Crate Diggin’
Hear 5 Classic Records that Shaped James Zabiela’s Career

Technical ability has always been a lauded facet of DJing, but rarely does this manifest quite as dramatically as James Zabiela’s. The UK artist has spent the last 15 years mastering his craft as a specialist mixer, with a methodical approach that sees him blending melodic house, breaks and bass with inexplicable precision.

In fact, Zabiela’s sincere regard for the mix in part helped him with his first break in the early 2000s: he famously handed his first mixtape to Lee Burridge, and landed his first gigs after this was heard by Sasha.

Zabiela’s mixing prowess helps go some way to explaining the broad scope of his record collection. Ahead of his overdue return to RM1 next weekend, we hit up Zabiela to hear more on some of his most formative records. When he gave us an insight some of those essential cuts, he compiled a detailed list including UK techno, tech house and dubstep spanning the 90s and 2000s.

Lost and Found (Danny Tenaglia’s Lost in Twilo Dub) – D*Note [VC: Recordings]

I think this was my first ever Tenaglia record, I don’t know if it was ever released. I first heard it through John Digweed at a boat party in Southampton – that was also my first time hearing him play, and at that time I’d only associated him with his mix tapes I’d heard which were in more of a progressive trance style. Until then, that was all I’d listened to. He opened his set with this – it’s still progressive, epic and entrancing across 11 minutes, but it turned me into a housier sound. This Dub remix never came out and I waited an entire year before finding a promo at the local record fair. That was a good day! Until I acquired a copy I used to make my own dub version by mixing two copies of the released vocal mix together and skipping out the all vocal sections by cutting between the two. It was probably the first time I’d done anything like that as well. A crude rearrangement on my Soundlab turntables.

Love – Luke Slater [Loved]

In some respects this is a little like the Tenaglia track in that it turned me away from epic perfecto trance towards techno. I didn’t realise it at the time but I always thought there was something different to this record compared to everything else that I was collecting. I could play it in my ‘sets’ (back then these were just headlining in my bedroom to my suffering mates), and its emo pads and trance vibe fitted in with the other stuff I played, but its production was properly techno with overblown kicks and percussion.

Stay Gold – Deep Dish [Deconstruction]

People will remember the excellent Tracy Thorn vocal version that came out later – a rare occasion where an A&R at a label (probably) ordered a vocal mix for the masses but it actually paid off in musical way with her ace and well suited voice. I was a fan. Still, before that existed I loved the chopped up vocal snippets on the original. I remember the BMG rep came into the shop with a pile of these and my boss lost his mind over it. I thought that was super weird at the time because it was so far away from anything he’d usually listen to. He was right though, I still enjoy this record today and probably always will. The first time I met Ali Dubfire and Sharam Deep Dish I asked them to sign my copy. With a battered sleeve it had definitely seen better days – they probably thought I’d neglected it, but it was just that I’d played the thing so much.

Orbit 1.3 – Second-Hand Satellites [Hallucination]

I couldn’t compile this list for you without mentioning this record, I used to hear Craig Richards and Lee Burridge play it all the time at fabric, and I always associated the warm bass with memories of going to Tyrant nights. There are many off-world qualities to this record, and in my opinion it’s completely timeless. The subdued broken beat really stood out in a time when there was so much breakbeat and nu-skool breaks around – it was beautifully different then and continues to endure. I recently went a bit bonkers trying to work out if the vocal sample was from a film, or something they had made themselves. I ended up watching long sections from the film Lawnmower Man as a result. Unlike this gem from an alternate reality, that persistence is something that has not endured so well over the years.

Prototype (Modeselektor's Broken Handbrake Remix) – Headhunter [Tempa]

I felt I had to mention this too – although I never got fully into dubstep, this remix suckered me right into the sound, and many people who came to see me back then would’ve heard me play this. I used to pitch it down massively and sneak it in amongst some techno. Even slowed right down there’s so much nervous energy contained in it. Going to bed after a night out I would often hear that tripped out voodoo hook on repeat, or I’d find myself humming it over and over whilst sitting in the corner of my room.

Friday 18th August

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