FESTIVAL INTERVIEW: Elektro Sits Down with Dubfire at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Written By: Devin Carillo
For two nights the Mojave tent at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival transformed into a techno paradise with the premiere of Dubfire’s liveHYBRID show. The Grammy-award winning minimal artist filled the Indio air with a futuristic set of impeccable tech beats. Since transitioning from one-half of Deep Dish to his solo career as Dubfire, the Washington D.C. native has been at the top of the charts such as Resident Advisor’s Top 100, DJ Mag’s Player of the Year, and Beatport’s Best Minimal and Techno Artist, fully establishing himself as a genre-defying king in the minimal-techno world.
In celebration of his 10-year anniversary, Dubfire and his team of engineers premiered a one-of-a kind live experience to the Coachella crowd at a stage where old school favorites such as Miike Snow and Silversun Pickups had just rocked a crowd of baby-boomers and recently revived 70’s-era hippies.
Dubfire’s liveHYBRID show combines “elements of 2D and 3D animation with live audio and lighting to explore the intersection of science and technology - of man and machine.” The visual masterpiece that is dubfire:liveHYBRID incorporates a perfectly synchronized composite of light, sound and technology--creating an unforgettable experience for techno-enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
After sitting down with the Grammy award-winning techno producer we had the chance to learn more about his live show inspiration, his transition from one-half of Deep Dish and his overall thoughts about the evolution of electronic music. Check out the full interview below.
Elektro: Being that its your 10 year anniversary as a solo artist, it seems you’re quite familiar with the electronic music industry, but who or what got you into the electronic music scene – specifically into techno and house music?
I didn’t come from disco, I came from industrial music and new wave music and the early pioneers like Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. Growing up in the D.C .area, I was heavily into punk. I was a skin head for a while, had a mohawk… I was always more into the alternative left field side, as [the] electronic movement evolved, it naturally lead me to techno.
Elektro: How would you characterize your transition from ½ of Deep Dish to your solo career as Dubfire?
I went back to my roots.
I was always into techno when I met Sharam, and we ended up making deep dish which was a deep house act that sort of ballooned into like an international pop dance act somehow, very naturally and organically. We didn’t expect that but over the years, we’re not sure why, we just sort of gravitated toward trying to create a hybrid between dance music and rock. We were always trying to bring different genres together and create from that.
When I joined with Sharam, I was always into what I was always into and I didn’t let go of that while we were doing Deep Dish. Especially when in a duo or group situation you reach the end of the creative cycle and your looking for new experiences. You know, you end up being like an old married couple after a while and in order to stay inspired you need to kind of reconnect with the original intention you had for getting into this music, like in my case - techno and alternative music.
Elektro: Have you taken any styles or experiences from Deep Dish and incorporated those into your solo career as Dubfire?
Deep dish was always a compromise. I never kind of want to rehash the same styles or working processes in the studio but having the experience working as Deep Dish and working with a lot of engineers. I knew the rules, and I kept finding new ways to break the rules as Dubfire.
Elektro: You’ve been at the top of the dance music charts such as Resident Advisor’s Top 100, Beatport’s Best Minimal and Techno Artist, DJ Mag’s Player of the Year, with multiple Grammy nominations, and even a win, what does that say for you as a techno artist and for the electronic music scene as a whole?
Over the years electronic music has gotten, as you’ve seen with the Skrillex and Diplo Grammy wins, fully entrenched within the Grammy organization. Electronic music is definitely a force to be reckoned with, I mean Disclosure and Calvin Harris are all on the main stage this year.
I don’t think anyone saw it coming. I’ve been doing this since the late 80’s and there have been moments, especially in the UK’s evolution of dance music, where it seemed like it was going to cross over but never really crossed over in America until I think 5 or 6 years ago.
Elektro: Yeah, it’s definitely growing. So, you’ve done some pretty cool collaborations over the past few years, what is the most memorable collaboration you’ve done over the years?
With Deep Dish we worked with Stevie Nicks, we covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Stevie loved it. The most bizarre out of body experience was to have Stevie Nicks in the vocal booth, coaching her to sing a song that was a legendary song produced by Fleetwood Mac and to have her to sing it the way we wanted her to… Man, I just had to pinch myself.
She was completely open to doing it in a new way and in the end she loved it so much that she included it in her live shows when she went on her solo tour, and she put it on her greatest hits album.
So, let’s move on to Coachella – What makes Coachella 2016 special to you?
I went to Coachella last year after I hadn’t been here since Sharam and I were here as Deep Dish, I think that was 2003. That was a really special year. The White Stripes came out with “7 Nation Army” - that was the big hit of the time - and they were huge. I remembered we had to share a trailer close to the White Stripes and a few other mainstream artists and we were just kind of blown away by the whole experience.
Coachella is so much bigger, the food, the gastronomy, its huge here… I never thought that at a festival you’d see food and chefs represented so well.
Coachella is the only festival in the world where you have something for everybody.
Elektro: So, you’re debuting your liveHYBRID show at the Mojave tent where artists like Miike Snow and Silversun Pickups are set to play, what does that say to you as an artist to be the first ever minimal-techno artist to close out a non-electronic music stage?
It’s amazing to have an outlet for my style of music here at Coachella. You know, we’re not doing a typical DJ set - it’s a whole production show.
There’s more dance stages now, you’ve got the Sahara tent, the Yuma has been going on; but the Yuma is more of a club environment here at Coachella. When I saw Gesaffelstein last year at the Mojave tent, I knew that was it. I knew I needed a black room, basically a dark room to do what we wanted to do.
Elektro: How would you describe your dubfire:liveHybrid show to someone who has never experienced it before?
It involves 2D and 3D technology and sort of a loose narrative of a futuristic world where you have a man-machine hybrid entity who is birthed into the system as you watch the whole thing play out from beginning to end.
We didn’t want to do what the EDM guys do which is throw as much as [they] can at the audience, you know on the walls with lights and crazy visuals and smoke machines and things like that. We really wanted to take a more cerebral more intellectual/animalistic approach to elicit more thought and engage people with what is happening. The audience is desensitized now, and now its about having a bit more finesse, being a bit more nuance, pulling back and putting the right technology in the right places throughout the show.
Elektro: So, is there anybody on the Coachella lineup you’re looking forward to see?
With the Coachella app it’s great, I have my whole list I want to see. I was blown away by Sia last weekend. I wasn’t a big fan of Sia, kind of knew her music from friends… and I was walking across the field going to see someone else and we were blown away, we were just transfixed.
It was amazing, I tweeted ‘congratulations Sia, that was real art.’
Ice cube was great, I used to be a hip-hop DJ so that was great, I thought Disclosure was great, and yeah I’m really looking forward to see Beach House tomorrow. They’re great artists. Yeah, I’m trying to catch as many artists as I can.
Elektro: Are there any big announcements you have coming up?
We’re about to announce Glastonbury. So we’ll do Glastonbury in the UK, which is a huge deal for us and there’s going to be a Hybrid album, which is going to be a retrospective of the whole ten years of my production, collaboration and remix work. I produced two songs off the Underworld album that I’m really proud of and I know they’re on the lineup here as well.
I’m happy to get all that out there and close the chapter on the first ten years of my life as Dubfire. I’ve already started on a new album and coming up with concepts for a new live show. The hybrid retrospect album comes out in September and most likely 2018 will be the new tour and album.
Dubfire’s Hybrid album drops in September and you can catch him at Glastonbury Festival in the U.K. this June!