With releases spanning across many iconic dance music labels including Crosstown Rebels, Cocoon, Knee Deep In Sound, Bpitch Control and Desolat, music has become a life-defining outlet for DJ, producer and Circus event/label-head, Yousef. Having recently announced his forthcoming album ‘9 Moor Drive’, this new body of work explores his often-turbulent childhood, whilst reminiscing about all of the fun, laughter and creativity he was exposed to as a boy. ‘I Don’t Understand’ and ‘Riches To Rags’ are the debut tracks from the album, available to buy and stream now.
The thick acidic, emotive and at times challenging sounds of ‘I Don’t Understand’ becomes the first piece of the wider puzzle in Yousef’s cathartic process. Whilst the delicately composed, melancholic yet powerful ‘Riches To Rags’ represents how ‘9 Moor Drive’ descended into a place of adversity and even financial instability.
We recently had the chance to talk with Yousef about his upcoming album and other musical topics.
Electronic Groove: Hi Yousef, thanks for joining us. You’re set to release your album ‘9 Moor Drive’ later this year, named after your childhood family home. Can you expand on the concept behind the album?
Yousef: Thanks for the invite. About 13 months ago I happened to be driving through my old neighborhood with my wife in the car with me and we happened to drive past my old street, ‘Moor Drive’. I suggested I show her the street and the house, ‘9 Moor Drive’, as I drove past the house, a million memories came flooding back and it hit me, I should get all these stories down via the best medium I know. My wife knows I struggled with releasing much of the history of what happened at 9MD so making the album became an important cathartic process as well as an artistic endeavor.
Like I say, those formative years were pretty turbulent, as well as full of freedom and creativity and it’s where I discovered music and the arts, all of these beginnings, from the age of 4 to 14, it built the foundations for the man I’ve become. Even though much of my childhood at 9 Moor Drive was extreme and challenging, the experience prepared me for life and gave me absolute determination to do my best at doing something I was good at and I enjoyed. That’s the irony, even though things got tough, so did I. I’ve been working hard ever since.
EG: You’ve been surrounded by music throughout your childhood and your work in the music industry was informed by your life there. Can you tell us about one particularly fond musical memory you have from back then?
Yousef: I was introduced to early hip hop by my brother, Tony. In fact, our entire family were huge fans of the early electro albums, 1 to 12, and in particular 1 to 6. They were sequenced vinyl albums, kind of the first-ever DJ mixes I’d heard but mixed in a studio. I was a real B-boy and loved breakdancing, so these albums, my moves and my boom box became my signature until I discovered the rave. I always wanted to be the DJ because of these albums though.
EG: Why did you decide to create this album now? What does it mean to you personally?
Yousef: Eventually with all of life, things happen at the right time, this was my time to get this emotional residue off my chest. Both emotionally and creatively I’ve dug extremely deep, I’ve literally not only written tracks but also short stories about certain situations as a template for each of the tracks that made the album, and for many more that didn’t make it. Personally, it has been an important project to up my game and to close what was an open door, or at least wound. Interestingly, although this is my fourth album it’s the first time I feel like an artist, largely due to writing with a point, I’d recommend it.
EG: We understand that you have been through some hardships. Having come through those difficult times, what have you learned?
Yousef: I’ve learned that if you have air in your lungs, and are physically able, you should do all you can to make things happen. No excuses. No distractions. Also, I’ve understood a lot more about how certain moments really define you, so be careful how you treat people and what you say, particularly if you have children.
“I made a conscious choice
to ride the line between storytelling and club music”
EG: Can you tell us one piece of advice you would you give to your younger self?
Yousef: I’d give the little shit a round of applause.
EG: You’ve already released album tracks ‘Riches To Rags’ and ‘I Don’t Understand’, what was the inspiration behind both of these tracks? What part of your childhood do they represent?
Yousef: ‘Riches to Rags’ is a track about getting evicted from 9MD. In fairness, for a chunk of my childhood, I’d say we had a nice life, we had birthdays and Christmas, electricity, nice food, and options even. Then that all begun to change when my folks got divorced, slowly the everyday luxuries tapered off, and then one day we got an eviction notice, which came as tremendous shock to my mother and to my brothers and I. My father had opted to sell the house from under us, and put us on the streets, and disappeared with the surplus funds. As a father myself I ponder to what drove him to make such a decision, I’d literally give my last breath for my children.
As ‘Riches To Rags’ unfolds, it’s manic, euphoric and driving, but leads to a positive crescendo, that uplifts me through the chaos, this is to represent my attitude to what is happening around me, or rather advice to myself. ‘I don’t understand’ is the about the chaos I witnessed and dealt with on a daily basis, it’s about mixed emotions and building determination. Of course, I’m aware these subjects are not particularly rave friendly so to speak, they are heavy. I was a fun, happy kid, a confident and popular and friendly little sh…t, I still am! I’ve grown into a decent human, a hard worker, an artist, a businessman, a very good DJ and brilliant father, if it wasn’t for the things I went through, who knows how I would have got on so I’m grateful. Post 9MD, for years I was absolutely ridiculous as a person, and a friend, and fun craziness followed me around for the next twenty years, that’s the next project though.
EG: Alongside these tracks you released a creative music video for ‘I Don’t Understand’, highlighting memories from your childhood. Where did the concept for the video come from?
Yousef: For each track I wrote a literal story about the days at 9MD, the darkness, the randomness, the abundant funny times, the freedom and the introduction to music and an array of people and even sexualities, so the script was there for it. Almost all the cartoon characters in the video are real people or real situations. Big up to Yellow Mouse Studios and Martina, my art director, for helping realize this story. I truly think the video is incredible.
EG: As the album represents a journey through your childhood at 9 Moor Drive, what can we expect to hear from the album as a whole?
Yousef: Typically, of everything I do, it’s authentic and colorful and comes with a range of ideas and genres. This album is still dancefloor for certain, but it moves between electronica to techno with the heartbeat of house music always running through everything I do. The lyrics and songs I wrote, while all of the collaborating artists and musicians have all added a true dimension to the project. I made a conscious choice to ride the line between storytelling and club music, I didn’t want to lose myself in the project too much and forget that I’m a DJ first and foremost. That said I’m not exactly sure I’m aware of another project by my peers with such depth to every piece of music on an album, It’s certainly been interesting tackling a project with a point beyond the dancefloor. I do want to make it clear that even this story in parts is hardcore, the entire point is meant to be uplifting, the music in particular. It’s designed to raise a point that people can get on and succeed if they try. We all can.
Yousef’s ‘9 Moor Drive’ will be available September 20th via Circus Recordings. Pre-order your copy here.