Knowing what a great track should sound like - and the place it can be taken by warping and twisting it - is James Zabiela's forte. Layering different sounds with the aid of two Pioneer CDJ-2000s, a Pioneer EFX-1000, Korg Kaossilator, MIDI controller and a laptop, his hands and ears don't let up for a second, leaving any punters feet a-moving and mouth a-gap. Zabiela’s demands for such a kit wherever he spins is a reminder that he's one of the scant few DJs who's pushing things forward in ‘09.
James' style is trippy, bleepy and deeply - nay, downright - groovy. Oh, and watch out for a few gnarly basslines along the way, those nasty, dirty sounds are a part of JZ's signature now. Scratches, loops, and fluttering chord changes are all par for the course in a Zabiela set.
No wonder childhood idols Depeche Mode remain his heroes - like fellow tech-house don Mathew Bushwacka!, they all understand that the best electronic music moves both heart and feet. And if the magic's there, the spirit will fly as well. "Entertainment and education are the key," nods James sagely. "It's all about finding the balance. People have paid good money to have a party but you still need a balance." Which is why his effects unit is so crucial to his performance. "Anyone can mix two records to a degree," he grins, while still admitting to the odd bout of nervousness during radio interviews if not behind the decks.
"But I'm a hundred times more confident than I used to be. DJing has definitely helped my confidence as a person." Watching him play, it’s easy to forget that making things look easy takes time to perfect. Zabiela’s crossed a few bridges - and a few national boundaries - along the way. "I haven't worked it all out yet," he adds. "But I do wish I could grow an extra arm sometimes!"
James' career so far has been stratospheric to say the least. Swiftly snapped up by Sasha's Excession agency, he spent the next year taking on Eastern Europe, Australia, South America and the US of A, while still finding time to record well-received CDs for Renaissance and unleash a string of fine remixes along the way. Royksopp, Ladytron and progressive artists Spooky have all been under the Zabiela scalpel - and more are on their way. Pushing the envelope while still learning to cope with a real-life fan base and life on the other side of the record counter, it’s unlikely that James Zabiela will be taking a breather anytime soon.
There are further late niteries like Tribal Sessions and Matter to entertain and regular slots in Romania and Budapest to attend to. On a recent trip to Argentina he played a five-hour set in front of 6,500 screaming punters at Moonpark in Buenos Aires. No wonder Sasha refers to James as the guv'nor, This is still just the beginning.