It feels somewhat meta to be reviewing Ted Kessler’s Paper Cuts: a reflection on his career with the British music press, the education it has offered over the years, as well as the home it’s provided for many music enthusiasts with nowhere else to go. Structured anecdotally but mostly a love letter to press, notably the NME, this book gives a riveting insight into other elements of Ted’s life; growing up in France and being brother to Interpol’s Daniel Kessler feature in this tale. A deviant with little interest in school and academia, Kessler masterfully pulls us on a journey alongside some of the iconic stars he interviewed: Happy Mondays, Manic Street Preachers, the Gallagher brothers, Mark E Smith and Paul Weller, to name a few. Giving a conceivable account of working for magazines like NME and Q during the 90s and then into the noughties, Kessler navigates the changes in management behaviour as well as those of readership and staffing.
For any music fan or arts journalist, Paper Cuts has music-journo drama weaved throughout the chapters, as the reader gets a grasp of the life of a journalist like Kessler as he moves from rookie to senior. Kessler uses his capacity to write riveting long-form music journalism and pulls together wickedly hilarious tales that have the same fall guy taking the brunt every time: himself. Written with the pace and focus that we would expect from Kessler, it’s a brilliant example of comic storytelling that will encourage you to while away a weekend. With a tongue-in-cheek tagline ‘How I Destroyed the British Music Press and Other Misadventures,’ we are, however, prepped and ready for this. Kessler pulls us in and has us hooked, which explains the longevity in his music journalism career.
Find time for this ruckus of a read; it should sit on your bookshelf with your old NME copies.
Paper Cuts is out now, published by White Rabbit Books