As his Circus label celebrates its 15th year, we catch up with Yousef for a quick chat about the ups and downs of the last decade and a half.
Attack: So, as you celebrate the 15th anniversary of Circus, the big question: what’s the secret to your longevity? How have you kept your career going strong so far?
Yousef: I feel like I’m only just getting started! I never rest off where I’m at, only look forward, whether it be in music, DJing, technology, events, the record label or anything I do. I loathe looking back at what was great, but the future is unwritten so it’s more interesting
Work fucking hard. Be a lifer, not a rave tourist.
What are the main pieces of advice about career longevity that you’d offer to young producers and DJs starting out?
Be better than your friends – no “that’ll do”. Get rid of your games consoles, put the hours in, and start finding ways to contribute to the scene – if you feed it, it will feed you… Work fucking hard. Be a lifer, not a rave tourist.
What are the main things you’ve learned along the way? Have there been any big life lessons that came as a surprise to you?
It’s been the same my whole life: you can rely on yourself, that’s it. You can have great work colleagues (if you’re lucky) but you have to be self-sufficient. No one will be there to get you along always, so make sure you become accomplished in whatever you choose to do, then you are set.
make sure you become accomplished in whatever you choose to do, then you are set.
A lot of younger producers assume their career’s going to last forever. You must have seen some of your contemporaries fall by the wayside along the way?
Other people come and go, for all sorts of reasons – they might have chosen to step out, they could have ran their course, they could have become jaded but music industries need to pull people down… I wish them luck in whatever they are doing, knowing that even if they had a short time in dance music, they had a much more colourful life than most…
How much of sustaining a career is about making good music and playing good DJ sets? And on the other hand how much is about things like learning about business, healthy living, following trends, etc.?
At first it was being a great DJ, as in my skill set, then it was re-learning everything I’d taught myself to play major clubs and festivals. Playing locally and knowing how to control a full club are two very different things. Then I learned to make music, then events, then a label. All along I was learning about tax, VAT and running a business (or four!) but after years of various dance music attributes I run a tight ship, and never take the piss with my taxes. I’m happy to pay tax, actually – it means my hobby is my job and I’m proud of that.
I do live healthy though, to be honest. Between 20 and 30 years old I have no idea how I managed to keep my career going or my heart beating – it was crazy, as in barbaric! But it was incredibly funny… Now I eat clean, exercise and work twice as hard as I did then. I’ve got a great career but it’s still a privilege.
Between 20 and 30 years old I have no idea how I managed to keep my career going or my heart beating.
As you get older, do your priorities change?
I guess I want to be at home more, hanging out with my young son and my wife, and with our new puppy called Funny. I love them and love what I do, and like the mixture of activities I do, but DJing is still what I do, what I do best and the only thing that pays my bills to be honest!
Is it depressing to think of dance music as a career rather than an art form or a culture? How do you feel about that?
Not at all, it’s a thorough honour. Who can get depressed about pushing and pursuing their art for a career while contributing to its culture? It’s a ridiculous commitment to make it happen, but you’re either a lifer, or you’re not…