Self-confessed X Box addict and progressive music masher, James Zabiela
has come a long way from his sunny hometown of Southampton
(UK) and the business of ‘Quantum Graphics
,’ where he used to work. ‘JZ
’ is now an international dj/producer who is best recognised by his innovative, technically challenging sets involving warped house, breaks and scratching!
Still only 24, the young blood has accrued plenty of knowledge in these past few years whilst travelling the globe, spreading a unique sound far and wide. But ‘nice guy’ Zabiela
remains amazingly grounded for someone covering that many air miles. An affirmed Space-Ibiza
resident in 2003, James also span at the Space Arena
in Ireland for the Carrimackross Festival
in October, and looks forward to another energetic season in the sun for 2004. As a dj, James
certainly works it just watch his hands, remixing and creating that third, fourth and fifth track along the way. The man like Sasha
even nicknamed him the ‘Gov’nor’
having seen James
rise quickly from warm up slot to headline jock. Signed to Sasha
's own ‘Excession
’ agency, JZ
has since toured Eastern Europe, Australia, South America and the USA, whilst also finding the time to produce and remix a few tracks too. As we near 2004, Space-Ibiza
call-up their latest cadet James, for a briefing on ‘Zabiela World
Hello James, how are you and where are you?
, right now I'm at home (Southampton UK
) in my living room listening to tunes, checking my emails and watching ‘Remembrance of the Daleks
’ (Doctor Who
) with the sound off…”
What were you doing prior to winning Muzik Magazine's ‘Bedroom Bedlam’ dj
competition, apart from practising?
”I was a graphic designer for a company called ‘Quantum Graphics
’ in Southampton
, whilst working in a record shop at the weekends. I then lost my girlfriend, my friends, my family everything - since I had no spare time at all. Not much has changed, but I do make the effort to see my friends now and I have an understanding girlfriend, who helps me a lot with various things like designing and managing my new website (plug, plug - www.jameszabiela.co.uk
) My friends remind me these days that I'm nothing special, and this helps to stop me turning into a tosser I think!”
With an arsenal of equipment (is it usually two Pioneer CDJ1000s, a Pioneer DJM600 and of Technics 1210s?) how do you create the Zabiela sound?
”I have an Efx 500
, to which I use to do feedback loops and mess with stuff. I use the CDJ1000
s for scratching, firing samples and really warping stuff. Live editing of tracks is possible with just these bits of equipment. I just have fun playing with the toys, it keeps it interesting for me and the crowd.”
Your (Hooj) 'Sound In Motion' compilation was mixed completely live, is this important to you following the influx of Pro-Tool mixed sets turning up?
”It is important, I don't want to give a false representation of what I do in a club. For my next CD I'm going to try and really capture a live feeling. I don't know how I'll do it yet, but I'm thinking of ways…”
You're with Sasha's ‘Excession’ DJ agency. In good company there right?
”You bet. It seems weird to be under the same umbrella as the djs I grew up with. It still throws me when Sasha
or someone call me on the phone. Silly really, I guess. Burridge
is the worst… so scary on the phone..."[laughs]
Number 11 in the recent 2003 DJ Magazine Poll, how was it for you?
”Amazing and, err pretty overwhelming to be honest. I certainly never expected that! Also, kind of embarrassing though, because there are some awesome djs, who I really respect, who didn't even make the poll! It's a popularity contest at the end of the day and it doesn't count for everything, but it's amazing that a load of people were supporting me. Thank you!”
Better I suppose to be on DJ Mag’s cover for their following issue, 14-27th November?
”I know, madness! I look like a serial killer on that cover… Did you know that Zabiela
means ‘killer’ in Czech
? Just watch out!”
When you first played Space just a couple of years ago, warming up for Sasha, did you realise where it would all lead?
”I thought that would be the peak of my career, I had no idea it would lead to this.”
How do the Ibiza crowds react to your unique broken-beat style and set arrangements?
”At first people looked at me like I was nuts and the first gig was weird. I wondered then, if it was going to work at all, but I tried again and they seemed to dig it. By the last gig of the summer I was doing thirty-minute sections of just break-beats, and it felt as if I was playing some ‘big’ tunes. I never thought I'd get away with it, but somehow it really worked. I’ve learnt a lot about DJ’ing this year, especially at Space
. I'm still learning, and always will be.”
A new (bi-weekly summer) Space-Ibiza resident James, how does it feel?
”Am I allowed to say amazing again? Because it was, though the first couple of gigs were really tough. I play a lot of break-beat and it's not exactly the sound of the Terrace
(he laughs,) but after week three it was all going smoothly and the people were brilliant!”
The 'We Love' crew obvious adore you, why do you in turn love being a dj?
”There's no other feeling like rocking the party. I love manipulating the music and messing with people’s heads (in a good way of course!) 'We Love
', have been instrumental in helping my djing career, and for that I can't thank them enough. (Zabiela Loves J
Have you seen much of Ibiza, besides the clubs and airport?
”Not really, I played at Mambo
a few times, so I got to see a little but I'd love to go and just chill. It didn't happen in 2003 as I was playing too much!”
How is America reacting to your innovative sound?
rules, they love different styles meshed together and that's really important to me. The people are really supportive there, I always feel welcome the moment I start playing. It's great.”
Has the US club legislation affected your recent tour over there at all?
”Not yet, but I guess it might in the future depending on how enforced it becomes. But, I think the more controlling the government try and to be, the more people will want to breakout and shake their funky stuff!”
You're very young to be in such an esteemed position, how is your ego coping with all the attention this year?
”It's not… ‘I'm the best dj in the world damn it!’ (He laughs) Like I said, I have good friends around who remind me how crap I really am. They're like "You suck! My mum can mix better than you!" Okay, they don't say that, but a lot of my friends are people the same I went to school with, and if I started giving it the ‘large one’ they'd be the first to kick my 'superstar dj' ass.”
Do you read your own press still?
”Yes, if I get a chance to see it I'll read it. Sometimes something will get printed and I'll find out from someone else. Weird.”
What forthcoming production / remix plans can you reveal?
”It's all top secret, but I am working on stuff. Remixes, original productions a new mix album…”
What keeps you sane whilst covering the many miles each week?
. I've loaded it full of whale sounds to get me through the stressful day. No just kidding, but it helps. I take my laptop about and play around with sounds.”
What djs do you rate at this time?
”I recently played with Funk Da Void
, Phil K
and Layo Bushwacka
. All very different, but all good in their own way... I mention those names because you’ve probably heard of them, but there are also wicked unknown djs all over the world as well. In my hometown of Southampton
we've got Tom Budden
and Natalia Data
. I played with a guy called Jeff
(I forget his surname!) in Canberra who was ace, Dennis Rogers
from New York
is also brilliant.”
My bear wants to know if your fringe ever irritates you whilst you're playing out?
”Nah… I’ve got used to it. My hair used to be much longer when I first started out djing (in a ponytail! Yuk.)”
What are you doing for NYE?
”I'm playing in Dubai. I've never been there so I don't know what to expect, but I am excited of course!”
Any other major JZ 2004 plans?
”Hmmm. Another mixed LP, various remixes, a cool monthly night in Southampton
, and err a Christmas number one… (Laughs)”
[center]Some J-Z Links