pre-Creamfields interview

James Zabiela

By eFestivals Newsroom | Published: Mon 19th May 2008

James Zabeila

Saturday 23rd to Sunday 24th August 2008
Daresbury Estate, Halton, Cheshire, WA4 4AR, England MAP
Weekend Tickets: £105.00 + £10 for camping, Saturday day £57.50, Sunday day £53.50
Last updated: Tue 12th Aug 2008

Renowned UK based DJ/producer James Zabiela talks to eFestivals about his forthcoming performance at Creamfields' 10th birthday celebrations.

what are you up to at the moment?
What am I up to? That's a good question. I don't really know. I just got back from playing Coachella, out near Palm Springs and it was pretty amazing. But I just got back late yesterday, so I'm really like all over the place, really jet lagged. So I went out there for the weekend just to do that, I played in Phoenix on the Friday and then Coachella on the Saturday and then flew back on the Monday, so it was a bit of a heavy one.

Did you get a chance to see any of Coachella?
Yeah I did, I saw a load of different acts Hot Chip, Portishead, Roger Waters, which was great it was in surround sound so it was pretty special, and they had pyrotechnics. It was great and they set off the big inflatable pig at the end.

I don't think they were supposed to, there was a reward out for finding it.
Oh, cos I thought that thing's on a tether, they'll bring it back down and it just kept getting higher and higher and then they were shining lasers onto it to track it, so planes wouldn't crash into it. It just slowly disappeared up into the heavens. Someone's going to get a hefty fine for that.

Where are you based?
I'm living in Southampton where I grew up, my home, family and friends and stuff.

Describe your sound for those who have never heard it.
Acid house, break beat techno, a bit of progressive across, some melodic stuff in there. Just sort of across the board.

What's the best bit of technical kit in your arsenal?
I got this new 'K Oscillator' thing by Korg which is a lot of fun, its a little touch synth, it's just got a touch pad no keys or anything just an x y pad it's got like a hundred different sounds in progressive stuff and like sound effects you can change the key of everything it's good fun. Super cheap as well runs off batteries, looks like a fisher price toy, you can just go to a gig, plug it in and you're away.

Are you looking forward to Creamfields?
Yeah, I am very much, because it was the first festival gig I ever did. I actually played the VIP room, it must have been about 10 years ago now. I remember getting the flier, and like, "My name's on the flier, my name's on the flier!" So it's pretty amazing to be asked back to do the 10th birthday, it means a lot.

Now it's a two day event will you be staying the whole weekend?
No, I'm staying the one day, I'm doing the first day and then I'm off somewhere else. But I was there last year so I'm doing it again.

So last year, did you get to see any of it or was it in or out?
Last year was pretty hectic because I did TDK on the same day. I flew in from Serbia I was doing a festival there, which I finished playing at 8 in the morning, went straight to the airport flew to London, drove to Liverpool played the set at Creamfield. Drove back to TDK back to London played there, then I went home and collapsed. No, I didn't I went to Space in Ibiza on Sunday. It was pretty ridiculous that weekend, but it's not like that all the time, thankfully.

James Zabiela

What's the worst thing when it is like that all time?
It's the lack of sleep and the travelling. That's the worst thing about what I do, I can't really complain about it.

When you started off in your career, how did you envisage it being?
When I first started out in music, I'd be seeing a DJ would be playing three gigs in one night and all that rhubarb, and I thought, "Wow, how coold would that be to be doing all those gigs in one night," and stuff, which I've got coming up soon at The Ministry in Birmingham. But it's actually kind of annoying as you don't get a chance to look around, and see acts and enjoy being there. But you don't get to do that if you're rushing about. I never do two gigs in one day. I've actually mentioned the only two times I've done that.

Is there anyone on the Creamfields bill you'd have liked to have seen?
This year, although I'm not doing the whole two days but I am going to be there for the whole day I'm playing. So I'm probably going to go and see High Contrast, because I'm a big fan of his, I just love his style of drum and bass, it's got as much funk and stuff in like traditional drum and bass records have and as much it borrows from techno, and acid house and stuff. It also has that prog vibe about it, his album.

So have you seen him live before?
Yeah I have seen him, I saw him in Perth when I was out in Australia doing a festival called Good vibrations out there. He was amazing, just really wicked. He's the one act I really want to see.

So you've done a fair bit of globe trotting, at various festivals which are the ones you really like?
You probably get other DJs saying this as well, Creamfileds in Buenos Aries is probably the most amazing festival. That and Serbia, Exit festival is great. And I'll tell you what I did this year, it's the second year Creamfields did an event in Peru, and that was pretty amazing, that was awesome in fact. It kind of took me by surprise, just the atmosphere and how big it was. Yeah, I really liked the Peru gig.

What's been the pinnacle of your career so far?
I think there's a couple of things. Playing at Space and being a regular at Space, Ibiza I suppose as it made people aware of me. That was back in 2001. I did the one gig at Space one year and then got invited back to be a resident and do four or five shows, and I've done every year since. I've just finalised this year as well and that's pretty amazing to do, to be involved with those guys. And Exit Festival, Serbia, it was truly magical I think, I did the closing set. It was just one of those hair standing up moments where you're there, you've got the sun coming up and.... wow, I don't want to get too emotional about it, but it was really electric.

So what was your closing track, what perfectly hit that moment?
Ah well, here's the thing. Goldie was playing the drum and bass arena and he came through he was absolutely hammered and got into the DJ booth and he was on the mic. He was like, "Big up the Southampton massive!"to like 8000 Serbians who were like, "what the fuck is this guy on?!" And I suddenly remembered I had my ipod in my bag and a cable I could plug that I could plug into the mixer with. On my ipod I had a Breaks bootleg of 'Inner City Life' so I closed with that. Yeah, it was pretty awesome, he was on the mic to his own record. It was just a real nice moment, it was cool, whipping my ipod out was a moment of inspiration.

Who are your musical heroes?
I'm a big fan of Depeche Mode and stuff like that, I kind of grew up listening to that, and some of the early BC stuff, some of the progressive house, obviously Pasha, and New Biology and Craig Richards. I used to go to their nights with them up in Nottingham, I'd be taken up in the back of the car go and have a little rave as a young eighteen year old discovering house music. I suppose their my sort of heroes, and Danny Hausen, I like a bit of everyone, like I was saying about High Contrast, even though it's a different style of music it's not that different really, just a different tempo.

Have you got any new material in the pipeline?
Yeah I've just finished a track which I don't know if I'm going to release it or not yet. At the moment it's called 'Darkness by Design' but I might change the name of it. And, I'm working on something else which I started on the train yesterday. That's more of a Summer-y record really, so I've done one sort of very pessimistic track and I'm going to do one that's more optimistic.

What do you like to listen to, apart from your own stuff?
I don't sit around listening to my own stuff ever. I like listening to all sorts like last night I came to this acoustic gig down in Brighton and I saw a guy called Tom McRae who is like a solo singer/songwriter who couldn't be further away than what I play in a club. My ipod is just really full up of stuff that isn't electronic music. I think it's nice to get away from it, because then when you return to it, it's really exciting. If my ipod was just rave music all the time then I wouldn't be getting any influences from what's outside it?

So I'm wondering if Tom McRae would influence your sound?
Well I'd like to make an album one day, which has songs in and stuff that isn't just dance. If you want to make an electronic album that people can play at home then you can't just be gnarly bass lines all the way through. I'd like to make a record my mum can listen to and my friends would like too.

Does that mean your mum doesn't listen to the music that you do at present?
She does like my music, but she's more into the hand bag house stuff, think Jeremy Healy. Where as my dad likes really hard techno stuff so they're not really into what I play. All that wishy washy progressive stuff - they're not feeling it. A lot of the acid house stuff I get from my dad, like Jerry Belcher and stuff like that, I used to grow up with that playing through my bedroom floor.

Do they ever say they want to be guest listed?
Yeah sadly they do, if I do a gig in Southampton my dad usually shows up. I'm doing a boat party on Sunday and I've not had a call from him yet which is quite encouraging. He likes to rave it up!

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a DJ?
If you're going to do well at DJing you've really got to have a good production thing these days, either that or be doing something different or original, or have something that's going to make you stand out. Everyone's got a computer, all you need is a computer now, and stick on a simple sequencer, and start off, make a track it doesn't have to be complicated. You can do a track with four or five channels, dance music a lot if, the best stuff for the dance floor is really simple. It's all about how its arranged and how it's mixed, but that's my advice. Make some music. Stick it on myspace. I suppose you also have to find a new and original way of promoting yourself.

Creamfields is playing quite a few live acts now, do you think that shows dance music's changing?
Yeah I suppose it is, it kind of evolves and devolves all the time. I think the thing about dance music is that it's a lot like fashion. Stuff's like really popular one mintue, like the minimal stuff of the last couple of years, and then all of a sudden it's like an evil thing to say you play minimal. So it's a case of things coming around and it'll comeback in the next ten years and be hailed as being the next big thing. It's just a typical trait of dance music, and everything that it comes around.

Well thanks for your time have a good time flying around the world and enjoy Creamfields.
Thanks, cheers, I can't wait to come out and spin!

James Zabiela

Latest Updates

Creamfields 2024
festival details
last updated: Thu 21st Mar 2024
Creamfields 2023
festival details
last updated: Thu 24th Aug 2023