Interview: British DJ James Zabiela

The performer kicks off a series of events between October 20-29, celebrating 25 years of Prague’s Roxy Club

Craig Monts

Written by Craig Monts Published on 19.10.2017 11:00:16 (updated on 19.10.2017) Reading time: 4 minutes

Prague’s legendary Roxy Club is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month with a series of events between October 20-29, ten days of parties, live shows, theater performances, and exhibitions at both Roxy and NoD. Headlining the event, English electronic duo Goldfrapp (10/23) and British DJ James Zabiela will open the event on Friday. Zabiela took time out of his busy pre-show schedule to chat with Craig Monts.

You recently played your South America, Mexico & USA tour. How was it?  There were 16 dates did you enjoy the traveling?

The gigs were mostly amazing but being away for a month was tough going, to be honest. I’ve been trying to also complete a huge project whilst on the road and the travel has been pretty brutal so I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and actually, my health unfortunately suffered as a result, I’m pleased to say I’m feeling a lot better now and the project is near completion.

Your routines are amazing. How long do you spend practicing for a routine? 

Thank you for saying so. Not as much as I should do these days but the good thing about a long run of gigs such as the above is that I’m really practicing live. When you do something really cool you can try and repeat it the following night if you can remember how you did it. When there are a lot of gigs in a row you kind of get in the zone.

Which DJs did you grow up listening to?  As a youngster, where were you clubbing?

I used to listen to Sasha & Oakenfold mixtapes (!) when I was at college, a lot of them were bootleg recordings from clubs but having never been to a rave I just had to imagine what that was like. When I was old enough to get into clubs I finally got to see Sasha play and suddenly all those mixes I’d been listening to made more sense.

Which direction do you see DJ/ turntablism going in the future? 

People are now required to have fewer skills with the options technology now brings, so it’s hard to say really but one might argue that turntablism isn’t so important these days. A shame, I still mess about though but mostly for my own enjoyment it sometimes seems.

Do you enjoy playing live in the club environment? 

If the party is good then yes, there’s nothing better but I’m not a natural performer. Some people might assume I am from my demeanor on stage but I’m really an introvert that occasionally likes to show off sometimes. Actually, I sometimes endure pretty bad stage fright before a gig.

How did the “Born Electric” label come about? 

It was quite simply a vehicle for me to put out a piece of music that I wanted complete control over. Now my friends and I put out the occasional track we like, so it came in useful! The next release is by newcomer Jody Barr and features a big melodic remix from Brassica, I’ll play it [tomorrow] I expect. It seems to be going down well so far.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Prague show? 

The Roxy is a great space for bringing out a fairly bombastic set from me I think, there’s something about that great theatre space that does bring out the performer in me. I think there’ll be something for everyone somewhere in my set because I like a mixture of styles across House, Techno, Electro… And some old school ‘Prog’ (which seems to be back in fashion at the moment).

Tell us about your nights “Reason” at ROXY. How did it start & how long did it run? 

Well, I was a resident for a year and guested many times outside of that. It was my first international residency before I started playing at Space in Ibiza! I was kindly invited to play by then “Reason” resident Joel Einhorn and Roxy manager Lenka to come and open for Sasha. Then I came back every month after that, it was an amazing time for me and I learned a lot about how to DJ in the main room. I didn’t always get it right but it shaped who I became as a DJ and helped me understand audiences. Playing in Praha was different to what I was used to at that time, having mostly played opening sets everywhere up until that point. I was suddenly pushed into a headline slot and had very little experience with that but those incredible parties forced me to step it up and so many great times were had. Rejoice!

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