Lets Talk About Acen!
Its an exciting day. So let me bore you with reams of text lol...haha its really not boring I hope. Its a bit of recent Acen history....lets go...
Back in 2019, Acen and I had been working together for a little while. We had talked and released Play 2092 on vinyl, closely followed by the excellent Thrilla EP, and he had mentioned here and there about his older releases. Obviously I was interested in releasing those classics from the past, but my main focus and biggest thing was (and remains) new music. We had touched on the possibility of maybe doing Close Your Eyes or something, but nothing had been agreed upon.
Then, out of the blue, Acen sent me a new version of Trip To The Moon.
I have a terrible memory. And frankly, I do not dwell on the past or even think about it much. So while of course I have some epic memories of the various happenings in my musical life, you might be surprised at what I remember and what I do not. Hearing Sesames Treet on the radio in my mums kitchen? Clear as a bell. Performing on Top of The Pops? Nothing at all, total blank, doesnt register at all. Playing SIx Days with Jimmy J at an event in Melbourne in Australia and seeing the crowd go bananas? Like a movie. How many copies of Six Days we actually sold? Fuck knows, don't care lol...Nowadays, I think what stays with me are the events with emotional resonance, where I felt something mattered, something personal.
Being the first person in the world (except for Acen and possibly Dyce) to hear a new version of Trip To The Moon is a memory I will probably always have. Its still crystal clear even now. I was in my house in North Carolina, in the Kitchen, looking over at the lake (we had a nice place lol). Phoenix was like...2 years old maybe? and he was doing that "holding on to the wall" toddler walk. Dunno where Wilder or Cindy were, but I do not remember them being there. I played it on my laptop and, as daft as it sounds, I almost started crying.
Like so many others, Trip To The Moon was a record that meant a huge amount to me. It is a timeless and epic track, in every sense of those words, and one that still sounds futuristic even 30 years after its release. It is also a record that fits into every and no genre - it is d'n'b, it is jungle, it is rave, it is hardcore, it is none of those things. But mostly, slowly and surely, I think it is a record that came to represent everything wonderful about the rave scene and those days for a great many people.
Me being me, once I had listened to it 10 or fifteen times, with Phoenix waddling about to it like the 2 year old he was, and once I had pulled myself together, my mind immediately started scheming. What could Acen and I do with this? It would have to be something special....
And in my usual way, I came to the most exciting, but also possibly the most idiotic conclusion: Lets get a load of remixes done, repress the originals, and release a 5 or 6 vinyl box set.
It is fairly hard to remember that back in 2019 / 2020 no one was doing anything like that. The scene that is thriving now was a fraction of the size back then. Vinyl was coming out, sure, but one at a time, spread far and wide over a few dedicated labels. Represses sold, sure, but mostly that was of the hard to find, much sought after, rare as hens teeth represses. The originals of Trip To The Moon? They sold pretty damn well at the time. And remixes of old tunes? It was not really a main part of the market or what people were doing. Straight represses and new material, not much else.
What I am trying to say is, both Acen and I regarded it as a huge risk. But Acen trusted me to do it right (I have no idea why, I had no idea what I was doing lol) and told me that if I thought it could work, to go ahead and do it.
And I did think it could work. Sometimes, I just...know a thing. Not often. But sometimes, I will have a feel for something and know without even questioning, that I HAVE to do the thing. An example: When I did the Shades of Rhythm box set, Summer of 89 HAD to be remixed by Blame. Had to be. There was no question, no "who should remix this?" no back and forth. I heard Summer Of 89, and it was Blame who had to remix it. The end. And I tend not to question those certainties, cos to me they are as solid as the sky being up and water being wet.
So it was kinda like that. I knew the box set was the right move. I wasn't quite sure how to actually make one though, as I had never done it before.
But...knowing it is the right thing to do doesn't mean it will be successful. I have been in the industry a long time, and believe me, more than once I have seen the perfect thing fall flat on its face. Still, over the years, I have come to believe that I have to act on that feeling when it comes, and then even if it fails, I do not regret it. Sometimes you can do everything exactly right, and still fail. Welcome to human existence. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it though. Commercial faliure is not that big a deal compared to failing to act on what you know to be the right thing to do. In my opinion, anyway.
The point it, it was a huge risk. It stretched the labels finances to the brink to pay for the remix fees and get the box done and all that good stuff....But we went ahead and did it anyway. I started calling and emailing anyone Acen wanted to try and get for remixing. Without fail, every single person we approached was like "yes, definitely, yes please, when can I start?"..except for two of the biggest names you can imagine, and even so, their response wasn't to ignore me, as I expected, but to be genuinely miffed that they couldn't do it, and both said something along the lines of "Crap, I would love to do this but I cannot due to other commitments...but please pass my regards to Acen, I love his work and those tracks, and maybe ask again in the future?" (I will lol).
Acen is a humble sort of man, and even now I do not think he understands the reverence he and his work are held in, by both the raver and the DJ's and producers who grew up with his music.
So anyway, it eventually came together. My good friend Ryan worked hard to get the artwork authenitc and gorgeous, the remixes came in and they were incredible, and Acen polished off new versions of Obessed and Life & Crimes Of A Ruffneck, and we were ready to go...
We ordered 500 units pressed. 3000 records including the bonus 6th white vinyl.
500 was a huge amount to order, but with a box set, you cant really do less as the outer box etc has a 500 minimum run on it. We made some promotional videos, and interest seemed high as word of the release got out...but you know - 10,000 people say they will come to the event on Facebook, and 4 people actually turn up on the night.
So while both Acen and I were hopeful, we were also realistic. I kept saying "Acen, if we sell 300, we will cover costs and I will be happy with that" and kept hoping that it wouldn't be a failure. All my reasoning said it wouldn't be, but...yeah. Reasoning Shmeasoning....Scary.
By the time we were ready to put it up for sale, my family and I had moved to temporary accommodation, as we had sold our house and were ready to leave the USA and come back to the UK to live.
It was late autumn 2020, and as became our standard, we released KF135-KF140 - Acen - Trip To The Moon Box Set at 7pm on a Thursday night.
The wife and kids had gone out. I was pacing the front room, basically shitting myself lol. It doesn't matter how sure you are somthing is great, you never really know until it goes out there in the real world....
7pm came, it went live, and then...and then the orders started coming in. And oh boy, did they come in. Within a few minutes the site crashed, and we had to frantically try and get it back up and running. I was calling the wife like "Jesus baby, this is flying out, crap, the site crashed, gotta go..."
The first 100 were sold in about 3 minutes.
The second 100 within 10 minutes.
Within an hour, we had pretty much sold out of all 500. I immediately put in a reorder for the set with the pressing plant, but things like an outer box take time to make...stiil, I let the orders continue, and continue they did. And continue and continue and continue, and even now, as I write this, it is still a wanted Box Set.
I think it is fair to say, that particular gamble? It paid off. Both Acen and I simply could not believe it. We still cannot believe it I think.
Looking back, it seems like it was the perfect release at the perfect time. And for me, it is when Kniteforce stopped being a hobby, and showed it could be a real job, a real label, something much more than it had ever been in history. Acen is really humble and would likely deny it, but I maintain that Kniteforce's current success owes a great deal to that first Acen box set. It allowed many things to happen that otherwise probably would not have, or would have taken a very long time at least.
Now, some of you might be wondering, if you haven't already fallen asleep lol...why is this blog post being made? Well, it turns out, today is an historic day for us. Because today, Acen delivered "Champion (VIP)" which is the final track for his follow up box set "Monolith"
Acen and I have been working on this for nearly 2 years. It has taken time because Acen is a perfectionist, we were both very keen to get it right, and also, unlike me, Acen has a real life outside of music lol. But slowly and surely, piece by piece, we have been building the follow up to the Trip To The Moon box set, and today, the last track arrived...and once it is mastered, we will be ready to cut.
I do not want to give too much away at this point. But I will tell you the basic overall plan...
We have a single first, expected late Summer, and the box set will follow.
With the box set will be represses on Play 2092, Thrilla, All five of the Trip To The Moon box set records with new artwork, and as singles, an EP of unreleased old Acen tracks, including the recently discovered track "Opus" (featured in my new Supaset) and one other record that I am not going to reveal just yet.
The box set contains original remasters of Close Your Eyes, Window In The Sky, and remixes from the likes of Jonny L, Nookie, Hyper-On Experience, Ray Keith, Austin, New Decade, and many others, AND new mixes of those classic tracks from Acen himself. AND new material, such as Champion, which is, in my humble opinion, one of the best new tracks I have heard since this new scene started coming around.
To say I am excited about this is a huge understatement. Look, Squeeeee lol
So i decided to write this entire blog, just because of that.
I hope you are as excited about this as I am...it truly is going to be something else...artwork from Junior Tomlin and Ryan Cuggy, remastered and new material...a very unexpected remixer still unmentioned...but I am repeating myself now....
I just wanted you to know...its a big day :)