10 Questions With BEAR
Giles Smith talks Secret Sundaze...
Newsicmoos has enlisted a new member to the team: meet Bear. Not one to hibernate, he’ll be prowling his way through club land to claw out responses from top class DJs, party makers, producers and label honchos. This week, he cornered Giles Smith, one of the founding members of now legendary club night and record label Secretsundaze, which this year celebrated its 10th year of some of the most memorable parties around. Giles speaks to Bear about Secretsundaze’s music policy, wearing half a Halloween costume on the Eurostar and why he chose Secretsundaze’s 10th birthday party as his personal choice of party of the year…
BEAR: Last time I saw you was at your Secretsundaze Halloween special at the Village Underground in which Fred P was the main guest – I know I speak for all my lot in saying we had an absolute blast, did it live up to expectations for you? Was there a stand out moment for you on the night?
Giles Smith (Giles): It was the first Halloween party we had done. It was Electric Minds that asked us if we wanted to get involved in doing a Halloween party as they are good friends and always do halloween. We thought why not? Yeah I was really happy with the party overall.
BEAR: You were heading straight to Paris after you played that night, the question I want to know is did you wear the fancy dress outfit (orange lycra leggings + beret + baggy t shirt!!) to board the flight, and if so how was it received by the cabin crew and fellow passengers?
Giles: Erm I wore the upper half of my outfit on the Eurostar. So yes baggy shirt and beret but did take the leggings off! Thought I might get a thorough going over at security if I kept the leggings on. I actually managed to lose my passport on the Eurostar but someone picked it up and handed it in. They made an anouncement on the tannoy. Phew!
BEAR: That night you had Fred P, who I’d say played a Delano Smith groove-house type sound, which is quite different from some of the past DJ’s you have booked, such as Luciano and Villalobos, who are more associated with the likes of DC10 rather than New York. So do you think that Secretsundaze has changed now? If so, what would you say has influenced that?
Giles: Well if you knew Secretsundaze’s music policy in 2002 you probably might not have said that….When we started in 2002 our music policy was very much based around deep house. We had guests in the first year or so such as Doc Martin, Joshua, Fred Everything. The first record I played at the last set on the first party was ‘Sometimes I Feel Like‘ by Ron Trent and Chez Damier. I rest my case No seriously in the mid section of 2005/2006 which you might associate with “earlier” but was in the middle of our history we were excited by the new sounds and influences coming from the DJs you mention and on top of that deep house didn’t really go anywhere so it was time for a change but I always played a lot of house records amongst some of those new sounds. It’s now kinda come full circle. Although we are always open to new sounds – we love the cutting edge sounds that could be loosely referred to as “Bass” coming from London, Berlin, Bristol with artists like Joy Orbison, Pearson Sound, October, Arkist the list goes on.
BEAR: How do you go about attaining the music you play? Is it a combo of having stuff sent to you digitally or is it mainly vinyl or are you one to route through record shops and find it all yourself?
Giles: People always ask me that like I have some secret record dealer. I’m just pretty dedicated. I still play 99% vinyl with very few CDs and those are normally my new tracks. I just do not have the time to go though all the mp3′s I get sent as most of them are just not well targeted so to find one I like I have to spend 4 hours of listening to rubbish sadly. I make sure that every time I go to key cities like Berlin, New York, Tokyo I hit the shops and hard. I spent 8 hours digging in Disc Union in Tokyo in one day. I just came back from a week in the studio in Berlin and probably went to every record store there apart from one over 2 days. You have to be dedicated. It’s exhausting concentrating on music for that long but it yields its rewards. I often just pull out things randomly to see what happens. By dedication I mean getting up that extra bit early to go to that final shop. I mean in Berlin for example I went to one store that doesn’t always yield good results but that day an old geman DJ had just sold his collection and there was a pretty extensive US collection that had some great old Canadian Stickman releases. Of course I go to Phonica, look on Juno. Facebook is great as people you like and respect post stuff on their pages so that can be fruitful. I also dig a lot in second hand shops in London.
BEAR: Is there an old gem of a record you have discovered recently that has perhaps influenced you? And what was your favourite new track of 2011?
Giles: I have always loved Blaze from New Jersey and that soulful sound. I pulled out their seminal “Basic Blaze” LP off my shelves recently and have been playing ‘Sacred Sex‘ and ‘The Garden’ lifted from that LP. On a new records tip its not my favourite record of the year but love ‘A Circle Stops Somewhere‘ by A Sagittariun in the Marcel Dettman “MD2 Hard mix” the second remix he contributes. Played that in Munich on Friday at Bob Beaman and it sounded great. Very much the more technoey end of what I play.
BEAR: Besides the parties you DJ at, do you still go out and get amongst it? Are there a DJ(s) that you would make a special effort to go and see?
Giles: Most people that know me know that I like to get amongst it! I love going to other parties like Benji B’s Deviation. They always have a great cross section of music and you can see anyone from Photek to Joy Orbison to someone like Rick Wilhite. Also love Sud Electronic although that has now finished as Lerato / Lakuti who runs the parties is moving to Berlin after 10 years of bringing the likes of the Dial guys to London for the first time. As you play more and more though you treasure the weekend moments out of the clubs in more intimate environmets with less people and close friends. Hmm there are quite a few DJs I like to check out. Not gonna pick 1 though.
BEAR: What was the best party you played at in 2011 & what was the best performance you witnessed in 2011?
Giles: That’s really hard to answer both questions – I mean I had a few amazing gigs Robert Johnson, Panorama Bar, a boat party for Blkmarkey Membership in NYC with DJ Qu but honestly my favourite set and club experience and I say this with my hand on my heart was secrertsundaze 10th birthday at the house and terrace. I played after Moodymann as the sun went down. Being the 10th BD all my friends and family were there. Things were getting kinda crazy up behind the decks and when I came on it was just that kinda vibe that I cant explain with word but my set seemed to flow really well, the crowd were into it and it just turned out to be quite a special set.. It’s hard to say what makes this – the vibe and family atmosphere, following Moodymann who played a great set. All these things. Best performance I witnessed hmm. Moodymann was great as I mentioned and Sven Weisemann killed it at our opening party.
BEAR: The secretsundaze label has a growing stable of signed DJ’s, so what is it that makes you think ‘we have to sign that guy/girl?!’, and is there anyone you are excited by the prospect of at the minute?
Giles: Well we “sign” records to the label (these may just be from a producer not necessarily a DJ) and we sign artists – DJs / live acts to our growing roster on the Secret Agency. It’s hard what attracts you to an artist – of course its ultimately the music and their personal vibe.
BEAR: Onto 2012. What next for the secretsundaze label, and what next for The Two Armadillos?!
Giles: Well we have SS 003 coming out shortly – Ethy and Flori’s charming ‘Shelter’ with a more clubby technoey Rolando remix. We have SS004 nearly ready. More about that soon.
Two Armadillos have loads going on after a period of calm. Wew have our debut LP Golden Age Thinking out on our own Two Armadillos label distributed by Clone. This was written well over a year ago but we sat on this for a while before deciding what to do with it. We a split EP on Chez Damier’s Balance Alliance with a much requested track “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by myself and Glimpse. This was written 3 years ago next april when Martin was living with Chris from Glimpse. Chris asked if I wanted to write something with him and this was the fruit of our labour. I can’t really explain why it has taken 3 nearly 3 years to come out!
BEAR: Last but most importantly, when can we expect to see you in Manchester/North?
Giles: When I get an invitation to play up there again!
We’d like to thank Giles Smith for having a chat with us. You can BUY 10 Years Of Secretsundaze HERE. Check out his facebook and twitter. And there’s more – check out the lineup and BUY tickets to Secretsundaze’s NYE party at Troxy in East London. There’s also a tiny bit of time to vote in DJ Mag’s Best Of British Poll, of which Giles Smith is nominated. Do so here. Peace!