James Zabiela - The Weird Scientist

James Zabiela is a DJ that played all over the world alongside many of the scenes biggest names and has a somewhat revered reputation for being an awe inspiring trickster on the hallowed decks. From dirty breaks to upfront electro and deep tripped out acid numbers, the Zabiela sound takes in just about every form of twisted, funky modern club grooves.

Born in Southampton, James Zabiela was introduced to the world of acid house through his father who worked in a local record shop and would come home laden with armfuls of early house and techno in the year of 1992. At the age of 17 he took Sasha's autograph and three years later Sasha was listening to James' mix tapes in his car. Now he rocks it everywhere he plays, all over the globe.

Still pushing the envelope and still learning to cope with a real-life fanbase and life on the other side of the record counter, its unlikely that James Zabiela will be taking a breather anytime soon.

The way I figure is that if I'm having fun with the music, (and the technology allows me to do this) then it can rub off on the crowd. If I stood there inactive and bored looking then maybe it wouldn't be so good.
Chloe Leeks: First of all, at just 26 it seems like you've already been at the top of your game for an eternity but how did you first get hooked in by electronic sounds? Were you always fascinated by music from a young age?

James Zabiela: I first got hooked when I was doing my work experience in the Record Shop my Dad worked in. He'd be brining home 12"s when I was 12 years old! So by the age of 15 I'd caught the repetitive beats disease. I'd always loved music but banging rave music coming through your bedroom floor when your 12 was actually pretty annoying at the time so it wasn't until I actually listened to the music from the same room that I got into it!

CL: What were your first clubbing experiences? Can you remember the first club you went to?

JZ: Yes, I actually played! It was a club called the Old Oriental in Southampton and I got £20, I was well chuffed. I remember thinking the music was so loud and I'd never realised you needed monitors to mix. I was also playing on Technics for the first time so needless to say I was dreadful although people danced to my surprise.

CL: You came to the attention of many by being billed emphatically as the protégé of Sasha with the iconic DJ sounding out your talents at every opportunity. Can you remember the first time you crossed paths with Sasha? Have you got any amusing anecdotes on the Man Like Sasha?

JZ: I'd actually seen Sasha DJ at the Manor and on the Menage et Trois Boat party's in Southampton before meeting him properly. I remember getting his autograph when I was a 17 year old Progressive House train spotter! Three years on and he'd listened to my mix tapes in his car, it was pretty overwhelming at the time and I still have so much massive respect for the man. As for anecdotes well I wouldn't be one to gossip (as Dot Cotton may have said).

CL: As a naturally unassuming chap how did you respond to finding your name being bandied about with so much accolade behind it? Do you ever find the trapping of success a bit odd?

JZ: It is very odd in all honesty but you can't listen to the all the praise or you'd end up with a huge ego but if you do listen then you have to learn to take the criticism as well. Generally it's best not to think about it and get on with the music.

CL: Your obsession and expert command of DJ technology has left the more. Do you think those on the dance floor always appreciate just how much work and trickery is going on in your sets? Or does it even matter as long as they're munted and having fun on the dancefloor?

JZ: The way I figure is that if I'm having fun with the music, (and the technology allows me to do this) then it can rub off on the crowd. If I stood there inactive and bored looking then maybe it wouldn't be so good. So even to the general joe who has no idea what is going technically I think it's a still a better experience visually to them as it is sonically to those who are there for the music. I hope!

CL: You're well known for being, well, a little bit more balanced and the down to earth than the average superstar DJ. But what's the most bling situation you've ever been in and have you ever uttered the words 'do you know who I am'?

JZ: Haha, no I've never used that one, far too embarrassing. The chances are they wouldn't know me anyway. As for bling, well in a few months I'm getting a helicopter from one gig to the next. I guess that's pretty Rock n Roll but to be honest I'm pretty scared about it.

CL: From dirty breaks to upfront electro and deep tripped out acid numbers, the Zabiela sound takes in just about every form of twisted, funky modern club music. But what are the common strains between them? What makes up the essence of the Zabiela sound? Is there something particular you look for in your tracks?

JZ: It's really as simple as if the track is pleasing to my ears then that's it. I think it's important not to be Pigeon holed and not to follow trends. I just play music I like and that happens to cross the genres you just mentioned.

Features Archive

[2008]

James Zabiela - The Weird Scientist
PUBLISHED

May 11, 2006 at 12:40 AM CEST

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Chloe Leeks

CL: Which gigs in recent months have you found most inspiring and what is the strangest thing that's happened to you this year?

JZ: Hungary over Easter was fantastic, Romania the following week too. Sasha's Fundacion night in LA was really special back in February. In Miami I did a fun small gig with Nic Fanciulli which was a laugh and a half!

CL: As well as your love of technology, you're also a massive Doctor Who fan. How did you first get involved? The new series... second rate comeback or much needed revival?

JZ: Well I grew up watching Peter Davison so missed what many may call Doctor Who's glory years with Baker (I soon caught up with help from VHS and DVDs). Between Danny Howells and myself I think we have every Baker story. I love the new series, it has moments that annoy me but generally it's stayed true to the original show and is well written and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get excited every week.

CL: The summer season is nearly upon us and that means one thing to most of us....Ibiza. What will be your main residencies over the summer season and how much are you looking forward to the season?

JZ: I'll be doing five exclusive appearances for We Love Sundays at Space with some back to back sets planned there as well. I can say no more!

CL: Lots of people seem to make a career out of it lamenting that it's not what it used to be... what are your most memorable experiences of Ibiza?

JZ: The first time I went and played at Space it was fantastic it was a totally new vibe to what I'd seen previously, a massive turning point for me. I don't know what it used to be like but what's the point in reminiscing when you can enjoy the moment?

CL: Finally, you've made memorable forays into the production world but remain best known for your technology driven DJ spectaculars. Is conquering the production world your next ambition and can you ever see yourself releasing a full artist album?

JZ: A full artist LP is miles off but I'm working on new material all the time and experimenting. 'Weird Science' will be out on Renaissance Recordings this Summer and is a result of one of those experiments gone wrong! It's a nasty Techno bass-line growler.

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