GOING IN DEEP: JAMES ZABIELA
The technical Jedi, that pushes the boundaries of DJing to it’s absolute limit every time he plays, James Zabiela might have taken a couple years off from releasing anything, but that didn’t mean he was holding back in the electronic music world. The British DJ is one of dance music’s premiere technical wizards, turning CDJs into a bonafide instrument in a way that only a handful of DJs have ever been able to.
An expert in his field (such an expert in fact), that he’s Pioneers go-to expert on their products, and even takes their prototypes out for test runs. He makes full use of everything a DJing equipment has to offer, with a complex approach that incorporates loops, effects and live editing to create a unique performance, that’s he taken across the world from the US, South America, Asia to Europe.
Zabiela’s been kicking it in the scene since the early 2000s, with a number of mix CDs and original productions for Renaissance. Over the last 10 years, he’s played endless gigs globally, with some being era defining like his 10 years and counting residency at Space in Ibiza, to one off shows like Exit Festival in 2006 where Goldie MC’s over his set.
He’s released critically acclaimed compilations on various labels including, Renaissance and Ministry of Sound. His ‘Masters Series’ – 3 months in the life of James audio diary – out sold all its predecessors, rode high in both the UK and the USA on the iTunes store and received top reviews across the board. With a music style spanning through house, tech-house, techo, melodic sound-scapes and breaks, it’s no wonder that Zabiela even has killer bootlegs under his belt, like his amazing meld of Radiohead and Joris Vroon.
In 2006, James was awarded the People’s Choice award for ‘Best International DJ’ at the Australian Dance Music Awards. The following year, he was awarded the ‘Best British DJ’ at the DJ Mag Best of British DJ Awards. He also got comfortable sitting in the Top 20 in the world famous ‘DJ Mag Top 100’ in both 2007 and 2008. When 2011 rolled around, James created his esteemed ‘Paradigm Shifts’ Mix, which he uploaded to Soundcloud and it continues to be an evolving body of work that he edits in sections, as an ongoing project.
He’s also dropped techno and house tracks from the likes of Pedram, Pedestrian and Drew Hill with his own label – ‘Born Electric’ which he launched in 2012. After spending a year mastering his technique, the British artist re-emerged in 2017 with his first-ever ‘Balance Mix’ CD, a legendary mix series featuring influential contributions from the likes of James Holden, Joris Voorn and Will Saul over.
So what goes into making the prestige James Zabiela music? According to him it’s spending months “smashing stuff together”, finding brilliant blends and other eureka moments to highlight. Part of what makes his DJing so popular, is his close attention to what sounds blend well together. Zabiela isn’t merely stringing beats together, above all he’s a musical DJ, taking time to mix in key and finding melodies that fit together like pieces of a puzzle. This has made him one of Techno’s most colorful, varied and vibrant selectors, with an audience that spans across genres and all walks of life.
Before his highly anticipated set at W Bali on November 16th, we were lucky enough to get our hands on him to find out things like what his favorite Playstation game and how he feels about Slade!
You’re obviously a master at what you do, but if you didn’t work in music where do you think you’d be now and what would be your dream career?
Well thank you, but I don’t feel like a master, there’s always room for improvement, you know? I’d probably be doing graphic design which is what I did briefly before I started DJing, maybe I could be a freelancer and living in Bali 😉 Or living in the mountains being a snowbum. I love the idea of moving to the countryside and becoming self sufficient, which if you knew me you would find quite far fetched.
If you could make up a new word to define the sound of your music, what would that word be?
If you were stuck on a desert island and there was only one record, which one would you hate it to be the most?
Slade ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’.
Instead of us asking what should we expect from you behind the decks at woobar, what do you expect?
I have no idea currently, I’ve heard some good things about the venue, so I’m looking forward to some Bali vibes which are always lovely each time I’ve visited.
What’s your favourite game on the Playstation?
I’m not a serious gamer anymore, it just requires far too much time. I loved Spiderman and Star Wars Battlefront II purely for the Star Wars feels. I realise it’s not the best first person shooter.
What can we expect from James Zabiela in the next year?
I said this earlier this year but life got in the way and so next year I’ll definitely be putting out some music of my own.
Pick 3 tracks that you always listen to for inspiration that are not electronic?
Slade… No, I’m joking. Talk Talk ‘New Grass’, Joy Division ‘Transmission’, Radiohead ‘Weird Fishes’.