Interview: Giles Smith

by Emil


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Giles Smith
Two Armadillos

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I recently caught up with Giles Smith of the legendary London club night secretsundaze to learn about his affection for house music, his friendship and collaboration with Martin Dawson (RIP) and how to keep a club running for more than 12 years.

Emil: Could you briefly explain how and why you got into the dance music scene?

Giles Smith: I heard house music on the radio in 1992 and that same year I went to my first rave which was more hardcore and breakbeat but I found a small house room there and gravitated towards that as it played more soulful and groovy sounds. Things like Terence Parker, Tony Humphries to UK sounds like Junior Boys Own. Why, what's not to like? It was fun, exciting and inspiring and I guess a little bit taboo too with me coming from a strict all boys school.

Giles Smith live from Panorama Bar:

secretsundaze has been running for 12 years, which is insanely long for a club night to exist. How did it all start and how do you keep it fresh? What has been the biggest challenge?

There was no grand design for secretsundaze. It was just a bunch of friends (4 of us back then) who liked music and wanted to share our love for it and party. The sunday daytime thing was almost an accident really as it was the only day that was free where we could take this loft space where we first started the party. The search to discover new exciting music is never ending when I say 'new' I mean new to me... so it could be something from the past that i haven't discovered yet as well as new stuff. It’s this search that keeps things fresh and also meeting new people coming to the party. The biggest challenge is spaces or locations. It’s got progressively harder to find cool spots for the party as London is so built up and is getting stricter. It is far less liberal than say Berlin with regards to licensing and there is far less space.

Martin Dawson and yourself seemed to have a special connection as friends but also in the studio as Two Armadillos. Can you tell me a little about your work and time with him? What were your main sources of inspiration production-wise?

Well, we met while Martin was working behind the counter at Phonica records and people kinda pushed us together saying that we should work together as Martin had great skills as an engineer and I guess I was the one with the big record collection who had very specific tastes and ideas of what I wanted to hear and make. We wrote our first track in 2007 - 6 years ago. It was clear from day one that we really connected as people - we pretty much told each other everything as we were both very open people and we had this trust and mutual respect of each other's different skill sets. We drew inspiration from many sources...of course, there were the usual Detroit and Chicago influences but I think we were really beginning to define our own sound with some of the last stuff on Golden Age Thinking like 'Ronin', which I think sounds fairly unique and not attempting to ape any particular style.

You will soon be releasing the 4th instalment of your collaboration. What can we expect?

Well its the 4th and final part of Golden Age Thinking. We have written around 13 EPs and a fair few remixes. I don't like describing my own music too much so you'll just have to check it when its out in June. There are 2 brand new tracks that we wrote in the last month of Martin's life, one peak time Detroit kinda atmospheric UR vibe 'Floating Fast', an African acid groove 'Black Dahlia' and an older unreleased chordy roller called 'Roller Skate' that we wrote maybe 3 years ago and was going down well in the few live sets that we performed together.

Do you have plans for future projects alone or with others?

Yeah I have started to do some music with another friend and well-respected producer but not gonna say too much about that for the time being.

What's your favourite decade when it comes to dance music?

I guess I would say the 90's but this is simply because it was the time I was discovering house and techno - from 92 onwards. And I really bought so much great music. But I would distance myself from this boring trend of mid 90s old school US house and say that I was buying a huge range of house and techno from across the board from very soulful stuff like Blaze to some much tougher more futuristic techno sounds. I love hiphop, jazz, funk, soul rare groove….

What are you listening to at the moment - any musical predictions for 2013?

The Reflektor - El Mirador (Wild Oats)

DJ Sotofett and Madteo - Gotta Find a Way (Visions of Love Club Mix) (WANIA) moody shit that can imagine Tenaglia or Vasquez playing mid 90's in one of those big rooms in NYC and already hard to get hold of.

Organized Konfusion LP - Organized Konfusion (hollywood Basic) hip hop LP from 1992 that i just discovered on a shopping trip with a certain Mr Huckaby.

Marcelus - Enlightenment (Singular) the young french artists EP on his new label particularly the more atmospheric track.

Some of the more obscure Mile Davis LP's as I saw an amazing in-depth documentary / on him that totally chronicled his life but paid particular attention to the different phases in his life and how he constantly pushed the boundaries of what is seen as Jazz. The thing about Miles is that although he's probably the most obvious name that anyone thinks of when they talk about jazz he really was one of the most cutting-edge, taking the most risks and pushing things forward, trying new techniques and styles and working with the most talented new band members.

I always ask people to give a few insider tips to their hometown – There must be lots of hidden gems in London? Restaurants, record shops, galleries and bars.

There is a great Spanish tapas gem in Dalston that is a little more pricey than average but totally worth it called 'Black Pig in White Pearls'. This is a gem. There is a hyped Udon bar in central London called Koya. Last up there is a great restaurant with a long waiting list called Viajante in a hotel in the surprising location of Bethnal Green. If you can't book or reserve don't fear as they have a more casual and walk up part of the restaurant called 'The Corner Room' that is amazing too.

Record shops, well Alan's in Finchely is a gem for old stuff, The tape exchange in Notting Hill again for older stuff - I trade with them a fair bit. Oh I should mention London's best new record shop Kristina in Dalston that sells both new and old with excellent quality control. This also has knowledgable, helpful and friendly owners.

Gallery wise, check out my friend James Golding's Pertwee Anderson and Gold in Soho - as a counter to all the minimalist white stark galleries this is done out like an 18th century house with dark wood and some amazing artists such as Nancy Fouts

Hmm and a clothes shop that you should know about if you have a fat wallet is Dover Street Market in Green Park just off Bond Street.

Two Armadillos' 'Golden Age Thinking' is released on Two Armadillos 3rd June 2013.