Fresh Kicks 78: Yak

Last year, Sheffield-based producer Yak dropped a track that, unbeknownst to him, would end up being picked up by some of the most revered DJs on the circuit. ‘Mido’, an agile and propulsive techno-heater released on Orson’s Version imprint, had all the off-kilter verve of releases found on Hessle Audio and Timedance but wielded enough immediacy and percussive heft to slot comfortably into any set it found itself in. Support was huge, with the track being picked up by the likes of Hunee, Joy Orbison, Midland, Objekt, Peggy Gou, Laurel Halo, Simian Mobile Disco, Martyn, Paul Woolford and Peverelist to name but a few.

“I definitely knew it was a special track because I didn't really play many of my own tracks in my sets around the time I made it,” he tells DJ Mag now. “But I ended up playing ‘Mido’ in pretty much every set and the reaction was always great. Having said that, the reaction it received once it was released was still way more than I'd ever anticipated. It's so exciting to me that it reached such a variety of DJs and scenes.”

Yak – real name John Randall – cut his teeth on the Sheffield scene over the past few years, co-founding the Pretty Pretty Good club night with Dan Sumner AKA Kudan in 2015, eventually stepping down from his organisational role and leaning into a residency. He soon found himself playing regularly at the city's finest, Hope Works.

Production-wise, he’s been quietly prolific too, and has been honing a distinctly skewed techno, dub and bass sound with formidable results.

“I had my first release in 2016 on Circular Jaw and have had releases on such labels as Tessier-Ashpool recordings, Brotherhood Soundsystem, Version, Black Beacon Sound and Le Chatroom,” he explains. “The music I make is always underlaid with a strong percussive foundation first and foremost, as I think interesting and groovy percussion makes the difference between a track that's cool to listen to and a track that makes you move your body without thinking about it.

“I listen to as much different music as I can covering all sorts of genres and always try and combine my influences as much as I can,” he adds. “I hate the idea of trying to produce a song in a specific genre because it feels like I'm already restricting myself to a sound that's already established and has been done before. I like to reflect this in my sets too, I always try to cover a wide variety of sounds, genres and tempos across the course of a set.”

Having since moved back to his home of Surrey, Yak has a lot lined up in the near future. “I've got a couple of releases coming out before the end of this year,” he says. “And I'm also working on three other EPs with really exciting labels, but unfortunately I can't say much about them right now as none of them have been announced yet - keep your eyes on on my Soundcloud for those! I'm currently sat on over 50 unreleased tunes at the moment, so would love to get more of those out in future.”

With all that as well as gigs lined up in Manchester, Sheffield and London in the very near future – details of which can be found on his Facebook page – it felt like the right time to grab Yak for a mix ass part of our Fresh Kicks series. Serving up an hour hammering club-cuts by the likes of Martyn, Meta, Circa 900 and himself, this is one to put on loop. Have a listen below and read our Q&A with one of the UK’s most exciting producers.

Fresh Kicks 78: Yak