How Deep is Your Love?

We can make you move your ass even while we're sitting calmly on this bench: Deep Dish DJs Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi
Timothy Saccenti Photography copyright 2004

Quick, identify the source of this list:

Tom (The heck ya mean?), Teri (please, no more cookies and banana bread--I'm getting FAT!!), and Tim (hope your foot's all healed up!) Shaun (Thanx 4 all you've done and for being a true and longtime friend).

So are those words the quote that goes with the mortarboard photo in a high school yearbook? Or are they the thank-yous from the liner notes to Global Underground #025: Toronto, the latest multi-disc mix by international superstar DJ sensations Deep Dish?

The fact that there's any question here (hint for the uncertain: City Pages doesn't review yearbooks until springtime) should say something about just what an unprepossessing and charming pair of guys Deep Dish appear to be. This makes them a welcome exception to the parade of coked-out egomaniacs who have tramped through DJ booths in recent years. Had the duo broken through in the electronica craze of 1997 (their debut artist album Junk Science came out in 1998, just barely missing the boat) the disarmingly down-to-earth Ali 'Dubfire' Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi might have achieved Daft Punk- or Underworld-like crossover status. Instead Deep Dish have become fixtures on the dwindling global super-club circuit at a time when plenty of people would relegate Ibiza-tanned, fun-boy DJs to their onetime status as faceless party accessories. (You can check out their faces in person when they play Escape Ultra Lounge this Wednesday, November 24.)

The British press and music cognoscenti, at least, are ready to turn on the house lights and call it a night. On November 1, organizers of the Brit Awards announced that they were canceling their "dance" commendation in favor of a Best British Live Act to recognize the country's "exceptionally vibrant live music scene." Alexis Petridis, ex-Mixmag writer turned music critic for London's the Guardian newspaper, pronounced that dance music is officially dead. It was the paper's third article on the subject in just over a year.

Yet that same week, the latest single by Washington, D.C.-based Deep Dish--the stomping "Flashdance"--sat at number 19 on the U.K. charts. The track, which wraps a tightly coiled guitar loop around a coy vocal by newcomer Anousheh, wasn't tied to a best-selling album, nor was it the recipient of a major label promotional push. Nonetheless, "Flashdance" peaked at number three in the U.K. in October, above Ashlee Simpson and Nelly. By the time Petridis's article ran, "Flashdance" had been in the Top 20 for 13 weeks.

Even now, a Deep Dish remix consistently opens the doors to underground respect. For their version of Madonna's "Music," the duo took the original Mirwais production, cranked up the synth until it squealed like a pig, and spliced it to a driving beat that owned dance floors for months. Disc one of Global Underground: Toronto kicks off in a similarly confident fashion with a vocal rendered in classic diva style by Julie McKnight, wedded to Meat Katie's thunderous remix of Stephane K's "Numb." Elsewhere, the album showcases a lot of the same progressive sounds Deep Dish toyed with on Global Underground: Moscow, along with the occasional sprinkling of piano or blast of low end that stays true to their roots in deep house.

And yet it's not enough to produce funky club-bangers like "Flashdance," or stylistically diverse, meticulously crafted mixes like Global Underground: Toronto--that is, if you want the press to take notice. The only dance-related media buzz in recent memory has come from grime, the U.K. garage sub-genre that produced Dizzee Rascal and the Streets. And the return of four-on-the-floor rhythms to bedroom electronica (Matthew Dear, Martini Bros) hasn't translated into a renewed interest in the dance mainstream. Yet the staggering popularity of Deep Dish would seem to suggest that it's not the music itself that has been exhausted. Instead, today's stars would seem to be paying for the sins of the fathers, the previous generation of DJs and clubbers whose exploits provided plenty of tabloid headline fodder and prompted the glut of indistinguishable stadium trance mixes now clogging used bins and landfills the world over.

The Notorious B.I.G. once rapped that you're nobody till somebody kills you. With a string of hits behind them and packed dance floors awaiting them in cities around the world, Deep Dish are finding that their critically neglected scene might be better off dead.

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