Paperback

Publisher: Eye Books (October 2020)

ISBN: 9781785632143

Noise Damage

James Kennedy

£9.99

My Life as a Rock’n’Roll Underdog

‘Harrowing, funny and 100% true’

Ginger Wildheart

The tale that follows is not another clichéd collection of rock’n’roll  debaucheries (sorry) nor is it another tired fable of triumph over adversity (you’re welcome).

It’s the story of a half-deaf kid from a tiny, remote village in South Wales who was hailed as a genius by the UK’s biggest radio station and headhunted by major record labels, only for the music industry to collapse. It crashed hard, taking with it an entire generation of talented artists who would never now get their shot. CNN called it ‘music’s lost decade’.

Along the way, there are goodies, baddies, gun-toting label execs, life-saving surgeons, therapy, true love, loyalty, hope, breakdowns, suicidal managers, betrayal, drummers and way too many hangovers. James Kennedy shows that the best lessons are to be learned from good losers. It really is all about the journey.

Part memoir, part exposé of the music world’s murky underbelly, Noise Damage is emotional, painfully honest, funny, informative and ridiculous. It’s also a celebration of the life-changing magic of music.

Extracts

What follows is not another clichéd tale of rock ’n’ roll debauchery (sorry) or of triumph over adversity (you’re welcome) – you’ve heard all of that before. And you already know about ‘the other guys’ – that exalted one per cent who monopolise our airwaves, pages and screens; the guys who make the big bucks with big promo budgets. The guys who’ve been all the way to the top. Nope, this is the untold story about the rest of us. A story of a vast legion of super-talented, hard-working bastards whose masterpieces you will never hear, but who – driven by an unstoppable passion for something, anything – lead lives that are rich, not in pounds but in stories, wisdom, excitement and service. It’s a story about why you learn better lessons from good losers. Why it really is about the journey. Why failure is your friend. Why motivational self-help is bullshit. Why music is the best, and why, in the end, it’s all rather simple.

Our story takes place during a very specific and unique period in the music industry’s history; a period that affected the lives of an entire generation of artists, and that CNN called ‘music’s lost decade’. So, make your way across that sticky venue floor, come hang backstage and let me show you the real music industry. We’ll meet goodies and baddies (mostly baddies), heroes and villains (OK, just villains), gun-toting label execs, suicidal managers, life-saving surgeons, drug-fried PR guys, con artists, models, therapists, hopeless romantics and drummers (I’ll explain). There may also be heartbreak, brotherhood, love, and betrayal – and definitely way too many hangovers.

We may even learn some things.

read more...

Extracts

What follows is not another clichéd tale of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery (sorry) or of triumph over adversity (you’re welcome) – you’ve heard all of that before. And you already know about ‘the other guys’ – that exalted one per cent who monopolise our airwaves, pages and screens; the guys who make the big bucks with big promo budgets. The guys who’ve been all the way to the top. Nope, this is the untold story about the rest of us. A story of a vast legion of super-talented, hard-working bastards whose masterpieces you will never hear, but who – driven by an unstoppable passion for something, anything – lead lives that are rich, not in pounds but in stories, wisdom, excitement and service. It’s a story about why you learn better lessons from good losers. Why it really is about the journey. Why failure is your friend. Why motivational self-help is bullshit. Why music is the best, and why, in the end, it’s all rather simple.

Our story takes place during a very specific and unique period in the music industry’s history; a period that affected the lives of an entire generation of artists, and that CNN called ‘music’s lost decade’. So, make your way across that sticky venue floor, come hang backstage and let me show you the real music industry. We’ll meet goodies and baddies (mostly baddies), heroes and villains (OK, just villains), gun-toting label execs, suicidal managers, life-saving surgeons, drug-fried PR guys, con artists, models, therapists, hopeless romantics and drummers (I’ll explain). There may also be heartbreak, brotherhood, love, and betrayal – and definitely way too many hangovers.

We may even learn some things.

***

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Wow, another music book that opens with a hangover scene. Yawn.’ But hear me out, this is not that story. And as far as hangovers go, it was a good one…

With my brain begrudgingly getting its shit together, my first visual clue was the ceiling – just two feet above me and smeared in red clay and boot prints. To my immediate left, the dashboard of our poor, rented transit van was also entirely smothered in clay, as if it had been appropriated by a tribe of hairy, grunting Neanderthals – which it had. My last memory was of us innocently having ‘a few quiet ones’.

Full terrain scan. OK, so I slept in the front again. Gear stick in my back, I’m fully clothed (sunglasses and boots still on) and the entire cabin, it seems, is daubed in sticky, wet clay. Still, my cramped boudoir of despair and I have survived each other for another night. There’s no sign of movement from the back – the other beasts have yet to rise – so it’s time to figure out what the actual fuck is going on and where the actual fuck I am. I’ve taken to gaffer-taping used towels and dirty t-shirts over the windows as curtains, and now it’s time to peel them back and face the fear. Today is going to hurt.

I emerge from my mobile cave, recoiling from the morning sunlight like a wilting vampire, to see the entire contents of the van’s cabin strewn all over the road. CDs, clothes, empty beer cans, maps… Ah, now I remember – France! We’re in France! But the problem with living out of a van is that you have to do everything together. I can’t explore the town and leave the other guys without a key, nor can I lock them in. And under no circumstances can I wake them up. So, I wait.

It looks nice here. The sun is shining. It’s green and idyllic. And there’s the boat we’re playing on tonight! As to what happened last night, I’m still drawing a blank. Another one of my increasingly standard blackouts, although I have that familiar and uncomfortable feeling that it probably included making a complete wanker of myself and offending half of Lille. Nice people walking their dogs are now crossing the road to avoid the claycovered madman in his rubbish-tip playground, but I’m past caring. To say this tour had been a tough one would be the piss-take of the century. It’s been beyond slapstick in its scale of unrelenting, soul-shaking injustice. And that manager of ours? I’m going to fucking kill him when I get back. Oh no, that’s right; he was going to kill himself…

‘I don’t need this right now, mate, OK? I did something stupid and I’m in hospital.’

‘I know, man, but we need the money.’

‘Don’t you hear what I’m saying?! I did something stupid, OK?! And I don’t need this right now!’

I knew he was bullshitting. I felt bad for thinking it but, deep down, I knew. That bloody American band would be on my arse again in a few hours nagging me for their ‘fucking money, bro’, and they cared even less for our ‘suicidal manager’ sob story. I can’t wait till it’s all over. As soon as I leave the stage tonight, I’m heading straight for Calais.

Sucking the warm dregs of someone’s bottle of water that I found in the van foot-well, I hear groaning from the back. They’re up! Bollocks, the moment of truth. The Fear gives me another good, solid yank and I brace myself for yet more stories of my embarrassing drunken puerility. First out of the back – Glyn Bateman on drums.

Glyn was the new guy in the band. Kind, genuine, hilariously gullible, a serious believer in the most outlandish conspiracy theories, one hundred and ten per cent enthusiastic about everything all the time and an absolute animal behind the kit. When Glyn isn’t taking pictures of everything, banging on tables, ranting about aliens, losing his man bag, downing litres of milkshake or ‘spanking skins’ (playing drums) – he’s asleep. And when he sleeps, his body is possessed by the devil.

There are people who snore and there is Glyn. The soundly sleeping drummer has no awareness of his person being used as a channel for Satan of an eve, but anyone who has slept in the same building as him, let alone a van, will testify to the torrent of twisted screams, deranged groaning and tormented wailing that come from the boy as he slumbers. Frustratingly, this also means that he’s way more supercharged than the rest of us every morning, having slept like a little demon baby while the rest of us toss, turn, and cry all night. Hence, I now sleep in the front.

This morning, though, I swear he’s avoiding my eye, talking under his breath and being evasive. Or maybe I’m being paranoid. I ask a leading question.

‘Good night last night, eh?’

‘Uh, yeah, I think. How are you feeling?’

Shit. I knew it.

‘You were pretty upset last night, man,’ said Matt, climbing out of the back of the van and psyching himself up for an Evian shower. You’ve never had an Evian shower? Oh, it’s where you strip down to your pants in a crowded public place and pour freezing cold drinking water over yourself with one hand, while frantically trying to lather up with the other. It’s preferable to showering at many service stations, believe me.

Matt Warr on bass. Where to begin! Not only my best friend and longtime accomplice in all things alcoholic and loud, not only the best musician in the band, who pulverises stages like Godzilla, but one of the most loyal, considerate, and hilarious people you will ever meet. A deeply devout disciple of the Church of Metallica and a practical prankster of professional calibre, Matt’s other Top Trump powers include a seeming inability to get drunk no matter what the poison, an encyclopaedic knowledge of irritating movie one-liners, and being the member of the band most popular with the ladies. He also has the curious knack of making Glyn Bateman believe literally anything he says.

‘You were pretty upset last night, man.’

Of course I was pretty upset. I’ve been pretty upset for years! But last night, the final thread of my final thread snapped. I could guess what had happened easy enough. I’d taken my broken heart, my exhausted reserves of morale, patience, hope and attempts at good leadership; all my bottled up years of anger, disappointment, resentment and frustration; I’d taken all of that – and hit the lovely town of Lille like an emotional Molotov atom bomb desperate to blow. I then got colossally, unashamedly, nastily hammered. After getting kicked out of most late-night bars, I’d crawled ‘home’ and done the transit van equivalent of trashing my hotel room. If Donald Trump were tweeting this, he’d end it with ‘SAD’.

These limp, hopeless displays were becoming too frequent now. I tried so hard to keep it all together, but the last scraps of my human faculties had completely burnt out. I was less than nine stone in weight, an insomniac; I’d been pissed every night for over a decade, I’d cut off my family, ruined a long-term relationship, was being a dick to my band mates, being even worse to myself; I was broke, I hated my life and I regretted the day I ever picked up that fucking guitar. I was angry, bitter, frustrated, and saw my life as one consistently, pointless cringe-able fuck up. This was not the dream I had been sold.

And yet only a few days ago I was the frontman of a kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll band, jumping around a giant outdoor stage. On a beach. In the peak of summer. By the sea. In Italy! I know.

Last night’s impotent outburst was just another warm-up, a mere rehearsal for the full-scale meltdown soon to come. It was a long time coming but when it came, it came complete. The stark, crashing demolition of not only my dreams, and my life’s work, but my very sense of self and meaning. Everything I’d overcome, everything I’d achieved; discarded like a carcass.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

quotes

‘An accurate depiction of life as a musician, both on the road and within the industry. Harrowing, funny and 100% true’

Ginger Wildheart

reviews

‘Likeable, refreshing, heart-wrenching...This eye-opening story will appeal to more than just music fans. Before you know it you find yourself at the back cover, wondering if it’s too soon to pick it back up and start again’

Rock ’n’ Load

‘Both Adrian Smith’s autobiography and Rob Halford’s tome are good, but neither match the raw passion of Noise Damage. A splendid read about the trials and tribulations of trying to break into the music stratosphere, it’s a book that every aspiring musician or band leader should own’

Metal Talk

‘A wonderful volume that does unique things with so many familiar genre tropes. I ended the book feeling I’d read of a life worth living, been encouraged to live my own, and wanting to wish Kennedy all the luck in the world: anyone who lives this hard, works this hard, and writes this well, deserves it’

Nick Soulsby, Trebuchet Magazine

‘An absolute must-read for anyone attempting a career in music (certainly anyone without wealthy parents or an independent income). There’s enough self-reflection, critical evaluation and good-natured humility to make this a genuinely powerful testimony’

Darren Johnson, Get Ready to Rock!

‘A refreshingly different addition to the crowded shelves of rock autobiographies. This is partly because James tells the familiar booze-fuelled-tour-antics story from a different perspective; he tells the story of the ninety-nine percent of bands that don’t make it. But Noise Damage also stands out because it is remarkably well-written, with humour, humility and insight’

Catherine Fearns, V13

‘A real eye-opener and attention-grabber. Some genuine laugh-out-loud anecdotes contrast with those darker moments when James was struggling on so many levels both personally and musically’

The Midlands Rocks

extras

‘Everyone’s read the cliché rock’n’roll memoirs from the megastar bands but no one has told the story of all the ‘other’ bands – the guys who didn’t make it and what became of them (which is MOST bands!)’ James talks to Made in Shoreditch magazine.

‘I’ve made pretty much all the mistakes you can make. The biggest one was where I started doubting myself and listening to others. Trust yourself, make the best decision you can, roll with it and hope you get lucky. But you may not…’ James talks to FaceCulture about his book and his albums.

'I know what you're thinking. "Wow. another music book that opens with a hangover scene. Yawn." But hear me out. This is not that story...’ James reads the opening chapter of Noise Damage.

‘A book takes a lot longer to bring to life than an album. Now that I’m finally setting it free, it feels odd. Especially given that people will now be reading the sordid secrets of my life!’ James talks to V13.

James talks to Entertainment South Wales about the music that has inspired him.

Check out James Kennedy’s official website at www.jameskennedystuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

ABOUT

James Kennedy

From South Wales, James Kennedy is a professional musician with a Top 50 best-selling album, more than four million song streams and over half a million online followers/nutters, who call themselves ‘Misfits’.

Hearing impaired due to childhood surgery, James has become an ambassador for several hearing charities, as well as speaking on panels and writing articles on a wide range of issues including mental health, the music industry and politics.

He has toured much of the world, featured in many mainstream music publications and owns the music company Konic Records.

Noise Damage is his first book.

selected works

more titles coming soon...

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