It's easy to forget in this age of relentless hype that DJs didn't just start mixing house with broken beats following the moment some bright spark came up with the phrase 'bass music'. Despite new healthy competition, James Zabiela is still the bench mark for technical skill married to exploratory taste. Virtually raised in a record shop in Southampton, he's grown into Pioneer's pin-up boy, packing more high-tech kit that Knight Rider, and his performances are such feats of dexterity and imagination that fanatical fans often film him.
But this skill is only part of why is such a crowd favourite. What keeps James at the forefront of dance music is his boundless enthusiasm for new sounds, never getting complacent about his standing while on the other hand not forgetting the melodic base that launched him onto the world scene. We caught up to ask about new kit, who's floating his boat musically and what the future holds.
I don't think it's over-egging the point to say that you're the king of gadgets. Last year you were using iPads to control your effects. What's new or improved in the tech arsenal this year? And what's your favourite non-music related piece of technology?
“I actually have been working closely on some firmware today with a well know electronics firm. Sadly the rules of my NDA don't permit me talking about the product but I will be using it in Miami and I believe it even gets announced this week. My favourite non-related piece of tech is probably my coffee machine I had installed in my kitchen. I use it... A lot! Weeeeee!”
It's always been hard to pin down your sound as you have such wide-ranging tastes. We remember you dropping Doc Daneeka & Benjamin Damages stepping 'Creeper' as the sun went down in Miami last year. What kind of new artists are you feeling at the moment? Does it feel like the prog sound is coming back around again via artists like Scuba?
“I love the Scubatron! He's great and I really relate to his DJ sets. I saw him at Substance in Leeds and he was dropping electro, techno, bass, dubstep and yes, even some proggy vibes. A man after my own heart really and as such it was probably the most exciting DJ set I've heard in a while. I get bored of the single genre labels that the electronic scene suffers from a lot of the time. I need contrast. Lately I've been playing stuff from Dark Sky, Dense and Pika, Clubroot (the new LP is immense), John Talabot and George Fitzgerald.”
We hugely excited that you're playing back to back with Sasha. Firstly, what does that opportunity mean for you? And secondly, how are you both preparing for it? Is it going to be totally about the vibe on the day or is there any kind of forward planning?
“Uncle Sasha (as I call him) plucked me from obscurity and threw me in front of the huge audiences he plays to so at first I built a name for myself as his warm up DJ. When we play together I still feel like I have to impress or continue to make him proud. I was given a once in a lifetime opportunity so I always want him to know I'm not wasting it. That's important to me and his opinion counts for a lot and I admit I still seek his approval to this day. Given our busy schedule we'll probably just wing it, although I'll be preparing my side of things to do a degree of course as I imagine Sasha will do also. I played on his boat party in New York last year and our completely unplanned back to back set went amazingly well so I have high hopes for this one.”
What else is new in the world of James Zabiela?
“I moved house and I recently bought a new jumper. I'm also launching my label in the near future. Sasha has remixed the first release which is a new track of mine and will appear on his new 'Involver 3' LP.”