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10 TRACKS THAT INFLUENCED YOUSEF

The influences that have made the Circus man into the artist he is today...

01. RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN 'Ain't Nobody'

A record I first heard as part of the soundtrack to Breakdance: The Movie (Breakin'). I was a young breaker and was mesmerised by the film. It became an important song in my childhood, and still is right up until today.

It still remains my favourite song of all-time. As I’ve grown up and got to know the song, the lyrics and the production, I love it for many deeper reasons than when I first heard it. It’s now essentially a benchmark of how high I’d like to reach as a producer. The finish on this track is astounding even 30 years later.”

02. ROXANNE SHANTE & UTFO 'Roxanne Roxanne'
A track that stood out from 'Street Sounds: Electro 6', which was the first sequenced dance music compilation possibly ever, and was my first introduction to mixing — subsequently developing my interest in the art of DJing.

I used to walk the streets of Liverpool, fully kitted out in my hip-hop tracksuit (Sergio Tachini), a roll of lino and a giant boom-box that I could barely carry, and the obligatory can of spray paint so I could tag (I was Ezi Jnr), with my electro albums blaring out on cassette. Ha ha ha — good times!”

03. OLLIE & JERRY 'Ain't No Stopping Us'

Having a pretty hopeful nature myself and in combination with my breakdancing, this song has always stuck with me. To this day, where appropriate, I drop it in my sets.

The huge bass, skippy drums, powerfully uplifting vocal and of course the positive mantra really resonated with me as a kid. About 10 years ago I dropped the track at Pacha and then at Circo Loco at DC10 the same weekend, and I was amazed by the quality of production — and moreover, the crowd reaction! I’ll never tire of it.”

04. PINK FLOYD 'Dark Side of the Moon'

The entire album was a soundtrack to my early teenage years. I’d listen to it on repeat in my headphones night after night, absorbing the melancholic atmospheres of the entire record while deep in thought about a pretty turbulent home life.

With repetitive listens I got to know the album extremely well, but it wasn’t until I actually watched Pink Floyd live at Live8 in London some years later that I realised that underneath all the cinematic characteristics, Pink Floyd were storytellers singing the blues. Incredible.”

05. PRINCE 'I Would Die 4 U'

I was a Prince fan growing up and loved his chart success, but it’s two moments that really led me to become an ingrained Prince fan. Firstly, at a very early DJ gig in Liverpool — one of my first, I was 17 — at a crappy Ritzy-style place called Paradox, the resident was a proper DJ — full vinyl, 20 years experience and moreover, he got loads of free promos, which at the time was big news for me!

We got on well and he gave me 'Prince — The Hits' on vinyl (I’ve still got it). I got inside every single track and played ‘Raspberry Beret’ and ‘Gett Off’ as much as I could, but I always had a soft spot for the uplifting nature of 'I Would Die 4 U'.

“The same year I started going to a new club night called Cream in Liverpool, where the incredible resident Paul Bleasdale used to take chances in his sets — mixing house, techno, acid and sometimes classics.

One night, while off my knockers, he dropped 'I Would Die 4 U' and as you can imagine, a young raver, in one of the world's greatest clubs, hearing one of his favourite songs, while E’d up… superb. I’ve loved it with a passion since then and have played the track in my club sets many times.”

06. GENESIS 'Mama'

Another band introduced to me by my oldest brother Tony. The album 'Genesis' still remains one of my most listened-to records. When I was about 12 there was a circular bus service in the neighbourhood I lived in, the L81.

It would go around with literally 50+ teenagers causing total mayhem up on the top deck. Teens would literally be hanging out the back of the top window as the bus went around the streets.

The seats would be flying everywhere, most nights windows would get smashed too, I’m amazed it carried on for as long as it did... I would sit on the top deck in the middle of the back seat (naturally!) with the aforementioned boom-box with pretty much all the aforementioned music deafeningly blaring out, in the most anti-social way possible, yet out of all the chaos I recall the entire album of 'Genesis' would be playing.

Given the general dark nature of the album (with the exception of 'Illegal Alien'), it was a strange choice among such an environment. ‘Mama’ always stood out, the twisted undercurrent even to this day still lifts me (albeit without any top deck pandemonium).”

07. INXS 'Don’t Change'

“Influenced by my close friend Mac, in our mid teens I got too into INXS. My first introduction was their wildly successful album 'Kick'. Given our thirst for music, we decided to dig deeper and we uncovered a previous 10-year history for Hutchence and the boys.

Checking out all their albums, like 'Shaboo Shabaa' and 'Underneath the Covers', among others, I discovered 'Don’t Change', which had been a hit around the world.

As a teen, the uplifting lyrics and commanding stage presence of Hutchence and the entire band enthralled me. Growing up best I could, a typically confused, doing-my-best-to-please teen, the life-affirming lyrics resonated with me.”

08. TODD TERRY 'Unreleased Project Part 4 (Jumpin)'

“I think this was possibly my first introduction to Todd Terry. Again it was Paul Bleasdale at Cream that championed it. Taken from Todd’s unreleased series, it was the phatness of the drums and the cut-up arrangement that blew my head off.

‘Jumpin’ (not to be confused with the version that came out around 10 years later with Jocelyn Brown on vocals) was a stand-out record, it would be Shazam'd instantly now, but then it was a long hard slog to find out what it was — and then where to get it.

I eventually did, and made sure to get two copies, cutting them up, double-beating them, which became a signature move of mine. I’ve got Todd’s unreleased projects one-to-six on vinyl. At that time, he was like nobody else, a true innovator — Todd the God, as they say.

09. GENE WILDER 'Pure Imagination'

My fondness for Roald Dahl goes back to my junior school days, I think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first book I recall reading. As I mentioned, I had a pretty turbulent childhood, so the solace I could take from a story like this was profound.

Of course, I loved the original film (not the awful remake) and have had Willy Wonka as a running theme in my life ever since. His style, his flippantly aware attitude, his affection for social justice, they all reflect parts of my personality.

I’m a huge Gene Wilder fan too, I have a signed copy of his autobiography Kiss Me Like A Stranger and again, his humility resonates with me. The lyrics to ‘Pure Imagination’ may appear childlike but they are as poignant as any song I own.”

10. YOUSEF 'Come Home'

It may appear narcissistic including one of my own tracks, but let me explain why it was an influence. At the time I wrote this track, given a previous 15-plus year history absorbing electronic music as clubber, a DJ and producer and enjoying the above list from an early age, I’d somehow locked myself into a pretty narrow avenue when it came to making music.

I assumed I never had the broader skill and I restricted myself to stay within certain safe parameters of jackin' house, some deepness, possibly some techno. Yet I loved all good music and certainly enjoyed playing a range of music.

“'Come Home' started out as a tribute to a necessary but nonetheless painful break-up with a girlfriend, so I chose to sit in my tiny studio and just make what came out.

I recall having a short melody and I conjured up the cinematics layer by layer using a similar melody through a randomiser effect, but using a different instrument each time — also with a randomiser effect on.

After a few hours I realised I'd massively stepped out of my own self-restricted comfort zone. I made a huge orchestral, original-sounding track and instead of getting back in it, I let go.

I got the track mastered and then within a week or two, Cocoon had signed it. That year Sven Väth was playing it pre-midnight on New Year's Eve as I watched, holding the hand of a potential new girlfriend — my now wife. Knocking down your own boundaries is one of the most important lessons anyone can learn.”

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