James Zabiela might have taken a few years off from releasing anything, but the electronic music world is still catching up with him anyways. The British DJ is one of dance music’s premiere technical wizards, and he turns CDJs into a bona fide instrument in a way that only a handful of DJs have ever been able to. (He’s such an expert, in fact, that he advises Pioneer on their products, and takes prototypes out for test runs.) He makes full use of everything DJing equipment has to offer, with a complex approach that incorporates loops, effects and live editing to create an inimitable performance he’s taken across the world from the US to South America to Asia and Europe.
Now the British artist is going through something of a new beginning. After a year spent tinkering with his technique, he re-emerges with his first-ever Balance mix CD, a legendary series that has featured influential contributions from the likes of James Holden, Joris Voorn and Will Saul over the years. For his first release in five years, Zabiela sought to capture the kinds of spontaneous and wonderful moments that occur when he mixes tracks live. He spent months “smashing stuff together,” in his words, finding brilliant blends and other eureka moments to highlight and show off. Part of what makes his DJing so popular is that kind of close attention to what sounds go well together. Zabiela isn’t merely stringing beats together. Above all he’s a musical DJ, taking care to mix in key and finding melodies that fit with each other like pieces of a puzzle. This makes Zabiela one of techno’s most colourful, varied and vibrant selectors, with an audience that spans across genres and audiences.
Zabiela has been active since the early 2000s, with a number of mix CDs and original productions for Renaissance. He also runs his own label, Born Electric, which has released techno and house from the likes of Pedram, Pedestrian and Drew Hill.