Mura Masa Talks Growing Up In Isolated Guernsey & Running His Own Label

At the time of our conversation with producer Mura Masa, he’s taking things easy in his home on the South-Coast of the UK. In hindsight, this seems like a truly typical way to celebrate having just come off tour, at least for this softly spoken producer. Known as Alex Crossan to his mum, he points out that touring isn’t really his thing.

“I’m kind of more of a ‘stay at home in my room and eat cereal’ kind of guy,” he confesses with a laugh. “I find touring really tiring but it’s super worth it because it is really fun.”

His bedroom, it seems, is the start of a story that has seen this 19 year-old gain glowing remarks and accolades for his slightly off-centre electronic sound. Utilising social media and music sharing sites profusely, Crossan rapidly gained fans from all corners of the globe that lapped up his first two releases and, with the release of his latest single What If I Go? are left hanging on for more in the form of his upcoming as-yet-untitled release.

Not bad for a guy who grew up on hard rock, metal and Joni Mitchell.

Music Feeds: It’s been noted that you grew up in Guernsey and so as an island it is a tad bit more isolated. What was the music scene like there?

Alex Crossan: I guess the music scene there is not kind of divided into scenes or particular genres because there aren’t enough musical things going on. So it’s kind of one big lump. If you’re a musician there, you know all of the other musicians there and it kind of works like that.

So I grew up playing in a lot of punk and metal bands, but at the same time there was quite a lot of folk music going on around there. But right now the scene there is probably mostly divided into rock, folk and I guess a few different producers going on. But it’s mostly just one big community.

So I think it was good for me to grow up in the environment, because there wasn’t a lot of division between genres.

So from that upbringing, where did your exploration into electronic music begin?

Well I suppose the only place that I was getting my culture from was the internet. It would have been 2013-2014, and around that time I was discovering the likes of James Blake, Cashmere Cat, Hudson Mohawke and Flume.

It was that generation of electronic artists rather than producers I think, so I guess I didn’t realise up to that point that you could be an electronic producer and not make house music or whatever. So I think that was an important discovery.

Absolutely, and being a multi-instrumentalist that would have been quite an inspiration.

Yeah I mean, I play bits and bobs. My first instrument is the guitar and growing up around bands you just kind of pick up drums, bass and keys. I wouldn’t say I’m amazing at everything but I can get by on a few different instruments.

So from that, how did you kind of establish your sound? Was it mostly just a lot of experimentation with different elements?

Yeah I think. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, so I think it just came from a desire to incorporate that into whatever I was creating. So there is a lot of piano, and real drums and other organic elements.

Your last release Someday Somewhere was released just over a year ago on through your label Anchor Point. How do you look at that release now that you’re working on your upcoming release?

I’m of the opinion that when you release something, then that’s it. You just have to leave it and move on. I’d say that I’m probably more proud of it than I was, because there has been more time and I can appreciate from an outsider’s perspective. The same goes for the release before that [2014 mix tape Soundtrack To A Death] the more time that goes on, the more you can look at it more objectively.

But yeah, I’m proud of it. I was at university at the time and I was still at that point where I was making music out of my bedroom. So yeah I look back fondly on that.

How far along into your upcoming release are you?

Yeah it’s getting there. I’d say we’re probably about three-quarters done, but still kind of polishing it off. But what I tend to do is to leave it until the last two weeks and then finish it all off very quickly. So I’m kind of waiting for that spurt and then it will be done and it’ll be exciting.

Is there a reason why you do that? Like would you say that it disallows you room to think about it and second-guess what you have done?

Honestly, I think it comes from me being super, super lazy [laughs]. Like when I was preparing for exams at school or whatever, I would leave it to the last minute and then absolutely bomb the revision. It’s a similar kind of approach, I guess you just have to not think about it and do your best. The deadline is just the definite end point to keep thinking about it.

So would you say the methods you used to create this album have changed since your previous releases or have they stayed the same?

I think at first, I was trying to change what I was doing. But I think that was a little misguided. It was too bold and grand, and I think I ended up loosing a little of what made people like me in the first place. So I sort of went back and started again to try and capture some more authenticity. So it was best to keep the same workflow.

While waiting for this upcoming release, you did drop the single What If I Go? which boasts a really interesting looking video. Can you tell us a bit about where you got the idea for that?

Well I kind of struggle a lot with videos. I think they’re really difficult because if they’re done any other way than amazing then they tend to be a little bit boring and a waste of money. So basically, the guy who directed that video is a guy called Yoni [Lappin] and I’ve become really good friends with him. So I could be really honest with him with feedback, which meant we kind of went back and forth on a few different ideas.

So I had the idea to do the video in this kind of stereoscopic film image, and he took that and ran with it. He’s very cool, he’s a Londoner and he’s into that whole aesthetic so I think those two things matched up really nicely.

I also mentioned to him that I am a huge Wes Anderson fan, so he kind of used a lot of 1:1 aspect ratio and he shoots on film. So we incorporated a lot of that into it and I’m really pleased with it.

Yeah it definitely paid off. Just out of interest what is it about Wes Anderson that grabs you?

To be honest, I think it’s the dark comedy of it all. They’re not really comedy movies, but they’re so funny because of the way he writes and directs. I really like his old-school feel, whether it’s shooting on film, or the colour scheme or the lighting. I just think he’s really good.

I reference directors quite a lot when I’m trying to think about describing music, or with what my videos are meant to be like. I think film is quite important as a medium

In terms of music mediums as well, you made even bigger waves particularly through curating your own show for Beats 1 Radio. How was that experience?

It was really fun! I think originally it was Zane Lowe who contacted me and he was like [a slightly dodgy attempt at a New Zealand accent] “yeah man, just do whatever you want man and we’ll give you a show!” So it was really exciting.

But I wanted to do something interesting with it, not just play a bunch of music that I liked you know? So I went around a collected a whole bunch of unreleased music and demos from people and exposed a bit of underground knowledge onto Beats 1. I think it was pretty successful.

Yeah definitely something different to bring to their airwaves. Another thing I wanted to talk about was the people you collaborate with. In the past you have worked with Denai Moore and Jay Prince. How do you go about deciding who is the right fit to work with?

I think the most important thing is that you are fans of each other. You have to respect what each other are doing and that should always come first. After that, it’s all about figuring the other persons process.

With Jay Prince, the whole thing was done over email. I didn’t actually meet him while we we’re making that song, I only met him after. But with Denai, we actually sat next to a piano and wrote the whole thing up first and then I went home and produced it.

So I think it’s just different for every artist, but as far as choosing who to work with, I just choose to work with people who are really really good [laughs].

Fair call. One final question just aside from your music, you run your own record label Anchor Point Records. How do you find the balance to do both?

I think it is a challenge, sometimes I do get a bit bogged down with trying to organise the different acts that we’re working with at the moment and trying to worry about that as a separate entity. But at the same time it’s a complete blessing that we’ve got a platform where we can do that, and more than anything it’s really exciting that we can find music and release it and create our own little scene. It’s definitely a big part of what I do.


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