Growing up in Washington DC after his family left the Republic of Iran when he was 11, Ali Dubfire was always drawn to outsider music: a “punk, goth kid” whose idols were bands like Fugazi, Minor Threat and Depeche Mode. As new wave, goth, punk and industrial started to collide with electronica he found himself exposed to the early sounds of Detroit and their European influences like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre. His early experiences as a DJ in DC saw him playing hip hop and rare groove jazz before setting up house duo Deep Dish with childhood friend Sharam Tabeyi in 1992. A run of classic tracks like the peerless 1995 remix of De Lacy’s ‘Hideaway’ and 2004’s ‘Flashdance’ established them as a pillar of the genre and even won them a Grammy. But in 2006, Ali walked away from Deep Dish to strike out on his own as a techno producer and DJ. Since then, thanks to his innovative SCI-TEC label, tracks like ‘RibCage’, ‘Dios’ and his remix of Plastikman’s ‘Spastik’, he’s become one of techno’s most essential producers and remixers – and he’s also created an unmissable live experience with the stunning, immmersive Hybrid live show, which so far this year has slain arenas from Glastonbury and Coachella to the IMS party at Ibiza’s Dalt Vila.
Between the live show and the gigs you’re one of the busiest artists in techno. How many gigs do you play a year?
I think I average 140. But when you factor in all the travel time and time away in between you end up spending more like 250 days of the year on the road.
That’s a lot of gigs!
I’d probably play less if I was more settled in my personal life. I’m never satisfied, but I’m not necessarily searching for perfection. I’m not sure what I’m searching for; I guess that euphoric feeling you get when everything’s perfect in the booth, or in the studio when everything clicks.
Where’s your home when not on the road?
I grew up in the DC area; my partner is there, my parents live there, and our booking agency is based there. But I relocated to LA two years ago with my ex-girlfriend and then we split up. So I’m kind of in between DC and LA for the last 10 years, and Barcelona in summer. Rich [Hawtin] was trying to get me to move to Berlin and I had friends in Amsterdam who were trying to get me to move there, and friends in London too, but I met [Circo Loco mainstay] Davide Squillace and we became good friends. I became friends with his friends in Barcelona; we were a little, tight-knit group of friends from different backgrounds. I tried Barcelona out for two summers and loved it. It’s got a beach! And you can cycle or walk pretty much anywhere you need to go.
Which US cities connect with your sound?
New York, LA, Chicago – all the major cities I’d say. Miami and Detroit obviously, too. I typically don’t go to the second- or third-tier markets as much as I want to, because I used to go all the time when Sharam and I were together. We were mainly doing the States and South America and Canada.