Welcome to the first edition of “The Musical Pages,” a section of RoundLetters about music-based books.
Yesterday I finally finished my copy of Kill Your Friends by John Niven. I say finally because a) I bought it in London months ago and b) it was a pretty hard thing to cover up while reading on the subway (cough, title, cough. I just think it would be strange to see someone reading that). And not only was it the title but it was also the content. I would often look up blushing (I read it on the subway anyway) because of the dirty scenes or excessive swearing I would have to bear through hoping whoever was sitting next to me wasn’t reading it over my shoulder as I obviously cringed.
But besides that, it was a compelling read. It’s a fictitious (yet based in non-fictitious time) novel about this A&R rep from a major record label in London in the 90’s named Steven Stelfox. It’s a disastrous world of sex, drugs and pop music. Stelfox takes you through his evil monologue and you really see how the pop sector of the music industry works (probably a little embellished, but still) in the sense of how they decide who to represent, what makes good music, etc. Now, we know most of these things already, but this book is a good read if you enjoy recognizing names on every page and learning the most wicked part of our industry. We know it’s bad, but why? Because it’s fueled by cocaine, radio play and selfish pushed-past-the-limits deeds. And, like any other bad habit, this book leads you into a dark hole.
And selfish is Stelfox. It’s pretty obvious from the title, but man does this guy mean business. You follow Stelfox through his dastardly ways of securing the title of Head of A&R. He’s not only selfish but he’s racist and sexist as well. The content he provides is vicious and annoying at times in the amount of swear words or terrible thoughts he’ll share. It’s a little tough to get through, but I did it. (Unlike the novel Londonstani by Gaultam Malkani, too hard!)
One of the most interesting things to me though is looking at it in the 90’s perspective from today’s point of view. These days it’s the indie labels going nuts over a band, but, from what we hear they treat the bands with respect over their talent. Pop music was at its highest in the 90’s and we really see the complications of looking cheery or providing a good back beat. Stelfox hates indie music. Here’s an excerpt of his rant:
“With the indie kids you have to remember this: they really think that what they do matters in some way. They reckon that history will care. (They don’t know that history will have other shit to be getting on with.) The indie kids figure that they’re passing on the torch or some fucking thing. That, just as they were influenced by someone — the Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman, the Stooges, whoever — then, in the future, young bands will be influenced by them…”
Don’t fret, indie kids. I’m on your side. I just want to show you the actual smallest form of Stelfox’s luscious evil.
Anyways, It’s an interesting read. It’s daring, it’s dangerous and its something to carve your teeth into. Check it out. Just be careful on the subway.