Biography

Richard King is the British author of How Soon is Now? Sunday Times Music Book of the Year 2012 and Original Rockers, which was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize (2015).

 

About

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Richard King is the author of How Soon is Now? Sunday Times Music Book of the Year 2012 and Original Rockers, which was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize (2015).

His next book The Lark Ascending is due for publication by Faber & Faber in 2019.

Before his career as an author King worked in the independent music business, co-founding the record label Planet Records in Bristol at the age of twenty-two. The label’s roster was drawn from the city's underground music culture, releasing music by Movietone, Third Eye Foundation, Crescent, & Flying Saucer Attack, along with occasional American bands including Yo La Tengo and Harry Pussy. In 1996 King established a working relationship with Domino Records, London an association that continued, with various degrees of formality, for over fifteen years. 

King has also regularly worked as a curator, programming and producing events at The Barbican Centre, London, The Cultural Olympiad, London 2012. The Hay Festival, Green Man Festival, where he curated the Babbling Tongues stage for five years and The International Festival of Apathy, Bristol. King was an honorary founding partner of The Do Lectures.

His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Observer, Vice, Caught By The River and numerous other publications. King was also the co-editor of Loops, a journal of long form music writing published jointly by Faber & Faber and Domino Records.

He lives in Radnorshire, Mid Wales.

 
 

 

Works

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2015

Original Rockers

Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2105. a Times, Uncut & Rough Trade book of the year. 

‘Remarkable . . . a work of rapture and reverie.’ Observer
‘Delightful  . . . I loved every page of it.’  Independent
‘The first time I truly couldn’t take the needle off a book. The smell of vinyl virtually emanated from the page.’ Gilles Peterson 
'This is not so much a eulogy for record shops as an examination of the romantic, slightly tragic disposition of the people to whom they meant so much' Times 
‘A remarkable memory fugue . . .  a work of rapture and reverie . . .King writes like a dream… a bittersweet and often moving tribute to a hallowed place.’ Observer
‘An eloquent panegyric . . . [with an] intoxicating sense of place.’ Guardian
Part time capsule, part history lesson, part musical treasure map . . .  King unashamedly romanticises those pre-internet days when musical knowledge was hard won rather than a mouse-click away.’ Mojo
 
‘Celebrates the independent record shop as not only a cultural hub but also a dream state, a tiny republic within a city. It’s an inspiring reverie, a beautiful book about an almost extinct world.’ Bob Stanley
 
‘A highly personal memoir that vividly articulates the sheer thrill of musical discovery, the new or previously unheard record that attaches itself to a moment in your life, from which it becomes inseparable.’ Uncut
‘There are a dozen different books packed into Original Rockers – a comic portrait of Revolver, a Bristol scene history and an analysis of British experimental music, for starters, but such abundance allows the book to imitate a flick through the record racks. Q Magazine
‘In this celebratory, elegiac book, King remembers Bristol’s Revolver, an indie record shop that was idiosyncratic, eclectic and more than a tad intimidating to the casual browser.’ Express
‘Some of the finest music writing I have read in many a year. Original Rockers is a beautifully written and evocative re-making of one highly personal corner of the record shop decades – and one we’ll all recognise.’ Test Pressing

 
 
 
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2012

How Soon Is Now?

Sunday Times Music Book of the Year 2012

‘King’s history of the British independent music business is beautifully researched, and unafraid to display a deep love of its subject on every page. Backroom labels such as Factory, 4AD and Rough Trade explode into global businesses as their signings – the Cocteau Twins, New Order and the Smiths – become troubled, troublesome and unwitting stars. Exhaustive and reflective, this is the definitive work on one of Britain’s great artistic booms.’ Sunday Times ‘Music Book of the Year’
‘Illuminating interviews from many of the main players, from Travis to McGee to the Smiths’ Johnny Marr. [King’s] tone is balanced, his prose penetrating, his coverage comprehensive.’ The Times   
‘How did independent music, defined by an economic relation, become 'indie', defined by trouser width and relatively antiquated instrumentation? It’s this tension, and that between the dreamy, ideological or unhinged motivations of these reluctant entrepreneurs and the capitalism they had to coexist with (or ‘succeed’ in) that makes this both a timely and tragic book . . . The narrative of connections and networks is told with a sharp eye for historical detail, lurid anecdote and non-metropolitan geography.’ Wire
‘How Soon Is Now? traces a confident line from indie’s first stirrings in the mid-‘70s though to Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, the subculture’s last million-seller under the original analogue rules in 2005. Author Richard King is an insider; he’s worked at Domino Records for 15 years . . . this lends his fluent and intuitively organised chronicle a cool authority, and places us right there in the shopfloor.’ Word
‘The story of a generation of blokes with a stubborn kind of honesty and some great ideas. . . Throughout is a rather cheering distaste for business; as Beggars’ Martin puts it: ‘If you’re doing this and you haven’t got money problems, you’re doing something wrong.’ Mojo
‘An exhaustive chronicle of the labels that drove independent music for 30 years, Richard King’s prodigiously researched book includes everything one could wish to know about the mayhem, rebellion and anti-corporate idealism of indie culture. While there are colourful anecdotes about artists of variable talent – the Smiths, New Order, Sonic Youth, the Jazz Defektors – it’s the eccentrics, misfits and sociopaths operating behind the scenes who take centre stage . . . It certainly shatters the “us versus them” illusion of the indie scene as one big happy family, as grievances fester, drug-assisted mistakes pile up and disillusionment takes its toll . . . Both an inspiration and a cautionary tale.’ Observer
‘Richard King’s exhaustively researched labour of love, How Soon is Now?, offers a history that runs parallel to the works of these totemic acts, ushering forward the dreamers and chancers who took advantage of the fissures opened up by punk to create a new paradigm for the production and distribution of music. Their story is long overdue . . . this is a funny, lively and inspiring history.’ Time Out
‘King successfully captures the chaos that underpinned the independent sector . . .  How Soon is Now? is as much about the financial mis-management, rampant egos and petty rivalry that was the independent experiment as its many triumphs . . . Any young entrepreneur looking to get a foothold in the music business would be wise to consult this book before taking the plunge.’ Independent
‘King’s book has huge fun with the story of all this. He has a range of larger-than-life characters to present before us and he details their failings and foibles with relish.’ Herald
‘This remarkable and hugely enjoyable history of the British independent music scene over the past 30 years reveals a much more diverse, influential and successful picture . . . Richard King does an amazing job of portraying the ramshackle yet exhilarating vibe of the times. The label staff and bosses were just as into the excesses of rock n roll as the bands, and the amount of drugs consumed within these pages is mind-boggling, something else which probably didn’t help those precarious balance sheets. King has extracted interviews from all the major players and orchestrated a shambolic and chaotic world into a coherent and compelling historical narrative. If only all music books were this good.’ Scotsman

 
 
 
 
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Loops

Loops was a journal of long-form music writing published jointly by Faber & Faber and Domino Records co-edited by Lee Brackstone and Richard King.

Its contributors included Nick Cave, Anwyn Crawford, Geeta Dayal, Mark Fisher, Lavinia Greenlaw, Owen Hatherley, Nick Kent, Hari Kunzru, Tim Lawrence, Paul Morley, Amanda Petrusich, Simon Reynolds and Jon Savage.