2 December 1989
I FIRST meet novelist Trevor Miller at 5am outside a London rave called Method Air after a night of dancing so manic and intense it reminded me of They Shoot Horses Don't They?
On this foggy morning Miller- the author of a clubland novel called Trip City which has been published with a cassette soundtrack by A Guy Called Gerald - certainly seems either down on his luck or on the blag.
"I'm back in the same f--ing situation," he whinges after introducing himself to me (he apparently has a photographic memory for faces and facts). "I fell asleep in the club just to wake up and find that my girlfriend had gone and so had the rest of the people I came with. I'm skint and I can't get home."
Trip City is 25-year-old Miller's first novel. It concerns the clubland adventures of a blagger named Valentine and the devastating physical and mental effects of a phosphorescent green, new and free media-only drug called FX (not Ecstasy but closer to a more powerful hallucinogenic such as PCP). Hence the typescript is flourescent green in the novel for full FX, so-to-speak. Gerald's five-track House-voodoo cassette is meant to be listened to in conjunction with reading the book.
The idea for their bonding between musician and writer came when Miller's publisher, Frank Hatherly, bought some cassettes from an Our Price of Luciano Pavorotti singing opera. The librettos were included in the cassette packaging. "That's a good idea," thought Frank, and so Miller and Gerald were put to work together.
Despite the novelty of the idea, Trip City has been panned so hard by most magazine and newspaper pundits the critics have let their hipper-than-thou corsets slip through in the process.
"If you write a book like Trip City you're heading for a fall," shrugs Miller about his critics. "What you gotta remember is that all journalists and style pundits are frustrated novelists. They're jealous that they didn't get the idea for Trip City first and follow it through with hard graft.
"I'm not saying it's a piece of great literature but it's a fine adventure story. It does what I set out to do: capture the madness, glamour and sordidness of club culture, how it builds people up and destroys them. It certainly isn't an Acid House novel as has been said in some quarters."
Most of the criticisms of Trip City have been levelled at Miller's stacatto writing style. "Originally I wanted to write the whole thing with a 4/4 rhythm to mimic House beats," explains Miller, "but that became a bit too much."
Born in London, Miller attended the Polytechnic Of Central London to do a Media Studies course. Afterwards he wrote occasionally for the music comics, got involved in video companies, started a psychedelic club in Deptford called The Crypt where he was the resident DJ, Doctor Love, and then graduated on through Rare Groove to spinning at The Limelight.
"Club culture is the only world I have known during the past eight years," Miller adds. "The thing that upsets me about the scene is that the people involved really don't care about others. It's a vicious scene populated by backstabbers. People will rip off their best friends for a buck. On the drugs side you can't really trust anybody. Friends of mine have been turned into basket cases through their gear being cut with all sorts of shit."
The most powerful images in Trip City arise during the fantastical flights of imagination that Miller makes while describing the effects of FX. He has a fine sense of how to distort time and place for the reader. "People like a Sky TV researcher I spoke to recently have told me that I glamourise drugs in Trip City," continues Miller. "That's complete rubbish.
"I don't think that some bloke dishevelled, dirty and snorting gear in some seedy toilet is glamorous at all. That FX in the book is free and is only given to high-flying media types who it destroys is also a comment and metaphor on the insidiousness of the advertising media especially.
"People say to me that FX is beyond belief. But I wrote the book 18 months ago and bits of it are coming true. Since finishing Trip City, a very powerful new drug, called M25 after the orbital road around London which serves all the raves, has come onto the market. Apparently it's like very intense Fantasy and the trip lasts for four days, which is close to FX."
So what does Miller think about club culture now?
"The whole thing has exploded from the underground into the national consciousness," he says. I think the House scene as such is dead although the music will mutate and new strains of dance music will come through. At the moment though we don't have an underground club culture as such, we have a Christmas culture. It's all bright lights and bells."
[Author: Jack Barron]