Dubfire Ali Shirazinia
Celebrating One Decade of EDM with Album and Shows

Dubfire Ali Shirazinia
Dubfire Ali Shirazinia
Dubfire (aka Ali Shirazinia), is not unfamiliar with the electronic industry, after almost two decades years in the business. He started in the early ’90’s as one part of the duo Deep Dish, before becoming a solo artists in the early 2000’s. Since then, Ali Shirazinia has successfully established himself as an artist whose unrelenting passion, talent and intuition has successfully placed him in the top tier of electronic music artists all over the world. We speak to Shirazinia about his career and upcoming plans as  he gets ready to attend a summer of music events and festivals.
After 10 successful years as a solo artists, Dubfire is releasing a ‘Retrospective Album’ to ‘bring everything together’ as well as end the ‘first cycle’ of his solo career and allow him to move on and follow a different musical path where he can experiment with a new style which has also been shown through the ‘Hybrid Live Shows’ over the last 2 years, which will however be winding down at the end of this year so that he can go ahead with a blank slate and put away all the old material in order to focus on the future.
How did you get started as an artist?
That’s a long story! Well it started in a dual called ‘Deep Dish’ in the very early 90’s, around 1990 – 91, and we had a really great run. We started out as a deep house act and eventually, it wasn’t our intention or plan, but it kind of grew into something a bit more commercial. Then Sharam and I (Sharam was my partner – Sharam Tayebi) came to the end of our creative cycle in 2005, and in 2006 I set out on my own solo career path and established myself within the techno genre which is what I was into when I first connected with Sharam. He (Sharam) came from more mainstream house, even though he was into everything, he was into techno as well, and I came from house, techno and a lot of experimental refuelled music. That’s why I think we worked really well together, then once I went solo I rebelled against everything we stood for and reconnected with my roots because I needed a new jolt of inspiration, a new spark to pursue a different musical path.
Did you grow up in a musical household? 
No, I mean my dad was a poet so maybe I got the artistic gene from him but a lot of it had to do with me coming to America when I was 7 years old and not having a grasp of the language in a strange land and the only thing I could really do in those early years was draw. On the first day of class I didn’t speak the language and so the teacher just gave me a piece of paper and markers  and all I did was draw and as the years went by my drawing got better and better and better and people took notice but I was still an introvert and an outcast and tended to hang out with the ‘art fags’ as well called them, people who were really into photography and punk and ‘New Wave’ music so I think the association with that crew got my interests in peaking and growing over the years with music that wasn’t popular because I identified with music that wasn’t popular because I wasn’t (popular) and so the unpopular left-field stuff really resonated with me and I started to play house music at parties and eventually – even before I was old enough – I was playing in clubs and I was always dabbling in music, playing in bands after school, messing around and sometimes doing school plays and eventually I started to make my own music with help of some early engineers and producers like BT and John Selway.
In comparison to your experience as one half of Deep Dish, how different is it for you to perform solo?
Yeah at the beginning it was a bit of a learning curve but we were trying to branch out for the last few years that I was in deep dish and we kind of knew the end was near and so we both instructed our agent to try and do as many solo shows as possible as we really weren’t enjoying playing together. We were going down different paths musically and we really wanted to establish our own individual profiles and our own individual sound towards those final years and that helped kind of set the stage for when we both broke away from one another and really went solo and decided not to do anymore deep dish shows anymore. But yeah, in the beginning it was scary because I was looking for inspiration and I think it was a few summers in Ibiza, spending a lot of time in you know DC10 and Cocoon and other clubs, really absorbing the sound, the culture and the vibe of the island. That really, for me, was the spark that I needed.
Dubfire Ali Shirazinia
Dubfire Ali Shirazinia
Following on from that, is the travelling and the visiting different countries a bit part when you’re looking for inspiration?
Yeah I mean you have to be inspired by something, sometimes it’s that you’re in love, sometimes you’ve broken up with someone that you’ve been with for a long time, it could be what’s going on in your family life or often times for me it is the music that I’m exposed to whether it’s the stuff that I get sent or that I find and play out when I try to create a cohesive sound for myself as a DJ so that tends to inspire me and also listening to other DJ’s and spending a lot of time checking as many DJ’s as I can – not only because they’re friends and I wanna hang out with them but also because every great DJ that I’m drawn to has a particular sound and groove and a certain atmosphere that they create. I’m really attracted to the differences that everyones has. Like Jamie Jones has his specific groove and sound, Richie has his, Ice has his, Marco has his, Luciano of course has his and Papa’ Sven (as we like to call him) has his. But that goes a long way in being in a kind of ‘well’ of inspiration for me to draw upon.
You spoke about everyone having their own individual sound, but obviously sound evolves and trends are experimented with, do you think it’s important to stick to your own sound or do you enjoy incorporating the latest sound trends?
I think trends, whether we want them or not, we gravitate towards trends that speak to us, that inspire us and I think it always finds away of coming into music… like lets say there was a particular point in time where I was very into the Romanian sound (I still am) and somehow because I never tried to follow trends, I wanted to create my own style based on what I learned as a producer and engineer over years and what I’m currently into and the sound that I wanna preform my DJ sets around. For some reason, those influences would still creep naturally into the production, into the studio process, without even realising it but it never comes out sounding like what’s ‘hot’ at the time or what I’m into it always ends up being maybe a ‘bastard child’ of that and giving me new inspiration and new ideas to go down different paths so maybe those other genres, those other trends are little sparks along the way of that evolutionary cycle that ignites new ideas. But I wouldn’t say I follow trends, willingly or knowingly.
I think maybe the newer artists and DJ’s are more likely to follow trends, would you give them any advice in general?
I think a lot of this depends what your ‘modus operandi’ is, what you want to achieve as an artist, do you want longevity or do you want to chase the cash and the VIP lifestyle. There’s a lot of people is both caps, whether we’re talking more EDM and commercial music or within the techno and deep house genre, there’s a lot of people who are chasing the ‘fast track’ towards an established career and so they’re trying to just mimic whatever sound is hot at the moment. Yet then you have guys that come along, when you’re talking about the EDM circle you have Skrillex, he’s good friend and he came along and he turned the genre on its head and was very successful at it because he created a specific Skrillex ‘breakdown’ or ‘groove’ that he was known for. And with Diplo, what he does with Major Lazer and what he did with solo artists and what he continues to do. Those guys I have respect for, even though I don’t really enjoy or play the sound that they’re known for I have an appreciation for what they’ve done, they’ve tried to be different and certainly there’s a lot of people within my genre, people who are trying to carve new musical territory within each of our individual, segregated genres and others who just want the ‘quick path’ to fame
To an artists, obviously the music is important, but at the end of the day it’s all about the audiences reaction and seeing them enjoy themselves. That must be the best element to it?
Yeah and that’s the ultimate reward, I’ve always believed that what matters is whats coming out of the speakers. Sure there is a lot of dance music which is so big right now, and there’s so much competition between promoters and DJ’s that everyone’s trying to create a visual spectacle around the music part of it, but at the end of the day the way I look at it, with electronic music, dance music you should stand there and close your eyes and you connect with what is coming out of the speakers and you’re transported to a different place purely by the phonics alone. Sure the visuals play a big role in that but sometimes less is more when it comes to the visuals, especially in my genre.
How do audiences differ in countries you’ve visited? Is it interesting to see how they react?  
They are all different, like I could play the same set on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday in three different countries and there will be a completely different crowd reaction and sometimes that set, if it works incredibly well in one, will completely fall flat with a crowd in another so it all depends on, you know, I usually spend the first half hour of a set just feeling the crowd out and playing different styles, sometimes deeper, sometimes harder to see what they’re going for and eventually I find that groove then you have this synergy with the audience and it’s a beautiful thing to build it and take them on a ride.
Do you have an all time favourite track to perform during your sets?
That’s a tough one! I mean there’s a lot of classics that I tend to play, I’m trying to think of one that I constantly use… you’ve stumped me! Lucky for you, I have my DJ laptop open. I have recently started to play, it’s an old St. Germain track called ‘Alabama Blues’ and I have started to play that again, and that hasn’t left my set since. But there is so much, it’s a lot of fun especially when you’ve been a DJ as long as I have, to dig into the past archives and find things that still sound fresh today or that still work and every time I do that I get some body coming up to me saying “what is that” and I would say 8 out of 10 times it’s a classic house or techno track.
That must be fun, bringing old tracks and introducing them to a modern audience?
Yeah exactly, and sometimes I’m struggling with maybe the promo’s that I’ve been getting, there’s nothing I can sink my teeth into, then I start shopping online for music and I can’t find anything there so then I go into my library of music and I start going way back to the early 90’s and early 2000’s and I find so much music that can be worked in my current sets. I mean someone like Ricardo Villalobos, probably about 60-75% of what he plays are classic tracks but he’s able to weave that together in a very particular way and that’s he genius as a DJ, he’s able to create a very specific groove so that when you’re listening to Ricardo, even though he’s playing maybe 4, 5 or 6 classic tracks in a row, they still have that ‘Ricardo swing’.
So your ‘retrospective album’ what was the inspiration behind the album?
Well it’s a retrospective of all my work over the last decade and it’s kind of bringing everything together for the fans and also for myself. I felt the need to kind of bring everything together and then get it out there in a way to end that first cycle, that first decade of my evolutionary cycle as an artist and that will help me to create the momentum to go down a different path musically and create new styles and new production techniques, a new visual aesthetic and I think the ‘retrospective album’ is one step in that process and also what I’ve been doing with the hybrid live shows over the past 2 and a half years which will be winding down at the end of this year, that’s also been a real labour of love that once we do the live show, it’s gonna really force me to put away all of that old material and really look ahead with a blank slate.
So you mentioned the sacrifices you’ve had to make, after 20 years in the industry, do you ever feel the need to step back and take a break?
Not really, I think I’ll take a break when nothing inspires me anymore and I’ve had a lot of friends over the years who have decided that their hearts are not in it anymore and that their not inspired enough or maybe they wanna start families, that becomes more important to them than music. But for me, I’m seeing the world constantly, I’m getting paid for it, I’m doing what I love, I’ve met really incredible people who I’ve become lifelong friends with as a result of that I’m seeing the smiles on everyones faces when I’m playing for them or doing a live show and really seeing music that inspires others to become DJ’s or producers themselves. So all these things play a role in keeping me inspired to continue doing what I’m doing and I’ll probably do it until my last breathe. I actually had this conversation with Sven Väth, he’s much older than me and he (and people like Carl Cox), get a lot of people ask them the same thing “when you gonna quit”, “when is enough, enough?” and “how can you have the stamina and energy to continue at this pace?” and a lot of them, if they’re still in love with it they kind of find that energy and that fuel that they need to keep them going.
So you talk about all the amazing people you’ve met, is there anyone in particular you want to collaborate with?
Oh there’s lots of people, I’ve been talking to Adrain Sherwood who’s the very famous and legendary Dub-Regge producer about doing something together and then I have this other side project with a classical violinist, Mari Samuelsen, and we did an experiment that was live-performance that was in last year September in Paris and that was filmed and was really rewarding. There’s different vocalists that I’d like to collaborate with like Bjork, and very interesting voices like Mazzy Star. There is another really pretty famous Scottish artist that I’m intoxicated with so that’ll be really interesting – I can’t say anything more about it but everyone will be really surprised, he’s sort of a legend internationally but also a legend in Scottish music.
You are about to go on a world tour, what are you looking forward to most?
I think for me, the year kind of begins with Time Warp in Mannheim, everything kind of builds to that because every DJ that plays that event has to show up with their A++ game, we prepare for it, we spend hours listening through music trying to piece together a cohesive set because so many of our peers are there and  such a great platform for what we do and for a lot of us it heralds the beginning of the season of the year, of the summer. Then for me, everything kind of snowballs into Sunwaves at the end of August, that for me signals the end of summer and I’m able to look to winding things down and going down a different path musically for the rest of the year. For Sunwaves, I typically tend to play 15-20 hour sets and I have to create a playlist for myself and the audience and a flow that keeps them interested for that long, so it’s a real challenge not only physically and creatively but it’s also something I do really look forward to every year.
Interview by: Maija Sicklin 

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