Name: Yussef Dayes
Occupation: Drummer, percussionist, performer
Current release: In 2019/2020, Yussef Dayes recorded and released two EPs and one album within close temporal proximity: Blackfriars on Cashmere Thoughts and Patta Soundsystem, Duality on Good Grief Inc, and What Kinda Music, a collaboration with Tom Misch, on Blue Note.
This interview with Yussef Dayes was originally published in a different edit in German recording magazine Beat.
Yussef Dayes: "If you go the route of all music and you break down the rhythms you’ll always find that those rhythms link back to Africa - there’s strong links back to the root.
When it comes to my band United Vibrations, the influence of West African rhythms and Jamaican music and tapping in to rhythms from Mauritius and Haiti and checking out the sounds of the Cuban Creole Choir - not just the usual American influences - inspired us to make something special. United Vibrations it important because I always wanted to find my own voice from a young age. So finding my voice through music made me stand tall.
United Vibrations is family, two of my brothers plus Ahnanse on sax. My brothers are all musical so we all inspired each other. Growing up in my tree house playing drums with my family is where it all started. We’d all listen to crazy jazz and reggae records that my dad would play in the house - Billy Cobham, Herbie Hanckock (when it comes to getting the perfect drum sound, Herbie Hancock's album Headhunters is essential, the song "Chameleon" in particular - a record I always reference for sonic details.), The Wailers, Peter Tosh - that was life in the house hold of the Dayes’... And a littile bit of Tracey Chapman ‘Fast Cars’. Lots of music! Too much music to name.
So yeah, as a family we’re proud and it’s good memories and it shaped what I do now really. We felt that we made music and bought people a voice - pushing new sounds on people. It was not an easy task but we stayed true to what it was about and it inspired musicians around us.
I went to Senagal in 2015 and I stayed with a Griot family of Sabar drummers, in Dakar. I had the chance to live with them and learn the rhythms of Sabar drums. The age that I was when I went to Dakar I was always trying to find ways of finding freedom in music playing. A lot of music we listen to has a metronomic time and I was interested in playing music that is free, and is the rhythms of our body.
Doudou N’diaye Rose - who has sadly passed away now Rest In Peace - Had a whole clang of Sabar drummers, about 60 drummers, which deeply inspired me. When I was in Dakar, I understood the language of what they were doing, there is a lot of freedom and movement, and I wanted to express this on the drum kit - Sabar drums gave me the confidence to do that.
I don’t see the studio as artificial - especially the studio we record at in Eastbourne by the seaside where we record with Miles James. The seaside is a very peaceful place, so we had a lot of focus and time to record.
Let's take my EP Duality as an example. My job is to pick up the best moments from the original jam sessions when we first wrote those tunes. And then, when we performed the tracks live as a trio for the first 6 months after writing it we then we went to the studio - once we felt we were ready and had the right arrangement - it was just about executing the performance in the studio.
Recording Duality it was a mad week, one of the best weeks I’ve ever recorded. There was a lot of material made, we were really focused and we had a lot of jokes and laughs. Miles James had a big input in making sure it was recorded right and sounded right which allowed us to focus to focus purely on the music knowing someone was focussing on all the other stuff - and you have got to have mad trust in the engineer that they know when the sounds right - which we had in James, someone I’ve known since I was five.
I think for me personally when I’m in the studio or performing music I try to channel what im feeling at the time. So that allows me to have more energy. I could be thinking about many things in life but I know when I’m on the drums I can channel my feelings and that gives me strength and power. So even when I'm not playing something that high energy I make sure every drum beat still has purpose, power and life force.
I suppose I’ve refined my sound and when you hear my drum beat you know it’s me. Making your sound undeniable so people can hear it’s you is important! I just gotta make a bad man beat init!"