TF Archives

James Zabiela - Point Break

Author: Scott Henderson
Monday, May 4, 2009

Preparing for We Love Sounds, James Zabiela talks to 3D’s Scott Henderson about why he’ll never give up on breaks.

James Zabiela is a pretty quiet unassuming interview subject. Give him the chance to geek out over the techy side of his DJing modus operandi and he’ll gladly chat away about the ins and outs of developing new gear for Pioneer, a company he has represented for a number of years now. And despite having experienced all the trapping of the superstar DJ life and being the anointed protégé of Sasha, Zabiela still lives in Southampton, England, where he was born and raised.

At 29 Zabiela is still relatively young in the clubland; old enough to have started out on vinyl, young enough to have embraced the new technologies early on and play a major role in defining the direction they’ve taken. “People find it hard to believe that I just used to play with vinyl and I used to say that I’d never play CDs,” explains Zabiela. “I worked at a record shop and the thought of everyone getting music over the internet and burning CDs or whatever put the fear of God in me because I didn’t want to say goodbye to it. But I went on to become a representative of that change and now work closely with Pioneer.”

Sets using the latest technology to tweak, loop and scratch through an arrangement of breaks, house and progressive tech have only enhanced Zabiela’s reputation, rewarded by huge demand for his wares on the world circuit. Hardly surprising, perhaps, for a guy who had his first set of decks at age 15 Zabiela feels more like a jack of all genres rather than a master of one.

“I guess I’m a pretty confused DJ musically,” he confesses. “The problem is I like too many things. I like everything from deep house to the banging techno and everything in between from breaks to acid house. For me the challenge is always to get a bit of that in each set, a bit of everything that I like and connect those sounds.”

Despite the sense that breaks have become “incredibly unfashionable,” Zabiela explains that he’ll always continue to stay true to the genres he loves. “Music goes in cycles and if you look at people who have been successful over a long time like Sasha and John Digweed they’ve stuck with their true progressive sound. They’ll always sound current; they’ve been able to stick to what they believe in and not just hop on genre bandwagons.”

It’s hard to think of two better and more consistent pros to aspire toward in a career that sees so many shooting stars. “For me they’re benchmarks in what I try to do,” says Zabiela, himself destined to be part of the DJ landscape for many years to come.

WHO: James Zabiela
WHAT: Plays We Love Sounds at Hordern Pavilion
WHEN: Saturday 6 June