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ACCESS
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Book 3 of The Access Series

ALICE SEVERIN

Own Room Publishing
New York

Copyright © Alice Severin 2014

Cover photo copyright © Alice Severin

eBook ISBN: 978-0-9882520-4-2

This novel is entirely a work of fiction.
The names, characters, places, and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the ­author’s
imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living
or dead, or events is purely coincidental.

To those who remember the future
And to J, who teaches me.

chapter one

London

Airplanes flying over the Atlantic at 36,000 feet are great places to reflect on life.
Or you can hit the champagne, and try not to think too much about what was waiting
a very long way down. I was meditating on the rock musician whose path had so memorably
crossed mine, not once, but twice. Tristan Hunter. Tristan was famous for having started
Devised, and guiding them to success, before a very public split with his wife and
the band he had formed. Some said it had been brought on by his own love of excess,
of extremes. Others claimed it was his trusting nature that led him to be swallowed
up in the nest of vipers that defined the music business and L.A. in particular. Now
he was starting over. A solo album doing well, getting some buzz. And he had reunited
for the tour with his fellow Devised member and guitarist, AC Clark.

Then there was me. Lily Taylor. The diehard music fan who became a music journalist.
The woman who once literally fell at Tristan’s feet trying to get an interview. The
one who had the opportunity to meet him again, five years later. An interview, another
chance encounter—and now I found myself covering the tour.

One small catch—Tristan and I were also lovers. In love, maybe. Love. Whatever that
meant for two slightly damaged, very wary people. He risked showing me his scars.
I was willing to fight for him. Both of us definitely unwilling to be apart. And ironically,
we were better together because I had been willing to walk away at one point. I didn’t
like being told what to do. And neither did Tristan.

Then there was Trevor Sears, the man who discovered Devised, who apparently approved
of me as well. And seeing as he had been responsible for keeping Tristan alive, his
opinion meant a great deal. Especially to Tristan. Trevor had been there during the
darkest times of the breakdown, when the people Tristan had trusted most betrayed
him, when his body was struggling with the ravages of the drugs he had turned to hoping
for help. There was no doubt in my mind that Tristan wouldn’t be here right now if
not for Trevor.

Trevor was also one of the groundbreakers in the music industry. He had set up his
independent label in London, and spent his time and money trying to find what real
artists were still out there in the auto-tuned world of shock tactics and skimpy clothing
the music business had become. He followed his passion, but played the game with finesse.
His forbidding stare had unraveled a lot of plans constructed by people who thought
they knew better.

At this moment, a week before the tour, Tristan was rehearsing with the band. So with
his blessing, and that of my boss, Dave Fanning of
The Core
magazine, I’d flown out to confer with Trevor, and do a couple of last minute interviews
with other individuals linked to Devised for a possible documentary. I mostly wanted
to see Trevor, though. I knew he was going to be in the States soon enough, but with
Tristan otherwise occupied, I wanted to take the opportunity to find out what I should
really be focusing on. As opposed to what they were expecting me to write about. I
figured he would know, if anyone would, where the minefields were located and how
to avoid them, if I could. And Trevor was the coordinator on the European side, and
was now in charge of sales, touring, and anything else that might come up. In the
States, it all went through the subsidiary of the larger record company. But I knew
that interesting ideas in Europe frequently were shot down altogether in the chase
after the American dollar.

Unfortunately, the stateside execs were not always right, though they’d never admit
it. A path of poorly chosen singles, publicity images, release dates, and television
appearances could be found in their wake. Good at business, bad at art. It was a bit
of an American problem. The execs in the States thought Trevor was a loose cannon,
which he could be, but where Tristan’s future was concerned, there was no one who
would fight harder. If Trevor knew something was a good idea, he didn’t listen to
no. He simply found another way to get what he wanted.

This tendency worried the suits, who wanted the American leg of the tour to run very,
very smoothly. Weighing up the odds, they did have a reason to be concerned, considering
Tristan’s lurid tabloid past of drugs, sex, and eventual nervous breakdown. Their
risky investment was going to be under very public scrutiny. If any of these problems
were going to surface, they wanted advance notice. A lot of advance notice. They were
bankrolling it all, of course. They could pull the plug at any moment, blame it on
illness, or vocal problems, or any of the other excuses that were put out in the press
to explain a variety of real reasons that were kept hidden. I was sure that was some
of the logic behind letting me tag along on tour and write up articles and the regular
blog. But according to Trevor, now they wanted a business rep for their interests
inside his office. One of their own. In Trevor’s domain. I wished I could have seen
his face when they presented the idea to him.

He told me all about it when he took me out to dinner the evening I arrived. As he
was recounting the story, I realized that his curt manner had been replaced by a somewhat
distant but basically trusting stance. I’d obviously moved up in his estimation. It
made me feel a little closer to Tristan too, like we were all on the same side. Trevor
began describing what we were up against. Apparently, the record company had chosen
who they wanted in the London office and had flown him out to meet Trevor. Trevor
had agreed to the whole plan, but insisted on reserving the right to interview and
approve the final candidate. On the surface, it was all very reasonable.

Trevor laughed when he described it to me. “Lily, they thought I’d just neatly stepped
into line, cowed by their money, and lured in by temptation. Can you imagine, they
offered me a job in L.A.? A job? Working for them, writing up reports, endless meetings?
And in L.A.? One of those all by itself would be a deal breaker, but both? Imagine.”
He poured me another glass of Retsina. We were sitting at a small table in a private
corner at one of my favorite restaurants in London, Lemonia. Tristan must have told
him I liked it, and it thrilled me a little, not just to be there, but that both of
them had conspired to do something to please me. I took a sip of wine and listened
as Trevor continued with his story.

“I’m not one of those individuals who has always wanted to live in America. It has
its fascinations, certainly. Like most places. But some of these company people seem
to think all they have to do is dangle a big city on the coast in front of you, and
you’re hooked, like a starving fish in winter.” He laughed, and stabbed one of the
stuffed grape leaves with his fork. “Hook, line, and sinker. At any rate, their man
is coming tomorrow to discuss his place in the organization, and his brilliant marketing
ideas.” He placed the entire morsel in his mouth and chewed slowly. Finally he spoke.
“You should be there too. We don’t have to reveal your identity. We’ll make you a
PR person over here. Wear a bright color, that’s it. Lipstick. Smile incessantly.
Might as well assist with the deception.” He washed down his words with a sip of wine.
“Retsina. It’s pleasant. Will always remind me of holidays. Not a bad thing.”

“I’ve always liked it. A strange taste. Something different.” I smiled at him. “Reminds
me of happier times as well.”

Trevor raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Indeed. Well.” He looked directly at me. “I think
you’ll find tomorrow useful. One never knows what Tristan is planning, but knowing
what they expect should help you navigate the waters when he starts to push back.”
I started to speak, but Trevor raised a large hand to stop me, and I did. “I know
he says he’s a changed man, and he is. But I also know he has secrets and plans, and
that he hates being given instructions. With AC there as well, this could turn into
a regular rock and roll circus.” He folded a piece of pita bread delicately, and dipped
it into the taramasalata on his plate. “Eat. You need to eat.” With his other hand,
he held out the basket of pita breads to me. I caught his eye, and he smiled, his
expression caught halfway between paternal and threatening.

I took a piece of bread, and dipped it into the tzatziki on my plate. “How much influence
do I really have though? Suppose he starts using again? Or quits the tour? Or gets
into trouble on the road?”

Trevor’s expression was extraordinarily calm. “All reasonable possibilities, I’m afraid.
But I’ll be a phone call away, and then I’ll be there. As backup. Honestly, Lily,
and please take this as a compliment, you seem to be managing him very well.”

“But I’m not doing anything,” I blurted out.

“Then it seems to be working wonderfully through intuition. An excellent strategy.”

“I don’t plot and plan.”

“Then you’re the only one. But you don’t need to, my dear. You’re clever, you don’t
take his shit, and most importantly—you seem to actually care for the difficult bastard.”

I blinked at him, a little shocked. “Tristan? A bastard? He’s the last person I’d
tag with that description. Difficult, yes. Even perhaps a little diva-esque, at times,
but…”

Trevor interrupted me. “He can be fairly demanding, at times. You’ve noticed that,
certainly. Luckily it’s a short tour. Preliminaries. Everybody getting back in the
saddle.” He took another sip of wine. “Lily. That’s just it. You’ll defend him. God
help you, you’ll even disagree with me.” He stopped to put a grape leaf and some calamari
on my plate. “You’ve got considerable power, Lily. Especially where he is concerned.
I’m grateful that you use it for good.” He gestured with his fork at the array of
small plates in front of us. “Now eat. You’re going to hate yourself when you’re at
the truck stop looking at the microwave meat sandwiches. Then your saddest memory
will be of all the nice dishes you didn’t touch.”

I laughed and raised my glass. “To touring.”

Trevor clinked our glasses together. “To touring. You poor thing. You have no idea
what you’re in for. Now eat.”

* * *

The next day, I arrived early at the townhouse where Trevor had his offices, and settled
in with a cup of tea in one of the corner chairs in his large office. I had done my
best to look like a PR person, statement necklace and handbag, flashes of bright color.
Sarah, my oldest friend in London, had helped. I was staying with her, and she seemed
grateful for the diversion. She was marrying my old boyfriend, now very much hers,
later in the summer, and I had the impression even she was sick of the planning. It
wasn’t a huge wedding, but she was nothing if not precise. Her house was covered in
fabric swatches and seating plans. She was very good at putting things together, including
me. Despite our differences, I did love her dearly, even if she kept teasing me about
whether Tristan was coming to the wedding or not. I didn’t really want to admit I
had no way of guaranteeing what the future would bring.

The prospect from the record company in the States had just been shown in. I was introduced
quickly, and dismissed quickly, which was fine with me. It gave more time to study
him. He was terribly shiny. Broad features. He looked like he should be selling oil
wells, or machinery. The copy of his CV showed a suitable range of internships, the
right college, high-ranked business school. But Trevor got him talking, and within
minutes, he had managed to get him to reveal what was behind his resume. The real
story was that his uncle was a well-known A and R guy from the 70s who had first gotten
him interested in the business. Eased his way in, more like. But everyone had connections.
He admired Justin Timberlake. And he seemed pleasant enough, sitting there, getting
ready to impress Trevor. I wasn’t keen on the double breasted suit. And I had the
impression that somebody stateside had told him this was a done deal, which made me
feel almost sorry for him. Underestimating Trevor was never a good plan. I had another
sip of tea, and pulled out my notebook. Time to decipher the meaning from the words
and watch the show. Trevor was already in full flow.

“I would say that we have passed postmodern. Now we are in to what I like to think
of as post-honest.” Trevor hesitated. “Clearly, we expect honesty from our icons.
That’s why we follow them slavishly on Twitter, take their battles as our own, and
insist that they share each and every portion of their lives with us. We say we want
the truth. But that’s not it. We want the simulacrum of truth. We want it to look
real, and as Camus demonstrated so ably, reality, and the appearance of such, are
two totally different things.” He paused in the midst of his explanation to drink
some tea, and studied the person in front of him, as though he were really considering
hiring him.

“I disagree,” said the young man, whose name was Steven, and who clearly didn’t realize
his time was ticking away. “When a musician tweets something, it shows a piece of
his day to day concerns. He shows that this is his life. His soul. That translates
into a better connection with the broader-based fan demographic. The key is to find
the toleration level, and keep the energy high. Dropping moments of day-to-day life
is the best way to do that. Impromptu pictures, quotes, favorite foods.”

“Jesus Christ,” Trevor interrupted. “Impromptu? When you and I both know you set it
up in advance to drop the message at a certain time? Favorite foods? Likes and dislikes?
It sounds like a teenage girl’s diary. I do recognize that this is supposedly the
age of complete narcissism, so the fan base likes to see itself replicated on a grand
scale. But…,” here he paused to drink more tea, and look over with longing at his
box of cigars, “there has to be some consideration of authenticity. Something that
sets the artist apart from everyone else.”

The young man nodded vigorously, apparently in complete agreement. “I just read a
fantastic article on authenticity.” He thought for a moment, then said, “Not Camus,
but Sartre. It’s a perfect example of how our actions must be in line with the image.
But image is a starting point. What we are trying to do is not only get the conversation
rolling, but make the moments that inspire that conversation. For a fan, watching
a video, or knowing a celebrity or musician actually said something, means that they
have something to bring to the water cooler.”

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