"We lived a Welsh Valleys lifestyle, but in London. We were good, hard, steady drinkers"
John Niven 40
...is a writer whose first novel, Kill Your Friends, is the dark tale of a young A&R man during the Britpop era. Niven was an A&R man himself during this period at London Records and Independiente. He lives in Buckinghamshire with his fiancee and has an 11-year-old son from a previous marriage.
James and I met, as did so many of our generation, through Robin Turner of Heavenly Records. Heavenly was a bit of a hub for certain like-minded individuals.
But we really got to know each other the following summer, in 1995, when we both lived in Notting Hill. I remember walking into the pub one Sunday night and seeing him in there having a pint on his own. I remember thinking he looked dignified. What Tony Soprano would call the "strong silent type". We both soon moved to Maida Vale and thus began our Seinfeld years, with one of us constantly bursting through the other's door to raid the fridge.
When I first met him, the last record his band [the Manic Street Preachers] had made was The Holy Bible, which I still think is one of the best rock records ever; I was in awe of James' ability on the guitar. But as we got to know each other, I realised we'd had similar teenage years - me in a small Scottish town, him in a small Welsh town - watching the same movies and playing guitar to The Clash in our bedrooms. I still sit around playing guitar with him, it depresses me how good he is.
James and I did the whole Soho House and Met Bar thing in the 1990s. Everyone would come home in the morning off their faces on coke, but James could outdrink anyone on pharmaceuticals.
We also did this thing we called "wolf trips" - the laughable notion that we were a young pack of wolves going off to some foreign city. The best time was in Havana when the Manics were the first rock band to play Cuba. I remember a long night of mojitos and huge cigars on the veranda of the Hotel Nacional, where they shot The Godfather. It was a magical evening.
It was a difficult time for James because of the whole thing with Richey [Edwards, one of the original Manics line-up, who has been missing since 1995]. People were incredibly insensitive, but he handled it with great dignity.
I was terrified about leaving the music industry but James was very supportive both emotionally and financially. I've moved out of London now, so we keep in touch by phone, often during sporting events. I remember James consoling me when I'd screamed myself nearly unconscious as Colin Montgomerie threw away [golf's] US Open in 2006.
Coincidentally, his wife and my girlfriend are best friends from school, so we go out now and again for dinner, and we went out to Italy for their wedding a few years ago, which was fabulous.