SAEED Younan is a DJ and producer whose infectious passion shines through everything he does and he has excelled as a true artist in the global dance music scene.
This year he has been celebrating 20 years in the business and the summer has seen him touring America and the rest of the world with his seamless, sexy blend of house and techno. As a producer he is entering the busiest period of his career, he’s had numerous top 10 singles on Beatport and works with some of the biggest labels in dance music in addition to his full touring schedule and while running his own record label Younan Music.
Born in Iraq but living in Washington DC since the early 80s, Younan grew up listening to a variety of ethnic music and as a result his sound resonates with a variety of influences through his percolating beats and sonic grooves. It has won him fans from all over the world but also many of the leading DJs including the one and only Carl Cox. Coxy chose Saeed to open for him at all of his US tour dates including his Las Vegas residency in 2014 and 2015. He also invited Saeed to play for him in his final season at Space Ibiza back in 2016.
We caught up with Saeed for a chat to talk about his 20 years in the business, working with Carl Cox and where it all began. He has also recorded a very special mix for The Night Bazaar Sessions which you can listen to below.
You are celebrating 20 years in the business. Can you tell us how it all started?
Actually, it started about 30 years ago. I was a hip-hop and house DJ in high school and college, did some music production in the early 90s as well. But 20 years ago was when I quit my corporate job and dived full time into a music career. I worked for America Online (AOL) in the mid 90s and was also running a record label called Addictive Records, at the same time I was already gigging around Europe, America, and producing lots of music with a partner / duo named Palash (Saeed & Palash). It was really hard to balance a full time day job, running a vinyl label, producing and gigging almost every weekend, so I had to go with my gut feeling and do away with the corporate safety net.
When did you know this was your career calling?
When I started calling in sick to work or telling them I can’t come in because I was either stuck in another country or dealing with flight cancellations and delays, I knew then that I had to make a decision. My gut instinct has never failed me. Somehow I knew this was the right decision when it came to it.
How has your sound evolved over that time?
Tribal house was a huge factor in my musical direction. With the popularity of progressive house in the late 90s, I successful merged the two together, forming what we called tribal-progressive house. So tribal and percussive grooves have played a big part in my career as a DJ and producer. To this day, solid percussive grooves are a big part of all my production.
Were you always a producer first rather than a DJ or did this go hand in hand for you?
Not at all. I’ve always been a DJ first. Production came second and was mandatory in order to take my creativity to the next level.
How has your production technique changed since you first started out? Are you all soft synths these days or do you still employ the use of hardware or a mixture of the two?
My production techniques are still super old school. I stated out with Cubase and now I use Logic as my main DAW. I also use my extensive vinyl catalogue as my go to sampling tools. My gear is minimal but that’s how I like it, I know how to get what I need with what I have and that’s good enough for me. Too much gear leaves you fiddling with knobs all day and never get anything completed in my opinion.
Carl Cox has been a big influence in your career with the two of you becoming friends over the years. Can you tell us a little more about how he has inspired you?
I was asked to open for him at a local show here in Washington DC. Apparently he decided to come early that night and hang out in the green room. I wasn’t aware that he was in the venue that early and listening to pretty much my entire set. The next day, I get a facebook message from him telling me how much he enjoyed my set and would like me to come on board and open for him at his Las Vegas quarterly residency. We became good friends from there. He also invited me to stay at his Villa in Ibiza and play one of the closing parties at Space for the Final Chapter. There is a great video of this gig on be@TV, where Carl Cox sneaks up on me in the DJ booth and we get down!
You have been celebrating your two decades in the business with an extensive tour. Where have you been, where are you going and what have been the highlights so far?
I’ve pretty much played every continent accept for Antarctica haha! I was just in Japan playing Womb not too long ago, this weekend I’m in Brooklyn playing Analog and California playing The Circle in Huntington beach. After that, I’m off to China for MIA festival, Club Space in Sharm, 24K in Cairo Egypt, and Lyon, France…all within less than 2 weeks span.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists who want to follow in your footsteps? The scene is a much harder nut to crack than it was 20 years ago right?
Trust your instinct and stick to your guns. Don’t go chasing genre trends and music fads. Stay on top of your production game and surround yourself with good people that give you honest and constructive feedback.
Also to mark your 20th anniversary you have just put out a mix album comprising of tracks that have influenced you along the way. Can you tell us a little about this and some of the stand out tracks on there?
It’s an eclectic DJ mix using some of my biggest production and remixes from the past 20 years. Tracks like Moody, Backroom honey, After dark, Watching You, Go Deep, Yeah Ha, and much much more are included in this mix. The 2+ hours mix was done live using turntables and CDJs without digital editing or cheat sheet. A lot of heart went into making this mix and each track brought back a unique memory that filled me with joy and nostalgia. I think it will do the same to all of may long time fans and supporters.
You have recorded a contemporary mix showcasing your sound of now for The Night Bazaar. What big tracks should we look out for in there?
You’ll get to hear my latest on Younan music like “All the haters stay clear” also my remix of Sandy B on Nervous records, and my new single “Don’t Stop Won’t Stop” which will drop on November 30 via Deeperfect Records. Plus some of my other tracks out now on Moon Harbour, Intec Digital, Toolroom and much more.