Dave Golder was Commodore Format’s popular fifth editor. He’s still at Future Publishing in Bath, most famously involved with sci fi title SFX – which is where we found him one weekend in March 2014. “We kept CF going because we cared”, he tells us.
Dave! Take us back to early 1992. You joined Commodore Format on issue 17. How’d you get there? I’m desperately trying to remember the chronology of everything! I think the key thing to know about me is that I always wanted to be a magazine journalist, and I wasn’t really a gamer. As opposed to most other writers at Future at the time, I was a writer who became a gamer, rather than a gamer who became a writer. I always felt (and still feel) a bit of a shame when it comes to games journalism. I became a gamer because it made me money and furthered my career! (But I did learn to love the games.)
Anyway, back then, as now, fresh young writers at Future were paid peanuts and had to make ends meet doing freelance for magazines within the company other than the one they worked for. At that time (’92) I think I must have been working on a dull magazine for Future called Public Domain (yes, they expected people to pay for a magazine about free software!) and therefore became an obvious choice to handle Commodore Format’s PD section because I was wading through so much of the stuff every month anyway.
And it just kind of developed from there. When Public Domain (inevitably) folded very quickly, I became Commodore’s Format’s production editor. Which is kinda laughable, because my attention to detail is… wayward. I’ve always been more of a rapid words generating machine than a pore over the details machine. But I was just grateful to be working on a mag I had genuinely grown to love with a team who were really fun.
That first stint on the magazine lasted until issue 35. Tell us about about your day to day life on CF . You were part of that really brilliant ‘middle’ era with Trenton Webb editing… Day to day everything changed. As I said, I was never a production editor at heart, and I think Trenton took on more of those duties than usual so I could write, play, write, play. Or maybe the typo count just went through the roof, I dunno. But I recall writing much more than subbing. I must have done some.
I loved working with Trenton and [art editor] Ollie [Alderton], especially. I learned an awful lot of journalistic and editing tricks from Trenton that I still use today. I think he was a quiet genius who was never appreciated at Future as much as he should have been. I remember a particular publisher who said that all editors should be cheerleaders and champions for their titles, “The type of person who would leap onto a table and drop their trousers if it sold more copies.” I can’t imagine Trenton ever doing that (I wouldn’t either). Plus I liked the way he called me “Sir”.
Ollie was always hilarious, and seemed like a bizarre mutant combination of punk and absolute gent.
You’re fondly remembered for your feature writing. A lot of people didn’t know about the SX-64 until you tracked one down, and the Sylvester McCoy interview must be CF’s only celebrity interview. Were you always trying to do something a bit different? Well, as I said, I was a journalist first, so yeah, I was always interested in doing something a bit more journalistic. I’m pleased people liked those features. There’s always the worry they may come across as indulgent! And, of course, I’m a Doctor Who fan, so the McCoy interview was a excuse to satisfy that side of my fandom.
You were in charge of the Power Packs for a while. Everyone we talk to seems split on how those were to work on – some remember them as a spirit crushing, time eating chore…I’d almost wiped that from my memory. I loathed that part of the job, while understanding that it was crucial to the magazine’s success, so never giving it less than the attention it needed. But as for details about what went on and what didn’t… I honestly can’t remember. Sorry.
You left the magazine at issue 35. Is it true you walked away because everyone expected you to become the next editor of Commodore Format when Trenton Web left – but that the publishers had other ideas and gave it to Andy Hutchinson? Yeah, it’s true. I walked out of the building and I can’t remember how they got in touch with me again (It was the days before mobile phones) but I do recall a message making its way to me that the publisher wanted to make me an offer. That offer was to edit Amstrad Action. It was an okay consolation prize, but I always felt a little guilty I was foisted onto their team because I’d had an attack of the prima donnas.
It always made it difficult to get along with Hutch, as well, which was a shame because he was an okay guy. I just couldn’t help regarding him as the enemy. My bad, not his.
Of course, nine months later (CF44) you were back! We’re going to hazard a guess and say you aren’t quite aware of just how popular your return as editor was. People felt like they’d got their friend back. No, I didn’t realise. Thank you. I thought that period might have turned people against me, because I made such a bad job of it (the amount of typos and production errors in issue 50 genuinely sent me into a depression). Of course, I was editing both Amstrad Action andCommodore Format at the same at that point and under a lot of pressure. I thought both titles suffered as a result.
But it’s nice to know that the broad strokes editorial decisions I made struck a chord – what I was trying to achieve, even if we fell short occasionally. A lot of the credit for that should go to [staff writer] Simon Forrester who pushed me in that direction and did a lot of the legwork. But hey, I listened, wound him up and let him go.
You took CF back down the games route – finally looking outside the UK for software and uncovering some real gems like Heavenbound…Well, we had to fill the pages with something, and, if I remember correctly, a lot of the games creators approached us. So we weren’t globetrotting heroes, but we were heroically receptive to good ideas. But yeah, there was a bit of virtual legwork to be done as well. We did it because we cared. In those days at Future – unlike now – if your mag went under, you were pretty much assured they would find you another job, so we weren’t doing it just to make sure we were employed. We cared.
Not long after you took over, CF went down to 34 pages and – the month you left – 22. Tell us about working on the magazine as it became smaller. Do you think it would’ve been better to knock it on the head sooner? Sadly, yes. The editors after me – Karen Levell and Simon Forrester – did some great stuff under the circumstances, but it was looking a tad embarrassingly flimsy by the time I left.
Is there a standout moment from your time on CF? Finally getting to become editor.
A few questions from our readers before we let you go, Dave. Paul wants to know if you think CF set you up for a life on SFX…A lot of what I learned about my own style of editing I certainly learned while working on CF. But it was the [sci fi section] Killer Kolumn in Your Sinclair that more directly lead to SFX. I owe both mags a lot.
Mark asks – weren’t you actually editing CF and AA at the same time for a bit? Stressful much? I was helped by great support from both teams! Also, that period of my life suddenly became pertinent again recently, when I used it as an example to prove that I could launch Comic Review at the same time as editing Comic Heroes and the SFX specials. I’m clearly a glutton for punishment.
And Steve wonders what your favourite Commodore 64 game was. Ooooh, tricky one. Obviously I should say Mayhem In Monsterland. I really liked Creatures. But the two I spent most time playing, even though they’re in genres I’m normally rubbish at, were IK+ and Stunt Car Racer. I think that last one was my biggest have.
Thanks for your time, Dave. What are you doing for the rest of the day? Drinking wine. CF
Dave Golder joined Commodore Format on issue 17, eventually becoming editor on CF44. Follow him on twitter – @DaveGolder – to see the pics and read his blog.
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