This Saturday for the first time in two years, our heads turn to the much welcomed return of Giles Smith in Room One. In more recent times at our Farringdon disco, Giles has been dazzling crowds in the intimately woven surroundings of Room Three with his super-tight music crew, The Secret Agency which he co-runs with James Priestley. Together they nurture a family of artists that are the best in their game including Chez Damier, Delano Smith, Sven Weisemann, Brawther, Ethyl and more, whilst consistently scouting the house and techno vaults for new talent.
As it stands, Giles and James have been ruling the roost of Sunday raving with their legendary Secretsundaze parties rolling ripe into their eleventh year of existence. Topping that, Giles has just released his debut album, ‘Golden Age Thinking’, in three parts, with the first part out now under his moniker Two Armadillos which he shares with Berlin's Martin Dawson and since 2006 they've enjoyed prolific releases and remixes on Dessous, Buzzin Fly, Four:Twenty, Secretsundaze and Clone.
As Giles continues to fulfill his promise as a house music purist, we caught up with him to talk about why the past is often the place he looks to for inspiration, his nostalgia for illegal raving and his top ten artist tips for 2012, in no particular order..
Hi Giles, we heard you’ve just been to Sri Lanka- how was your time over there? It must have been lovely this time in the year to get away from it all.
Yeah it was amazing and much needed! It was my second holiday there and I particularly like the south west coast going from Colombo to Galle where some of the best beaches are. I was with a few friends for the majority of the 3 weeks out there but spent the last week on my own. I took a scooter and went surfing most days and just kicked back in the afternoon. Gaulle fort is right on the coast which has been colonised by the Portugese, Dutch and English in that order and has some amazing colonial buildings. Its quite special walking around in the fort at dusk and they have a couple of amazing old hotels with elegant terraces / veranda that make you feel like your lording it up in the 1930's.
Travelling across the globe, where are some of the places you find most musically inspiring and totally authentic?
Well for me authentic would refer to a certain spirit that exists or philosophy of a club - so this would be a focus on keeping it simple, fairly raw in terms of the aesthetic and in terms of music just staying true to what they are setting out to do. Robert Johnson in Frankfurt in every sense embodies the terms authentic and for sure is musically inspiring in that they always book artists they really believe in. Its owned by serious music heads and audiophiles. The club itself is a simple place with no frills and not forgetting that it has one of the best soundsystems in the world. Other places I feel they really get it include Japan - where they are totally obsessive about creating that perfect environment and do not sell out musically, Panorama bar / Berghain and of course fabric!
How are you looking forward to playing in the main room this Saturday with Radio Slave and Nina Kraviz? What kind of set can listeners expect to hear from you?
I am massively looking forward to it. I must have played 6 times or so over the years in room 1 but it’s my first time in 2 years so I am pretty hyped about it! I love building a vibe from the ground up with a slow, smooth progression. Its just a joy to play in that booth which is surely one of the best if not best booths in terms of comfort for the DJ.
Some of the Secretsundaze regulars like George Fitzgerald are playing in Room Two on Saturday. Will you be making your way over to check out the sounds of George, Scuba and Sigha?
Yes I’m really into a lot of what the Hotflush crew do and always like to check out the likes of Sigha who I know from his days working in Black Market and George of course who has played at secretsundaze a few times. I mean within the Hotflush camp there are different styles. George's music is a lot more garage and house influenced for example whereas Sigha's a lot more technoey.
Would you say you’re a 'house music purist’? Aside from playing and releasing vinyl records, what is it would you say that makes up a 'purist' exactly?
I would say that I am a "purist" full stop. I guess that sounds kind of pretentious but for me it’s just an attitude or way of life about not compromising to pander to trends or massively altering your music to play for different crowds. It’s having the confidence to do what you do regardless. I'm not a Dj that tries to please everyone. So I guess that is fairly uncompromising and pure.
I look for records that have a true, authentic spirit as opposed to something that is very contrived or of the moment. It’s not something you can really describe with words but I know when I hear it. "That" feeling a record gives you. That's not to say that I just rule out records that don't fit into certain genres such deep house or say classic Detroit techno. I love finding records that are hard to categorise but do have an obsession with those classic house and techno records be it a Ron Trent track or an Underground Resistance release. I think being a purist is a case of having very high standards too. Although i think there are some great new producers / releases / labels, overall I am disappointed by a lot of new music and often look to the past to gain inspiration.
How does it feel looking back on the emergence of the acid house scene in the UK? In what ways have you seen the scene evolve during this time and what lasting memories do you hold and try to emulate from the earlier days of rave?
I am quite a dance music history geek and have seen so many of these documentaries and read numerous books on the rise of acid house and its development and further back to dance music’s beginnings particularly the disco era with the likes of Grasso, Mancuso, Depino, Levan, Siano etc. First of all it makes me feel nostalgic as I was lucky enough to have experienced fairly early raves in 91 / 92 where it was still very much in its infancy as an underground subculture as opposed to now where dance music is totally over ground and most teenagers have been to a club and heard house / techno.
There was a raw, free and sometimes lawless spirit then with many illegal parties dotted around the country and there was also a feeling that things were changing and dance music was a socio-political force as there was with punk say in the 70's. When combined with drugs like ecstasy this was a powerful thing.
I have so many memories of how open everyone was and getting in cars with complete strangers and driving to gatherings in country fields especially in East Anglia that was a real hotbed for illegal events in the countryside. It's evolved so dramatically in the sense that it’s now nearly every town and city has a club playing dance music. You can buy mix CDs, get free podcasts. Back then the only way you could hear your favourite DJs sets were DJ mixtapes which I collected avidly.
Of course the whole explosion of genres and sub genres that's a major development. Finally I guess another way the scene has evolved is that with declining sales and particularly record sales artists and indeed labels need to look at different models in terms of revenue stream i.e with performing artists now long gone are the days when Armand Van Helden or MK are gonna get 20 or even 5K for a remix so they have be hitting the road more for the gigs. Answering the last part of the question in terms of what we try and emulate I guess I or we at secretsundaze just try and be true to ourselves and push music we like not following trends and in terms of that DIY ethic - trying to keep things like venues off the beaten track as opposed to using standard places - this helps.
We’re excited to hear you’re releasing the debut album, ‘Golden Age Thinking’, in three parts beginning later this month with Berlin-based artist Martin Dawson as Two Armadillos. Tell us about the decision to make an album after releasing a string of EPs since 2007?
Yes Part 1 is actually out now - released this week. There's no great explanation. We had done loads of EP's and wanted to explore doing more LP based material. Having said that there's a balance of dancefloor stuff with more laid back home listening. Each of the 3 Parts have a more dancefloor orientated A side and the flip has two deeper cuts for the home or those special moments in the club. I am really proud of all 3 parts and think it’s the best Two Armadillos work to date but let’s see what others think.
Would you say your Two Armadillos alias allows you to explore a different side of your personality?
No not really. Two Armadillos is a production team - secretsundaze is a party, label and of course James and I DJing. They are two completely different things but when I make music with Martin as Two Armadillos I am just trying to create music that is timeless and music that I would like to play in my DJ sets as Giles Smith be it at secretsundaze or any where else for that matter or stuff I’d like to listen to at home.
You’re a self-confessed vinyl junkie – tell us where you love to go record shopping these days?
Well I buy my records from numerous sources. Record stores are still my preferred way of buying records. I buy a lot from Juno, Phonics, Blackmarket. I love buying records when I’m on the road and of course love hitting the stores in Berlin. Tokyo is always amazing as they are so fanatical and love collecting so you always find rare gems there and New York for sure has a couple of cool stores. Other than that online on discogs, private dealers.
What’s next for you? Production and DJ wise for 2012?
Production wise well Martin and I have of course got the next 2 parts of "Golden Age Thinking" coming in late March and May respectively. We really want to focus on building up the label and are not looking to release on many other labels. DJ wise I have quite a few gigs lined up for the year with gigs confirmed in Frankfurt, Italy, Spain, Ibiza, New York, Cologne to name a few.
Finally, if we left you on a desert island what are five things you couldn’t live without?
Assuming there was a supply of food already. I would take a copy of my favourite book "Any Human Heart" by William Boyd, a notepad to write ideas/ thoughts down, some kind of music player with some decent speakers and sun cream. A beautiful easy going girl would be nice too!
Giles Smith Ten Tip's for 2012
One of the only producers I know doing stuff to rival the real deal old sound with an new avant guarde twist.
Young and hugely talented producer. Everyone seems to be lapping up his tracks.
Another young gun hailing from Paris with a more traditional techno slant. His EP's on Deeply Rooted were killer and its just a matter of time before he is banging it out in Berghain.
Jenniffer is massively talented and her music combines spiritual elements of the likes of Larry Heard and Ron Trent wrapped up with her own sultry spoken word vocals. Strictly for the connaisseurs!
Another relatively young artist that has so much talent. Housey and technoey with as love of chicago and detroit in equal measure and a killer live and n DJ set. Check him out and his EP's on Mathematic and Tabernacle.
Claro Intelecto and Andy Stott
Ok these are two artists but they are kinda related and from the same crew. Killer deep techno art!
Brawther has got bags of talent and his LP is forthcoming is on the way!
This is my curve ball. I am seeing the legend play on Friday in Brixton and after years in the wilderness lets see what he pulls out the bag.
The old chicago legend has had a bit of a revival and there have been a couple of great.
New signing on the Secret Agency roster. London based classically trained artist that has influence from bass to techno to ambient. Check him out!
I mean we all know how talented he is but his new record really is a masterpiece and I think he is only just warming up!