During his tenure, Knowledge Magazine defined a generation of raves, especially when it came to jungle, drum and bass, and recorded the burgeoning genre from the start. Popularly known as Kmag, the monthly release took us from paper to digital and from hardcore to hybrid, leaving a huge void when it more or less dissolved in 2014.
That void was closed last year when Kmag co-founder Colin Steven put together the beautiful hard copy retrospective 25 Years of Knowledge. The book was published in December 2019 and is full of color photography from 25 Years of Bass with multiple sections written by multiple authors on different aspects of the drum and bass culture. It tells a great story about the D&B timeline, but Steven felt there was more to tell.
Velocity Press was founded just before the Kmag book came out, and in November 2019, Join the Future by Matt Anniss (if you want to get technical, Brian Belle-Fortune's seminal All Crews: Journeys Through Jungle) was the first book to be Steven released it in 2004 and it tried again to tell the story of the rave. Since then, the new rave-specific publisher has released more books than Steven expected, and has continued to grow in prominence with the re-release of another genre-defining book, State of Bass by Martin James, and many other interesting new titles. The shape may have changed with Velocity Press, but the Kmag gap is being filled again.
With three new books either out or slated to appear in the winter season, and enthusiastic fans more than ever squatting with a good volume in the face of COVID, it seemed high time to get in touch with Steven and worry about it. what Velocity Press is (RTA: VP) has done this year and learn more about where this unique publisher will go in the future. More quality reading.
Most fans know that you have a background in publishing and the music industry between Kmag and the iconic All Crews book from 2004. But what was the impetus for founding a full-fledged publishing house?
After Knowledge Magazine closed in 2014, I was out of touch with the music industry for the first time in over 20 years. Well, apart from the fact that we're still selling All crews, that is, but even that was minimal – I didn't actively promote it, I just shipped the orders! I worked full time in IT, made good money, but felt unfulfilled. I really missed being self-employed and working in music, especially in publishing. After a few years I was looking for a way back. I found that All Crews was still selling well even without advertising. Therefore, with my skills, contacts and experience, it made sense to start a book publisher. I also thought there was a niche in the market for a book publisher that specializes in electronic music and club culture.
How was the transition from running a magazine to publishing books?
The transition went smoothly as it is very similar. They deal with a printer and vendor the same way, but only one author per book instead of over 20 issues, which is good as it was a pain to keep checking authors for copies! It's also good not to have to sell ads, but my former business partner still did that for Kmag so I didn't have to do that. She did all of the marketing and social media too, so I had to do that too now, but I enjoy that side of things.
What has happened since you took on this venture that you didn't expect?
Obviously I didn't expect COVID-19 to happen and it was a challenge to manage in our first year. It was frustrating not being able to do book presentations as I love to travel, meet the author and meet other music fans. The bookstore closings have also had an impact on sales, but I have experience designing ecommerce websites and luckily people have been buying direct from us instead. That helped a lot. However, compared to some companies, I've been very lucky.
The Kmag retrospective clearly had something to do with setting up VP when you did, but talk about your first new book, Join the Future. Did you start by “starting over,” so to speak, on the rave timeline?
For Join The Future by Matt Anniss, I wanted our first book to be original and bring a new perspective into the history of acid house inception. It is the previously untold story of the first sub-bass revolution in British dance music, which traces the origins, development, effects and influence of beep techno and the music styles that followed on British club culture.
What made you decide to republish the second book, State of Bass?
Condition of the bass by Martin James, I wanted to publish four books in 2020, so I quickly needed another title. A new edition of this classic about the origins of the jungle and drum & bass made sense. It was originally released in 1997 and was out of print within a year, but it's still relevant. I also don't like being pigeonholed. Most of our books will be new, but I still want to reprint occasionally. I've just signed another reprint for 2021. At this point, all I can say is that it will be our first fiction book.
To that end, all titles previously released with VP seem to be here to give Ravers a history lesson or a stroll through the past. Was it important to you that there was some kind of linear element to connect the origins and development of electronic music with the contemporary scene, or did you just like the books?
Yes, the historical side of things is important. It has been over 30 years since acid house first exploded here in the UK and people now appreciate what an important cultural moment it was. It is important that we document the culture of dance music, whether we are writing books or blogging, broadcasting podcasts, making documentaries, taking photos or creating fanzines. There are so many interesting stories that have either not been told, removed from the dominant narrative, or simply overlooked. If we don't document them now, they will be lost.
It's good because there are two audiences for this type of book. Those who went club in the 90s are now middle aged and most of them don't go out anymore, but they still care about the culture and like to remember. Then there is the new generation of clubbers who are curious about how things came about and who are interesting to them, especially from a technological point of view, as things have changed so much.
Even so, I want to be known not only for publishing historical books, but books on contemporary sounds and styles as well. Most of what I publish, however, is based on the ideas that potential writers present to me.
How did you come up with the idea of making the Junior Tomlin Flyer & Cover Art book? It seemed like a really cool way of documenting this important part of rave culture.
I interviewed legendary flyer designer Pez for the Kmag 25th anniversary book and asked him about peers he rated and he mentioned Junior Tomlin. I remembered his art when I bought Renegade Soundwave sleeves when I was young and then realized how many great sleeves and flyers he had designed. So I googled his name, contacted him through his website and told him and I wanted to do a book with him. His answer was funny, he just said, "Finally!"
Flyer & Cover Item No., an in-depth look at Junior Tomlin's incredible back catalog. Junior's visionary skills resulted in a long career as a flyer and record artist. His fantastic future projections and often surreal images earned him the title "The Salvador Dali of Rave". Tomlin's iconic work was in great demand. Ravers amassed his remarkable work and promoters lined up to hire him to produce images for their flyers.
Bedroom Beats and B-Sides may surprise some UK and European ravers in that they include hip hop on their timeline and are seen as part of the fabric of electronic music. With this in mind, what do you think EDM fans can learn from this book?
The full title of the book is a bit mouthful, but here is: Bedroom Beats and B-Sides: Instrumental Hip Hop and Electronic Music at the Turn of the Century. Hopefully the title should indicate that the book is about instrumental music. More specifically, it's what author Laurent Fintoni calls beat culture that seeks to capture the murky reasons between hip-hop and electronic music that defined both genres. From Trip-Hop, Jungle, Illbient and IDM in the 1990s to “Beats” in the late 2000s, the book examines how these scenes acted as incubators for new ideas about composition and performance that are taken for granted today.
It's nice to see you received a second book from The Secret DJ. The first book definitely asked him to continue the journey into the present. What do you like about his perspective and what, besides lots of laughs, will fans and aspiring DJs get out of this story?
I like the way he just tells it as it is; I accept the advantages of anonymity. Book two is less of a personal memory. This time the Secret DJ uses the experience / lessons of four decades immersed in dance music and club culture to investigate what happened to the Acid House dream: How did a utopian youth movement become an "industry" that of predatory Behavior, parasitic middlemen and racism? , Sexism, exploitation, deceivers and naked greed? It's brutally honest and often controversial, but crucially, I hope it has all the pathos and humor that made the first one work.
Synth nuts will love Synthesizer Evolution, especially with its almost encyclopedic breakdown of all of the synths in history. How did you come across this author and book?
For our first three titles, I actually got them myself, but now people know what Velocity Press is about. I get potential writers to come up with ideas, and that's exactly what happened Synthesizer evolution. Like I said, I had only planned to publish four books this year, but Oli Freke's pitch was so good that I just had to add it to this year's release schedule. Each synthesizer, sampler and drum machine presented is illustrated by hand and shown along with its key statistics and some fascinating bizarre facts.
Is there a preview that you can give us for the next steps at VP? What is your vision for the company in the future?
Yes, we will announce our next title in January. It's calledWho Say Reload: The stories behind the classic drum & bass records of the 90s. In addition to the stories by Paul Terzulli, photographs by Eddie Otchere will also be included. Eddie is one of the main photographers who documented the UK jungle scene in the 90s and has an incredible archive. Of course, it will be more of a high-end coffee table book.
We'll then publish a book by Harold Heath called Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey from Unknown DJ to Small-Time DJ. It tells a story that will be familiar to any DJ who never quite made it, and anyone who spent their teenage years on the dance floor. It's self-deprecating, honest, authentic, funny, but also dead serious when it comes to DJing. As I mentioned, I'll also have our first fiction title next summer and I'm very excited about that. There will also be a practical book on how to build and operate a digital record label in such diverse ways. Ultimately, the goal is to create a catalog that feels like a trustworthy record label in its integrity and vision, and deliver exciting stories to serious electronic music fans who like good literature.
All Velocity Press books are available for purchase on their website, most of which are available in both e-book and physical copies.