The mustachioed half of secretsundaze takes things deep for RA on this week's podcast.
It's not often that we think of Giles Smith apart from James Priestley, but the duo that make up the DJing arm of secretsundaze are very much distinct characters. Smith is the deep house don, Priestley the disco diva in disguise. And while there are clearly common pockets of interest, it's clear that what they do is complementary—with few overlaps.
Smith's love of the deep kicked off in earnest via his residency for the legendary Faith parties, where he cut his teeth under the tutelage of X-Press 2 and Terry Farley. He soon left, however, to begin sundaze with Priestley, building up the brand into one of London's hottest events, and a summertime tradition for clued-up clubbers interested in coming down from a long weekend of partying. Since then, they've extended to become a worldwide phenomena, throwing parties in Barcelona, Ibiza and Miami (among other places) in addition to their usual summer schedule in the UK.
And Smith, as many of his DJ brethren have done, has also begun to produce music as well. Martin Dawson, AKA King Roc, and Smith form Two Armadillos and have had a string of releases on Dessous, Buzzin' Fly and Four:Twenty with much to come in the summer of 2009. Already released this year are remixes on Dessous and Fear of Flying and original productions—the Je Suis Differente EP and Rattlesnake 12-inch—on Sthlmaudio and Motivbank with work on BangBang! (2000 and One's new-ish house label) yet to come.
The work is, as always, defined by a deep house sound, and that's exactly what Smith provides on his RA podcast too. Detroit, New York, Paris, Amsterdam and London: Wherever there is house music being created, Smith has found it and put it in the mix. With it looking unlikely that there will be a secretsundaze, Vol. 3 CD release, consider it the next best thing.
What have you been working on recently?
Been really busy just planning and booking the secretsundaze summer season both venue-wise and booking-wise, which is now pretty much hooked up for the season. Quite a few gigs/travelling. Been in the studio a bit but not so much the last months or so with all the planning that goes into our summer season of parties. Just got back from Sonar a few hours ago. Secretsundaze at La Terrazzza on Sunday was a massive success and great party—thanks to Ame and Dix, Melon and Wbeeza for joining us. I think it was the perfect way to finish the time there. It seems to becoming quite a nice meeting point there at the end of the long three to four days of parties for a lot of people and the open air space is so lovely there with its unique architecture in such a beautiful setting.
You're about to head off to The Garden Party—what can we look forward to?
Well, actually secretsundaze have been hosting a semi-official "pre garden party" warm-up session on the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the actual Garden Festival at the weekend for the last 2 years now. This is because quite a few people decide to go and spend more than just the weekend there as it's a nice spot so it gives those that are there already there during the week the option of some nocturnal activity.
We host Barbarella's club on the Wednesday and on Thursday there will be a boat party. We have also brought Tony Rodriguez aka Brothers Vibe who will be playing alongside James and I at both parties. So really looking forward to that. Tony is so much fun, always a great person to be around. We are out there in Croatia two other times this summer, so I guess it's like a residency. We have dates in August and September and Gerd Janson will play with us in September.
How is '09 shaping up for secretsundaze?
2009 is shaping up great. UK-wise both bank holidays parties (the first 2 parties) sold out a week or so in advance and were great parties. Had over 2300 people come to see Move D, Brothers' Vibe and Melon at the opening—no big, obvious names or headliners there so really proud to get that kind of a turnout. Got some great parties lined up and Prosumer makes his secretsundaze debut this Sunday at The Light.
Also, we will be hosting our arena at Lovebox as usual on the 18th July with DJ Sneak and Johnny D (live). Other than that, we have quite a few international gigs in the likes of Belfast, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Vienna, Ibiza (As One at Gala Nights – The Old Zoo next Monday), Glascow (Sub), Paris (Rex), Frankfurt (Robert Johnson) where we actually do Sunday day and night and New York looks to be on the cards again. I'm touring probably around a 50/50 split with gigs as secretsundaze with James and I, and then just Giles Smith gigs on my own.
Do you have anything more coming up as Two Armadillos?
Yes, we have a load of stuff coming out as we speak. Actually probably too much in a short space of time but you know how labels change their schedules and whatnot so suddenly a lot is about to come out at the same time despite that not originally being the plan.
Immediately out now we have a super deep simple yet pure groove track on Sthlm Audio (Agnes' label) called "Je Suis Differente" with an old friend of mine Barbara Alcindor on vocals. Barabara and I met in the very first year of secretsundaze eight years ago and immediately hit it off and became friends. We always said we would do some music together at some point, and when Martin and I wrote the track I knew immediately it was the right time to bring Barbara into the picture. I'm also really happy with the Nick Holder remix as I have always been a fan of Nick's stuff particularly the stripped down, raw grooves on DNH. This is definitely my favourite remix of one of our tracks so far, really simple, respectful of the original and really pure and groovy.
We have a much more Technoey (at least for Two Armadillos) release on Motivbank called "Rattlesnake" out in the next week or so, a lot more pumping and 12 minutes long. It's not our usual sound but was fun to do and it seems to be getting some great reactions. That has a Guido Schneider remix on the flip. Then we have remixed "Designed With That in Mind" for Leif on Fear of Flying also out very soon. We actually called this "Two Armadillos Tribute to Trax remix" as we just took the bassline from the original which kinda sounded like an old Adonis or Mr Fingers / Larry Heard bassline and then totally re-wrote the other parts in that typical fashion with some melodies, some 808's, simple claps and child-like vocal chants. I guess it's quite an end-of-night track or something for the sunrise and hopefully has quite a timeless feel.
Then we have done two, what I refer to as "Basic House," solid, style tracks which are very much in the spirit and I think typically "Two Armadillos." They are both groove-led percussive tracks that sample some jazz records. Jazz is hugely influential in our music. The first to be released is out soon on Tsuba called "Jazz Falutin" on a Various Artists EP alongside tracks by Rozzo. The second is "Hawthorne's Theme" a track we wrote quite some time ago last year and I included as an exclusive track on my mix for secretsundaze Volume 2. I gave a copy of the mix to Dylan (2000 and One) and he asked about it for Bang Bang, his new more Chicagoey label that has had some great releases already. That's out soon too. So quite busy on the release front!
You've been a long time ambassador of the moustache—how is the mo going and do you enjoy seeing more taches around?
The mo is doing jus fine thanks. Yes, I think it's nearly 3 years now and, yes, they do seem more popular. Always nice to compare tache's although I'm not at the obsessive stage yet where I get "tache envy" if someone has a bigger one than me! Funnily enough there is a bar called "The Moustache Bar" that has just opened around the corner from my house but I'm yet to go down there for a drink.
When I first grew it, a few months afterwards someone pointed out that I had another MySpace site called gilessmithsmoustache actually thinking I had created it myself (quite worryingly). Despite much digging I could not find out which prankster had created it. People added comments on the site and for a while we were all laughing about it before I got slightly worried as the person controlling it was sending some pretty funny but slightly cheeky comments to some other fairly well known DJs that turned out to actually think it was my doing (which transpired when I later bumped into them at various points). It then got forgotten about. Well over a year later (this time last year) I later I bumped into Scott that works at Fabric at our party at Sonar. He confessed that one day in the office at Fabric he built the site. It turned out he completely forgot the password and couldn't close it down. It's still up there now...
Where and how was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded as nearly all my mixes (including secretsundaze Volume 1), live at home in my bedroom on two turntables and a Vestax mixer. I did not even master it to keep that 100% live feel. It was all from Vinyl. I did spend quite sometime thinking about the tracks before, as opposed to just playing off the cuff but I think the pre thought worked well for me. I would have nailed it first time through were it not for bad concentration and just mixing a track too early which caused a sound clash, so i started again and nailed it the second time around. I just listened to it once, and am pretty happy with it and think it's a good honest reflection of my DJing style.
Vinyl is still far superior to me, culturally / historically, aesthetically and sound-wise. I definitely feel like I am part of a dying breed, but frankly I am happy to drag my heavy bag all over the place (despite airlines losing it on four different occasions last year—once for over a month). I just feel CD's and music files are so disposable. I guess I am a romantic, nostalgic person, but I make no apologies for it. I still write all my gigs in a diary on paper and although I don't use it so often I still like to write with a cartridge pen believe it or not!
I love vinyl and all that it stands for. Going to shops, talking shit about music, sharing ideas, discussing music face to face, holding the vinyl, the artwork. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a massive problem with downloading or the net but it's a totally different world which I don't care for as much. I would far rather jump on the bus and spend half a day or usually more in record shops than jump online and download some tracks (even though I really don't have the time). There is less social interaction and the interaction on the net I have to say on message boards, blogs whatever are so often negative rather than positive.
I don't really talk about what I don't like or whatever but so much stuff on the net is slagging off or critising. It's a total irony as the people that spend the most time or are most active on the net are usually bedroom DJs or armchair generals and are the least likely to do something positive that contributes to the scene. Going back to records, I will continue to buy vinyl for as long as I possibly can. I can honestly say I was spending a huge amount of money on records from a young age and would probably continue to buy as much as I do irrespective of whether I was earning a living from it.
Can you tell us a little about the mix?
I really enjoy doing mixes as they are always a bit of a challenge to express your style in just 80 minutes or so. I like to try and keep my mixes smooth and not jump around stylistically too quickly which is just the way I like to hear things if I'm out on the dance floor myself.
I guess I'm quite a traditionalist or maybe even conservative in this aspect, as I like to hear music develop slowly drawing you in with deep, atmospheric mood music making the dancers feel more sexy, before playing more pumping clubby stuff. I usually play some more epic Detroity stuff towards the end and then some "classics" or at least my kind of classics. To get this range across in a short time is hard enough in two hours, let alone in 80 minutes. I like playing at least three to four hours, but I hope to have captured a fairly nice cross section of what I play while keeping the progression quite smooth. It just sometimes means jumping straight from second gear to fourth with limited time.
Something else that is important for me to state is that although its important to move things forward and push new artists I am not that interested is using loads of new records or promos in mixes. I get sent hundreds of promos, but pick out very few that really make it into my box. The tracks that are special to me are tried and tested over time so even with my secretsundaze mix CD's there are actually very few brand new tracks, but hopefully some records that people don't know from the past.
It's also important to show people where things have come from as well as pushing new stuff. Not only that so many new releases sound over produced and lack that warm, rougher, sexier feel—another reason why I like older records. I think with my bookings at secretsundaze I have shown that we are pretty forward thinking, booking many artists to the UK for the first time so I don't need to be proving myself in regards to new, unknown tracks in this mix.
It might also surprise some people that despite me having so many releases up and coming why I didn't include them on the mix. Well, to be honest, that's not really my style. Hopefully if people like the mix they can check the tracks out. I won't compromise the mix flow just to include and promote my own music.
What are you up to next?
Just keeping on with the long summer of parties and touring. I have a lot of gigs, I am back in the studio to work on some new Two Armadillos material with Martin after a month or two off. Have some requested tracks to do for Sushitech and a remix for Brothers' Vibe. I have also written a few things with Glimpse which are sounding pretty cool and we have one track with some vocals from Taka Boom (Chaka Khan's sister) that we're really happy with, but we're gonna do a couple more before working out what we do with these.