'He's even more vicious, rude and hardcore'
Author John Niven has revealed that the follow-up to his acclaimed book ‘Kill Your Friends’ is going to be ‘much more grotesque’. Read our full interview with Niven below.
The original novel, released back in 2008, follows the exploits of Steven Selfox – a young music industry A&R who turns to dark tactics in order to keep up with the incessant pace of the Britpop era. In 2015, a film adaptation was released starring Nicolas Hoult, James Corden and Craig Roberts. Last week, it was confirmed that a follow-up set in the present day would be titled ‘Kill ‘Em All‘, and is scheduled for release next year.
Shedding more light on what to expect, Niven tells NME that age has certainly not wearied the murderous tendencies of lead character Steven Stelfox – who has trouble in store for a ‘thinly-veiled Michael Jackson-esque’ character.
“Well for one thing he is very, very rich,” Niven told NME. “To an extent where he doesn’t give a fuck. But, the other thing is the death of the music industry has been much exaggerated. For the man in the street, the day the internet came along it killed the record industry. There’s an incredible amount of money being made now with streaming services – money that isn’t necessarily finding its way to the artists.
“So, for Stelfox it’s a source of great joy that they’ve managed to do it once again. They did it with vinyls, they did it with cassettes, they did it with CDs and now they’re doing it again, so there’s a lot of talk of that in it, you know? Contrary to the belief there’s still a lot of money to be made.”
Do you think the habits in the music industry are still as disgusting? Do they still do as much drugs and back-stabbing as there was, or worse?
John Niven: “In any business, the culture of chicanery and backstabbing doesn’t go away – that’s corporate life. So in this book, the stakes are all a bit higher though, so they have a much grander feel. It’s not just about getting a promotion, it’s kind of about working the world. In the period of post-truth that we are in right now, Stelfox would be absolutely mugging it, and that’s what persuaded me to write it really. If the whole book was really dull and about the time we’re living in, that would be sort of preachy and critical, and again the fun here is you’re looking at things from the point of view of someone who thinks that everything that’s happening is fantastic.”
So in many ways do you think it might be slightly more grotesque?
“Oh yeah. But also this time the book’s more of a two-hander, it’s not just Stelfox – he has a bit of a foil if you will, who he looks on to prey. Who is, if you will, a really thinly-veiled Michael Jackson character. He’s the world’s biggest pop star, who is about to be blackmailed and exposed as a furious unrepentant paedophile and Stelfox has to try and manage the crisis that this causes for Unigram, the record company.”
In your last book, there were a lot of cultural touchstones. It was the era of Britpop, ‘OK Computer’ was coming out, Oasis and the Manics would pop up every now and then. Are you going to be focussing on more grime and pop now?
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“A lot of it is happening in Los Angeles. There’s a sub plot with a young A&R girl who he takes an interest in because she in is trying to sign a huge EDM act. So there’s a strand where it’s all kind of American dance music – it’s all Coachella and Las Vegas. She’s in that kind of world which is also very ripe for satire.”
With age over the last 20 years, how would you say that Stelfox has changed? What has changed?
“Well one thing right away with a lot of guys that age, is that he’s pretty much given up drink and drugs. He’s almost sort of tee-total now – with one stunning lapse when things get a bit difficult for him. But he’s much less concerned with events now and much more concerned with being a player. But you know, it happens with a lot of guys once they get into their 40s, because they’ve got to be pretty fucking hardcore to go at it like they did in his 20s – well, you have to be an alcoholic. He’s not that, but like a lot of people like him once you get into your mid 30s you think “well, that’s enough of that.” But if anything it’s made him even more vicious, rude and hardcore.”
Has going cold turkey sort of pushed him further?
“Oh you say ‘cold turkey’, but it wasn’t so much that he was an addict, it’s just that the real fun is in business and I’m focussing on that now.”
There’s this constant back and forth dialogue about guitar music being dead in 2017. Do think that you will touch on that in the book?
“Again he’d probably be happy about that. I think he really doesn’t care about what form the commodity of music comes in, whether it’s EDM or guitars, he just wants to know ‘can you add words and can you sell it?’ And that’s the big thing, it hasn’t really changed.”
Have there been any conversations about turning this into a film and having another sequel film wise?
“We’ve already had a couple of phone calls. But I haven’t finished the fucking book yet so we’ll keep the powder dry for the time being! I’m about halfway through it so I’ll be aiming to have it finished by about January, February next year.”
Obviously it was a great film, but there were a lot of people who had the book deeply embedded in their hearts – which created a bit of a divisive reaction. Do you understand that, and what do you think the reason behind that might be?
“Yeah, I think it’s always really difficult with any book, not just my book. When the book is really loved by people then it’s really hard to please everybody with any sort of film adaptation. But I think the book always exists. Personally for me, a movie I didn’t love coming from a book I that I did love wouldn’t ruin the book for me. I think you’ve got to be pretty fucking insane and hardcore to say ‘I will never look at that book again because the film didn’t quite meet my expectations’. You know, the book is always there – intact and hopefully permanent. It’s still printing after ten years, so I must have done something right.”
‘Kill ‘Em All’ is set for an autumn 2018 release.
John Niven assumed the role of Selfox once more for NME, giving the A&R’s verdict on Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and more.
On Ed Sheeran, he wrote: “Get the fuck out of my fucking office you busker fuck and take this tattered Starbucks cup full of 10p pieces with you.”