Robert Andrew Deacon, publisher and music producer: born Sutton at Hone, Kent 6 August 1965; died 8 September 2007.
With CDs now stuck to the covers of most music monthlies and given away with newspapers, it is easy to forget how innovative Volume, the CD and magazine combination launched by Rob Deacon in 1991, really was. Beautifully packaged – usually with a colour picture of tropical fish on the glossy cover – the CDs contained tracks by a wide range of acts, as well as a CD-sized book packed with articles on the artists and the occasional irreverent feature. Publication was haphazard and never reached more than five issues a year, but Deacon's attention to detail and high production values, as well as the inclusion of exclusive mixes, demos and tracks unavailable elsewhere, made Volume a sought-after item.
Volume was a broad church, covering indie and hip-hop, but focusing on the various strands of electronic music, from industrial to ambient via trip-hop. With the Trance Europe Express and Trance Atlantic series, Deacon was a champion of the strand of house and techno known as trance. In the mid-1990s, he launched the Deviant label, scoring a success with the German DJ Paul Van Dyk, who achieved four Top 40 singles between 1998 and 2000. Deacon also worked with DJ Sammy & Yanou, the Spanish disc-jockey and German producer team who topped the British charts with a cheesy reworking of Bryan Adams's Eighties power ballad "Heaven" in 2002.
Born in Sutton at Hone in Kent, Deacon spent part of his childhood in Australia but completed his studies in the UK, at Dartford Technical College. He did an apprenticeship with British Telecom but by the early 1980s was already publishing a fanzine called Enzine, and soon developed Abstract which combined a 12-inch vinyl album and a magazine. He also launched the label Sweatbox, releasing limited runs of 12-inch singles, EPs and albums in beautifully embossed sleeves by cutting-edge artists like the Anti Group, In the Nursery and Meat Beat Manifesto.
Introduced nine years after CDs first became commercially available, Volume achieved healthy sales from its inception. Deacon took the photos, wrote a huge amount of copy, did most of the design on an Apple computer in his basement flat in west London and put the big publishing houses to shame. The five volumes of Trance Europe Express achieved sales in excess of 100,000. Trance became a worldwide phenomenon and Deacon travelled as far as Australia and Japan to promote events there. He also covered the evolution of Berlin's Love Parade into one of the biggest events on the dance calendar in Berlin Unwrapped, a 1996 compilation and magazine available as a CD or five 12-inch singles.
However, with publishers cutting deals with record labels and free CDs becoming ubiquitous as cover-mounts, Volume started to lose momentum. Deacon decided to go out on a high. For the 17th and final edition issued in January 1997, he put together a double CD which clocked in at over two hours.
Deacon had greater success with Deviant Records, selling 60,000 copies of Vorsprung Dyk Technik, a mix album by Paul Van Dyk, but he decided to close the label earlier this year in order to spend more time indulging his interests in photography, Chelsea football club, diving and canoeing.