A chat with…James Priestley & Giles Smith (secretsundaze)

The summer has traditionally been the domain of secretsundaze, so just before their first UK party of the year, we sat down with James & Giles to talk shop.

It’s clear that they haven’t lost any of their enthusiasm for what it is that they do, and that they’re still very much dedicated to their craft, so we gave them a few nasty questions about the past, the future and everything in between. These are the results.

Summer looks like it’s secretsundaze’ busiest time of year. What are you most looking forward to this summer?
In terms of our UK activity, it’s definitely the busiest time of the year with events. We have 2 parties in May, 1 in July, August and September. Our next party is something we are really looking forward to on Easter Thursday at Electric Brixton, with Derrick May, Deetron, Livity Sound and Arnaldo. This should be a killer. The 2 May dates should be huge both being day and night time events over 2 locations. That has the likes of Rolando, Mosca, Joey Anderson, Wbeeza, Steffi, Martyn, A Sagittariun and Virginia amongst others. The birthday is in August on the bank holiday and we are working on announcing details of that soon. Of course we are doing some great international events too. We are touring the states in the next few weeks, we have a new 3 date residency at Tresor in Berlin and and of course our huge off Sonar party at La Terrrazza in Barcelona in June where we also do 3 dates over the year.

(Details and tickets here).

Your first event of the year features Derrick May alongside Arnaldo. How important is it to you to match these established names with the less well known DJs?

Very important really.. whilst we obviously love welcoming elder statesmen of the scene such as Derrick, and everything people such as him bring to the table, we also really like giving younger artists or ones earlier in their careers the platform to do their thing on a bigger stage. Plus for our own interests, it’s often these artists that are really turning us on as DJs or individuals – there will always be a balance of cutting edge artists alongside more established names at secretsundaze. We’ve often taken risks on breakthrough artists, booking many people over the years in the UK for the first time, from people like Joey Anderson through to the Cassy’s of the world.


Since you started putting on events 13 years ago, you must have seen a lot of changes in dance music. Which of these have struck you as the most significant/interesting?

I seem to get asked this question a lot recently. In terms of doing parties – there is much more competition – there are many more promoters putting on similar nights so it’s like a scramble for DJs and we are having to book them 6-9 months ahead. I do feel like this has taken the fun out of it a bit and we can’t be as reactive to new things as we used to be. Another major point would be just the growth and commercialisation of dance music. This really is a huge thing now and it’s developed in ways which I see as both positive and negative. There is a new professionalism in terms of some events that are put on – people have more experience etc. at running events but on the negative side I’m quite saddened by how much the hype machine has come to affect this scene and it’s a little less meritocratic than it used to be or based on say how good a DJ you are and as much about your image. This has always been true to an extent but its now hitting new heights. Musically things are always evolving but its nice to see some of the great house and techno from the 90s being introduced to a whole younger generation who were not able to hear it the first time around.

What about London? The city’s constantly evolving, do you think it would have been harder for you to start to do today what you did 12 years ago?

In many ways, no, not really. London is an amazing place to start up new enterprises, whether they be music led or something completely out of the creative sphere. As long as you have a passion and a plan (not that we had much of a plan), there are opportunities here. If anything, the advent of social media and digital marketing has meant it’s easier to start things up I’d say. We had more of a rogue edge when we were younger, and certainly used to get away with a lot more in terms of some of the legality of the parties we were putting on, which we certainly wouldn’t get away with now. So the city as a whole has sadly become more awash with people with money and attitudes to boot. You only have to look as far as what has happened in Shoreditch and incredibly quickly in Dalston in relation to the backlash to the late night economies there to illustrate that. The scene is very developed now, which may make it harder too, but at the same time, I’ve not witnessed the level of interest in this music since we started back in 2002 so in that sense, you could argue there are plenty of people to go around.

Do you ever go out these days to parties where you’re not on the bill? It looks like there’s a very healthy community of promoters in London at the moment putting on smaller events with innovative lineups and amazing residents in unusual places, such as Undersound, Frontroom, Night Moves, World Unknown…although I was a bit young at the time when you were starting out with secretsundaze, these promoters’ approach to putting on a party strikes me as similar to yours back when you were starting out.

I have to be honest and say for myself but also James, we are playing a lot abroad, doing our own events and on a night off I’m looking to do something different than go to a club. However I’m really aware of most of the nights you mention and know that they do good stuff from the heart. ReviveHER! also do some cool stuff out in Hackney Wick and the Make Me guys curate some nice line ups. Yeah, I feel that DIY ethic is never far away from the heart of London.

You’re fortunate enough to be invited to play in loads of different places beyond the UK. Do you have any favorites? You seem to spend a lot of time in Japan?

Japan is certainly a favorite. I’ve been fortunate to be touring there as a solo artist since 2005, and then under the secretsundaze banner a few years later. The country, especially the cities (I’m not so familiar with the countryside), the culture, the people, the food, the nightlife and the record shops are something else.. I will never tire of travelling there and still get the same level of excitement as I did 8 years ago when getting on the plane. There are a lot more white / western people there now, and some of their traditions seem to be sadly waning but it is still an incredibly unique place to play and visit. Going the other way, I love spending time and touring around the states. There is so much that is wrong about America but they also have got a lot of stuff right. Closer to home and in Europe, as far as actual clubs go, then Robert Johnson in Offenbach is perhaps my favorite place to play, we do at least one annual party there on the Sunday of the Easter weekend and have done for 5/6 years now, as well as various other dates there over the years. That place is the finest specimen of the perfect small club, certainly that I’ve seen anyway.. hopefully, long may it continue..

Do you ever feel that there’ll come a point when you’ll feel that you can’t take secretsundaze any further? Do you think you can continue topping what you’ve achieved before?

I don’t over analyse that too much at the moment. We still really enjoy what we do. The brand has grown to incorporate the agency and the label so there are different facets of what we do and the music is the main factor that still binds us to this.


1 thought on “A chat with…James Priestley & Giles Smith (secretsundaze)

  1. Pingback: James & Giles chat with Subsoil Blog | secretsundaze

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s