Interview: James Priestley & Giles Smith

Posted on: Jun 2nd, 2015


So ahead of their gig at Twitch this weekend we caught up with James and Giles from secretsundaze to talk music, clubs and dug deep into their passion for the secretsundaze project and how it has grown to become much more than just a party…


Hi James and Giles, first off tell us what you have been up to recently?

All the usual things we do – DJing, throwing parties, running the label and trying to find the time to make music again amongst all this!

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Sum up for us why you started secretsundaze, what was your inspiration and what was the focus of these parties from the outset?

We were just young, passionate and exuberant kids wanting to have a good time and play, hear and share the music that we were into. Inspiration wise we were definitely inspired by very early trips in the mid 90’s to Ibiza. Space on Sundays when it was just that and was run by the Spanish was incredible vibe and crowd wise and that day light terrace vibe was an key influence. Musically it was just a lot of US deep house and some disco. We were playing records by the same people we do now Ron Trent, Larry Heard and of course MAW and Kerri Chandler etc. Also a lot of UK house on the likes of Nuphonic, Classic, Paper recording and Pagan and stuff like that plus maybe some of the very early french house stuff like St Germain and Pepe Braddock. We were also influenced by the irreverence of the Boys Own / Faith parties here in London.  I had started to play at a lot of their parties and we liked what they did.


13 years is a long time to be running parties, how have the parties progressed since their inception in 2002 musically and in terms of setup and production?

Musically secretsundaze has a very strong core sound which is of course timeless house and techno be it detroit or chicago or NYC vibes but that’s the roots of the party for sure and everyone knows that, but we have always had an open mind and have always been open to new developments each year. In recent years we have had the liked of the Zenker Brothers, Joy Orbison, Livity Sound playing. As long as the music has soul and moves us then we’re open to it and like to push our crowd and see if they resound to new things. In terms of production and set up its not necessarily the best time for venues in London and we have to be flexible in what we use and some of the venues are further away than others especially if you try to find an outdoor space. In terms of production, we don’t go in for hype and gimmicks. We normally have some decorations that are based on our current artwork theme for that year which give the party and extra splash of colour.


Sunday parties are difficult here, with it being a much smaller city it’s much harder to get enough people out to a Sunday party with Friday and Saturday nights being the traditional nights out. Was it a difficult decision to start doing Sunday parties in London?

Not really it just kinda happened by accident – the venue we were trying to do on the Sunday (the Loft Room at 93 Feet East RIP) was only available to us as promoters on Fridays and Saturdays if we took all 3 of the rooms in the venue. This was way too big for fairly inexperienced promoters so we enquired about Sunday and at that time they had no Sunday parties so were happy to just allow us to do the one room. The first year was definitely slow and we had between 50 and 150 people on average but we had low costs and weren’t under much financial pressure. It was a free party for the first year and we just got a cut of the bar. It wasn’ until the second summer than it exploded and the party almost instantly tripled or quadrupled in size. So quite quickly it seemed apparent that we might be onto something. They were very hedonistic times in East London and it did kinda feel like the wild west at times. One day with only a few days planning we did a totally illegal roof party for close to 200 people on a roof top of a building in Bacon Street just off Brick Lane which will definitely go down and a legendary one.


Did you have any red tape to get around or have any issues with licensing laws with your Sunday parties?

Some of the venues we worked with were fully licensed and it was no problem doing a party from 2pm to 10:30pm. Others we had to get temporary event notices for and others we just winged it illegally.


Was the label a natural progression from running the parties?

In a word yes.

The quality of the output on the label has remained really high throughout the label’s existence, do you seek out artists that interest you or does the music generally find its way to you

There isn’t a particular strategy with the label – we just do what we feel is right. This could mean releasing music from an artist on the agency (TSA Artists) that passes us some tracks, it might be that we decide to hit up an artist that we are digging or it might be that someone just sends us something out of the blue. The current 12′ from Endian – ‘Finish Me’ happened pretty organically really. We are mates from the same place and he was just playing us some stuff he’d done. He played ‘Finish Me’ and it knocked us off our feet and we signed it on the spot.

You have now released a few secretsundaze compilations, these can be very tricky territory trying to translate the feel and mood of your parties on to a recording? Did you find this challenging

Its challenging to put your style onto a 90 minute mix but its something we both relished to be honest. We did plan and agonise over our track listings and lot but overall it was something we both loved and its really satisfying to see the finished product.


How do you find the balance of running a label, owning an agency, booking your own parties as well as touring extensively as DJ’s to play parties elsewhere?

Its really difficult. That’s all i can say but i guess we seem to be doing an ok job.

You have played all over the world and in clubs such as Robert Johnson, Fabric, Output, Space, Panorama Bar, The Rex, Trouw, Studio 80 and more. Where is your favourite venue to play and what makes it special?

Its a boring answer but you get different things from playing at different venues, at Fabric you have an amazing booth and DJing experience from a sound perspective. Robert Johnson is very intimate and you feel like you are in the party. Panorama Bar is just incredible from a vibe perspective and you get a more fucked up but sexy crowd.


You still do a regular showcase at Sonar, how has that developed over time?

This year is without doubt our biggest party ever in Barcelona during the Sonar week with Derrick May, Ryan Elliot, Delano Smith, Jeremy Underground, Amir Alexander, Nick Hoppner, FunkinEven and Hunee and Antal all joining us so it looking like one of the highlights of the week once again.

What do you know about Belfast and have you any previous experience of the club scene in Belfast?

Well we think we have played x2 before in Belfast but our memories are so poor we can’t for the life of us remember where! The people in Northern Ireland are normally really up for it so hopefully that will be proved on Saturday night.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us and we’re looking forward to catching your set at Twitch this weekend.

Cheers guys. Look forward to the gig!


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See you on the dancefloor!