While electronic duo Deep Dish — Ali “Dubfire” Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi — were playing a new instrumental track off their recently released second album, George Is On, for a friend in their studio, she found herself singing the lyrics from Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” “It was instantly familiar to me,” says Shirazinia of his friend’s response. “But at the moment, I didn’t know it was that song. Originally, [the track] was just a song we called ‘Bored,’ because we were bored musically.”
To Shirazinia’s surprise, the vocals were in perfect key with the track. After recruiting local singer Anousheh Khalili to lay down provisional vocals, they sent the recording to Stevie Nicks for approval. Just weeks later, the D.C.-based duo was in a Los Angeles studio with the Gypsy Queen herself.
“She loved the track,” Shirazinia says. “She recorded all new vocals and listened to our production directions. At first, it was like walking on eggshells, but by the second day I didn’t even think of it as Stevie Nicks in the recording booth. There was a mutual respect.”
The follow-up to their 1998’s solo debut, Junk Science, once again finds the progressive Deep Dish marrying rock with dance, but Shirazinia says George Is On — named for the term pilots use to signify the use of autopilot — is a natural evolution from their debut album. “We wanted to continue building the bridge between rock & roll and electronica,” he explains. “That was our original intention with Junk Science. As for the title, it can be a metaphor referencing a lack of control in your life, or as Sharam interprets it, letting go and allowing life to happen.”
Among the new tracks are “Say Hello,” which features Khalili’s ethereal voice bottomed by a thumping backbeat and riffed guitar, and “Flashdance,” inspired by the hit Eighties movie. “That was Sharam’s project — he’s wanted to do something with it for a while,” Shirazinia says. “I hadn’t even seen the film and still haven’t. Having been together for fourteen years, we trust each other and there’s not a lot of creative interference.”
Formed in 1991 after a booking mishap found the DJs spinning simultaneously at a D.C. club, Deep Dish have released a slew of mixed CDs and remixed tracks by a myriad of artists including Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Depeche Mode, Diddy, ‘N Sync, Justin Timberlake and Beth Orton. In 2002, Shirazinia and Tayebi won a Grammy for their mix of Dido’s “Thank You.” “We missed the announcement,” says Shirazinia. “We were waiting for the entourage to get ready.”
Still, having amassed their heavy-hitting artist roster and earned respect as one of the perennial deep-house acts, Shirazinia sees the win as just one more step in Deep Dish’s strive to elevate electronica to mainstream recognition. “It was great winning a Grammy,” he says, “but it’s just one thing to mark off of our checklist. Ultimately, we want electronica and dance music to hold the same ground and receive the same attention as every other genre.”