The first thing you’ll notice upon meeting Dubfire is how much he lives up to his nickname, “Prince of Darkness,” which he’s jokingly embraced over the years. When we meet him in his hotel lobby, he’s clad in some seriously impressive neo-gothic threads—all black from head-to-toe. The arms of his striking shirt are draped with fringe that hangs down to the ground while he is seated.
His gothic fashions contrast rather nicely though with his down-to-earth persona. He’s got plenty to say, and plenty to talk about, too. We meet with him shortly before he premieres his expansive new live show at one of Amsterdam’s sprawling, warehouse-style venues.
“It’s an idea that has been gestating with me for a very long time,” he says of the new show, and he’s definitely not kidding. The audio-visual spectacular boasts a formidable setup, with his gear positioned between several projection screens that host a range of mesmerising animations. He’s brought a distinct theatrical edge to the thumping techno.
Dubfire’s background goes well beyond the techno “Prince of Darkness” persona he’s forged over the past seven years. He’s nothing less than a seminal name in American dance music—something he forged in the early ’90s via his iconic Deep Dish partnership with Sharam Tayebi. While the pair went their separate ways in 2007 to pursue their respective solo careers, they finally decided to reunite Deep Dish this year, and Dubfire says this will continue alongside his live shows in 2015.
Dubfire debuted his live show on American soil over this past weekend, with a special set at Time Warp in New York City. There’s nothing to fear if you missed it; he tells us he’s got big things coming up over the next year.
“As long as technology keeps advancing, and it is at an alarmingly fast rate, it keeps all of us on our toes.”
How long has this live show been in the works?
About two years. But it wasn’t until I was able to amass a body of work that I was very proud of—that I could stand behind and then present in this context—for me to feel that I was ready to do it. Also, I wanted to work and collaborate with the right teams. I found my musical director through a mutual friend, and he’s an Ableton instructor. So we could get really, really creative using Ableton to do what I wanted to do—to translate the ideas that were in my head into this new sort of performance. One of the big challenges that we had was taking all of my old material, all of the old sessions, and then trying to rebuild them in a new way. And then it came time to find the guys who were going to create the visual dimension. I like to collaborate with people who have their own unique voice and ideas and just let them run with it, while keeping them going down my vision, the right path or whatever. But the one thing that I told them was that I don’t wanna just throw images onto the screen.
So the images are synced?
Everything is synced. The main thing is that we created a story, with characters and plot, with a fully rendered landscape. Hopefully the audience will be watching from beginning to end, as if they are watching a movie; that’s the idea. Obviously, we don’t want them to be watching and not dancing, so we’ll take them out of the story and have the focus be on the music again. And then other times, we’ll take them back into that visual story. We’ll kind of play with the audience throughout the whole set. We’re excited to see how people respond to it.
Were you looking for something different with the control interface you’re using?
One thing that I knew I didn’t want to do is stare into a laptop screen. I have an iPad and an iPad Mini onstage, and we’re using a Lemur template that shows me exactly where I am with each song. There’s a clock that counts down, as well as showing the song’s name, so I have that in front of me, and then I have my laptop off to the side. I think for future shows we may even take it offstage altogether, put it behind me or whatever, because I really don’t need it. So it’s been great to try to eliminate the laptop from the whole equation. The other iPad I use to control my main instruments, and it’s a pretty cool setup.
The show will also evolve over time. We’ll probably take songs out, change the visuals, take controllers out, bring other controllers into the mix. The show that everyone will see in the next year will probably be a completely different show to what everyone will see in Amsterdam.
Musically, will it be a mix of the music you’ve released since you’ve been doing your solo Dubfire stuff the past few years, or will there be new material?
There’s a lot of new stuff in there, and there’s one track I haven’t released yet. There’s obviously “Roadkill” and “Ribcage,” all the songs that I’ve been known for, but everything has been kinda reworked. In between, we got really creative… I took apart some of the remixes that I did, took only the elements of the remix that I wrote, and tried to work that in somehow with the rest of what was going on. In some cases, we combined elements of the remix with the original production. Basically, there were no rules. We threw the rulebook out the window and just tried to create a sonic experience that has a middle, a beginning and an end, and having more of a live feel to it than a programmed DJ set, of course.
Is it about being inspired by the potential of the new technologies you’re using?
I’ve always been a slave to technology, and in many ways for underground techno, the technology is what is always driving it forward. It’s always kept the artists and the people who believe in it inspired to keep challenging themselves. As long as technology keeps advancing, and it is at an alarmingly fast rate, it keeps all of us on our toes.
The other massive development for you this year, obviously, was the Deep Dish reunion finally happening. Has there been a different dynamic after the time apart?
In some ways it’s different… actually, in a lot of ways it’s different. We thought it would be interesting having gone down our own solo paths for the last eight years or so, having achieved what we’d wanted to achieve separately as solo artists. If we came back together, then maybe there would be a new creativity that we could tap into, which we thought had been tapped out at the end of Deep Dish’s run. That was one of the reasons why we split: We just felt like it had been played out. The last few years in Deep Dish were actually very difficult years, because we felt—even before it ended in the public’s eye—for that two-year period, we felt it had already been tapped out; we both already wanted to explore other ideas that weren’t necessarily the right fit for Deep Dish. Now coming back to it, and especially having gone into the studio and worked on a ton of demos, and having released the “Quincy” single, we’ve realized there is this new dynamic that we’d like to explore—not only just for the fans, but also interesting for us too—to see if there is something there that we can mine.
As you’ve both had significant success in your respective solo careers, does the Deep Dish thing perhaps feel less limiting now?
We always said—even all the way back in the early days—that we’re both two completely different people, with different ideas and different approaches and styles, coming together to create this thing called Deep Dish. So Deep Dish was always a compromise. And now it’s a compromise again, with a new history behind us, the history that was written during our solo careers. So it’s been a wild ride, but we’re jumping on a different sort of horse now [laughs].
Can you see yourselves doing much Deep Dish work together?
This year, Deep Dish was not necessarily a priority—for many reasons, but mostly as our calendars were already mapped out with solo gigs. We decided to do maybe 10 or 15 key shows this year and then make Deep Dish a focus next year—along with the live show, of course, which I’ll be taking out there big time next year. So I’m expecting big things for 2015.