YOUSEF with SNEAK, JASON HODGES, DJ GRYPHON, KING SUNSHINE (live) and more, Saturday (September 28) at the York Event Theatre (101 Eglinton East). $20 advance, more at the door. www.allworldentertainment.com
DJ Yousef's story should give hope to undiscovered young DJs everywhere. His remarkable rise to fame demonstrates that it's possible to bypass the years of toiling in obscurity that most put in before being recognized.
"I got dropped in the deepest end of the pool, but I came up swimming," Yousef reminisces over the phone from the UK.
The Liverpool-based house DJ first came to dance fans' attention when he won Musik Magazine's Bedroom Bedlam DJ competition in 1999. He was soon offered a gig at mega-club Pacha in Ibiza and was signed to Ministry of Sound, becoming a regular at their Friday and Saturday nights.
Before the year was out, Musik Magazine awarded him the Best-Bedroom-DJ-of-the-Year title, although by this point his career was further ahead than many established mixers.
"Winning the contest gave me the set at the Ministry of Sound, which turned into a residency, and from there it just took off," he explains.
His next big gig was a high-profile residency at the legendary Cream nightclub, until the club closed its doors last summer. His luck continued, though. In 2001 he landed a residency with BBC Radio 1, an amazing feat for a young up-and-coming DJ.
Yousef is also unique among British superstar DJs in that his sound is much closer to Chicago house DJs like Derrick Carter and Sneak than to the big-room sound of Paul Oakenfold or Seb Fontaine.
"To be honest, there aren't many English DJs that I look up to," Yousef admits. "I'm not really into that big UK sound. I don't like progressive, I don't like trance, I don't like hard house. I like true house music, no matter where it comes from."
While his style is still evolving, he has a fairly defined vision of where he would like to end up. He's started producing his own tracks as well, and is about to finish building his home studio so that he can really learn how to fine-tune his sound.
"I'd love to be a hybrid between Sneak, Derrick Carter and the Neptunes. I like that really simple raw funk, somewhere between house and hiphop. I love energy in music, and I love things that are a little tongue-in-cheek but also soulful. Not like cheesy comedy music -- I love serious house music, but at the same time, the point of throwing a party is to have fun."
Although he's very much a Liverpool lad, being of Egyptian descent means he's become more aware of his own ethnicity since 9/11. Travelling to U.S. gigs is now more complicated for him, but he accepts the extra attention gracefully.
"I noticed it this summer when I went to New York and Miami. When I'm going through customs they take a little longer with me and ask more questions. Sometimes it can be a bit of a pain in the ass, but I don't really mind if it's going to help make sure the plane is safe."