Damien Love Guest Blog: Monstrous Devices – An Imaginary Soundtrack
November 1, 2018
Glasgow-based writer Damien Love has just published his first novel in the USA: the wild, weird, robotastic and spookily magical children’s adventure MONSTROUS DEVICES – highly recommended for readers aged 9–99! Damien has written about music for years, and so, to mark the book’s release, we asked if he’d like to put us together an imaginary soundtrack for the novel. We also have a signed copy of Monstrous Devices up for grabs details on our FB page. Over to Damien…
My book Monstrous Devices is an old-school adventure, filled with magic and mayhem and fights and…sinister business. It’s about a 12-year-old boy, Alex, who gets drawn into a strange and deadly mystery when his grandfather sends him an old clockwork robot in the mail. At first, Alex reckons it’s just another antique toy for his collection. But he quickly begins to realise there’s something very different about this one – and that other people are desperate to get their hands on it, too. Soon, Alex and his grandfather are on the run, being hunted across a snowy Europe by weird killers, all trying to unlock the secret of the old toy.
The novel’s for readers aged around 9–12, but older people are allowed to read it too. (In fact, I’d encourage it.) I’ve tried to put together an imaginary soundtrack to reflect some of the atmospheres and scenes in the book, as well as some of the pop-culture junk swilling around my mind while I was writing. Here goes:
1. Terrore Nello Spazio (Part 19) – Gino Marinuzzi, Jr.
To begin, we need a little hint of something unsettling going on. This tantalisingly creepy cut from the soundtrack to Mario Bava’s super-stylish 1965 sci-fi movie Planet Of The Vampires fits the bill horribly well. The scratchy, spooky, hand-made electronica vibe is perfect for what’s coming.
2. Theme from The Persuaders – John Barry
While writing Monstrous Devices, I thought a bit about a particular type of programme we used to get on British TV – all those series about enigmatic, well-dressed kickass adventurers who travelled the globe fighting evil, between drinks. Stylish, playful, hard to pin down shows: not exactly for children, but not exactly grown-up. The Avengers is the greatest. In comparison, The Persuaders is pretty goofy, but it had maybe the greatest theme tune, cimbalom and Moog bass colliding in a serious groove. The spiralling sound of excitement and mystery – this should be the theme tune to everything!
3. Lullaby – Magnet
A scene late at night. It’s winter outside, his suburban bedroom is drowsy, but something strange is happening, and Alex falls into a sleep like he’s never had before. A touch of weird old folk magic, from the soundtrack to one of the best weird-old-folk-magic films, The Wicker Man.
4.Time Beat – Maddalena Fagandini
An odd, busy, mechanical little tune, to go along with some odd, busy, mechanical little goings-on. A pioneer of DIY electronica, Maddalena Fagandini was part of the BBC’s legendary Radiophonic Workshop, and made this as an “interval tune” for the Beeb. She later reworked it as a single with Beatles producer George Martin.
5. The Robots – Kraftwerk
Right. There are robots in this story. Maybe not the kind of robots you’re thinking about. But robots all the same. This is quite an obvious choice, then. But that’s no reason not to choose it.
6. Come On Let’s Go – Broadcast
And we’re off: Alex’s grandfather takes him on the run, leaving little Britain behind and heading out into the big, wild, snowy world. The much-missed Broadcast drew a lot from old film and TV music that haunted them, and this is like the theme from a jet-setting 1960s mystery that was never made, and should have been.
7. Dans le noir – Juniore
Now we’re in Paris, deep in the night, deep in a mystery, and so this slinky, shivery track by France’s Juniore is ideal. They’re a very different group to the peerless Broadcast, but, like them, draw on old forms to make something new, which I guess is something I tried to do in the book.
8. Experiment In Terror – Henry Mancini
There are experiments and terrors in Monstrous Devices, and lots of scenes of lurking around city streets after dark, for which this proto-Twin Peaks prowl is a perfect soundtrack. Blake Edwards’s 1965 movie Experiment In Terror is pretty good – but, like The Persuaders, nowhere near as good as its theme tune. One of Mr Mancini’s finest.
9. The Man – Ennio Morricone
A menacing glimpse of a sinister, enigmatic figure…Enough said. Music from Morricone’s great 1968 score to Once Upon A Time In The West.
10. Theme from Department S – Edwin Astley
Actually, of all those old adventure shows, maybe Department S had the best theme, written by Edwin Astley and played by Cyril Stapleton’s band. As well as being a classic TV tune, it’s great, widescreen chase-scene music. There’s a chase or two in Monstrous Devices.
11. Czech Christmas Mass “Hail, Master!”, Sanctus – Jakub Jan Ryba
The mystery leads Alex and his grandfather to Prague in the Czech Republic, just as the city is preparing for Christmas. This local hymn is something that might be overheard coming from an old church as they go hurrying through the Old Town.
12. Marquee Moon – Television
All night and wild weather, the twin guitars of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd conjure up a kind of electric, alchemical ceremony on this track, and that chimes with some of the stuff that goes on late in the book. The moon is important, too.
13. Listen, The Snow Is Falling – Galaxie 500
It snows a lot in Monstrous Devices. This is a Yoko Ono/ John Lennon song, but I think this slow-motion-then-raging cover by Galaxie 500 might be the best version.
14. Fahrenheit 451: Finale – Bernard Herrmann
The snow is still falling, and something quiet, magical and sad happens. Bernard Herrmann is probably best known for his music for Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, but he wrote this piece for the snowy ending of Francois Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, and it’s among his most beautiful compositions.
15. Procession – New Order
The end theme. I tried to make Monstrous Devices always fun and exciting, but I also tried to keep a sense of mystery in there, and, for me, “Procession” is one of the most mysterious singles ever released. I doubt New Order could tell you what this song’s about themselves, but it sounds astonishing: rudimentary synth, wiry guitar tangles, driving drums, propulsive bass. A great thing. It takes you somewhere strange. And when it ends, it sounds like it’s starting again.
To find out more about Monstrous Devices, visit Damien’s website.