After years of struggling to carve out a niche for their dance-floor grooves, Washington D.C.-based electronica wizards Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi are at a point in their career where they are actually turning away work. The in-demand remixers/producers/label heads already count industry heavyweights like Beth Orton, Michael Jackson, Amber, Depeche Mode and The Rolling Stones as satisfied customers, not to mention the countless millions of clubbers who have been moved by their bustling beats. The busy bodies even grabbed a Grammy nomination for their reworking of Madonna's "Music" along the way.
"We have a lot going on right now, and so we wait for people to come to us and then work with artists we want to work with," offers Tayebi.
But even with all their success, the pair -- who serve themselves up as Deep Dish -- aren't exactly household names. Not yet, anyway. Odds are you have heard them, even if you have not heard of them.
All that hard work does not come without a price, however. When I talked with Tayebi, he was exhausted and harried, both from attending to his business interests and from promoting his most recent project "Deep Dish: Moscow" (Global Underground). The album -- a two CD set of the best of today's house music, including the first appearance of Deep Dish's remix of Dido's "Thank You" -- is the most recent offering in a series that has featured such DJ luminaries as Paul Oakenfold, Sasha and Digweed. It's impressive company, for sure, but Deep Dish brings it all to the tables.
Born many years ago in war-torn Iran, the duo left and found themselves in Reagan-era Washington D.C. It seems ironic now to have left a land rife with violence only to land in what was then the murder capital of the United States and a city soon to be led by a mayor later found to have a penchant for crack and hookers. This must have been a bit of a culture shock. "It was an eye opener," recounts Tayebi.
Still, living in the shadow of our nation's capital must have seemed alluring when Shirazinia showed up at a party in 1991 where Tayebi was working as the DJ. This chance encounter, coupled with a mutual friend by the name of Brian Transeau (later to be better known as superstar producer and remixer BT), an admiration of a common DJ Danny Tenaglia and a bit of luck, was the beginning of the road to success for the young Iranian-Americans.
"It was hard in the early days. We were both working several jobs along with perfecting our DJ skills -- trying to get the right break," says Tayebi. Tayebi had a glorious job then that surely would have led down a different path in life, or at least a nice aside for a "VH1 Behind the Music"-style retrospective: "I managed a shoe store." It is hard to imagine someone who today has remixed tracks for the pop and dance elite as Al Bundy from "Married With Children." But even super-talents need to start somewhere.
Now the big question is, where will they end up? When looking at their aforementioned remix work and adding acts like Pet Shop Boys to the list, it begs the question -- is there anyone from the '80s that they haven't worked with?
"Not really," says Tayebi. "I think we have worked with pretty much everyone. We have been really fortunate in that respect." In skipping over the other icons of the '80s who are hanging on to their own fleeting rock-star lifestyle, the emerging Dish can work with modern-day megastars to gain massive exposure and make a stack of cash along the way. Two perfect examples are a just-completed track for superstars 'N Sync, a remix of the boy-band's mega-hit "Pop," and a second helping for Madonna ("Impressive Instant"), who just can't seem to get her fill of the Dish.
Their remix successes, coupled with their record label Yoshitoshi -- by now a house-music institution -- and their renowned record and clothing store by the same name in the tony Georgetown area of Washington D.C. shows evidence of success for their years of hard work. Hard work that meant playing clubs night after night, spending hours in the studio working on their own albums ("Junk Science," "Yoshiesque I" and "II" and "Renaissance," among others) and culling through the work of artists to create a talent roster envied by many in the industry.
Whether they are working with mainstreamers or retooling classic tracks like "Future of the Future" with Everything But the Girl's Tracey Thorn, Tayebi appreciates the fruits of his labors: "The early days were hard, but we are now in a position to pick and choose from a range of styles and people that provides some variety to our work."
Variety is what you get on the sprawling "Moscow," which runs the house-music gamut incorporating progressive, tribal and harder-edged tracks by both underground (Soul Providers, Envy) and more mainstream artists (BT, Fatboy Slim). The release was born out of their travels in the former Soviet Union, a country that certainly has changed since the pair's arrival in the United States years ago. "It was like playing clubs in any other city in the world -- except there was a lot more vodka!" laughs Tayebi.
The duo was witness to the vitality of capitalism in the land where communism reigned for as long as most can remember. It must feel good to bring music to a land that was hardly a hotbed of international music culture. "It was great, but all around, we saw smiling faces of people who were having a good time. Moscow is really no different than New York City in many ways," says Tayebi.
Now embarking on a worldwide tour in support of the album, the gentlemen of Deep Dish -- both as Iranian-Americans and residents of our nation's capital -- are having to cope with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. They seem to be taking it all in stride, even doing their part by throwing a benefit at their hometown club Buzz, where they recently were made resident DJs -- an honor long overdue.
"In the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11th, we are doing everything possible to return things to normal," reflects Tayebi. This means, naturally, getting back to work.
Lucas Mast is a writer for BPM Culture/djmixed.com and a lawyer living in Washington D.C.