|Age isn't everything.
Still just 21 years old, Southampton based James Zabiela was introduced
to the world of acid house through his father, who worked in
a local record shop and would come home with armfuls of early house
and techno. It was a time of innovation and invention and understandably,
James was hooked instantly. "I can still hear the thumping through
my bedroom floor!" remembers James fondly.
When James was fifteen, he got his first-ever gig spinning in the school disco "I remember looking across the school assembly hall to see my entire year going crazy to House of Pain's 'Jump Around'!" he recalls. A year later he gained a work experience placement in the same record shop that his Dad had worked in and it wasn't long until he was offered a job there as a stock vinyl buyer. Like father, like son? The phrase could've been coined for Zabiela's career.
Of course, it was vinyl addiction from then on in. Through the shop, James was introduced to various promoters and went on to play for local clubs including Menage a Trois as well as warming up for Paul Oakenfold on three occasions at the cavernous Club Ikon in Southampton. But James was interested in a more diverse sound than trance with a capital t and found it hard to play his breakbeat-flavoured beats to local crowds, so as 'a way in' he decided to enter Muzik Magazines prestigious bedroom bedlam competition - and won.
But fame doesn't come without sacrifice and the editorial team at Muzik would only let him win if he cut short his flowing locks. Keen to see just how dedicated James was, it was a small price to pay for impending stardom. He cut his hair the next morning - much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, who refused to speak to him for a week! "This is one winner who is seriously going places," said Muzik journalist Ralph Moore.
This was a great boost to his confidence and inspired him into working harder to promote his DJing career. So he started going to more & more events, meeting people & handing out those trusty mixtapes he'd done. While at Bedrock in London James met Lee Burridge, one of his great influences, who took the time to listen to the tape. He too was hooked. "His style is diverse, interesting & technically skilled. Blurring the line between house and breakbeat, he encapsulates all the skills that a new DJ should bring to the job." Lee invited James to play at his own Breaks night along with DJ Hyper & Craig Richards at Bar Atlantis. Since then James has played there every month since, even luring the likes of Matthew 'Bushwacka!' B to check out the lad. Word was spreading.
Inevitably, James was DJing in London more than ever with esteemed gigs at Laundry and the Muzik Magazine parties alongside the likes of Justin Robertson, Hybrid and Danny Tenaglia. Even John Digweed took the time to call him up, offering James a slot at Bedrock. And he's been asked back on several occasions since, as well as DJing for the Daliparade in Istanbul. America must be around the corner. As career paths go, this was nigh on perfect.
Of course, any DJ with something to prove has to prove their skills in the studio - and James is no exception. Working with studio partner Lee Mintram - acclaimed engineer and Catskillz artist Feature Cast - he's already squeezed a track onto Tony Thorpe's Nu-Skool Breaks LP and has various projects forthcoming including his own projects as 'Offworld Colony & Spidermite' and a progressive remix for the much-vaunted 'Niche Recordings'.
And just as James' feet were about to float back to earth, the phone call of his career came out of nowhere. Thanks to a gentle prod from Lee Burridge, one of his tapes was heard by Tyrant co-hort and superstar DJ Sasha, another of James' all-time musical heroes. Within the month, James was offered a place on Sasha's team at Excession Management, joining a roster that includes Lee, Sander Kleinenberg and Welsh breaksters Hybrid. And it was a good thing they did - he hadn't slept a wink for over a week. "This is the best thing for my music career so far," he said, toes still on cloud nine. On this form, 2001 will be astounding.