Zero is the latest craze. Young, sexy, smart and brilliant, a 24-7 #genius and multi-hyphenated (singer-songwriter-rapper-producer) next level superstar for the digital generation. According to his publicist at least.
He's also an obnoxious, narcissistic, insecure, hyperactive, coke-snorting, pill-popping, loud-mouthed, oversexed, misogynistic, misanthropic maelstrom of contradictions skating over the thin ice of terminal self-loathing. But that is all part of the attraction.
He has touched down in New York with his sycophantic entourage for the simultaneous launch of a new single/album/movie/tour. It is countdown to Year Zero. But the mixed race Irish-Colombian boy (Pedro Ulysses Noone to what's left of his shattered family) at the centre of the media feeding frenzy is cracking up. Inside the echo chamber of his own skull, he isn't sure he deserves all the attention, doesn't even know if he wants it anymore and is being driven half mad by the mysterious absence of the love of his life. His fiancé, legendary singer and actress Penelope Nazareth, is all over the internet canoodling with a co-star on the set of an Aztec epic shooting in the Amazon jungle.
As the crucial hour of Zero's launch approaches the young star cuts and runs, pursued by paparazzi, news reporters, fans, fortune hunters and his Mephistophelian manager Beasley.
He's about to find out that when you have the most famous face in the world, you can run … but you can't hide.
#Zero marks the fiction debut of Daily Telegraph music critic and TV presenter Neil McCormick, author of Killing Bono, a memoir of his own failed musical career (made into a feature film in 2011, starring Ben Barnes as Neil and Martin McCann as Bono). “The best book about trying to make it in the music business I have ever read” according to Sir Elton John. Write about what you know is generally considered sage advice to the budding novelist. Well, up to a point...
#Zero is the story of a lost boy trying to escape from himself in the full glare of modern media. It’s is a pitch black satire of celebrity, a revealing peak behind the velvet curtains of the contemporary music business and a wild, comical, musical odyssey across America, as our modern day Ulysses sets sail for his Penelope, crossing paths with sirens, succubi and an ancient one eyed bluesman named Clarence Honeyboy Blindside. At its dark heart beats a tender story about family, love, loss and sacrifice; a moving meditation on the black hole of emotional need that powers the 21st Century's obsessional lust for fame. Featuring guest appearances by Sting, Sir Elton John and Bono.
Here goes nothing.
Sing, O Muse, of the fall of Zero, of the hollow king who outran his shadow in the last days of the crumbling empire of poop. Spare no details. We've heard the story before and know how it usually ends.
The Shitty Committee were up before I was, as per fucking usual, rapping a gavel on the inside of my skull. Rat-a-tat-tat, Retard. No order in the house. All speaking out of turn, a cacophony of common complaint. You’re nothing special. You can’t fool us. We want our money back. And a few fresh voices to twist the knife, make it really personal. See that porter you tipped a hundred dollars? He called you a cheap prick behind your back. The chef spat in your food. The waiter pissed in your drink. The coat check girl with the big bazookas you zapped in the cupboard? She faked her orgasm and now she’s telling all her Spacebook fiends you were a lousy lay. It’s all over Blogoslavakia. Top ten on U-Bend. Trending on Splatter. Beaming down the wire to a billion mobiles. Tomorrow it’ll be front page on The Daily Rage. Can’t sing. Can’t dance. Can’t even get it up. Take your punishment. You fake. You loser. You mother …
“Rise and shine, superstar,” sang a voice, not from my dreams, obviously, it was being far too nice.
“Fucker,” I groaned.
“Well, that's nice,” tutted the interloper. It was Kailash, known to one and all as Kilo (only not when passing through customs), management lapdog, brown-nosing lickspittle, personal assistant to the talent (that’s me), Mephistopheles’ little helper, can do candy man. I wasn't sure where I was or what time it was but I couldn’t help notice that Kilo had already arranged a neat line of pure white powder on a polished bedside table, mere millimetres from my slowly stirring nostrils, Satan bless his evil soul.
I hate drugs. OK, so I’m not exactly a poster boy for Just Say No. But when I was sweet sixteen (or was it sour seventeen? I don't know. Might have been twelve) I made a promise to myself that if I was going to amount to more than a hill of Heinz baked beans I had to stay away from bad shit. Mind you, that was probably while the universe was collapsing after a snakebite and hash binge. Or was it the time I gobbled my guitarist's pills before a Zero Sums gig only to lose all control of my limbs, with the sneaky fucker giggling about K-holes? Which is another very good reason why I fucking hate drugs. Really. It's just that sometimes, well, nothing else will do. Like first thing in the morning after a bad dream in a strange bed and your mouth is dry and your head is soggy and nausea is creeping up your gullet and it’s not being helped by your so-called assistant prattling away like it’s the first day of spring and all the chicks are hatching.
I did an interview with an Irish music website, and blabbed at length about writing #Zero, the U2 generation, working for Hot Press, Telegraph & Vintage TV, my worst interview, my favourite albums, the life of a music journalist & why, at the end of a long day writing for a living, I might choose to stay up all night writing for fun. I didn't expect them to transcribe my every utterance. But here…
In the George Michael documentary Freedom, recently broadcast by Channel 4, the late superstar discusses a particular aspect of 1980s pop where “this handful of massive celebrities were constantly battling in the charts.” The musicians he had in mind were Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and, ultimately, George Michael himself, who went “full gusto” into creating a “new character” to stand alongside…
I love bookshops. New and secondhand, specialist and generalised. Walking into a bookshop is like walking into church for me, the sacred space where literature in all its forms is revered. Yet they can also be overwhelming and spiritually enervating. The initial euphoria I experience upon entering these cathedrals of the written word can turn to a kind of cultural vertigo, a dizzying sense of…
I did an interview with the @u2 podcast about the genesis of my book, the toxicity of fame, the perils of crowdfunding, the state of publishing & why I keep a death mask on my bookshelf. You can listen here: https://goodstuff.fm/atu2/68
I did an interview with Harry Kantas at U2songs.com about the writing of #Zero. Read on to find the unlikely connection between Homer's Odyssey, James Joyce's Ulysses and my fictional character; what made Ellie Goulding scream in my face and how to add ten million dollars to a film budget with the stroke of a pen.
This was a doodle I did for a possible cover for my book. Let me tell the story of how it came to be called #Zero.
I’ve been dreaming this book up for a long time, pretty much since I finished Killing Bono. As you may know, it was originally published as I Was Bono’s Doppelganger, which had a cheesy B-movie drama that I liked. But after Bono read the manuscript, he pointed out that it was…
These people are helping to fund #Zero.