The Making Of All Crews Russian – Brian’s Story
Everything about Russia is big. The country is big. The nation is big. The architecture is huge. The literature is gigantic. And getting All Crews onto Russian streets would be a task worthy of Tolstoy.
Welcome to a further journey into Jungle Drum & Bass culture. I’ve loved Russia since my first trip there in 1980 during communist times. The problem was that under that system the people weren’t free.
All Crews Russian opens with the quote, ‘Freedom is a road seldom travelled by the multitude’ that describes a journey into freedom. It’s poignant that the book should reach Russia now.
The journey starts at home in Tottenham 2012. I’ve got an email from a Russian girl called Anna Sapegina. She’s reading All Crews. Reading is an understatement. She’s doing the literary equivalent of mainlining the text straight into her cerebral cortex. And I recognise the passion, the fever.
We make an arrangement to meet at Sun&Bass. I’m on a high from the Olympics. Others love their football but I’m an Olympics junkie. I’ve been to four Olympics Games starting with Moscow in 1980 and have flown into Sardinia fresh from seeing Usain Bolt tear up the track.
Lost in Translation
So on that bass blasted distant shore I meet Anna and her mercilessly thumbed copy of All Crews. She states her intent to translate the book into Russian. All Crews had already been translated into Italian by Lorenzo Fe and published by Milan based Agenzia X.
The book launches in Milan and Genoa had been mental. I always joke that I must be the only author to do press conferences and book signings and then DJ at a warehouse full of ravers.
And joking aside I apologise to translators, or would be translators, about the nightmare challenge they’re about to undertake. Some have tried and failed. A Japanese woman couldn’t do it and a Russian guy called Vladimir Zamanskiy had tried but gave up part way through.
Even though Italian fan Lorenzo Fe, post grad student at the London School of Economics, was a bright kid, he found the task hellishly difficult. The problem was All Crews is written in about five different kinds of English.
You’ve got standard Queen’s English, Cockney rhyming slang, London street talk, Jamaican patois and drum & bass scene speak. Not easy. But Anna insisted she could do it.
One thing that drew her in was seeing the chapter heading, ‘One time the word was “Reach Russia” written in Russian Cyrillic text.
“Why did you put that in Russian?” asked Anna?
“Cos I love the Russian script,” I replied.
But All Crews designer, Berlin based Nadine Gahr, didn’t thank me: “Brian, you know I had to design a special font just for that!”
Now the thing about Nadine is that I view All Crews to be her creation as much as mine. She turned my scribblings and piles of papers into the book. When no end of publishers couldn’t get their heads around it, Nadine got it straight away. We’ve always treated All Crews more like music than text and, in this context, if I’m the musician, Nadine’s the producer.
From the reviews I know people read and re-read All Crews. One person wrote, ‘Read this. Rewind this.’ And Roni Size’s track All Crews Muss Big Up inspired the title – chiming with the book’s central ethos.
Было время, когда все говорили: “Поехали в Россию
‘One time the word was “Reach Russia”’ but I never dreamed that All Crews would be printed into Russian. Now that’s ‘Reaching Russia!’
New year 2013 and thanks to the freeness of Skype I’m online with Anna expecting to start at line one, page one. So I’m gobsmacked when she says, “Brian, I’ve already finished translating book.”
“Yeah, just need to check everything correct.”
I’m liking the way she rolls. Considering the complexity of the task she’s done a blindin’ job. Just those little things to check like, “And Brian, where you say, ‘He was detained at her majesty’s pleasure’ does that mean he was working for the Queen?”
I can’t stop myself cracking up.
“Brian, Brian, what!?!”
“No Anna, it means he went to prison.”
After the paralytic laughter we comb through the text ensuring nothing else is lost in translation. Anna recruited a circle of friends to sharpen the text. One friend and Sun&Bass devotee was a self-confessed ‘grammar Nazi’. Another designed fonts. For the It’s All Gone Pete Tong poem Anna worked with an actual poet who surpassed himself.
Not only did he translate the poem graphically, if you turn the page on its side the pattern reflects the bass soundwave you’d see in music software like Cubase.
The last word is done and I can’t help saying, “And that’s a wrap!” as we share some bubbly over Skype ahead of schedule.
All that remained was for Anna to tidy the text, then press ‘send’ in St Petersburg and it’s over to Nadine in Berlin. Press send.
Weeks went by and nothing arrived. Weeks then months. I’d been in the world of Drum & Bass long enough to know that sometimes people just disappear. The problem was, apart from Nadine sitting around in Berlin waiting for the text, in June Bailey and I had been booked to play the All Crews launches in St. Petersburg and Cherylabinsk, the city where a thousand web cams had filmed a huge meteor crashing to Earth.
As things began to unravel I tried to keep the faith. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ said the slogan on people’s t-shirts, so that’s what I did, even though our schedule disintegrated like fragments of that meteorite.
Bailey, who has supported All Crews from before day one when Metalheadz’ mayhem ruled the Blue Note, was forced to pull out of the launches. The Russian flights and schedule proved way too onerous.
To be honest, if All Crews wasn’t my child, I too would have bailed. And then…
Well folks, here’s a question which everyone gets right. Fingers on buzzers please.
Q: What’s the worst thing that can happen at a book launch?
A: There are no books.
I’m a man of my word. I’d be there as promised. I wasn’t gonna hurt the All Crews brand name. And hell, it’s not every day that someone flies me over to play clubs in two cities in Russia. I had a blinding time.
After the St Petersburg gig a few of us sat sharing spliffs in a park under the midnight sun. And Cherylabinsk… When you’re DJing at a club you tend to dash through the space straight to the decks. So, after the gig I asked the crew to take me back for a proper look. This place set in a former nuclear bunker, with alcoves full of welded this, sculptured that and was definitely worth a second look.
The thing that kept Anna busy during her absences was an unending series of meetings with government officials.
“Government officials Anna? Why on earth did you have to speak to the government!?!”
“They had to approve text.”
“Sorry I don’t get it.”
“Well, otherwise you could say anything. Isn’t that the same in UK?”
“No Anna, you can write anything. You might upset someone or they might want to sue you but you’re free to write. It’s called freedom of speech!”
So even though the Berlin Wall is no more and communism rules no more, the State still rules. Vladimir Putin rules. The heavy-handed reaction to Pussy Riot’s demonstration showed just how tetchy the Russian authorities could be.
So even we had to be cautious about All Crews being dubbed, ‘The Drum & Bass Bible’ but the State didn’t demand a single cut.
In fact, they did us a big phat favour. Because All Crews contains scenes of sex, swearing and drug use, we’d have to place ‘explicit content’ stickers on the cover. Kerching! If anything arouses people’s curiosity it’s explicit content stickers. Thanks Putin.
I’ve always believed in granting new people opportunities. So I was blessed to have Navigator write his Evolution of the MC chapter. It was a happy coincidence since Navi had already written his piece and had been looking for a lyrical platform that wasn’t his usual stage.
Photographer Mr James Burns, aka JB, had been an All Crews devotee since he rocked up at version two’s book launch in winter ‘99. It was his email, ‘Re: I’ve just come back from Drum & Bass Heaven’ which first got me out to Sun&Bass. Since then he’s blown up.
Veteran BBC TV newsreader George Alagiah wondered into JB’s Shoreditch London From The Rooftops exhibition. A quick word to his colleague and arts correspondent Brenda Emmanus and JB’s photographs are featured on TV news and he’s had more work than he can deal with. So I was honoured to have him contribute his stunning pics to All Crews Russian.
Spring 2014, Nadine’s worked her magic on the text and it’s ready to send to the printers. Then, at the last moment, Anna’s spotted an awful mistake. As fantastic as Nadine is, she doesn’t read Russian. Unfortunately lines of text have been duplicated throughout the manuscript and have to be removed.
Anna was going to have to work day and night for days combing out the mistakes. Sometimes the darkest time comes before the dawn. Just as I was begging to give up on the book ever coming out Anna sends me a picture message of boxes of books filled with All Crews Russian.
Days later she’s flown from Moscow to London and places a copy in my hands. The journey along the long, winding and sometimes painfully frustrating road had been worth it. The quality is amazing. I could imagine collectors who didn’t even read Russian would want a copy.
Hang around for long enough and, like buses, three epic drum & bass events come along at once. My head was still spinning. Goldie and the Heritage Orchestra performed Timeless in the Royal Festival Hall. The audience, full of headz from way back when rocked the place like never before.
I’m on my mobility scooter beside Fats in his wheelchair. And both our minds are blown. The genteel attendants gave up asking, “Would madam kindly bruk out to one side of the isle?”
When the orchestra dropped Inner City Life it was all over. An attendant concerned about the crowd blocking my view of the stage asked if he should get people to sit down. I cut him off mid-sentence with, “Allow it man. Just Allow It.”
Utmost respect to Jon Blease and Adam Betts the funkiest of drummers and all the amazing musicians. Matt Calvert transposed and transformed all Goldie’s and producer Rob Playford’s electronic bleeps into a sublime, melodic, maelstrom of classical notes, as if Timeless should always have sounded this way. I didn’t want it to end.
MC Lowqui said it with poetry…
We are Metalheadz!
We sat, watched & listened and the security surveyed,
some stood and danced & security were dismayed,
when Inner City Life was played,
we turned that conservative music venue
into a mother fucking rave!
Fuck the rules.
This is how we headz behave.
Big Up Bailey
A couple of days later Anna and I are being interviewed by Bailey on his Ministry of Sound radio show. With DJs Chef and Clarky in the house, we tell the potted story of All Crews Russian.
It’s like going back ten years speaking to Bailey on his 1Xtra show, except my notes are on a Samsung tablet rather than scraps of paper.
Anna an ardent listener to Bailey’s show goes pale when I insist she gets on the mic: “Come on girl, you’ve done all this work, it’s your time!”
She relaxes and speaks then tweets some pics. By the time the show ends, we’ve posed for group shots and adjourned to Nandos for food and Anna’s phone is blowing up. She swipes her phone, its screen is crammed with positive posts. Within hours the first print run of All Crews Russian has sold out.
Flicking through the pages, Anna points to the opening chapter entitled September ’88.
“That’s when I was born.”
For a moment I feel like an old man wielding a quill pen but I’m happy the baton’s been passed to the next generation.
All Crews Junglists Garden Party
I had planned a quiet weekend watching season two of Breaking Bad back to back when my mobile starts to buzz. Nadine and her partner Yan are flying in from Berlin. A few hours later Anna, JB, Greg, Kate and I are knocking back drinks in the garden on a warm summer night. Faces are illuminated by flickering candlelight. Nadine and Anna peruse the book talking technical about what they should say to the printer for the next print run.
As my eyes glaze over I say to ’em, “Look just take All Crews English to the printer n say, “Make it more like this.”
Sorted. Everytin’ kool n irie. I’ve just had a massive toke then start coughing my guts up…
“Berlin! Is someone talkin’ ‘bout Berlin? Ya alright B!?! What you sayin’?”
The one, the only Navigator steps into the light. If my seat hadn’t had arms on each side I’d have fallen right off. Navi who’d contributed the Evolution of the MC chapter was in the place. The night was off its head enough for me to drop a few words.
“Navi ich glaub das uberhaupt nich. Mensch!!
“Nah B was sags du den!?!”
Navigator the man with the golden tongue, now resident in Berlin was now fluent in German. He’d brought along producer Benefit Beats. Anna, who’d planned to meet her Russian friend at Fabric, was on her phone saying, “Get yourself over here. I’m not leavin’.”
I’d never imagined this group of All Crews crew would ever be ’round my yard at the same time.
Because this gathering was so spontaneous, some people important to All Crews like Colin and Rachel Kmag, Tristan Triteux (the first All Crews photographer) and my best mate Daniel weren’t there.
But for once my wife Kate who’d started this journey with me was. More alcohol was bought, more weed was smoked. And everyone signed everyone else’s copies of All Crews Russian.
A few days later Anna’s back in Moscow dealing with distribution, I’m at a Buddhist event deep in the Berkshire countryside chanting, “Nam myoho renge kyo” to change my karma and a picture message buzzes through.
It’s Anna and a guy called Kirill. He’d been texting her for weeks about his book. It reminded me of the American guy back in 2004 who had been feverously checking his mailbox desperately seeking his copy of All Crews and posting on Dogs On Acid, ‘I WANT MY DAM BOOK!’
Enjoy Kirill, and Anna, watch the ride.
The Making Of All Crews Russian – Anna’s Story
All Crews Russian translator and publisher Anna Sapegina tells the story behind getting Brian Belle-Fortune’s classic drum & bass book onto Russian bookshelves…
If you believe in All Crews, you believe in all the Crew
Early July 2014. My north Moscow flat is filled with books and I have a feeling that my life will never be the same again. Brian’s writing an article for the source of Jungle Drum & Bass knowledge, Kmag, whose publishing arm Vision also released the 2004 version of All Crews. They asked me to write about my experiences publishing All Crews Russian.
Why did I start my journey? Well, it’s about love. Jungle Drum & Bass is a phenomenon that dissolves barriers between races, nationalities and social classes. For me it became a whole world that gifts me an opportunity to travel the globe meeting friends, sharing the same unity, loving the same vibey deep rooted Jungle Drum & Bass. One Love!
Flashback two weeks to 21 June. My friend El Dude helps me carry two heavy suitcases to the train that will take me to the airport. Tonight I’m returning to London. The initial part of my mission is done. The printers have finished printing the first All Crews Russian proof and I need to make a special delivery to Brian and the other contributors. Looks like I’ll love my new life.
How did this chapter begin? Way back in 2012 I received a message from Vladimir Zamansky, who initiated the translation, spending two years on it. I never knew I’d be involved even though the universe planned it.
I saw the All Crewsmobile on the road when I was in London for the first time sitting in the D&BArena office. All Crews was most the amazing gift I could ever imagine receiving. Back then I didn’t know this was ‘The Book’. And now I’m getting this Drum & Bass bible out to the Russian Jungle massive.
I first met Brian on the paradise island of Sardinia at Sun & Bass a few months after my conversation with Vladimir. It was my very first night at my very first Sun & Bass and I recognized Brian immediately with his eyes full of kindness and by the crowds’ adoration for him.
Later he appeared at the official pre-match festival party at La Posta bar where I celebrated my birthday. He asked, “Anna, will you translate All Crews?” For a second that seemed like an eternity, my mind went blank because I knew that this was where my responsibility began. I replied, “Yes Brian. I’m with you” then jumped in the All Crewsmobile.
B asks, “How do you visualise the Russian version of All Crews?”
“I want it to be exactly the same as the original like two-drops-of-water but with Russian text.”
“Ah,” he says. ‘The same as two peas in a pod’ but I get your drift.”
I got busy interpreting and working with the author which meant re-reading every word with the greatest scrutiny. We went word-by-word, page-by-page.
Apart from short lunch breaks, we worked all day. Though while we worked we joked, sharing stories, as I pencilled notes on every single page, adding extra notes whilst speaking to B.
After three months reaching the final word Brian said, “And it’s a wrap!” Next morning he went into hospital for a planned hip replacement – major surgery.
All Crews’ major surgery continued. After the corrections I sent the text to our talented Berlin based designer Nadine Gahr. Nadine found fonts exactly like the original. My designer friend Sergey Moskalev in Amsterdam created the pixelated fonts used for the chapter titles.
Working with the Cyrillic alphabet is an enormous task for a non-Russian speaker but Nadine was amazing enough to win the battle creating a 326 page book from the English version that came in at 248 pages. It was fascinating to see Nadine cope with quirks of the Cyrillic text. Characters like “и” & “й” look exactly the same but the small dot on second character makes a total difference in pronunciation and can completely change the entire meaning. It was a monumental task. But she cracked it.
Our Sun & Bass gifted friend, London from the Rooftops photographer James ‘JB’ Burns joined the All Crewsmobile replacing some pictures that we couldn’t use for copyright reasons. Big up the many other photographers including Tristan O’Neil, Tim Schnetgoeke and Des Willie who also kindly supported All Crews Russian. Each version of the book is individual. And we handle them like a delicate, exclusive dubplate.
Parts of our journey were hellishly difficult and we almost crashed and burned the Allcrewsmobile. The project left me in a metaphorical coma. And I needed the whole non-metaphorical summer lying in a dark room recovering, emerging with my first grey hairs.
On the positive side while I lay in metaphorical rehab Andrew Ostrin set up the first class Russian All Crews website.
Early July 2014 after the final post proof corrections at the printers, our shiny fresh exclusive dubplate is pressed and my flat is full of boxes. I send a picture to Brian. “Look B! We’ve done it!!” Then pack 30kg of books in my suitcase and set off for London.
It’s the night of the solstice and I’m leaving on the train to catch my plane. At the station my friend El Dude is outside my carriage waving champagne in a plastic bottle. The Drum & Bass in my headphones fills the air. I’m on a mission to get copies to Brian and its featured artists. At Moscow airport passport control and security goes unbelievably fast, like the place was empty but from me.
After a few hours nervous with excitement I land in Gatwick earlier than planned. Everything moves swiftly.
The taxi driver is waiting for me and my 30kg suitcase. Riding through South London’s streets I’m happy to return to the area I know and love so much. I open the window and breathe in the night. Shame I wasn’t able to arrive early enough for the event of the year – Goldie and the Heritage Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall tonight. Brian and everyone will be there now. And I just can imagine their feelings… Timeless.
My close friend and Sun & Bass beach after-party master Mog has a place for me to stay. It’s Saturday night and there’s a few industry people chilling round his place. I’m soaking in the hot tub drinking a few pints of my favourite tipple Guinness so excited about the forthcoming ten days. MC Response says, “Good luck with your journey Anna!”
July 24 4.45pm. I’m meeting Brian at the Ministry of Sound for Bailey’s 5pm Intabeats show. I’ve listened for years, never going out or planning anything during his slot.
Four years ago when I landed a job as the account manager in a Moscow advertising agency, my stipulation was never to start work before 11am on Wednesday mornings. I know myself and my radio-addiction. Considering the time difference, I’d never be able to wake up early enough to get to work after staying up late listening to all the Drum & Bass shows.
Anyway, a year after I started, my company joined a big corporation. My new boss called me into his office for a chat: “Anna, from next week you’re starting work from 9.30am sharp.”
“But what about our arrangement!?”
“This is how it’ll be whether you want it or not.”
“OK, but on Wednesdays I definitely can’t be in office by 9.30 because I listen to radio ‘til 6am every week.” I’ll never forget the look on his face.
“What do you mean, “You listen to radio?!?!?!”
I arrive at Ministry of Sound at 4.40pm but there’s no sign of Brian. Call. No answer. Should I leave? 4.50pm I see a guy on a mobility scooter. Brian? Nah. I’d better buy some new glasses. 4.57pm. Brian rolls up with his new A11 CR3W number plate! We ring the doorbell and enter.
Ministry of Sound is very crowded. People are everywhere, sitting by tables and walking around drinking beer. How could I forget? It’s the World Cup and England are playing their final game.
The studio is small but packed. Bailey’s assistants are Drum & Bass legends. DJ Clarky worked in Blackmarket for ages and DJ Chef runs his own show on legal radio. Before that he was on pirate station Kool FM. Chef also teaches kids music. Talented producer Darrell Invaderz is there for an interview. Cute lady DJ Sweetpea joins the crew. Edward Oberon and Paul T are in the studio for an interview and live mix.
The air-conditioning isn’t working. I’m hot and excited. How will I sound on British radio? Will I be able to find the right words to express my feelings?
Bailey says, “We are on AIR” starting his mix.
Brian and I are on in the first hour of the show. Producer Chef sets up our microphones. The crowd outside the window keep gesticulating at the TV. The studio concentrates. Chef and Clarky stare at two large monitors. I think, ‘They’re probably collecting social media shouts for the show.’ I go around and see… Nope. It’s the football! This is England.
Grooverider waves at us through the sound engineer’s window and then comes inside to give me a hug. I’m speechless.
“Yallright Anna. B? What ya sayin? ”
Their fists greet. Bailey, Chef and Clarky take pictures non-stop. Everything’s filmed. Should I be nervous? The ‘ON AIR’ sign turns red. The mics are live. Brian and Bailey start talking. Instead of nervous shock I feel calm. Brian and Bailey are with me. What can be wrong? I am who I am. And we’re here on an All Crews mission.
The interview went well, apart from missing all the shouts I was supposed to send. I totally forgot to take the list out the Russian copy of All Crews I’ve just presented to Bailey. The show is over. Outside we take group photos. I treat Brian to Nandos and a large glass of red wine.
We’re chatting, joking and talking All Crews. My phone flashes non-stop with Facebook, Instagram shouts and text messages, everyone is saying a big thanks to Brian and me for all the work we’ve done.
Friday evening. I’m carrying my 30kg suitcase again off to see the All Crews crew of JB, Greg, Brian and his wife Kate. I need to give them their copies of the book that they’ll never be able to read. But it’s the book, which means so much for each member of the crew. Reach Tottenham’s All Crews mansion. We’re drinking red wine and laughing in back garden.
Brian says, “Anna, Nadine will be here in a bit”. I can’t believe my ears. “She will! But she is in Berlin?!” Our designer and lovely lady enters the garden with her man Yan and I feel happier than ever before. We pass books to each other, signing signatures and writing messages full of love. One Love.
Herb is in the air alongside another energy level. Synergy. Ms. Dynamite’s singing on Shy FX’s track Cloud 9, “You get me high – high – high. I don’t wanna come down…”
Luke Howard the namer of clouds lived down the road and we’re talking about types of clouds, social media applications and teaching Brian how to post mentions on Facebook.
“Another special guest should be here very soon!” says JB. “Guess who?”
“Uhm… Bailey? Chef? Goldie? I have no idea!”
The dinner was amazing but I need to leave soon as I promised A-Sides that I’d support him down Fabric’s Good Looking night.
“I’ve gotta leave in five minutes to catch my train back to South London,” says Greg, as someone knocks on the front door. I answer and can’t believe my eyes…
“Yes Anna,” he laughs. “We finally meet!”
I’m speechless following the secret guest back to the garden. I totally forgot that it’s late and my Russian friend has been waiting ages for me at Victoria. We’re both supposed to head off to Fabric.
Nadine and JB are talking: “Yeah in Berlin…”
“Berlin! Did anyone say BERLIN?!”
He came straight from Berlin to Tottenham. And our secret guest is… NAVIGATOR. Everything is like a dream come true.
“Welcome to your new normality” my friend Mog once said. But I still can’t believe. Another Drum & Bass producer Benefit Beats, a Jungle evangelist from Kool London joins our incredible evening. I call my Russian friend saying, “Here’s the address. Please come. I can’t leave.” It’s a night I’ll never forget.
The rest of my special London trip remained very intense: Fabric for Good Looking with A-Sides, meeting Moose and a Junglette called Nicole, then Playaz till early morning.
Ministry Radio on Tuesday chatting with A-Sides, BTK and the guys from Innersoul. Later the same evening I check out Marky playing a special funky Brazilian set.
Next evening I’m down Soul in Motion with Bailey, Need for Mirrors, BTK, Edward Oberon, Paul T, Jumping Jack Frost, Fabio, Chef, Clarky and A-Sides. Even John B comes down from Maidenhead, dancing till late.
Two hours after the party’s end I have to be back at the airport because the Russian Jungle Drum & Bass lovers are bawling for their books.
Many people ask about my future plans. Will there be further updates or even another book? I don’t have any exact plans but there are still lots of things to do. And as long as there is faith, the All Crewsmobile will keep on rolling. I know, that journeys through Jungle Drum & Bass culture will continue.
Photo of Brian and Anna: Anna Modera