Nick Milligan: profile

BATMAN AND BEN: A picture dressed as Batman and Ben Mitchell, taken at Music and Movie Trivia.

BATMAN AND BEN: Yours truly dressed as Batman and Ben Mitchell, taken at Music and Movie Trivia.

This is a profile on yours truly by the talented and awesome graphic artist/person known as Ben Mitchell. It appears as the cover story of this month’s edition of the zine Newcastle Mirage. It’s very flattering and talks a bit about Enormity, casting an Enormity movie, and my trivia night etc. Enjoy. – NM



Newcastle is a city filled with men of many names – plenty of Matts, Seans, Lukes and Bens – but after years of steel city mingling, this reporter has found that the real pioneers, the Novocastrian glue holding the cultural scene together, all share a name with the humble Saint Nicholas. Our city is bursting at the seams with Nicks, each doing their part to make it a better place. After noticing the common bond of passion and ambition attached to the name, it was only a matter of time before The Monthly Nick came into fruition, as there are likely several Nicks near you, keeping the dream alive in their own way, regardless of recognition or celebration. These are their stories.

With September’s Monthly Nick sitting finished in front of me, I found myself extremely nervous to see what sort of response I’d get, as I was extremely aware that usually my strong points involve making pictures, rather than sentences. As helpful as my friends were, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many times my musician friends have shown me the results of them ‘trying their hand’ at graphic design, under the encouragement of their loved ones. For real feedback, I’d need to turn to a writer. Luckily, for the better half of this year, I’ve been friends with a man who has written for Rolling Stone, Dazed & Confused and Frankie, as well as acting as editor in chief for Reverb for three years and recently launched his career as an author with a debut novel. With a sigh of relief upon hearing he thought my last article ‘read well’, I was struck with the realisation that his name, too, happened to be Nick.

Before I knew how hard working and important Nick Milligan was in the entertainment journalism scene, I knew him as the loveably scruffy host of the Cambridge Hotel’s Music and Movie Trivia night, and much like last month’s Nick, coming into contact with him was a chance encounter. At the beginning of the year, the Cambridge’s dinner menu was very different, and after forgetting to reserve a table at Asa Don, a friend and I were recommended to head there as a backup dinner plan because on Tuesdays, they ‘had trivia as well’. Upon arriving, it was made clear that the trivia did not come second to the food at all. After founding a two-person team named after a reference no one understood, I was blown away by our host’s charisma and sense of humour and found myself becoming a regular for months on end. Music and Movie Trivia had its third birthday last month, with around 20 teams attending, each team name more offensive than the last, and the whole night running overtime to fit more of Nick’s bizarre sense of humour into each round. For the nine months I’ve been attending, not much has changed – it’s always a fantastic way to spend a Tuesday night.

TRIVIA TIMES: Some of the sexy crowd at Music and Movie Trivia, with yours truly up the front.

TRIVIA TIMES: Some of the sexy crowd at Music and Movie Trivia, with yours truly up the front.

But according to Nick, it hasn’t always been this way. Three years ago, Nathan Zervos, the Cambridge’s manager at the time, needing a way to get more people at the bar on a Tuesday, introduced a games and trivia night. Knowing he was a huge music and cinema nerd, Zervos got Nick on board as a host and eventually, the ‘games’ concept was dropped for him to host trivia to three to four teams a week. The way he described this to me gave a very different vibe to how the show is run today – there were no ‘regular’ teams, and one night even had to be cancelled due to only one team showing up. Also absent, according to Nick, was his wry sense of humour, as only in the past eighteen months or so has he grown more comfortable behind the microphone. Today, Nick’s wit is evident not only in his hosting, but through the ridiculous questions he comes up with – be it ludicrous misheard lyrics for popular songs, or constantly working in ’80s hip-hop train wreck Snow as a multiple choice answer – the whole game has become one massive inside joke. In addition to his nine-to-five at the Maitland Mercury, Nick spends around six hours a week coming up with forty questions for each Tuesday, his connections with the media helping him stay extremely up-to-date with industry news for ideas.

Though both his life and career are heavily rooted in the music industry; not just through journalism but also from promoting and managing bands, Nick describes himself as ‘generally terrible’ at playing music. His main outlet for creativity is in his writing, which is evident in his recently released debut novel, Enormity. The book, a sci-fi epic four years in the making, follows Jack, an astronaut crash-landed on an unknown planet who lives out his dream of becoming an interplanetary rock star by performing classic rock covers to an alien nation that believes them to be his own originals. Apart from the cinematic outer-space setting, Enormity doubles as an unapologetic satire of the music industry, with a lot the principle characters – their behaviour, mannerisms and language – being loosely based on musicians Nick has met and worked with through his role in the industry.

“I know what I’d do,” he told me, before describing a concept he had started writing in his university years – a novel about Novocastrian teenage vampires – long before Stephanie Meyer ever released the Twilight series, “If I could travel in time, I would finish that fucking book!”

Though I’m a huge fan of science fiction and musical satire, one of the most exciting parts of the story for me is the dark turns the novel takes when Jack’s dishonesty spirals out of control. I was reminded of Craig Robinson’s character in Hot Tub Time Machine going back in time to steal a Black Eyed Peas song to make himself famous, except with real, actual, Breaking Bad-esque consequences. Keen to read more of how the novel deals with morality and stolen ideas, I asked Nick if he’d behave in a similar way given the right circumstances – through either time travel or space travel – and what concept he’d want to play off as his own. Though his self-discipline, like tempered steel, prevents him from falling into the same traps as our astronaut friend Jack, he’s reminded of a similar situation from his past.

“I know what I’d do,” he told me, before describing a concept he had started writing in his university years – a novel about Novocastrian teenage vampires – long before Stephanie Meyer ever released the Twilight series, “If I could travel in time, I would finish that fucking book!”

MORE TRIVIA TIMES: Music and Movie Trivia at the Cambridge Hotel - every Tuesday.

MORE TRIVIA TIMES: Music and Movie Trivia at the Cambridge Hotel – every Tuesday.

I had suggested, since his musical ability was already established as out of the picture, he go back to the eighties and write American Psycho before his idol Bret Easton Ellis could, knowing he managed to get an interview with the writer in 2010. Nick, halfway through writing Enormity at the time, treated the 40-minute Rolling Stone interview as more of a masterclass than part of a press junket, asking about Ellis’ approaches to writing and trying to get advice out of him. It was at this point that I wanted to treat our interview as a masterclass on how to pull sketchy moves to land interviews with your heroes, because his “freelance writing gymnastics” to get Ellis’ time of day even rivals the sketchiness of Enormity’s aforementioned morally ambiguous astronaut.

“I contacted their publicist and said, I’d like to get an interview with Bret Easton Ellis – I think Rolling Stone would be really interested.” Nick explained, “The woman said, ‘Okay, if Rolling Stone are interested then we’ll get you some time.’ So I contacted the editor of Rolling Stone and said, ‘Hey, I have an interview with Bret Easton Ellis, are you interested in a feature about his new book,’ and the editor said, ‘Sure, if you have the interview then we’ll run something.’ I went back to the publicist and said, ‘Rolling Stone want a feature.’” And a week later, Nick got to spend over half an hour with ‘the master’. They, unfortunately, did not get to compare business cards.

Though he’s interviewed some huge names over the years, including Ice Cube, Pete Townshend, Dylan Moran, and Huey Lewis (an interview which, I am sure, was featured in ‘the news’) on Nick’s website his first-billed interview subject is, both understandably and hilariously, Matt Damon. Damon was reportedly a really genuine, down to earth guy in the 20 minutes Nick got to spend with him, but the best part of the Matt Damon story did not even involve Matt Damon. As part of the press for The Bourne Ultimatum, Nick got to attend an advanced screening at the Sony Theatrette, and arrived early to an empty cinema. As more members of the press slowly arrived and packed the place out, by pure coincidence he ended up being seated next to David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, hosts of ABC’s At The Movies. In one of the greatest moments of Nick’s life, he was quite literally At The Movies.

This is, of course, was a story that would have been lost on Matt Damon. I asked if Damon, Elysium’s saviour of the Hispanics, would be a good fit for the lead role in a film adaption of Enormity, as in a brief stint doing some illustration work for the novel I was instructed to give Jack a muscular back. Nick laughed, and after a brief exchange of potential leading men (including Dexter’s Desmond Harrington, if only for his ability to lose weight in his face) we settled on Christian Bale – not for his work with Batman, but with Bateman, nailing the mix of horror and humour in American Psycho. I was surprised when this conversation revealed that though music journalism is where the money is, Nick’s main goal in life is professional creative writing; not necessarily for an Enormity adaptation (though most readers have described it as ‘cinematic’) but definitely writing screenplays, for film or TV. From what I’ve read, I think he is more than qualified to make it happen.

However, if things took a different direction I could definitely see Music And Movie Trivia being taken on by ABC on Tuesday nights, with Nick’s love for the industry and ridiculous sense of humour stealing the heart of a generation. Not only is he one of the funniest, most down-to-earth people I’ve seen behind a microphone, he’s the only writer I’ve ever witness discuss the latest Kanye West album without sounding pretentious. For those of you who simply can’t wait for Mr. Milligan’s antics to replace Spicks and Specks, or for Christian Bale to pick up a space-guitar on the big screen, you’ll have to catch this month’s Nick holding the fort at the Cambridge every Tuesday night, or grab a copy of Enormity from Amazon or (eventually) a store near you!

Nick Milligan hosts Music and Movie Trivia at the Cambridge Hotel every Tuesday night, starting at 7pm. His debut novel, Enormity is available as an eBook at and will be available in hard copy in October. Be sure to check for updates!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s