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12.07.2012 // Text: // Pix: phrank


James Zabiela is one of the most skilled DJs out there and is considered a master in mixing in his very own way. He claims Sasha and John Digweed as his heroes and got a handshake from Steve Lawler complimenting him about his very first gig when he played Space back in 2001. It was about time to welcome him in dub Magazine.

Hello James, you are on my list of must-be-interviewed for a long time and finally we got you here, it is my utmost pleasure.

Thanks! Mine too.

You are known as one of the most skilled DJs out there using lots of different techniques and devices combining them to something new constantly. Where does this come from?

It came about by accident really. It stems from my days of mixing vinyl and trying to imitate my hero’s, Sasha and Digweed. The accuracy of their mixing was really something else. Three minute, harmonic mixes on warped imperfect records, dubplates for hours on end is something I found quite fascinating and impressive. So my tech fascination in DJing came from that and now its just this out of control monster that has grown alongside the technology in the industry.

As this seems the time where finally all the different styles fuse you must have a great time out there – how do you see this development?

I’ve always played a mixture of styles simply because I like and appreciate lots of music regardless of its genre. There’s always going to be trends but in between them are these transitional phases before the next big thing explodes and eats itself, are these wonderful periods where I don’t feel like an outcast because I’m not playing three hours of a singe genre (I would be bored). Now is one of those times I guess and I shall blossom like a flower, haha.

Is there any music that is incompatible with EDM?

Arguably not but I won’t be playing any of my folk playlists within in my sets. They’re for home use only.

Brands like Pioneer are consulting you to help them develop new players and devices, what is the next big thing coming?

If I told you that they’d have to kill me. But as I’ve been saying for a while, its all about being able to customise your setups. Outside of the music that is really what sets a lot of DJs apart these days.

What would you recommend a newcomer to start with learning how to mix and become a good DJ?

It’s a tough question to answer because of the way of Traktor syncing and the ease in which DJing can be approached with nothing more than a laptop and the Beatport top ten but your question is how to become a good DJ. Then my answer probably hasn’t changed much in the last few years. If you have a desire to be DJ then make sure you’re a lover of music and have a yearning to share it, obviously this is the most important thing. If you’re a Paris Hilton then get a proper job, hah!  I’d still recommend learning to beatmatch even though you don’t have to because it will teach a total beginner about the structure of electronic music and give you a feeling for what sounds right and what doesn’t but its also good fun to do and I feel there are lot of people on the dancefloor that still appreciate a DJ who is riding the pitch. But like anything, get good at the basics before going tech crazy, that can all come later then you can customise your setup to suit your style of playing.

What is so special about performing at We Love?

It’s my home from home. I learnt to play in that room. I triumphed and failed in there many times before getting to a point where I feel I understand how to work a room, crowd and system of that size and it still terrifies me but the rush of nailing it in there is unparalleled. Also even with the fear, its a place where I can also experiment and push boundaries musically knowing that the crowd are ready for it and because the promoters believe in this and have built their night upon these principles.

How does your perfect day look like?

Well today I woke up to a lovely email from Al Doyle from the band Hot Chip who I’ve just remixed to say they all love the work I did on their track and its approved for release. A day doesn’t get more perfect than that for me at the moment, even though I just missed four trains! I’ll get home eventually.

Your favourite spots in Ibiza?

Space of course. But erm, yeah you mean for relaxing? I’ve taken a couple of boat trips to formentera, paradise!

What would you do if you weren’t a DJ?

I honestly do not know. Something music related, it would have to be. Maybe I’d teach snowboarding or something. Getting a real job isn’t something I’d enjoy.

Tell us about your ‘Born Electric’ activity this summer.

Well I’m getting ready to finally launch my label at the end of the Summer and to reflect and celebrate this happening, ‘We Love’ have booked some appropriate artist for the four parties at Space, such as Scuba, Midland, George Fitzgerald and Modeslektor. Amazing! I’m so happy about these bookings and that label is now a reality, I even have a logo! Hah…!

Catch James playing at We Love this summer, including 4 of his own Born Electric parties @jameszabiela

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