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Dave Perry interview, part 2

 

Following on from part one of our Dave Perry interview, we discuss his life after Paragon Publishing, working for a videogame software company, taking on the might of the Official PlayStation Magazine, launching a magazine publishing company, setting up his own business in his home town and more......

Out-of-Print Archive: In 1997 you decided to leave publishing and TV presenting all behind to work at THQ. What were the reasons behind this decision and what exactly was your role at THQ?
Dave Perry: To be honest, I wanted to learn more about the games industry. I had spent years and years thumping my own chest as a somewhat notorious games reviewer and presenter and now I wanted to know what it felt like to be on the other side of the fence. Back in the 90s, this was a natural progression. Many magazine writers went on to be snapped up by the software companies, where their encyclopaedic games knowledge and knowhow when it came to dealing with the press would be put to good use. Most writers became PR representatives, some went into the development side of things. Me, I had to go that one step further, and become the Marketing Manager for the whole of Europe. I was given a great salary and allowed to choose a brand new car for myself. It was such a culture change from the gritty, stressful world of magazine journalism.

I flew to Los Angeles often, to attend meetings etc. at the THQ Inc offices, and of course Atlanta to attend E3. I produced all of the company’s advertising in Europe, advised on acquisitions, demonstrated games to the press and game store account mangers from all over the UK, and most importantly I oversaw the company’s submission progress through Sony and Nintendo. This involved all packaging and booklets, making sure any software alterations were carried out, making sure that all trademarks and legal requirements were adhered to, and even commissioning artwork for the box covers. It was an immensely steep learning curve. I even set-up the UK offices internet systems. But oh boy, did I learn a lot about how the games industry worked. I had now not only been to the puppet show, but I had also discovered how the strings were pulled. Hugely important for my next challenge.

OoPA: One year on and you were back into videogame magazines at Rapide Publishing. How did this come about and what was the relationship with Rapide and Paragon?
DP: Well, Paragon owner Richard Monteiro had always been a good friend of Rapide owner Mark Smith. I had known Mark not only from his days of working at Club Nintendo, but also as a fellow Devonshire lad and Torquay United supporter. While I was working at Paragon, the publisher would often send some of its smaller magazines out to Mark’s new publishing house Rapide, to produce externally. So Mark was often at the Paragon offices, and I occasionally had to deal with him directly via phone. I liked him immensely and we had always got on.

  Dave at Rapide
Well, while I was at E3 in Atlanta with THQ, I dragged a number of the company’s male staff members out to a notorious strip bar, where we proceeded to let our hair down and have a few beers. While I was in the toilet taking a leak, I heard a familiar voice and there was Mark, standing at a urinal a few rows down from me. We exchanged drunken pleasantries and I think he asked if I had ever considered going back into the magazine world? I think I laughed and told him he couldn’t afford me. Which to someone like Mark is the same as waving a red rag at a bull. We continued to drink together for the rest of the evening, and then went our merry ways. It was at ECTS in London a couple of months later that we finally had a serious conversation about me joining Rapide to help them out with their magazines, but more importantly to oversee the development of a PlayStation Magazine featuring a regular cover disc, to go head to head with Future’s official title.

What a challenge. What a project. They said it was impossible. Nobody else had managed to pull it off. But Rapide were ambitious, aggressive and determined. It was a perfect match. How could I say no? I couldn’t. I didn’t. I left the cushy life of marketing and jumped back into the burning fires of magazine publishing. It was to be the most colourful time of my career to date. Rapide were a company like no other I’d ever encountered.

Sega Pro magazine   OoPA: That magazine would be Station. What can you tell us about the conception and launch of Station to compete against the market leader Official PlayStation Magazine?
DP: Station was a monster, there’s no doubt about that; but it was my prime directive upon joining Rapide. Having submitted many of THQ’s discs to Sony, I was already intimate with the format provider’s submission policies and requirements and I was on first name terms with all the necessary people to advance a project like this to the next stage, but the Official magazine had the market pretty much tied up. Future had been extremely diligent in its dealings with Sony and made it very prohibitive for any other publisher to covermount Playstation discs. After all, Sony was the only manufacturer of these discs from their plants in Austria, so there was no way of going around them, and the cost per disc was completely
astronomical at the time. We had an absolutely massive launch planned, but the nature of publishing and the time period that lapses between producing your magazines, getting them on shelf and eventually getting paid by your distributor, meant that a magazine like Station, with hugely expensive cover discs, accrued massive upfront costs, and really, really dangerous overheads. But the rewards of course are also massive. Itís just a very, very scary game to play. But Mark Smith was a man with balls of steel, and like me he loved the challenge. I think he loved the fact that everybody said it couldnít be done... and then we went ahead and proved them wrong.

But what a launch it was. It was to be the companyís flagship magazine, and would go on to achieve an ABC of 132,645, but the stress of putting together a title like that is unbelievable. I was meticulous and very demanding of my team. At one point a number of employees went to Mark Smithís office and delivered an Ďitís him or usí ultimatum. [Laughs.] Oh my goodness. Thatís how tough it was. Thankfully Mark stuck with me and I brought in new writers, rolled up my sleeves and Edited the whole thing myself. When we finally got that first issue off to the printers I remember sitting at my desk at about 7.30am and not knowing where I was. For about 10 minutes I had a complete melt down. It was the scariest thing ever. I had burnt myself out getting the magazine finished, and once I was satisfied, and it was sent off I just had a mini-breakdown. I was numb and really could not work out where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. I was so drained. But it was worth it. We had won. We had achieved what they said couldnít be done.

OoPA: Another Rapide magazine, Ultimate PC, was faring worse but you managed to get your editorial hands on it for a re-design. However, the magazine closed before you could make a difference. Just what did you have in mind for the big re-design and do you believe the magazine could have competed with the market leaders PC Gamer and PC Zone?
DP: Yes I do. It was to be rebranded as U•PC and we had a good team on the magazine headed up by an ambitious young editor who seemed to be very well liked by the software companies. As a result, we also had some great exclusives lined up and I had redesigned the title’s new logo and format personally. It was going to be very revolutionary compared to the other PC titles available at the time. I was excited, because I hadn’t worked in the PC sector before this magazine was handed to me, so it represented a fresh challenge. I love a fresh challenge. It was a shame it never made the shelves.

OoPA: Total Control was another very ambitious multi-format launch designed to compete against Future's Edge. What were your thoughts on the magazine?
DP: Once again, this was a magazine that I did not launch personally, but which was handed to me later on, for whatever reason. I really liked the magazine, especially the fun we’d have coming up with unique and often cryptic cover designs. Lots of foil and cut out shapes etc. Inside, it was clear that the team enjoyed gaming, but I felt it often lacked a little focus at times. But a decent little all-rounder. Rapide’s X•Gen I suppose, but a bit more ‘gamey’. To be honest I had forgotten all about it until now. Which is not a good thing.
  Total Control magazine

OoPA: We believe Rapide were putting together Total Dreamcast for the official licence during the summer of 1999. What happened to the bid and the magazine?
DP: Like the re-design of Ultimate PC, Rapide’s Dreamcast magazine was all designed and ready to go, but never saw the light of day. It came along just as the curtain was going down on the company. These were very sad times, as behind the scenes we had been working very hard on some exciting new titles and relaunches. We knew the company was struggling, but not exactly how much, so we tried to help all we could by making sure that we had top quality product ready to go.

DVD Monthly magazine   OoPA: In 1999 you set up your own publishing company called Predator Publishing that launched DVD Monthly and published other titles such as Psi2 and Diesel Car. What were the reasons for this move?
DP: I had had enough of putting my fate in the hands of others. I felt that the time was right to put my money where my mouth was, and run a publishing company of my own, from the top all the way down. I had a new baby and family to support and wanted the freedom to do it on my own terms. After Rapide went down I also decided that I had had enough of the games industry, and that maybe it had had enough of me too. I wanted to do something new... prove myself in a new arena. I was a huge movie fan and DVD was just beginning to take off  big time in Europe, so it seemed like the perfect  industry to move into. Free movies! Yes please.

DVD Monthly ran for over eight years, and over 100 issues, which is an achievement I am still extremely proud of, keeping any magazine competitive for that length of time as a small independent publisher is pretty rare these days. I had to learn a whole arsenal of new tricks very quickly indeed. It’s astounding how quickly you get used to writing really big cheques.

As for Diesel Car magazine, that was a blast. The magazine was really struggling when I took it over. I put it through a complete redesign and had to replace much of the editorial staff, but it was worth it. Sales figures went up, profitability rose, and I was flown all over Europe to test new cars, or simply had them driven down to me to ‘borrow’. Brilliant. I can understand why once they get into it, some journalists stay in that industry for life. You get spoiled absolutely rotten. Private Harrods Jets, Villas in vineyards, new Jaguars to drive through the Alps. The works.

OoPA: In 2001 you had a stint on the shopping channel QVC presenting technology products. How was this compared to your previous TV work?
DP: The big difference with this, compared to my previous TV work was that it was very, very well rewarded. [Laughs.] The amazing thing with QVC is that performance is to a degree rated by units sold, and so after a stint on screen everyone would rush back and watch the monitors in the green room that  feature
  Dave on QVC
displays showing how many orders are being taken, phone calls are waiting etc. It's a fascinating way to work. Very instant, but also extremely stressful. What
Dave appeared on QVC presenting technology product shows in 2001
it did provide was an extremely valuable learning curve.

The reality was however, that the only reason I did the shows was in order to pay for my wedding the following year. I hadn't realised how much getting married would cost until after I had proposed. Once I had earned enough money to pay for everything my future bride wanted, I stopped, and haven’t returned to the screen since.

DVD Monthly magazine   OoPA: Following six successful years at Predator Publishing your company was bought out, giving you the opportunity to open a tattoo parlour called Revolver Tattoo Rooms. This is something you have always had an interest in, so it must have felt good to settle down in your hometown doing something you feel so passionate about?
DP: Yes. When I eventually sold all of my interests in the magazine world I decided that I had simply had enough. It had become increasingly tough to make a living out of print, thanks to the
With the successful sale of his publishing company, Dave was able to open up Revolver Tattoo Rooms
worldwide web, and I needed a break. I had fought so many professional battles over the past few years that it was beginning to take the fun out of something I had always loved dearly, and so the time had come to just
step off the ride completely and do something that I felt would be good for my soul. I had loved tattooing and being tattooed since the early 90s, but had never had the opportunity to throw myself wholeheartedly into the art form. Now, with no more magazine deadlines to worry about, I began painting and tattooing daily again, just like I had before publishing had taken over my life, and in 2007 I returned to my home town of Torquay and opened my own studio – Revolver Tattoo Rooms. It proved to be the best decision I could have made and I now look forward to going to work every day with a truly wonderful group of creative and honest people, all of whom have the same passion and work ethic as me. It seems miles away from my TV days and business trips to the States.

OoPA: 2010 presented you with a unique opportunity to edit Tattoo Master, the market's leading magazine. How did it feel to be editing a magazine once again about a subject you are so passionate about?
DP: [Laughs.] Yeah, it’s like in The Godfather III, when Pacino says “Just as I get out, they pull me back in again.” Ha, ha. Yes, I’m very lucky to be good friends with the owner of Jazz Publishing who produce Tattoo Master and several other tattoo magazines, along with running some of the biggest and best conventions in Europe. He had been having some trouble with his newest magazine and needed someone he could trust to produce it for him, so he asked me if I would be interested in doing it. At first I wasn’t sure, because I was building my new business and didn’t really want to get involved in all the stress and pressure of magazine work again. But I was interested in the idea of running a magazine about tattooing alongside running my studio, and Stuart
  Tattoo Master magazine
was somebody who I both admired an liked and so I wanted to help him out. So of course I said “yes”, and a year and a half later I finally helped him find another editor so that I knew the magazine would be in safe hands and I could go back to concentrating on my tattooing again. Did I enjoy Editing the magazine? Hell yes. Bottom line is I still love publishing, and I really love producing magazines. So it was nice to do it for a short time, for a friend, and about a subject I was head over heels passionate about. I gave a lot of upcoming artists their first features and their first front covers. It feels good to be in a position where you can do good for people.

GamesMaster Series 3   OoPA: There have been many discussions over the years about a possible GamesMaster TV show reboot. Do you think it would ever happen and would you like to be involved in it?
DP: I have been asked a couple of times if I would be involved in a reboot of GamesMaster. The last time was by a huge production company, best known for running one of the biggest franchises on terrestrial TV. I can tell you with complete honesty that I said
Co-hosting GamesMaster series 3 with Dexter Fletcher
yes to††them. I mean, why not? Of course it could never be the same as the original show, but it would be a great experience to see if I could help resurrect
my baby. The games industry could certainly do with the TV exposure. It amazes me that the biggest youth phenomenon of the past two decades continues to go from strength to strength, yet no commissioning editors seem interested in bringing it to the TV screen. The advertising alone in this sector would make it worthwhile. Somebody is missing a big trick with this, and whoever has the balls and the vision to strike first is going to hit it big. It makes me more than a little sad that we blazed a trail for everyone, only to see it go cold once we stepped aside.

OoPA: Have you read any of the current crop of videogame magazines at all; the current day Play or GamesMaster magazines?
DP: No. I don’t have much time for the modern games press if I’m honest. The last time I read a games magazine it left me bored and cold, the unfortunate fact is that the internet has killed it dead, yet no website will ever capture the feel and excitement of a well produced, personality driven, magazine. There is something wonderful about holding a well produced magazine in your hands. The internet for me is like the fast food version of what we used to do, and like fast food I find it momentarily satisfying but instantly forgettable. It always seems to lack heart, plain and simple. And, whereas only the best writers and reviewers would ever get to see their name in print in the few national magazines that sat on newsagents’ shelves, the games websites are now swamped with writers of such varying quality that it becomes a question of who do you trust? That relationship between reader and review team has somehow been lost, and now we will probably never see its like again.

OoPA: Even now, you still get confused with David Perry who created videogames such as Earthworm Jim, Cool Spot and Aladdin. Did this ever bother you at all?
DP: No. He is a nice guy. I visited him a few times in LA. To be honest I think it bothered him more that he got mistaken for an arsehole like me.

OoPA: Looking back at the many magazines you worked on, what were your favourites and why?
DP: It’s a strange thing, but my favourite is still X•Gen. Even though it didn’t do very well, I just liked what we tried to achieve. I think the best team I ever worked with was the one I put together on Games World: The Magazine. It was a joy reading the text those guys submitted. And I will always have an eternal soft spot for DVD Monthly. My own magazine.
  Games World magazine team
Over 100 issues produced in a very  tough market. That was me, showing what I could do, even with minimal resources at my fingertips.
The Games World magazine team

Dave Perry feature   OoPA: Having spent many years in publishing and TV what would you say are your fondest memories and biggest achievements? How would you like to be remembered?
DP: Oh boy, it was a whirlwind, but when I look back on it all now there are so many different memories and achievements that make me smile in moments of quiet reflection. I am of course proud that I helped create the UK’s first and still greatest videogames TV show –
An article about Dave that appeared in a colour suppliment to The Independent
GamesMaster, that I was the only games personality ever to be voted in the UK’s 50 Most Eligible Bachelors by an international style
style magazine – Company, or to have five pages dedicated to them in a National Newspaper’s colour supplement – The Independent. Those things make me smile, because they prove that I transcended the normal games industry geek boundaries. I am equally proud of Editing the first UK console magazine to feature a playable cover disc – Mega Power, as I am also proud of Editing and Launching the biggest selling independent single format games magazine of all-time – Station. I am proud of getting a magazine into the Top 100 magazine list, and I am proud of having five games at Number One in the charts on different formats while working as European Marketing Manager at THQ. I am extremely proud at having set-up and run my own publishing company for seven years, and in doing that, proving that I can compete in three major arenas – Videogames, Cars and Film. I have all manner of accolades and awards tucked away in boxes somewhere, but most of all I am proud that people still remember me and want to talk to me about those days.

How would I like to be remembered? As an innovator and a one-off, an original. But I’ll probably just be remembered for falling off a slide on Mario 64. [Laughs.] Life can be cruel eh?

Be sure to check out the Sega Pro magazine archive and let us know your thoughts on this interview and your memories of Dave Perry and his magazines in our forums.

Notes:
• X•Gen and Total Control scans proviced by Andynick at Magazines from the Past
• All other images were provided by Dave Perry.

Relevent weblinks:
Gamesmaster Series 1 Episode 1 .
Games World Series 1 Eliminator - Video Game Journalists Special . Featuring notable videogame journalists such as Adam Peters (Game Zone), Dave Perry (Sega Pro), Matt Bielby (Super Play), Jim Douglas (GamesMaster) and Dave Kelsall (Nintendo Magazine System and Mean Machines Sega).

 

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