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To Russia With Love

Eight years after the All Crews production crew put the last version of All Crews to bed, the e-mails and questions from students and the street continue rolling in. I always like to talk about the All Crews crew because although I am the author, it took a whole group of us to get the book edited, proof read, designed, printed, out on the road and into your hands.

In 2004 Colin Steven and Rachel Patey did a fantastic job getting the version you know as All Crews III from a digital manuscript out and around the globe. Knowledge even formed a publishing company to get the job done professionally.

Aside from those e-mails asking, “Where can we get hold of the book?” And those gratefully received congratulations, or expressing, ‘It’s the best book I’ve ever read’ there’s also a fair few asking if All Crews is available in any other language. The answer has always been ‘No.’

And to be honest with all the street talk, patios, Cockney rhyming slang and Drum & Bass scene chat, I’d always considered All Crews to be practically untranslatable. In fact Russian raver Vladimir Zamansky and I had spent the best part of two years attempting to translate the book but ground to a halt by the end of part one – All Crews Muss Big Up.

Then in 2010 came an e-mail from Lorenzo Fe asking for permission to translate the book into Italian. I was of course well chuffed. He handled the translation – though he admitted, “It was a real nightmare.” Lorenzo then studying at the London School of Economics, found a Milan based Italian publisher AgenziaX to satisfy the needs of the Italian Junglists. I have to say it was quite surreal being flown out to Milan and Bologna for the Italian book launch.

I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I must be the only author who does a Q&A – press conference, book signings and then DJs to a warehouse full hundreds of people.’ But that’s all part of the All Crews journey… Part of the journeys through our Jungle Drum & Bass culture. And at the end of another jaunt I happily park the AllCruise mobile in the garage and pullover of over the dust cover – thinking, ‘Well that’s that.’

In 2012 comes another e-mail. I could tell by the tone that this one was different. It came from a woman in Russia. We’d met briefly in that jewel of Drum & Bass that is Sardinia’s Sun & Bass. Oh Sun & Bass where magic happens each and every year. My mate photographer James Burns – JB calls it ‘Drum & Bass Heaven.’ Watch this space for an article about that Heaven.

The woman’s name’s Anna – Anna Sapegina. She’s straight out of St Petersburg. There was something about the way she talked about All Crews, with a deeper level of intensity, obsession and passion that I’d only known coming from members of the All Crews crew. We exchanged numbers.

The days in the sun flew by. I’m back in London, where clouds and greyness left S&B a distance but much loved dreamlike memory. And the call comes through. It’s Anna from St Petersburg. “Ah Anna” I say. “Did you want to talk about doing that translation of All Crews?” Anna says, “I’ve done it.” I’m gobsmacked. She’d started work on the translation while still at Sun & Bass. Her mates had been taking mickey, because she carried the book wherever she went and was always scribbling notes.

So now all she needs to do with me was go through the whole book and check that she had understood everything correctly; which produced some moments of hilarity. As in, “ ‘He went away at Her Majesty’s pleasure’ Does that mean he went to work for Queen?” “No Anna. That means he went to prison.” Anna didn’t want to produce a shortened or abridged version as the Italian book turned out to be. Anna wanted to travel each and every twist and turn of the whole journey through our Jungle Drum and Bass culture.

I have to say it was the first time since I’d written All Crews III that I’d been through it so – closely, line by line, sometimes word by word. And thanks to the wonders of Skype the whole process didn’t cost us a penny. I can’t tell you how many hours we sat in front of the computer screen.

There were times when Anna gave me the full interrogation, making sure she understood, translated and interpreted exactly what was written in the English version. I remember the night when we finally reached the last page and I couldn’t resist saying, “And that’s a wrap!” like they do in the movies. I wished we could’ve shared a bottle of champagne by Skype.

By some weird coincidence, when I visited Russia in 2003 to check out the Drum & Bass scene, it was to St Petersburg I’d flown. Now eight years later All Crews Russia was being produced in St Petersburg. Symmetrically that’s very neat. As with the English version Anna wasn’t working alone. She and her infectious enthusiasm had recruited a whole circle of people doing the arduous work of interpreting and proof reading.

Where there was a poem in the book, she found a poet, Alexandr Raar, owner of social art community called ETO, to get the meaning, feeling and flow just right. One of her best mates Anna Bazda, was a self confessed, “grammar Nazi.” Anna’s Russian translation went off to have the full professional treatment.

As a digital media publicity specialist Anna S knew exactly how to publicise the book and get the word out on the street. She was even in with DJ SS’ Russian World of Drum & Bass promoters TC Group and Vertigo who’s helping to promote All Crews Russia. And the company sorting our launch party is the aptly named Big Hand Connection. SS couldn’t believe it when Anna told him about All Crews Russia during their February 2013 gig.

When she needed a short intro promo from me, I called in Greg Francis video specialist and Sun & Bass bruv to shoot and send it to Anna for promotion on forthcoming Russian version of All Crews site and promotion on social networks. I got the feeling that nothing but nothing was going to be overlooked.

So I Skyped Bailey on holiday in Antigua. But he was already ahead of me and had mentioned helping All Crews ages ago on his 1Xtra show. Of course he’d be happy to be interviewed for the press conference and headline the St Petersburg launch party on April 20th. Yes! Nuke ’em from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure…

When my bit as the author was done, we had a three way Skype conversation with me in London, Anna in St Petersburg and Nadine Gahr in Berlin who’d designed all versions of All Crews. I was confident enough to let go and leave the experts to do their thing.

Which was just as well as I headed into Stanmore Orthopaedic hospital for a major operation. One of the medications given to treat my Multiple Sclerosis had the side effect of killing off the bone in my right hip. So I needed a total right hip replacement. I’ll spare you the details…

“NO.”

Ok then since you’re asking. If you don’t want to know the score, look away now. Well despite this being 21st century surgery, we’re basically talking about skilled carpentry. They open you up from pelvis to thigh, saw off the top of your leg bone (femur), drill out a good size cup shape in your pelvis, then hammer and screw in hardcore titanium-porcelain coated replacements. And Bob’s yer uncle – Job’s done and you’re walking again. Sweet.

Meanwhile, between Berlin and St Petersburg All Crews Russia was going through its own major micro surgery. The Russian Cyrillic text would be difficult to work whilst staying faithful to the styles of the All Crews title font and chapter headings which Nadine had originally created for the book. To preserve Nadine’s original, designer Sergey Moskalev joined the crew and created a font with Russian symbols.

I scrolled through hours of Skype conversations between Anna and Nadine which instantly made me want to lie down in a darkened room. Talk about brain ache. The outcome seemed to be that Nadine would have to recreate the whole Russian alphabet – letter by pixelated letter. But that, according to Nadine, once dubbed ‘the walking Apple Mac’ would be no problem.

The only problem turned out to be the photographs. All Crews has mostly tended to be the kind of, produce now and hope to get paid later kind of deal. Anna wanted the Russian version to be an exact replica of the British version. However, some of the version III 2004 photographers couldn’t be traced. Others wanted more money than Anna’s budget could take.

Tristan O’Neill who’s long since become a friend and Knowledge snapper Cleveland Aaron were happy with the provide now, get paid later – if you make any money deal. Enter JB. Hardcore Junglist and very professional photographer. I love the way the Allcruise mobile draws in new passengers. We spent an evening choosing alternative shots – sweet as.

I’ve loved working with the crew old and new. And felt goosebumps the first time Nadine sent over the cover and first few pages in Russian. Even though the only words I could recognise were, ‘Forum, Telepathy, AWOL, Desire and Exodus.’ For the All Crews crew, it’s been an unadulterated pleasure. One Time The Word Was Reach Russia. And here’s All Crews… To Russia With Love.

All Crews Russia will be out in April 2013 through vk.com/allcrews. The original All Crews is available here.