Words: Colin Brownbill
“I felt it was important to be there, but in all honesty, it was a quite sad occasion.” As a regular party-goer, the closure of Space Ibiza after 27 years this summer marked the end of an era. For a long-standing resident like James Zabiela, one of the few DJs who had a truly special relationship with the club, playing at the monumental Closing Fiesta carried extra significance. Space Ibiza was the club which shaped him as a DJ.
Zabiela, who was resident at legendary Space Sunday session We Love for over a decade, first experienced the club’s magic when he arrived as a punter to hear Eric Morillo and Steve Lawler play one of his early mashups (a mix of Depeche Mode and New Order produced with belt-driven turntables, no less).
The following year he became resident, learning on the job and acquiring the skills and knowledge which have helped him become a globally renowned and technically gifted DJ. “It’s the place where I really learnt how to DJ in terms of playing big, scary rooms and how to keep hold of a crowd” he tells us. “I was thrown in at the deep-end and learnt to play in the best university on the planet.”
Zabiela's Born Electric showcases at Space also brought the likes of Ben UFO and Pearson Sound to Ibiza for the first time, opening the door for a new wave of next-gen talent. Space, although steeped in history, provided the perfect platform to embrace the future.
As the Space Ibiza tour arrives in Glasgow this Wednesday (28th Dec) with Zabiela, Dubfire and Carlo Lio heading the bill, we managed to catch a few words with the former resident, talking about Space Ibiza’s enduring influence and how it helped shape him into the DJ he is today. Read the interview below and listen to his set at the club’s final Closing Fiesta:
SynthGlasgow: You’ve been a regular fixture at Space Ibiza for many years, with an extensive residency at We Love for over a decade; what was your experience like at Space, first as a punter and then DJ?
James Zabiela: I went there first of all as a punter; I had a gig somewhere else on the island and I was told going to Space was 'an absolute must', and so I did. I remember the Terrace with the roof off; Eric Morillo and Steve Lawler both played a mashup I’d made of Depeche Mode and New Order. So even going there as punter for the first time was incredibly memorable. That really meant a lot to me - I made that bootleg mix on belt-driven turntables!
The following year I played there and became a resident, so it was a pretty mind-blowing couple of years. It’s the place where I really learnt how to DJ, in terms of playing big, scary rooms and how to keep hold of a crowd. In the early days I sometimes failed at it, but those failings were really important. I was thrown in at the deep-end and learnt to play in the best university on the planet.
SG: Your residency at We Love allowed you to fully flex your musical muscles and you hosted a number of Born Electric label nights during your time there. Why was Space and the Discoteca in particular a great place to showcase the label’s sound and talent?
JZ: Well, going back to the previous question, the main room was a pretty unforgiving space to play if you screwed up, so a lot of the acts brought their 'A Game'. That, combined with the brave booking policy of ‘We Love’ made for some really memorable Sunday nights. We were booking Modeslektor, Ben UFO, Pearson Sound etc and they’d never even played in Ibiza up until that point.
SG: We couldn’t be at the Space Closing party, but we’ve watched your set and we had goosebumps! What was the feeling like knowing you were part of history that night?
JZ: I'm glad I was a part of saying goodbye. I felt it was important to be there, but in all honesty, it was a quite sad occasion. I spent most of the night feeling nostalgic. Even doing this interview is making feel a bit soppy. On the night I actually left before the end (but to give myself credit, I was in there for 12 hours!).
SG: You’ll be returning to Glasgow for the Space Ibiza tour alongside the likes of Dubfire and Carlo Lio at the end of December. Are there any Space classics you’re looking out for your set?
JZ: There might be one or two. I actually made more edits than I used in that last Space set (available to stream above), so I still have some for other sets if the moment feels right.
SG: Born Electric has been going strong for four years now, carving out a really distinctive sound. What do you look for in an artist or track when signing music to Born Electric?
JZ: I feel every track we put out has to have a kind of timelessness to it. It’s a very hard thing to capture in a scene where trends often seem to take a precedent, but I think we’ve done mostly okay in that regard so far. Mostly.
SG: You’re revered as being something of a tech-wizard when it comes to DJ’ing and you’ve of course helped test some of Pioneer’s most cutting-edge kit. What new technology is exciting you most in the DJ booth at the moment?
JZ: I’ve been using the Pioneer Toraiz sampler at home a lot and have considered bringing it to gigs; but flying with hand luggage-only on Flybe is a bit of a mission with all the other widgets I have!
SG: Finally, as we’re approaching the end of the year, what are you most looking forward to about 2017?
JZ: Seeing the back of 2016! It sucked didn’t it? Well, it wasn’t all bad, but 2017 is looking much better as I’ve some projects lined-up that should be fun to do. I also might be moving to Scotland.
The Space Ibiza Tour comes to O2 ABC Glasgow on Wednesday (28th Dec). James Zabiela is joined by Dubfire, Carlo Lio, Jamie Roy, Vilmos, Raeside and more. Advance tickets are available from Ticketweb priced at £25.87 (incl fees).