Saturday Night: Elvis and the bloke with the didgeridoo

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Indy Lifestyle Online
One glance around the foyer told me this was no ordinary night-club. Several corridors led off from a central metallic chamber, and to one side stood a hi-tech sarcophagus. This, I learnt later, was the lift.

Leaning against the wall directly before me, wearing his trademark silver jacket and the insouciant smile of the initiate, was Britain's leading ambient DJ, Mixmaster Morris. I nodded at him but he kept staring right through me, as if I were a hallucination, or a holographic representation of myself. Just then a fat man dressed as Elvis Presley in the trough of his cheeseburger infamy, wearing shades and a gold lame suit, complete with cape, walked past, strumming an electric guitar and singing 'Viva Las Vegas'. Following the noise, I decided to venture further in.

Passing quickly along a metallic tunnel I encountered DJ Hell, eager to explain his 'definition of house music'. I followed him into his 'head-space', a chamber that consisted of giant video screens above, below and all around me, rippling with high-definition TV pictures of the cosmos. Surrounded by this vast, electronic emptiness, studded with stars and planets, I felt like a cosmonaut on a space walk. Anthemic techno pulsed through the void, the perfect soundtrack for a stroll around the solar block. Each time I pointed at a planet a new track would play.

Back outside, a white man with dreadlocks down to his waist walked past carrying a didgeridoo. He looked up, arched his eyebrows, and beckoned me to follow as he disappeared around the corner. Who was he? Did he know me? Before I could recover I found Bill's face about six inches from my own, peering at me as if I were some alien life form. Bill is an acquaintance from the club scene, always out of his mind, a real diehard. But without a word he walked off, too. I was starting to feel as if I had lost the plot.

Having retraced my steps to the foyer to get my bearings, I rushed down another corridor and emerged into a vast hall that reverberated with the bleep and thud of distant techno. For the first time I noticed the texture of my surroundings: beneath the deep, lustrous blue sheen of the surface lay geometric designs and mathematical symbols, as if the walls, floor and ceiling were constructed from information. Bill stood across the room, smoking a cigarette. He stubbed it out and, again, headed off in the opposite direction.

In the lift, four buttons read 'kino', 'club', 'street' and 'attic'. I selected the last of these. With a shudder the doors opened on to a circular space with tall windows giving panoramic views of London. In a corner sat the man with the didgeridoo, naked except for a loincloth. I pointed at him and asked: 'OK, what's going on here?' Instantly I found myself floating inside what seemed to be a model of the carbon atom, the droning growl of his aboriginal instrument echoing around me. That's enough, I thought: I'm out of here before things get any weirder.

'Well, did you enjoy it?' asked Guy Nisbett, who is responsible for many of the more exotic ideas in the Virtual Nightclub. I ejected the CD-i disc and handed it back to him. 'It's come a long way,' I replied. Nearly two years ago we had sat in his bedroom one wintry night and come up with the concept for a bizarre nightlife experience on an interactive televisual format. I left the project soon after but Guy, along with a dedicated team, continued to develop and refine it. Now the multinational giant Philips is gearing up to launch it, sometime in the new year. Big software firms are excited, and are talking to the publishing company Prospect about originating new products and extending this one. It looks like a success.

Where will it lead? To trans-global cyberspace nightclubs, with punters communicating via videophone and Modem? If so, will club culture, so long the cauldron of new ideas, finally be consumed by the mainstream? I think not. There will always be some sweaty little hole where conventions are inverted, illicit substances are ingested and skinny show-offs dance half-naked on the central podium. And you'll find me there, grinning like a loon, sitting in the corner next to Guy, Bill, Elvis and the bloke with the didgeridoo.

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