12 Dec Mura Masa, An interview with Alex Crossan at Neon Lights Festival
We’re backstage at Neon Lights Festival waiting for our interview with Mura Masa. We stand outside his door, watching a pair of workers finish up their repairs. None of us are speaking but we’re surrounded by loud thumping beats filtering in from the outdoor stage. When the door opens at last, we’re greeted by a smiling Alex Crossan, better known as the one-man beat prodigy, Mura Masa.
A conversation with Alex Crossan (Mura Masa)
Alex has just been on his laptop working on plans for next year, when he’ll be touring for his upcoming album, R.Y.C. (Raw Youth Collage). The album’s due to be released in January 2020 but is already making waves with its recent singles, ‘Deal Wiv It’ and ‘No Hope Generation’. Both songs draw on his punk/alt-rock influences from childhood, but with a fresh spin and incisive lyrics that cut straight to issues surrounding today’s youth. Including the downsides of gentrification, and the use of drugs or devices to numb feelings.
Half a day later, Mura Masa is on stage, performing a high-energy set with a massive array of instruments that he handles all on his own. From synths to drums, guitar, keyboard, to name a few. His electrifying dancehall-bass-electronica performance with singer-dancer Fliss might feel worlds away from the Mura Masa who’s been writing and recording songs on guitar at home for a year and a half. But really it’s the same Alex, who isn’t at all confined by the limits of genre or technique.
It’s an interesting moment to see a promising music producer (and 2019 Grammy award winner, no less) swerving from trendy electronic bass-heavy beats back to pop-punk guitar sounds of the 2000s. By bringing the rock band format into the internet era, R.Y.C. might just redefine music history as we know it.
For this story, we invited photographer Tim Tan(@PERSPECgifs). A pioneer in 3D stereoscopic GIFs. He’s been documenting celebrity musicians and youth culture since the early 2010s. His ‘wiggle’ GIFs are part of an aesthetic movement which first took off on Instagram, before reaching peak coolness in the form of Mura Masa’s 2016 music video, ‘What If I Go?’.
Read on for more photos and our full interview with Mura Masa.
First of all, congrats on your new releases! The response has been crazy and the next album is coming out real soon. How are you feeling about all of that now?
Yeah, it’s been good. I’ve been making this album for a year and a half now. So it feels funny now that the songs are coming because I’ve been living with them for a long time. It’s good that people finally get to hear them, and I’m excited for that.
These songs are quite different from your previous album. What were the experiences that inspired this new sound?
I grew up playing in a lot of punk bands and rock bands. So I wanted to go backwards a little bit and tap into that. You’ll be able to hear it on the new records. I was super inspired by my childhood, growing up listening to rock music and stuff. The whole album is based around that nostalgia and childhood memories, that kind of thing.
‘Deal Wiv It’ definitely has a bit of a Blur vibe.
I grew up listening to Blur, so that doesn’t surprise me.
What was your process like working on this album?
I haven’t been travelling that much. I’ve been staying at home and trying to write the album at home. There’s a lot of guitar on the new album, a lot of live drums and stuff. I made that my starting point and wrote the songs on guitar. But yeah they are all new songs, all very fresh things I’ve written in the past year. I wanted to completely change direction and do something different.
Do you have any plans for what you’d like to work on next? What type of sounds, art or experiences you’re looking to create?
I think I want to do a dance music album next. Like really heavy club music. But we’re not there yet, I gotta do this one first. I’ve put together a band for this album so we’re going to be playing as a live band next year. So I’ll get that done and then I’ll think about the next one.
Will you be playing guitar?
Yeah I will, and I’ll be singing a lot. It’s gonna be fun.
How did your feelings about making music change from then until now?
I guess I used to be interested in electronic music mostly, and bass music. Now my interest has shifted to songwriting and guitar music. That’s the main difference. It’s been fun singing myself on a lot of the records, that’s been a change for me as well. I’ve been focused on the band vibe and trying to recreate that kind of ‘live rock band’ feeling.
Is that something you thought of as a child? Feels like teenagers all go through that phase like ‘oh, I want to be in a band’.
Yeah, the imaginary rock band that you thought you could be in. I’m trying to relive that – but in my twenties[laughs].