Sharam and Dubfire's marriage as Deep Dish has been one of the most successful unions in dance music. Their deep progressive label Yoshitoshi and debut album 'Junk Science' catapulted them into the big leagues in the late nineties, while last year's 'George Is On' bubbled overground into the upper echelons of the Billboard charts. But these days it seems that the phrase 'Deep Dish' is nothing more than an afterthought in brackets: "Sharam (Deep Dish)" read the flyers for one half of the duo's recent North America tour.
For fans who usually eat their prog pizza deep dish style, there might not be much on the menu in 2007. Dubfire is set to release his first solo single early in the year, the pair are each doing separate GU comps, and if you check their upcoming dates, Dubfire is in Asia while Sharam is in North America. Is this really the end of one of progressive's most famous partnerships?
Forging your own solo identity alway from the name that made you famous is no easy task for any musician, but it's especially difficult when you perform in the dark caverns of clubs often as a silhouette hunched over the turntables. To the dancers, knowing the difference between Sharam and Dubfire was never that important as long as there was two heads and four hands in the booth, but now they're both venturing forth with solo releases and tours, many are wondering whether this new thing is a divorce or just a trial separation. "We've been together for a long time but we're all about moving forward,” says Sharam. “We got bored doing the same thing. We've always been separate producers and separate DJs who have just collaborated together for all these years. We felt like it was time that we ventured out, did something on our own and learned some things about our own styles of music. We like to think that we're multidimensional. Now we can do different things on our own, together or collaborating with other producers." Deep Dish fans will breathe a sigh of relief. Not so much a messy breakup, more a case of two guys who've spent every weekend together for the last decade wanting a little time out from each other.
Sharam has been the first to play the field again, stepping out on his own with a new Global Underground mix CD (Deep Dish have released two volumes previously, 'Toronto' and 'Moscow'.) But the results might not please prog fans looking for a fresh direction: 'GU: 29' includes tracks by Syntax, Creamer & K and Planet Funk, familiar progressive names from three years ago, while prog trance selections from Paul Van Dyk and Armin Van Buuren, frankly, seem more rooted in the late nineties than in 2006. At a time when John Digweed is showing more love to Bodzin than Blades and Sasha is courting Minilogue instead of Moshic, Sharam's first attempt to carve his own identity away from Deep Dish seems geared at the progressive fan of yesteryear. Not to be too harsh about it, but where's the venturing out in that, Sharam? "I make music so I tend to play music that is well-produced. If it's music that's well put together and it's telling a story and turning heads then I'll play it. I don't care what genre of music it is. It could be hip-hop, it could be trance, it could be tech house, minimal, whatever you want to call it. I've always been about good music. I don't care what genre it's from. I'm not aware of people tagging this album a certain thing. And if they do, I don't really care because it's the music is all that matters."
In fairness, Deep Dish mixes were always pretty progtastic; the studio was where the pair did the tearing up of the genre's scientific rulebook and did their own thing: Back in 1998, 'Junk Science' (surely, one of the best progressive albums ever) mixed up middle-eastern influences, male vocals and guitars; while who could have predicted that the follow-up 'George Is On' would have snuggled up to guitar riffs and Stevie Nicks? In that respect, it's still business as usual for the independent Sharam. Even without Dubfire in the studio, the Deep Dish philosophy of not following trends is still largely at work. Sharam's rework of Eddie Murphy is unlike anything Deep Dish ever produced, and even comes with a tongue-in-cheek Bachelor Party video which even threatens to turn Sharam into an MTV contender. So is more radio-friendly dance where Sharam's head is at as a solo producer? "Extremism is not good in anything. You have to balance everything out,” says Sharam. “The underground is important because that's where new talent and organic growth comes from. The other side is that it is a music business and in order for it to thrive you have to cater to the masses or you're not going to be relevant and nobody's going to give you the time of day. So, it is a juggling act. All groups in all genres of music deal with this."
Neither will like the comparison, but listen to Dubfire's remix of Nic Fanciulli's 'Lucky Heather' and Sharam's 'P.A.T.T' and it's immediately obvious which half of Deep Dish is gunning for the pop charts and which half has his sights on underground dancefloors in 2006. But are the fans ready for Sharam – to use his own words – catering to the masses? Progressive has never been a genre known for embracing change and Sharam is aware that not all Deep Dish fans will follow along for the ride. "Personally I'm a big advocate of moving and change,” says Sharam. “I don't like to stay in one place and be stagnant, personally and also music-wise. I get bored too easily. In order to do that, you have to take risks and do different things. But the process is what's rewarding for me not the result."
But at this early stage, perhaps it's unfair to pigeonhole Sharam as one thing and Dubfire another, considering they've each had only a single solo release so far. We might just have to wait until Dubfire's 'Global Underground' effort next April to get a clearer view of Dubfire and Sharam as independent musical entities, a prospect which might even shed some light on who was responsible for what in Deep Dish (Something that was never easy.) But what about Sharam? Does he seem himself as an individual now or as part of Deep Dish? "Deep Dish is a part of me,” explains Sharam. “It's not something I'm trying to get away from. It is what it is. If anything, it's helped us as individuals to become more like cowboys, take risks and venture out more."