My youngest brother is a famous rockstar. I used to worry about him, but now I feel so proud | Brothers and sisters

Jhis story ends at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2018. I stand alongside the rest of the sold-out arena, kicking the dry ice, roaring to the Lights during Interpol’s sold-out show, as my most younger brother, Daniel, crosses the stage cutting his guitar, singer Paul Banks leading the crowd. “That’s why I care about you,” we all sing, “that’s why I care about you.”

But that’s not how this story begins. It begins in 1985 in Paris, where I have just announced to my mother that I will not be joining her when she emigrates to Washington DC with my two brothers, Mark, 13, and Daniel, 10. I’m 16, soon to be 17. We moved from London four years ago for my dad’s job, but my parents are getting divorced. I’m going back to London where, I tell mum, I’ll become someone who listens to music professionally. Eventually I do, working as a staff on NME throughout the 90s.

For much of our upbringing together, my brothers and I shared a room in a small flat in London, sleeping in bunk beds. Our relationship was inevitably close, but explosive. I often fought physically with Mark. Sweet, gentle Daniel was the peacemaker. His desire was for us all to get along, a need that became more acute when he became aware of our parents’ separation.

However, the three of us had common ground beyond the parenting drama. Above all, we shared a true religion: pop music. Music had been my obsession for as long as I can remember and that devotion descended from my top bunk, spellbinding my brothers too. The youth culture of the early 1980s – the haircuts, the clothes – affected the three of us very much. When, in my teens, we finally had our own bedrooms, the house rang out on three stereos.

After leaving the house, the physical distance meant we only saw each other once a year, but the music maintained our bond, the shortcut we took for brotherly intimacy. We exchanged mix tapes, we went shopping together in a record store. During one visit, I noticed that teenager Daniel wore a guitar around his neck at all times in my mother’s apartment, repeatedly playing the same riffs. I had never had the attention span to learn an instrument, but Daniel’s focus was constant.

One day in 2001, a package arrived from New York, where Daniel lived. The envelope contained a stack of demo CDs stamped with the name of a group: Interpol. My brother played guitar in that band, apparently, and he wanted me to hear them.

I knew that for the past few years, after studying French and literature at NYU, he had been part of a band, but I didn’t envision him crossing the ocean to me. I thought it was a hobby, that his career in independent record labels was his main goal, but this package undermined that assumption.

Our evangelism for music had continued separately into adulthood. As I became a music journalist, he interned at labels before landing full-time roles. He proved to be a shrewd operator. Recently, he had opened the American branch of the British label Domino from his apartment, so I was surprised by this demo. Wasn’t he a young tycoon rather than a musician?

I realized then that I didn’t know him well. I was too involved, too focused on my work and my life to wonder about his. It was just my little brother who got a great job in the music industry. I didn’t know about his creative dream.

Nevertheless, these CDs seemed like a foray into my music journalism terrain. What would people in my company think of my brother’s group? I hoped out of family loyalty that it would be brilliant, that Interpol would be a success, but I feared they wouldn’t. And if it fell badly with the critics? What if people hated Interpol? Shamefully, I wondered if I was going to be judged by what anyone thought of my brother’s music.

His note with the package asked me if I would listen to this demo, maybe pass it on to anyone who might be interested. Too nervous to give it much more than a cursory listen (sounds good I guess), I put the demos away for another day. That moment came when, in the summer of 2002, I found myself in the NME Desk. One afternoon, the magazine editor walked across the room holding a CD.

“I have this Interpol EP,” he proudly told the gallery. The ambient NME The office noise died down as the room paused to listen in anticipation. This was the first official release of the latest hip name from New York and the expectation of judgment was raised.

He pressed play. I immediately recognized my brother’s guitar line. PDA, the first song of the demo that Daniel had sent me, a cascade of irregular melodies which quickly unfolds in a verse. Sincere and modern new wave, just what is needed for this room.

As the volume increased, I involuntarily found myself getting up from my desk. With an audible groan, I pushed open the swinging doors to the elevators before the choir even arrived. I moan in fear as I walk out, without disgust or embarrassment. I was afraid. I was too scared to hear someone in NME say they didn’t like Interpol, that they thought the music was bad. I didn’t want to witness teasing like the ones I had so often heard about in NME, which I had systematically dispensed with with great performative enthusiasm. I wasn’t even sure at this point if anyone knew my brother was in that group. I just couldn’t bear to hear someone say maybe they didn’t like his music. I was overprotective, both of my brother and (laughably) of my own reputation. I was afraid that Interpol would hurt me.

It was a miscalculation.

Interpol sold 1 million copies of his first two albums. Their third album reached the top five in the US and UK. Shortly before my departure NME join the staff of Q magazine in 2003, Interpol made the cover of the weekly. This time, I wasn’t afraid of how it reflected on me. I was proud.

By then, something had changed for the better in my relationship with Daniel, which Interpol must take credit for. They often played in London and I went to every show, which meant we spent more time together after gigs, interacting as like minds with our own stories rather than siblings separated by six years.

After a performance, Daniel and I sat on the floor among the debris of their east London dressing room, downing beers, talking in depth about our lives, our memories of each other, family, feelings . At that time, our relationship was rebuilt. I then realized that even though I was 32 and he was 26, we had never really spoken properly. I also realized that I really liked his empathy, his deep emotional intelligence, his calm. We became close friends then and never looked back. Today we are still in touch.

Now, when I listen to his music, I hear what other fans hear: intensely romantic guitar music combined with philosophical poetry. I no longer go through the mental gymnastics of wondering what this new music from Interpol will mean to me. I walked out of that scene shortly after the debut album was released to universally good reviews in 2002, a recognized classic of its time. Now I hear my favorite band. It just took me a little while to get over myself.

However, I’m not the biggest Interpol fan in my family. It’s my mother. Picking me up from the airport, she was on her way home to Maryland, USA, with the band’s latest album exploding out the window. Once, after hosting a dinner party with her friends in honor of my visit, she invited all the guests to join her in the candlelit living room for a drink. As we settled into the couches, Mom wordlessly pressed play on the stereo remote. Then she closed her eyes and didn’t open them again until the last note of Interpol’s second album sounded at full volume. I marveled at her, my proud mother, oblivious to her puzzled elderly guests.

We laughed at this memory in the box of the Royal Albert Hall, my brother and I. Mom passed away suddenly from a brain tumor in 2013, so we always take a moment to toast her now. That night was particularly poignant, however, as we had grown up near Paddington and had regularly played in Hyde Park, directly opposite where Interpol had just performed.

“I was thinking about her in Lights,” Daniel admitted. “Your mind wanders during shows. I often think of the family up there during certain songs, of Marc, dad, mom. Even you!”

Laughing, we clinked our glasses together. That’s why I care about you, that’s why I care about you.

Paper Cuts: How I Destroyed the British Music Press and Other Misadventures by Ted Kessler is published by White Rabbit at £18.99. Buy it for £16.52 at

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