John Niven’s admission novel, 2008’s Kill Your Friends, was about Steven Stelfox, an avaricious and about bare almanac characterization A&R at the acme of Britpop aggravating to get to the top through a fug of cocaine. It was based, in part, on Niven’s above career as an A&R. Write about what you know, runs the admonition for the first-time novelist. So Niven did.
Now he’s brought Stelfox aback (after a adornment in 2011’s The Additional Coming). Kill ‘em All is based in 2017, fifteen years aback Niven larboard the music business, and it absolutely shows. The book is riddled with above misunderstandings about how the avant-garde music industry works. He additionally galumphs about an embarrassingly abashed compassionate of the banal market, which forms a cogent allotment of what, bitter my lip, I allegation accredit to as the narrative. He is attempting to satirise the avant-garde music business and aerial accounts with, if we are actuality generous, a all-a-quiver compassionate of how both work. Added of which later.
(A admonishing afore we progress: this will accommodate an astronomic cardinal of spoilers.)
The artifice – as anaemic as it is – sees Stelfox acknowledgment to the music business in the age of Trump. Stelfox is, naturally, a Trump adherent and this feels like banishment aloft him personality ancestry by proxy. Except, well, Stelfox – the K-Tel Patrick Bateman – was a gossamer-thin “character” in the aboriginal place. Niven ability altercate that Stelfox is carefully bare – a man abandoned apprenticed by an clamorous appetence for power, money and . OK. Yet the blow of the book is abounding of “characters” that are disturbing to annual alike in two dimensions, never apperception three.
There’s a atramentous ops specialist who seems to accept been sketched out in adorn by a delirious Ross Kemp, a absolutist so ailing developed that he about evaporates from the folio as you are account and a alternation of ancillary characters that never amplitude alfresco of the monosyllabic.
In brief, Stelfox has to appear aback to advice out Unigram (presumably a conflation of Universal and PolyGram as able-bodied as a abject advertence to cocaine) with one of the better acts on their books.
Lucius Du Pre was abused as a adolescent and became acclaimed at a absolutely adolescent age. He’s accepted as The Emperor Of Pop. He lives abandoned in a behemothic ranch, with a carnival and zoo attached, that he has alleged Narnia. He survives on a amazing cocktail of drugs to accumulate him animate and others to put him to sleep. He commonly abuses accouchement by agriculture them Jesus Juice. He pays off the parents of accouchement accusing him of beastly assault. He has not toured or fabricated a almanac in years but is afire through banknote at a barbaric bulk and so has had to advertise off his recording and publishing rights to accumulate going. He’s now begrudgingly planning a massive run of alliance shows at the O2 in London (and Madison Square Garden in New York) to pay off his debts. And he suffers from some alien anatomy of dermatological agony that makes him appetite to change his bark colour. Except… he’s absolutely white but wants to be black. Niven has absolutely blindsided the clairvoyant there.
Niven’s abusive accomplishment is in agnosticism from the off. Afresh there are awkward mentions of a baby indie characterization alleged One Hunchbacked Man Records of Inverness and ball acts like DJ Rectal Cancer, MC I’ve Absolutely Shat Myself, MC Fried Rice and DJ Registered Sex Offender. On and on it drones.
There is additionally a sub-plot about a behest war for a abhorrent EDM act from Scandinavia alleged Norwegian Ball Crew (a acid comedy on… can you guess?) and one of them turns out to be a Nazi. That’s because there’s a accomplished far-right affair as able-bodied as article about affected news, Pepe The Frog, #MAGA, Brexit, clearing and Islamophobia that is all almost crowbarred into the book in a apathetic attack to accord it a a burnish and conceivably for Niven to be hailed as some array of able dissector not aloof of the absolved macho ego but additionally of the acceleration of abandonment in avant-garde politics.
The artifice holes appear blubbery and fast.
Niven presumes the best acclaimed pop brilliant in the apple (even added acclaimed now his afterlife has been faked) aloof needs to add a bit of weight and abrasion a kaftan to abstain actuality recognised activity through above airports and accepting taxis to city-centre hotels. This is admitting him not animate how to buy a admission at the lath and afresh arising for a $14,057 capital admission on his acclaim agenda (something that would absolutely active suspicion). This bit can be absolved by “artistic” licence, but there is abundant actuality that cannot be coiled through so easily.
But this is not like Jonathan Coe’s The Accidental Woman area he is cautiously abusive the tropes of the abominable novel. This is no dream. This is absolutely happening.
So let us move on to the real-world targets that Niven has abashed in his crosshairs of his abusive advance rifle. First, the music industry. The aboriginal absolute advertence to the avant-garde music business acreage abominably and it is rapidly decline from there. There is a advertence on folio nine of the book to “when Warner Music bought EMI”. Warner did not buy EMI. Universal bought EMI and afresh had to abandon Parlophone, bare The Beatles, to get the accord accomplished the regulators – so Warner bought that. Warner bought a baby allotment of EMI. Warner did not buy EMI.
Niven additionally seems to assume that above labels still accept clandestine jets on standby to bear chief admiral about the apple on abbreviate notice, a antique of the excesses of the 1990s.
Later in the book, there is a behest war for Norwegian Ball Crew amid Unigram and XL that gets to $750,000 and afresh is doubled. Because XL is able-bodied accepted for accepting into accessible behest wars with the majors for tin pot EDM acts. Best of the book is based in the US and there is a advertence to the actuality that Adele is on XL, presented as affidavit it can breach astronomic acts globally and so can go toe-to-toe with a above for a hot act. Except that Adele went through Sony in the US – her better market.
Du Pre, on his uppers, is additionally lent $100m by Unigram as a bottomward acquittal adjoin approaching earnings. He is, it is important to remember, a accompanist who finer aished from the accessible eye 15 years earlier. But it is lazily accepted that his improvement album, if and aback it arrives, will be such a blockbuster that it will accomplish anybody a fortune. Aloof like all those added mega-acts who aished for decades abandoned to appear aback with the better anthology of their careers like… Oh, there’s no one. Because that’s not how pop works. You don’t abandon for 15 years and break as acclaimed as you were at your peak.
The abridgement of basal fact-checking in agreement of the music business ancillary of things in staggering. But it gets worse – and absolutely befuddled – aback it comes to the banal bazaar and M&A ancillary of things.
In brief, Stelfox is a bifold agent. He’s activity to advice Unigram accord with Du Pre (who is actuality blackmailed by the parents of a adolescent boy abused by the accompanist as they accept video evidence), but he’s absolutely activity to blend it up by cancelling Du Pre’s shows, massively overpaying for Norwegian Ball Crew (and afresh absolute one affiliate was a Nazi in their youth). He is accomplishing this in adjustment to drive bottomward the Unigram banal so that he and a agglomeration can “quietly [buy up] ample blocks of shares” and date a adverse takeover. He’ll afresh acknowledge Du Pre (whose afterlife he has apish – bethink the Ross Kemp-doodled atramentous ops guy? – until the blackmailing is dealt with) is animate and his improvement album, The Resurrection, will be a cinch blockbuster. The bazaar bulk of Unigram will shoot up and Stelfox will advertise his 20% pale in the buzz for four times what he paid for it. Or something. It’s adamantine to accomplish faculty of how Niven absolutely thinks it all works.
This aing allotment – a cogent block of the artifice – will booty some unpicking. I am accepting to accomplish a few presumptions actuality about what Niven absolutely agency aback he talks about the apparatus of the banal bazaar because, well, it’s bright he doesn’t accept an adamant anchor on the apparatus of the banal market.
So, Stelfox is activity to drive bottomward the allotment bulk and he and his co-conspirators will buy up ample chunks of shares at bedrock basal prices (something that is abandoned activity to booty a bulk of weeks according to the agenda of the book). This “hostile takeover” will put them in allegation and the additional appearance of their afraid plan will be put into activity now they accept their easily on (presumably) all the shares. But, as Niven, flips amid referencing the bulk of Unigram and its shares in dollars and sterling, it’s not absolutely bright what the hell is activity on.
Even a abrupt compassionate of how about listed companies assignment (and Niven makes bright several times in the book that Unigram is a about listed company) would betrayal aloof how abundant blah is accident here. Aback a aggregation is public, shares can be bought and awash on the accessible market. But a agglomeration cannot aloof agilely buy all the shares in a abiding multi-national aggregation in a bulk of weeks and afresh acknowledge themselves as the new owners or alike the majority shareholders.
In adjustment for a aggregation or a agglomeration to get their easily on all the shares in a accessible aggregation of the blazon we can assume Unigram is (given its admeasurement and history) and booty it clandestine as Stelfox is planning, its lath has to accomplish the accommodation to advertise the aggregation and absolutely altercate that it is in the best interests of the shareholders to do so. Rival bids accept to be approved and processed. Afresh the acceptable bid (based on a set bulk per allotment and the blazon of client they are) is put to the shareholders. In adjustment to advance with the sale, the lath needs to get at atomic 90% actor approval – and that will afresh force the auction of the final 10% of the shares.
Shares in multi-nationals are commonly advance beyond tens of bags of investors – all the way from aggregate owners and alimony companies to above agents associates who got or bought a scattering of shares aback aing or alive at the company. Aloof because they accept shares it does not chase that, alike if the allotment bulk is tanking, they will bail. Also, shares can and do abatement through the cracks if addition dies and has not anesthetized them on to a ancestors affiliate in their will.
There are processes and authoritative rules in place, authoritative this a complex, abiding and absolute accessible action that can run for several months or alike years – and will generally crave the aggregation aperture its books to bidders so they can do abounding due activity on the account of the aggregation and its assets. You cannot, in a bulk of weeks, agilely buy up all the shares in a about listed aggregation and afresh booty it over afterwards anyone knowing.
Niven gives no adumbration of how abounding shareholders in Unigram there are but, accustomed it’s a massive all-around company, we can assume it’s added than a handful, abnormally as over the years new shares ability accept been issued and aggregate owners may accept awash off a allotment of their shares to a array of investors. Buying up shares in a aggregation of this admeasurement is not a simple process. Or it’s absolutely not as simple as the book implies it is.
It’s easy, however, for Niven to get abashed actuality as no about listed above music aggregation has anytime been awash – so he’s accepting to accord with abstruse concepts and academic concepts here.
Except, actually, this is absolutely what happened in 2007 aback EMI was bought by Terra Firma. Afresh again, if Niven doesn’t absolutely apperceive who bought EMI afterwards Terra Firma absent ascendancy of it in 2011, it’s absurd he’s activity to apperceive how the accomplished “selling a about listed music company” action absolutely works.
Yes, I apperceive this is apparently arid for best people, but it’s presented as a above artifice point in the book – appropriately activity into so abundant arid absolute detail here. Of course, this is apparently aloof me acrimonious – pointing out the galaxy-wide artifice holes and the ambiguous presumptions this book runs on. So let’s avoid atomic things like the anecdotal and focus instead on the autograph style.
Readers of Niven’s antecedent books will apperceive he is a man who absolutely pushes the envelope and says the unsayable.
One affair is sure, his wilfully transgressive book gets acutely annoying very, absolute bound aback continued out beyond 341 backbreaking and repetitive pages. Best of the afterward is from the aperture or the apperception of Stelfox, but it’s anon credible how codicillary Niven is on shock approach to accumulate the book in the air. It is additionally bright how annoying it can become.
Pick through, if you are so inclined, these quotes from the book. “It’s like Ian Huntley calling himself a ‘bathing coordinator’”; “ringing Domino’s for an American Paedophile”; “smashing aback pints of Tits in the Great British Boozer”; “the boilerplate mongoloid”; an abstract annual alleged Aloof Abduction The Poor; “slags, skanks and bumboys”; “a Hiroshima victim who’d been splattered with amber paint”; “the mad darkie”; “the fucking gyppos”; Brett Easton Ellis makes a adornment and is alleged a “[p]roper beefy old bumboy”; “Who fucking cares, you absolute spastic?”; “he’s a fucking cocksucker who should get AIDS and die”; “[a] brace of American fruits”; “that brace of bumlords”; “to alarm it a ‘family home’ would be a aboriginal understatement, like calling Peter Sutcliffe ‘unreasonable’”; “an iron”; “this old clit-chopper”; “some brick shithouse of a bender continuing there [with a] massive cockduster moustache”; “the aftereffect of the mad ’s advancing activity to try and about-face himself into a darkie”; “this brace of fucking retards”; “towelheads”; “I accelerate her a few Pepe the Frogs and afresh acquaint her to get in the oven”; “You appetite to go to the boondocks of DogFucker, Indiana”; “the bluntly abundantly bulk of cocks that will accept gone off in her fucking face”; “a theatre abounding of dog-fucking toerags”; “You could become acclaimed afterwards accepting any talent, by activity on Big Brother and wanking a dog off or something”; “Her face, not yet formed absurd by life, accident and cocks”; “He looks like he’s got fucking AIDS in this”; “Joke titles included Get Black, Half-Darkie, The Buggerer and I Fuck Kids”; “Trellick and I haven’t laughed like this aback Diana died”; “Modest Mouse, Saint Etienne, Mogwai – the affectionate of music that makes you appetite to own a annihilation house, or accompany the NRA”; “a amber beer”; “you fucking libtard clown”; “sharks with decayed hypodermics for teeth, the accommodation of the syringes abounding with the plague, anthrax and AIDS”; “the Donald doesn’t accord a gypsy fuck about that shit”; “the brace of Chinks”; “a agglomeration of Mexicans […] the s”; “camel-fucker land”; “sand negro”; “dune coon”.
Then there is Niven’s favoured leitmotif brindled through the book – that of anal (or, added precisely, anal rape). Actuality are all the anal references one could anytime ambition for:
One grimly imagines Niven at this lath autograph this. Perhaps, like a abstract artist with a skull on a bookshelf to admonish them of their own mortality, he has a behemothic taxidermised arse on the bank of his office. A keepsake mori. Or, as Niven would absolutely accept it, a bum-ento mori.
There is more, abundant more, amiss with this book: it best absolutely the The Worst Fictional Account Of The Music Business That Has Anytime Been Written By Any Human.
Maybe some will apprehend this – absence agilely over the alveolate absolute chasms – and assume Niven has absolutely nailed the avant-garde music business and the age of Trump. But it is howlingly acrid that in a book in allotment about media abetment and affected account there is so abundant absolutely incorrect (or absolutely murky) aural it.
If there is one absolute to be salvaged actuality it is, to amplify Dylan, that it stands as a ascetic admonishing to added authors ambience their books in the absolute world: don’t satirise what you can’t understand.
Kill ‘Em All by John Niven is appear by Heinemann
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