Image: James Priestley and Giles Smith
The resident DJs are the backbone of a decent club night and whether they're the star attraction, or have been playing in the back room since day one, they are all crucial in developing the identity of a party.
We wanted to launch a new series that zoomed in on the residents themselves, so we could ask them the important questions about the club night that they've developed an unshakable bond with over the years.
To kick things off, we spoke to secretsundaze co-founder and resident DJ Giles Smith, who plays alongside James Priestley at the legendary Sunday daytime parties in London, showcasing the best in underground electronic music.
Why do you think that the role of a resident DJ is so crucial to a successful club night?
The resident DJ is the bedrock or backbone of any good party or club. Ideally a night should have a resident warming up the party and closing - bookmarking the proceedings. The warm-up set in particular is vital in setting the tone for the night and for creating an atmosphere and a springboard for the rest of the night.
A good resident DJ is a digger, someone who is dedicated to unearthing and playing great music that is not hyped or the latest Beatport top ten track. They also need the maturity to control the pace and energy of the party and not peaking too soon. It's been said many times before but there is nothing worse to arrive at a gig and have the resident DJ banging it out or or playing the latest 'hit'.
Similarly, the closing set is equally important - to give the party some special memorable moments is a basic requirement. James and I often have big sections of last tunes / closing tracks in our bags for that last hour or so. You owe it to people that have paid good money to come to your party to give them something special.
What do you think your duty is as a resident?
I think duty is a strong word. Of course I try to play my best every time I get behind the decks but DJing is an very emotional thing for me. I'm not great every time. Over many years as a resident it's your music that both educates and entertains the regulars and you form a special relationship with them.
If anything I just feel a duty to be myself and an honest DJ whilst still bearing in mind the guests or headliner's style. At secretsundaze we have always programmed our guests from the heart so I don't see my style changing too wildly depending on who I am playing before or after. Of course I have a healthy respect for them so I will tailor it at times as much as I can.
Tell us about the very first time you played at Secretsundaze...
It's a hazy memory from 2002. In the first few years we used to follow a set structure in terms of the programming of the resident DJs and it was usually James Priestley first playing more freestyle with some broken beat, hip hop and soul. Then Will B the other original resident would play more kinda housey stuff and myself following on playing more heads-down tracky, atmospheric stuff to close.
We rarely had guests in the first year or so, it was truly about the residents in every sense. I know that I played records such as Los Hermanos 'Birth 3000', the instrumental version of Ron Trent's 'Sometimes I Feel Like', and any one of a number of Blaze tracks. Records I still love very dearly now. The first few parties weren't that busy but were filled with love and warmth with us knowing 80% of the people there very well.
Giles Smith – 10 Years Of Secretsundaze by Vinylsticks on Mixcloud
How does your own music / sets represent the club night and music policy?
I find this a little too close to home without coming across as pretentious analysing my own style but we always place an emphasis on music that has that timeless feel. We are not following trends of fashion and we want to play and hear music that is sincere and served with guts and passion.
For a long time the resident DJ was overshadowed by the headline act but the scene has come to appreciate and acknowledge residents again, with many club nights adopting well known residents for series. Why do you think it's changed?
I still feel resident DJs are undervalued and are some of the best DJs out there. I am quite skeptical about clubs that have recently adopted the resident DJ 'concept' especially when they have very well known headline artists as the residents. These are often DJs that haven't played a warm up set in years. For me it's just a marketing ploy.
Parties and clubs like Fabric, Robert Johnson, Panorama Bar, Mister Saturday Night, The Sub Club, Electric Chair and Back To Basics and of course secretsundaze have had residents since day one and go about their business quietly without making a big fuss about it. In my mind the resident has become less and less important to most people across time.
If you look at New York as an example you used to have the likes of FK, Joe Clausell and Krivit at Body and Soul, Timmy Regisford at Shelter (still going), Tenaglia at Twilo, Vasquez at The Sound Factory, and of course further back the likes of Levan and Mancuso. Name me the great residencies in NYC now? There aren't many.
The commercialisation of house and techno has really affected resident DJ culture. Great residencies are not built in a day and you need club owners and promoters with guts who are in for the long haul to believe in this concept and see it through. Many promoters just don't have the culture themselves of understanding the value to a night of residents so you see line ups that are overloaded with big name producers/DJs often who are pretty weak DJs. There is still a gross under-appreciation of resident DJs.
What track in your collection always sets the tone for the night at Secretsundaze?
This is impossible to answer - there is not one track and it depends on how I feel or how the crowd is that night.
How do your sets differ from when you're playing as a resident to when you’re playing solo gigs?
Of course they differ very much. If I am playing peak time as a guest in a club from 2am to 4am its going to differ a lot from playing at 2pm to 5pm on a Sunday afternoon. I would probably play a lot softer and more soulful in a warm up set, as the names suggests, then if I'm playing peak time where I might play a bit of techno.
What has been your favourite moment as a resident at Secretsundaze?
Just too many to mention and quite a few of them would be hard to put into words. We all know that special feeling where all those variables are working together in perfect harmony. A great sound system, a fantastic mixed crowd and DJs that are really connecting.
Quite often at secretsundaze we have natural daylight at the party and we talk about the 'magic hour', this is that hour where it turns from day to night and the party starts to take on a new feeling.
Check out the upcoming secretsundaze events in London.