city at the time and again, the line ups were just outrageous. I didn't play the first one in Liverpool, but I did play either the second or the third one.

These days I probably stay for a couple of drinks and hang around and then head on to either another gig or if I've got a really busy schedule and things to do the next day I'll go home. When I first started going to Creamfields, I'd get there early and be one of the last to leave. Your guestlist allocation would always be four or five, but somehow I'd always manage 20. I'd always bring my mates and we'd cause absolute havoc. We'd kind of run around the VIP just being complete - everything you don't want in a backstage area.

Did you piss anyone off?

Not piss off, get them involved. I remember at one Creamfields, a few years ago, shouldn't have done it, me, Jon Carter and Erick Morillo robbed one of those artist golf buggies, no we robbed two, and we were just ploughing through the whole site aimlessly, completely hammered. We got our legs slapped for that, got to be 14 years ago that. It was so funny.

Scrolling through your twitter I saw that a few weekends ago you begun your weekend at Annie Mac's Lost and Found and ended it on the Giant's Causeway - not a bad effort right?

To be honest, even though we fitted in a lot into that weekend - Lost and Found on the Friday, my birthday, then it was Circus and ANTS in Bristol the next day, then it was my Sunday off at home with my wife on my birthday which was a full day out then on the Monday morning went to Ireland and did the gig which was great, then went to the Giant's Causeway and then obviously spending time with my son in the meantime.

It seems quite busy, but in relation to a lot of the weekends I've had in the past, and even some of the things that are coming up this summer, it's an hors d'oeuvres. Some of them are real different continents a couple of times per week and that's hectic, really hard work and I know it sounds nonchalant but just popping off to Malta, then you've got a direct flight it's not too bad, even with no sleep it's not a problem. 

I've been travelling around the world for every weekend for fifteen years, and for me what's important is that I deliver when I get there, as in I rock it. I want the people there to have a good time, that's really, really important to me and if there's spare time to see the sights then great. I'm there to deliver the goods, not to be a tourist.


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And don't you have a 3D show in the pipeline too?

We did it in London last year as a tester, but I've been helping develop the 3D system for clubs and it's such complicated work. To be honest that's a whole different story, if I sat down and explained to you the process of what w'ere doing with Dolby, we'd be on the phone for two hours.

And as for this summer..?

I'm doing Parklife, doing Wildlife, one in Snowdonia. I'm nicely busy, a lot of great high profile gigs with a lot of friends. Ibiza is looking really strong and like I say, no complaints. Gigs are good, music is good, family is great, I'm healthy, happy and just lining everything up and working incredibly hard as always.

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Festivals 2019