It’s a fading memory, but there was a time when musicians could expect to make some serious cash through record sales. In that bygone era, certain artists refrained from performing live and chose to focus entirely on studio work. This is becoming less and less of a realistic scenario, which means those who can’t endure masses of touring have limited options for making a living out of music.
However, even though constant touring is now crucial, round-the-calendar gig schedules aren’t anything new. Electronic producer and DJ Dubfire (AKA Ali Shirazinia) started his career in the early ’90s as one half of the progressive house production team Deep Dish. Following a tremendously successful 15-year run – which saw Deep Dish enjoy chart success and win a Grammy – Shirazinia kicked off his solo career in 2006, pursuing a tougher techno sound under the Dubfire moniker.
With both projects, relentless touring has been one of Shirazinia’s primary tasks. And he bloody loves it. “I’ve been on the road ever since I can remember, so I got over that hump mentally and physically many years ago,” he says. “It’s like second nature. I quite enjoy seeing the world and I have pockets of friends in every corner of the globe. So it’s like coming home to an extended family member that you haven’t seen for a while.”
You’ll often hear musicians explaining how the 90 minutes onstage each day are what redeem the jagged nature of touring life. However, even though countless hours are spent in transit, there’s also plenty of time available for indulging in other activities. Dubfire’s been touring for more than two decades, so he knows how to make the best use of his time. Over the years, this has led him to become a food buff.
“Experiencing something that represents the local culture, their cuisines and so forth, sometimes that’s a window into where you are,” he says. “In order to feel settled, as far as having arrived at a particular place, it’s important for me to have that connection to wherever it is I am and the people who’ve invited me there.
“Because I like to eat, after so many years of doing it and recommending restaurants to friends and connecting with chefs who like music, I’ve grown into this food connoisseur who’s very well connected to chefs all over the world. That also makes it more interesting to travel, because now I can look forward to seeing a chef who I haven’t seen in a long time and maybe he’s got amazing new dishes or ingredients.”
Perhaps this seems like an incongruous passion for someone so inextricably associated with dark nightclubs and tinnitus-causing sound systems. But Dubfire points out the symmetry between the work of great chefs and musicians.
“When I started to really appreciate the technical skill that it takes for chefs to do what they do, especially really gifted chefs, [I realised] it’s no different in the music industry. We have so many people making music but we have a select few making really interesting, incredible, timeless music. With the chefs out there, a lot of people can say that they cook, but how many can serve some of the plates that you’ve seen in cookbooks from Noma or those types of restaurants?”
As well as the sensual delights, sitting down to enjoy some quality tucker helps get Dubfire ready for the gig ahead. “I can’t go to sleep and then wake up and go straight into that club environment, where everybody’s been drinking or doing whatever for hours and hours. I’ve got to go have a nice meal, great conversation, nice wine or sake or whatever and then I’m in the mood to give my best performance.”
Before the year is out, Dubfire will pop over for a brief Australian tour, stopping in at the Greenwood Hotel to headline the latest Code party. He’s been a regular visitor over the last couple of decades, so it’s no surprise he knows a thing or two about the local dining options.
“Everybody knows Rockpool, Neil Perry’s restaurants,” he says. “Tetsuya’s in Sydney is another unbelievable restaurant, by a Japanese chef who was trained in French technique. Really, every time I’ve been to Australia I’ve always had nothing but incredible food, and amazing wine of course.”
In other news, after an eight-year silence, earlier this year Dubfire and his Deep Dish partner Sharam Tayebi got together to work on some new material. In March, they delivered the eight-minute epic ‘Quincy’, and Dubfire says Deep Dish will become a full-time concern in the months ahead.
“This year we kind of wanted to get our feet wet. We wanted to reconnect creatively to see if we still had that magic formula together. Next year we’re going to make Deep Dish a focus and spend pretty much all of February in the studio together to see what happens.
“It’s interesting, our solo careers and the way they took off,” he adds. “Mine went in a more underground, back to my roots, techno direction, and Sharam went in his typical pop direction. Coming back together, it’s going to create an interesting dynamic that we’re trying to tap in to. Right now we’re just trying to pick up from where we left off. We want to really go in and finish the story and also see if there’s a new chapter.”