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Moodboard: Monarchy

Ahead of the release of their new single ‘Disintegration‘ on March 11, – which features a guest spot from none other than Dita von Teese – we caught up with London electronic duo Monarchy for a run-down of the movies, books, and songs (and pretty much anything else) that inspire them.

Disco balls

Disco balls have a long history, appearing in descriptions of ballrooms from as far back as 1897. By the 1920s they were quite common. Still a mainstay of clubs around the world, this simple orb, covered in mirrors, is like catnip for clubbers. It fascinates, inspires, references hedonistic nights long gone, it’s seen music through the ages; disco, house, techno, rave. It symbolises club culture. Madonna had one covered in two million dollars worth of Swarovski crystals for her Confessions tour. Pink Floyd took the world’s largest disco ball on tour with them in 1994. With a strobe, a disco ball, and maybe a smoke machine, any dirty basement can become a club. We have one in the corner of our studio, turning slowly, diligently, just to remind us what it’s all about.

Dior Homme

Hedi Slimane revived Homme at Dior, and brought in the slim silhouette, the sharp suit – modern, slick and classy. Kris Van Assche hasn’t reinvented the brand, but has taken up the batten, and carried it forward. And the latest collection is superb. Minimal colour palette, strong lines, minimalist, geometric detailing.

East London

We called our own record label Hacan Sound. It’s after the medieval name for the area we have our studio in: Hackney. This was once a village outside of London, called “Hacan Eig”, or Hook’s Island. They used to breed cheap horses here, and rent them out in the 1300s. This led to the term “hackneyed” for words or phrases that were overused (as well as other things that were overused, such as prostitutes). In time, this lead to the term “Hacks” for cheap Fleet Street journalists who traded in these overused phrases. True.
East London, now, has the most young people per head of population in the whole of Europe. It’s full of creatives, musicians, art galleries, secret bars, dirty basements playing disco, techno, garage. There’s also a growing army of yummy mummies blocking up the doorways of cafes with their buggies, ordering babycinos for little Elliot and Oscar, but that’s the full circle of gentrification. We’ll have to move further east soon.

Music 2.0

There’s always a lot of talk about the current climate of the music ‘industry’, and it’s true, it’s probably harder to make a dollar now than ten years ago. But with it comes some exciting times of discovering music in completely different ways, consuming vast amounts of music, and sharing it with your friends and listeners. If we didn’t have the various social networks and the wonders of MP3s, we probably wouldn’t have been able to play Coachella to thousands of people when not one note of our music was available to buy in the US. And they knew all the words.
Music now is a lot more democratic, and is becoming increasingly so. Radio stations are having less impact, and having to play catchup constantly with music that is already big on the internet and underground. More and more, new music is being discovered and supported by blogs and fans. There’s interesting things going on, and will continue for quite a while.

My Soul is Dark by Lord Byron

My soul is dark—Oh! quickly string
 The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
 Its melting murmurs o’er mine ear.
If in this heart a hope be dear,
 That sound shall charm it forth again:
If in these eyes there lurk a tear,
 ’Twill flow, and cease to burn my brain.

But bid the strain be wild and deep,
 Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,
 Or else this heavy heart will burst;
For it hath been by sorrow nursed,
 And ached in sleepless silence long;
And now ’tis doomed to know the worst,
 And break at once—or yield to song

Reading Byron always makes me feel like a teenager. My Soul is Dark was the first piece of poetry that ignited the imagination of my chemically imbalanced teenage self. He became a rock star to me. This poem revels in betrayal. By refusing remorse, the poet’s soul is destined for darkness unless he is brought to tears by music. Some interpretations of this poem suggest Byron is offering hope through tears, but to me it sounds like he’s reluctant to let go of the darkness.

‘How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore’ by Prince

This brilliant song made me practice the piano. Before that I’d been dedicated to the guitar. I tried playing it on guitar but the voicings were too close. Prince is a master of making weird note choices sound beautiful. It feels like he has a jazz philosophy: ‘if you make a mistake, keep playing that mistake until it sounds right’. The melody may be reminiscent of old gospel/blues songs but the chord substitutions still sound beautifully progressive to my ears.

Foundations by Isaac Asimov

I became interested in Asimov through his Evidence short story but Foundations is when I became addicted. I loved the use of religion as a tool for controlling the masses, the immense universe and the ingenious sci-fi theories (that have been copied to death since). Asimov’s vision of the future was so appealing to me that I stopped living in the present for a while. I have the writing of a 6-year old because I was convinced that by the time I was an adult no one would be writing anymore. I also spent many sleepless nights worrying about the genetically enhanced children that would soon be born; how would I compete with them?

LCD Soundsystem

Everyone knows the story of LCD Soundsystem now… an amazing band, headed by an incredible producer/writer in James Murphy, which disbanded, deliberately, amicably, in 2011. There were tears; there were accusations. I’m sure a few plates were thrown. But actually we really respect them for breaking up. James has always been a free creative, dipping his finger into many pies, and reinventing himself constantly. Already he’s lent production duties to a number of great bands and projects since they broke up. And the film of their final show is great. They are a legendary band, and they have sidestepped growing old disgracefully, and left their legacy intact. Respect.

Maurizio Cattelan

When we were in New York last time, Maurizio Cattelan was holding a retrospective at the Guggenheim museum. I had been out the entire night before, no sleep, and dragged myself there. By coincidence, Ra was also there, fresh faced and alive. So, it must have meant something.
Actually, as well as a retrospective, it was Cattelan’s final show. He stated he’s giving up art. But he’s not shy of an art prank, including replicating someone else’s complete gallery, and exhibiting it a block away, opening on the same night. Or selling his Bianalle Venice space as advertising. His playfulness in art, and novel approach is refreshing, insightful, and fresh.


This is a remake, but it’s brilliant, and the soundtrack is amazing. It was done by Cliff Martinez, who also provided the incredible soundtrack to Drive recently. As music, we probably prefer this soundtrack; it’s less retro, and meshes with the movie perfectly. This strange planet that taps into a subconscious and creates hyper-realities. Little known fact: Cliff Martinez was also a drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers. He seems to have changed his sound since then.

The colour, or non-colour: Black

Black is the colour of my heart. Black is supposedly a grim colour, but it speaks so much, it contains all else. It’s the absence of colour, but also all colours combined, depending on if it is refractive or projected light.
In black, we feel at home. It symbolises death. Only against the black backdrop of death do the full vivid colours of life show. If we didn’t die, we wouldn’t bother creating today, it could always be tomorrow. And so we would slump into a stupor of inactivity. Death inspires to live today, it maybe our last. Black symbolises the nothingness beyond death. To see the light, we need black.

- Alex Cull

NB: ‘Disintegration’ is released March 11 via Hacan Sound. You can download it now, here.

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