Over the past 10 years, Circus Recordings has built a reputation for being a premium outlet for house music, with equally star-studded events featuring the likes of Sasha, Eats Everything, Kölsch, and many others. His brand new album, '9 Moor Drive', is his most honest and personal work to date, and in this installment of The Director's Cut, he takes us through the pain and triumphs of his childhood.
How to listen: There are a couple of ways to proceed. First, you can listen to the whole album, which you will find below, and then read the notes. Or, read the notes as you listen to each track. This will completely change your perspective on the whole release itself and bring you closer to the artist and their work.
Words by Yousef
9 Moor Drive is an album about a tough, crazy, painful and hilarious childhood. Growing up in 9 Moor Drive wasn’t a typical childhood. It was extremely difficult for my family; an absent father, alcoholic parents, domestic violence which all led to a home eviction. Yet there was music, freedom, little discipline, a chance to do whatever I wanted in terms of creative projects, music, and friends. No limits. It was as funny and crazy as it was painful and dark.
9 Moor Drive always had people coming and going, strangers living with us sometimes and for other months it was normal. But this led to me becoming savvy, grown-up, imaginative, yet entirely wild. I was introduced to a wide range of cultures, sexualities, music, freedom and developed an unbreakable backbone of determination. So, although I didn’t come out unaffected, the experience gave me (and my brothers) the preparation we needed to take on life.
9 Moor Drive
For me, it is the darkest and most poignant track on the project. It is literally a reflection of the tough moments I witnessed at 9MD, both for me, my brothers and my mother. As the track unfolds the dark synths tell a story of how it felt at the time. Seasoned with hope and occasional peaceful moments as the track evolves it becomes powerfully stirring. It was incredibly emotive and exceptionally cathartic writing it.
It ended up being the final track I made for the album. I knew I wanted to end on something that was ‘House’ and was more cinematic and powerful. So as with all the tracks on the album they had a point, so I sat down and begun beating the keys and literally let it all flood out.
I Don’t Understand
I wanted to make something that was powerful enough to capture my confusion as a boy trying to piece together why all those shadowy moments were happening around me. Again, I try to add optimistic moments scattered around the route as the track unfolds. I’m also trying to get across the first signs of my determination to break free and to summon the strength to take on those challenges. Although it is a think track, the drums are few, by my standards at least. I found an acid bass sound I liked and treated it until it was thin and powerful. I worked the overlaying melodies to give movement and rage to the acid bass. The drums I kept spikey and clean to ensure room for the message of the track, it ended up sounding enormous post mix down.
Riches To Rags
This track is solely about dealing with getting evicted when I was about 14. Things at home had already been extremely tough; my father had left, my mum had sort of left, for the most part, 9MD was now just myself and my two brothers. My father (who was paying the mortgage on 9MD) pulled the plug. Literally making us homeless. My brothers and mother and I had to leave leafy 9MD to live to a rougher part of Liverpool in a maisonette with urine in the communal stairwell, and no lock on the door. That didn’t bother me, that fact the reason we were in that situation was no mistake did and still does.
As the track concludes it leans towards a promising and sturdier tone. With the story in a place, I began working in the drums and melody while channeling my inner Laurent Garnier. I had legendary musician Tim Hutton add the live horns and then got to work on arrangement after arrangement, cutting it down from 11 mins to just over 7 - sometimes you have to be brutal! As the melodies connect and the layers flow, the idea of this track was to create something as sinister as it is hopeful.
The Only Constant Is Change
These are lyrics I wrote about an epiphany moment when I was around 8 or 9 years when the penny dropped about our own mortality and it completely spun me out trying to think of what was next, I still struggle with it. The message may appear heavy but it’s meant to be uplifting, communicating to people to enjoy this (and our only) life with as much vigour and fun as possible. To live today with the realisation that with everything the only definite in life is change, there is no stopping it. I sent the lyrics and raw demo to a singer I found on twitter Isla Will, I paid her upfront and gave her a fair %. After all the parts were set and it was time for mixdown, Tom Demac, who mixed down much of this project, added some further string parts which gave the additional texture this story needed. For me, this is a really beautiful track, and as with all my music it still absolutely slams!
'Reminders' is about giving myself a prompt to get up and get on with life without judging others. A reminder that we have absolutely no idea what people are going through. As I grow into adulthood and in particular as a father myself I understand more about the complexities of life and try to take a moment to empathise with another point of view without expecting anything from anyone.
Similarly, ‘The Only Constant Is Change’ I searched for new singers online and was introduced to Shyam P, who really connected with my lyrics. I created a darker approach, using layers of drums to reach a gnarly aggressive drum kit coupled with a chunky bassline. I also listened to a wide range of pop music, to pick up notes about how to layer dark strings to around vocals to garnish more emotion without. This has been a real club weapon for me, for some time.
Vivienne is a dark menacing and unrelenting composition. It's designed to be both soothing and challenging and reflective of my days at 9MD. A turning point on the album, a bridge from the darker more emotive & challenging areas I’ve explored into a lighter time in my life.
This track started life as a sample, which is a rare occurrence for me as I hardly use samples. I heard the string hook in one of my children’s books, believe it or not, so I set out to find the string and recreated it. Again, I made the drum kit kick and added the biggest bass line on the entire project. Typically, like all my music it is multi-layered and has all sorts of hidden sounds but still kicks.
Give It To Me
This was inspired by the beginnings of my journey with house music. It’s a blueprint of house music in some ways; the groove, the lively drums, the live instruments, it’s almost a tribute to the classic NYC Strictly Rhythm sound. The track reflects the excitement I felt when I fell in love with house music and the permanent relationship that begun.
Give it To Me echoes the moments when I started to move off into my own realm. Again, I drafted in master Tim Hutton to assist me with the live horns and live Hammond organ, using live instruments is such a great way to get a true feeling in music but for the dance floor, it can come with a price. I had to mix down this track probably 8 times, maybe more and even at the final hurdle I overdubbed drums onto the final pre-master which I know is bad practice but to be honest I do it all the time. Edit, edit, edit until the very last moment. Does it kick? Then cool! It was fantastic to get Hottest Record in the World on BBC Radio One on this considering its night and day from most things around right now and uses live instrumentation.
Although resolutely now the collaborative The Beat with Mihalis Safras and Val, Is another tribute to authentic house music. It is designed to be reflective of good times with friends and the discovery of acid house. The vocal tells a story about the reliability of music in a person’s life. No matter what, there is ‘The Beat’ to lose yourself in.
We Don’t Need Yo Love
Although I was too young to be at the parties, I’d tag alongside my oldest brother Tony when he went to raves. I used to sneak in with him and the atmosphere was something very new, a complete counter-culture. I found a new love and passion, which neatly followed on from my obsession with Electro Hip Hop on to its connected yet next phase of street-culture in the UK. Raving quickly became another fascination for me and you won’t need a physiologist to determine why of course. Raving was something satisfying, an albeit temporary and faux clique of like mind folk that I connected with, where you from, what’s your name what have you had, etc …This track is meant to reflect those tripped out early rave years. I worked on this and took stems to be mixed in London. Unexpectedly Alex Tepper sent my sounds though some of his EFX rack and the melody was born. The drums I keep simple but dirty and driving. For me, it’s another standout cut.
How Could You Know
A track I completed some time ago, it came in many forms before the poignant vocal I recorded sat with ARP groove. The lyrics were sung and wrote by my friend and regular collaborator “The Angel”. A singer I discovered on the dance floor of my club event Circus. She’s wonderfully original and a real talent. Although I didn’t write the lyrics on this one, the song is about being in a dark place with no one to confide in, it resonated with the 9MD project. This was originally a follow up to our previous track ‘Float Away’. It came in literally 15 versions before I reignited the vocals around new drums, and chasing synth bass, adding light piano touches and loopy percussion to get the vocal rolling.
One Sunny Sunday
Like most of life’s reflective moments, the small things can be as vivid as the major moments, no matter how fleeting. This track is based on the first time I ate honey on bread while my mum was doing the Sunday ironing, not exactly a significant moment you may think. But it was a rare peaceful day in the baking eighties summer sunshine, so normal it almost stands out from the chaos.
Again, I reached out on Twitter looking for a sax player to jam over my backing track, Theo showed up and again was paid well for a session. He sent me 8 stems of horns which I blended and chopped into what you hear on this track, it’s a hidden gem for sure.
The Mother Tongue
This was a track I made after getting some interesting vocals from Val, she focused upon Africa and what it means to all human beings. I’m half Egyptian, which of course is one of the cornerstones of history so it felt right to dig into my own roots here and really let rip. It’s an album highlight for me. As soon as I began this track I wanted it to remind me of my days in the annex at Cream listening to hard-floor tracks, the loopy drums, acid lines and tripped out crescendos needed to sit around the chant from Val.
Genesis is a track of more teen exploring. As the track developed I wrote a story about not being worried about trying new things, about dismissing obstacles, about the power of persistence and hard work which we are all capable of. Legendary Chuck `In the beginning there was Jack` Roberts spoke truth about my story in his way. Harry Romero, a hero of mine took the track up a gear by mixing and added additional drums and parts to my stems and the vocal. It absolutely thumps, walking the line between house & techno where I naturally sit.
9 Moor Drive. Poem for the album booklet.
The House became a symbol
Of how life can be
From affluence to eviction
A life from home to sea.
I recall long warm summers,
And Playing in the street
Smashing up the neighborhood
With home-made cakes to eat
Learning about the music
New romantic to Pink Floyd
Into Hip-Hop & Electro
Acid house to fill the void
a loose life scenario
maybe head to school
not that much discipline
and sometimes we had no fuel
Things begun to change
The separation came
Followed by the violence
And endless drinking games…
The fights they continued
The domestic type this time
Our mother had a breakdown
My brother turned to crime
Strangers came to stay
For a night, months and weeks
One man was not welcome,
So, he put us on the streets
I had the love of some close friends
But I hid the pain so well
An image of security
When actually it was hell.
All the shit I went through
Made me a man at 14
It galvanised my core
To never repeat what id seen
I’m far from a perfect man
But I’m as determined as they come
To look after my family
My kids, my wife, their mum…
The House became a symbol
Of how life can be
From affluence to eviction
a life from home to sea.
9 Moore Drive is available now. Grab it here.