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  • Alistair Braidwood

Kill Your Friends…

This month’s Dear Scotland column looks at John Niven’s 2008 novel Kill Your Friends. The novel follows the debauched life of A&R (artist and repertoire) man Steven Stelfox. It reads like Irvine Welsh writing a cross between High Fidelity and American Psycho (which, in this case, is a good thing…honestly).

It is one of the most entertaining novels I have read in a long time. Perhaps it helps if you are already cynical about the music industry. If so, Kill Your Friends will confirm your worst fears and paint you some new ones. Sex and drugs and rock n’roll doesn’t begin to cover it.

This is not particularly an easy read, with all the excess portrayed in grimy detail, but what makes it gripping is the insider knowledge that Niven, an ex-A&R man himself, brings. He states clearly the pitfalls and problems that any prospective musician may encounter if they seek to be successful, and makes it clear that what A&R is about is trying to discover ‘what sells?’ Stelfox and his ‘friends’ are trying to find the next big thing with out any real understanding as to what they are doing. They turn music into a commodity, to be sold like orange juice or coffee. The idea of artistic merit means nothing.

The subtext of the novel is that Niven was once a part of this world but was lucky to escape. The contempt in which he obviously holds those whom he used to encounter through his work is palpable. An angry, funny, grotesque and informed book, I would suggest Kill Your Friends would make a great read alongside Luke Haines’ Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in its Downfall, which looks at roughly the same period in the music industry, but from the musician’s point of view. Even better, give them to any budding musicians you know. If they still want to get involved after reading these books then they are really keen.

The full Dear Scotland article can be read here .

Next months column will deal with Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing, which is one of the best Scottish novels of the last 30 years.

The next 5 novels under discussion are: Janice Galloway The Trick is to Keep Breathing (March) Irvine Welsh Trainspotting (April) Louise Welsh The Cutting Room (May) Gordon Legge The Shoe (Jun) Alan Bissett Boyracers (Jul)

If you haven’t had a look at Dear Scotland yet then pop across. There’s always something interesting being written.


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