Southampton DJ and producer James Zabiela is known as a wizard behind the decks, whether it's for his earlier signature style of combining breakbeat and house or his more tech house leanings. As the line between DJing and producing blurs, James talks to The 405 about his label Born Electric, new artists catching his eye and his label's first birthday party at XOYO in London this Saturday October 19.


What was the idea behind Born Electric originally?

I made this track called 'The Healing' and I just wanted to put it out my way and have complete creative control over how it was presented. From the artwork to the remixers, that was the original reason for the label but then plenty of others presented themselves. Getting to release music from relatively unknown artists, supporting new talent as well as getting to work alongside my peers and heroes such as Midland, Hot Chip, FaltyDL, Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka. Now putting on parties like the one we're doing at XOYO is another fun and rewarding part of it.

The label party is being held at XOYO, is there any reason you chose this venue in particular?

We did our first Born Electric night there around this time last year. I played all night, even spinning some vinyl, which I hadn't done in a while, and I absolutely loved it in there. Happy Birthday to us!

How has your summer been? You've played for We Love at Space, what do you like about Ibiza?

It's been fantastic but over all too quickly. A little piece of me died after that last closing party, I really miss it already. We Love and Space supported the label from the very start allowing us to curate the main room with acts we love ourselves, from Machinedrum and Midland to Joy Orbison and Boddika who's alongside me again at XOYO. Ibiza can be whatever you want it to be. If you're after a blissful escape to countryside and beaches it can be that. If you want to lose yourself in a world of rave, you can do that too. Escape is the key word there though.

Are you a festival or a club kind of guy?

I like both but I prefer to be in the dark confines of a club.

Tell us about the line-up for the label party.

Well, in the main room. As mentioned we have Boddika who is playing earlier than he usually would. This is good I think because every time I've heard him gets that last closing slot. Maybe because he's known for banging the crap out of it (in the best way of course!). But if you listen to his NonPlus output he's really very diverse musically so I'm personally very excited to hear more of this side from him this Saturday.

Next up we have Mr Drums of Death! His booking came about through me constantly playing one of his tracks called 'Bang The Dub'. It's an overblown chunk of robo-techno. Again, his music is very diverse. If you listen to his incredibly popular track 'True', it sounds like it's made by a completely different producer. So both these guys I feel have the same genre-bending ethos that I love and also try to achieve in my own sets. Then the upstairs room is for the Born Electric babies! Both Pedram and Drew Hill (that's Michelle Drew and Phillip Hill) have releases upcoming on our label. I'm actually going to play two sets so I'm warming things up for them first upstairs and my label partner Mouj and I will be closing out the night up there whilst I finish up downstairs. I have to say I'm very excited to play the early set because it'll be nice and relaxed and I'll get to stretch my musical legs before the main set downstairs. That's the other thing about programming your own night; you can do things like this and make it fun and interesting. I don't aspire to be a promoter though, that's too much like hard work.

What are you working on musically at the moment?

More original stuff for the label. Maybe I'll play a bit of something on Saturday. E-E- E-E Exclusive! FYI, that was meant to sound like a jingle.

Which new artists on the scene have been catching your eye lately?

Well other than Pedram and Drew Hill, there are Iron Galaxy and Pedestrian both of whom make up our first releases on the label. I'm also enjoying music from Lo Shea, James Welsh, Sand People and Cadans (who I believe is an established producer in disguise).

Apart from at the label party this weekend, where else can we catch you playing?

On Friday I'm playing at Audio in Brighton, which is one of those nice dark clubs that I mentioned earlier and then next week I go to North America for three weeks on tour. I'm just working on a Born Electric New Year's Eve party which is shaping up very nicely so far.

What's on the cards for 2014?

More of everything! And me continuing to get my shit together.

You're known for your technical ability behind the decks and on the fly style of DJing, whom were you inspired by as a DJ to do the type of sets you do?

The weird thing is I don't actually know, not for those particular attributes you mentioned at least. I was always fascinated by scratch DJs and computer games as a kid, so some of that is definitely to blame. When I was growing up I mostly just wanted to emulate my hero Sasha who was the king of the long seamless blend and was technical in an entirely different sense. So I guess all the tech stuff just kind of happened through my personality.

Do you have any words for budding producers and DJs?

Don't be lazy; learn your craft yet have fun with it. Get out there and meet people. For me that was the hardest bit being quite shy when I first started out, but it's so important to meet your potential peers. Be original and don't follow trends! Be a weirdo like me. It's okay! It can work sometimes. If it's good, it won't matter if you're cool or not or whether you fit into certain cliques.

Catch James Zabiela along with Boddika, Drums Of Death and Drew Hill plus more at the Born Electric 1st Birthday on Saturday October 19 at London's XOYO.