Dean Sunshine Smith is what you would call a DJ’s DJ... a man who truly understands music and is one of the UK’s most respected underground DJ’s and producers. He has been a frontline DJ sharing the more eclectic and soulful side of dance music for over a quarter of a century. Dean was one of the key members of the Garden Festival team based in Croatia, over the Festivals colourful history, Dean spent his summers sharing the sunshine sounds for a number of the key events namely - The Garden Festival, Southport weekender’s – Suncebeat, Soundwave, Electric Elephant and Stop making Sense.
Dean also promotes and programs one of the UK’s finest seasonal events - The Great Outdoors. Taking place each and every spring / summer at the award winning outdoor garden space of The Lord Clifden in Dean’s home city of Birmingham. It is now in its 4th year and invites some of the scenes finest selectors to share their sounds on a high-end sound system to an appreciative audience.
We spoke to Dean to find out more about what inspires him and his first memories of Ben Sherman.
I’m not too sure as to my first memory of Ben Sherman, what I would say is that I’ve always acknowledged and appreciated the direction and vision of the brand, especially in regards to its relevance in maintaining and presenting an insight into the attire of a youth movement - the mod and soul/street culture.
As a DJ of some 25 years, I’ve always tried to share music from the soul - be it soul/jazz/reggae… music mainly from the black spectrum. I was introduced to soul music via Ibiza - having first ventured over there as a bright eyed, acid house DJ at the start of the 90s.
I was inspired and influenced by the legendary sunset sounds of Jose Padilla. He had a bond with that sunset, and it was truly magical! I’ve always said I went with a box of energetic house music, but returned with ‘soul’, having heard songs like Roy Ayers, etc... Everybody loves the Sunshine, or Kool and the Gang’s Summer Madness.
That sunset, and experience, it all filled me with a desire to return to the UK and discover the heritage and history of the music I love. It was back in my home town of Walsall that I ventured into house music’s past. Coming from Walsall, there was a deep heritage of northern soul and mod youth club sounds.
I was inspired by several older friends, most notably, a couple of guys called Colin Joesbury and Gary Holiman both were serious
soul collectors, and wonderful DJ’s. I would head back to Gary’s in the early morning hours and sit in his living room, surrounded
by soul music veterans, as he selected 45’s and album tracks, place them on the decks, and tell tales of Wigan Casino, the
Catacombs, the Torch, Twisted Wheel, Blackpool Mecca’s Highland Rooms…places like that.
They were infectious, wonderful records that ignited my passions.
What I really admire with Ben Sherman is the fact it wears its heart on its sleeve in regards to acknowledging its influences, yet still keeps things relevant and up to date. I feel, as with music, it introduces new generations to the soul movement. It’s played a part in keeping the sounds alive. I think it’s honestly, truly great that kids can discover the uniform, and associate the sounds and the whole feeling of the movement, whilst still moving forward.
I’ve been fortunate enough to share my soul sounds with some wonderful friends and selectors over the years, in places across the UK and beyond, at wonderful festivals like the Garden festival or Suncebeat out in Croatia. I’ve forged strong bonds sharing the sounds with Inspirational friends and fellow DJ’s like Kev Beadle, Terry Jones, Colin Curtis, Phil Asher, Rich Medina, Kenny dope, Francois K... I could go on and on - so many great selectors.
I guess, to round things off, if I may, I’ll share a poem that I wrote some years back. This stands true in regards to what soul music means to me. I give thanks to Ben Sherman for this little interview, and long may your success and growth continue.
Some say, how can, as a white man
You chance a dance on the voice of the black man?
I replied, from inside,
With my passion and my pride,
It is something, from which I shall never hide,
It is not the colour of a man’s skin,
More, the circumstance his colour placed him in.
The neglect, he chose to project,
For many, that is part of the exploration of the black American soul,
And as such part of the Explanation of Black American soul music,
That is why, I, as a white guy,
Choose, to share these views,
So, come ‘chance a dance’,
On the sweetest romance,
White soul, Black soul,
This soul, that soul,
His soul, her soul
Old soul, new soul…