Kevin King – Secret 7”

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Kevin King – single man

We recently told you about James Joyce’s involvement with Planar 1/1 – the auction of a number of Rega turntables designed by artists, to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity.

The man behind it all was Kevin King, and it was an offshoot of Secret 7”, which Kevin has also been behind since 2012. Secret 7” takes seven tracks by seven well-known music artists (both Elton John and The Rolling Stones have featured) and gets creatives from all over the world to design individual 7” single sleeves for them. There are a hundred copies of each single pressed, so that’s a total of 700 different sleeves, some created by artists like Gilbert & George, Yoko Ono and Ai Weiwei. Each single sells for £50, the buyer having no idea of who designed their sleeve until they receive it.

So far, Secret 7” has raised over £200,000 for a variety of charities.

We tracked Kevin down to talk to him about Planar 1/1 and the music/art/fund-raising crossover.

Could you tell us about how Secret 7” came about?

I was working at a record label at the time and we were doing a lot of fundraising for Teenager Cancer Trust that year. Primarily through staff endeavours like quiz nights, 10k runs, cake sales and a gruelling Three Peaks Challenge. I got inspired by a trip to the RCA Secret sale to do something more directly associated to the record biz and relationships we had with musicians – anything that meant I didn’t have to physically exert myself again! 

The label was working with an agency in Manchester at the time. I went up to visit for some design support and I got paired up with Jordan Stokes (co-founder). At the time both of us were fairly junior and both our employers just left us to it. We grabbed the opportunity for complete autonomy and, together with a load of blind ambition, made it a huge success. We’ve been working on the project ever since. Even though Jord moved to Sydney after that first year!

Are you a vinyl fiend?

I do love the format, though I’m nowhere near as fiendish as some of Secret 7” fans and artwork contributors. Physical music gives me back so much more than streaming – from the artwork and liner notes to its ability to hold my attention.

Do you have a personal favourite Secret 7”?

There’s been 4,200 unique sleeves to date, so hard to pick a favourite!

How did the idea of switching your attention from records to record players come about?

In recent years I’ve devised a few new fundraising mechanics for us to raise even more money for our cause, including a jukebox called Secret Seeburg, and recording the public live to vinyl. It’s always a pretty natural step from the main show, and the turntables are no different. The first time we produced 7x with Thierry Noir, this time we developed it to mirror the show a bit closer, so that they were all unique, and Planar 1/1 was born. 

How did you select the artists for Planar 1/1?

We asked a number of artists who’d done a sleeve for Secret 7″ this year, and included a few fresh names. The brief was completely open – a blank turntable that the artist could do anything to and so the ask went to those I thought would create something quite unique. The response across the 10x was beautiful and varied.  

Did you know James’ work?

Yes, for years I’ve been a fan. This was the first year he’s been involved in Secret 7″ and so it was a massive bonus that he created a Planar 1/1 too. Both sleeve and turntable were brilliant. The sale for Secret 7″ is first come, first served, and this year we had a queue for 52 hours! I think it was the chap that was fourth in the queue that nabbed James’. As he’d been in the queue for a while we’d got talking and I know it went to a really good home.

Do all the decks actually work?

Yes, whether you’d use them is the question. In particular, the Jake & Dinos Chapman one.

How did the auction go?

It went really well. There was no auctioneer and mallet moment as it was all online, but there was still loads of last minute activity.

Why did you choose the Ace Hotel to show the decks?

I wanted to get a lot of people to see them who I thought would like the concept and be interested to bid. Ace felt perfect for that as they have the same Rega decks in the rooms and they were really keen to have us when we spoke.

Which artists DJed at the event after the auction?

Fellow contributors Gavin Turk and Pete Fowler DJed and what fun we had.

Why did you choose Mind as the charity to benefit from Planar 1/1?

Often our causes have a link to art and music, other times they just resonate with us in terms of what’s going on in the world and with our lives. Mind fell more into the latter, I guess. I was keen to play a part in the increasing momentum that there feels to be around having an open conversation about our mental health and tackling the stigma.

Did you bid for any of the decks yourself?

Yes, but I got outbid again and again.

What’s next for Secret 7”?

We’ve a dream for the next edition of the show, which will be our 7th one. Now we’ve drawn a line under 2018 activity we’re working away trying to make that dream a reality.