Can you give us a quick introduction to Monorex and Secret Wars.
Monorex started first about 9 years ago as an art collective. It was a group of friends, mainly graffiti artists. We started out doing the Live Art exhibitions “Come meet Rex” at pubs in Camden, it was really just us trying to enjoy ourselves by linking art with music.
Fast forward about 3 years and the collective was growing, Reebok gave us an opportunity to go to Barcelona and do our first commercial job.
At around the same time I started Secret Wars (now Secret Walls because of trademark issues in the US), the live art battles. We started out running them in Manchester and London. Reebok gave us the chance to take that idea and make it the theme of the collection they were promoting in Barcelona.
It went really well and we achieved what they wanted from it which was the interaction, engagement and creativity of bringing together music, art and the brand. After that things began to snowball.
I see Monorex as a creative lab, artists come by for a cup of tea or to do some work, it’s a relaxed environment. We’ve still got that collective collaboration stitched into the DNA. It seems to attract some wonderful opportunities to do amazing work and we’re lucky enough to be able to choose what we want do.
Secret Walls is going really well, we’ve been going through a process of picking new collaborations, sponsors and venues. The setup is an art battle, 90 minutes, black and white, either one on one or teams.
The walls range from 8 x 16ft up to about 25ft high, all painted live in front of a crowd who then judge alongside two guest judges. It’s a simple concept and that’s why I think it spread so quickly.
We unofficially franchised Secret Walls to partners that we met around Europe. In 2010 we did a European Champions League, which was a real turning point, we did 110 shows in 20 cities.
We think that it’s the first chapter of many; it’s still very much in its infancy stage. We’re now looking at how we can crack the US and Asian markets, and also how we can become more of a creative platform on a global scale.
We’re also doing a School Walls (junior version of Secret Walls), we present to the kids in the morning about what we do as a career and the whole lifestyle around it, then we get them sketching and give them the confidence to battle on large canvases.
Sometimes you see kids really open up creatively when we can show them the connections between art and other things in their lives like the movies they watch or brands they like.
There’s also High Rise Murals which is an important part of what we do. Through Monorex we picked up a job to paint a mural as a billboard advert, the first one we did was for Relentless. A little while later Converse and Umbro came to us and asked for 30 walls each, hand painted across the country in the space of 2 weeks.
We realised that this type of service was going to pick up and I didn’t want Monorex to only become known for just one skill. We decided to take that service and rebrand it as High Rise Murals, which has now been going for just over a year and is about twenty projects deep.
The message is really about bringing hand painted signage back in, you can still see reminisces of its history in the ghost signs around London. That’s the newest edition to the Monorex world that I live in.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve seen recently?
The Kaws figure outside Standard Hotel in New York, that sort of bold installation gets me ticking but I’m always on the lookout for new street art. My other eye is on campaigns, I think Nike has done well at covering the city creatively. For me it’s all about guerrilla marketing because that’s the world we’re connected to.
If you could collaborate with anybody alive, on any project, what would it be?
I’d pick someone in a completely different field from us, I’m into Heston Blumenthal’s experimental ideas about food. I met Bompass and Parr recently so I’ll go with an art meets food collaboration with them.
What’s been your biggest learning curve?
Teaching myself how to run a business the hard way. Being a start-up with no massive injection of cash was a great thing because it makes you hungry. I don’t regret the path I took but I’d like to help young people understand the importance of studying business.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was about 15 a teacher called Mr. Thatcher pulled me out of class, I was about to fail my exams and it was a real cross roads moment for me. He said “you only get one shot at life Terry, and these GCSE’s are your entry into the world and dreams”. Before then I was not taking life seriously at all! He changed my outlook, I owe him a lot.
What keeps you awake at night?
The internet and everything in it. I’m pretty hooked…. Oh and talking to my lovely girlfriend over Skype at 1am (she lives in NYC )
If you could be someone else for a day who would it be?
I’m a massive sports fan so probably some sort of famous sportsman to see how stupidly easy their life is and how much money they get for doing nothing, but I think that might be quite boring. Maybe Pharrell Williams, he’s always got something creative going on and I think he’s got a good eye for design.
Who’s your favorite villain?
The Joker. He was into his art, I remember that scene well.
Who do you suspect of being an alien?
Usain Bolt, he’s the modern day super human.
Where do you do your best thinking?
I’m still trying to work that one out. I think it would probably be sitting in my parent’s garden on the Isle of Wight, I’d like to spend more time there.