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KILL YOUR FRIENDS: U.K. MUSIC BIZ LAMPOON LOOKS GOOD ON BIG SCREEN

The U.K. music industry has been given its own bloody roman a clef, after Warner Music overlord Len Blavatnik stepped in to help finance bringing cult novel Kill Your Friends to the big screen. The inspiration for the book, penned by former London Records exec John Niven, came from 10 years working in Blighty’s music biz starting in 1992. The gruesome tale centers around 1997, when Britpop bands were at their height and the British music industry grossed over £1 billion for the first time. The movie’s out in the U.K. on Nov. 6, we've had a sneak peak; read on for the verdict.

Scottish-born Niven joined the music biz as a press officer at a dance label in Glasgow. After meeting the London Records lot at Midem in the early ‘90s, he landed a product manager role at the label in ’94 and moved to London, where chaos ensued. In Kill Your Friends, A&R man Steven Stelfox (played by Nicholas Hoult) is the main character, whose traits are said to be an exaggerated version of former Warner Music U.K. CEO Christian Tattersfield (pictured at right), who began his career alongside Niven at London Records.

Niven left the music business in 2002 to pursue a career as a full-time writer and, after exiting Warner in 2013, Tattersfield launched his own independent label, Good Soldier Songs. Remarkably, the pair are still on good terms, as Tattersfield tells HITS in a display of very good-natured humor: "My initial response to John after I read the book was to reprimand him for toning the story down. The reality in many ways was quite a bit madder." We'll bet.

Stelfox doesn’t give a shit about creativity. He doesn’t care about artists and has no time for any kind of normal human relationship. What he does care about though, is money and power. The film follows Stelfox in his day to day life, trying to find the next big thing and secure the top A&R job at his record label. He’s sexist, egocentric and a generally all-round sordid character. “Sadism and aggression are values our company rewards,” he tells the camera at the beginning of the film, before proceeding to show exactly how.

The crux of the story is: give young execs access to lots of money and copious amounts of drugs and alcohol, and they'll develop a psychopathic ability to destroy everything that stands in between them and success. Artists include Rage—a character bearing certain similarities to Goldie—who, after having a decent amount of success with his debut album (Goldie’s was released via London subsidiary FFRR Records in 1995), takes a more “creative” approach to his follow-up (the opening track to Goldie’s second album, “Saturnz Return,” is an hour-long orchestral drum and bass piece), much to the dismay of Stelfox, who’s always on the lookout for the next big hit. The Songbirds are typical white trash, all thongs and attitude, and bear an uncanny resemblance to a very early incarnation of All Saints (who released their debut album on London in 1997). Other characters include Stelfox’ colleague and competitor, Roger Waters, played by James Corden, a dribbling drunk who doesn’t look like he’s capable of washing his own clothes, let alone seeing through a promo campaign, and Stelfox's smart female assistant, who has no limitations to what she’ll endure to land a much coveted A&R job in a notoriously male-dominated industry.

It’s a thoroughly entertaining tale serving up a sharp reminder of the darkest side of the music biz, with Stelfox never offering any apology or reaching comeuppance for his actions. And in a culture where ambition is more prized than talent, where does Stelfox end up? Running the company, of course. 

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