Infamous for layering non-traditional sounds buoyant enough to float Mura Masa to the top of playlists worldwide. Taking Coachella’s ‘surprise guest’ reputation to breakneck heights, Masa invited eight heavyweights to the stage for Weekend One fuelling an ‘at-capacity’ tent with people spilling out the sides to get some of that snakey rhythm.
With mystery comes great power, introduced today by an accompanying short film, his self-titled record ‘Mura Masa’ is available for pre-order now, arriving in full force July 14th through his musical imprint, Anchor Point via Polydor/Interscope Records. The album rides with romance with new single ‘1 Night’ (featuring Charli XCX) – which has been playlisted through Radio 1 and already surpassed 10 million streams.
Nominated for his first Ivor Novello Award and added to an extensive run of summer festivals, we caught up with the enigma through the dusty desert of Palm Springs.
You just played a roaring Coachella crowd where you said you’re bringing out 8 guests. Talk us through the show…
Originally A$AP Rocky was going to come out first, but he got held up coming into the festival so we had to improvise the whole set. We moved all the songs around, and it was super stressful. If you watch the stream back you can probably see me looking offstage to check if he was there or not. I had someone in my in-ear monitors saying ‘repeat Rocky’s here, repeat Rocky’s here.’ It worked out better actually, the order it happened with Bonzai, Desiigner, then CharliXCX, then Rocky, and NAO – it just went up and out! The tent was fucking packed…
It’s almost a bit of a shame I don’t have as many guests for Weekend 2, but we did it big one time!
Were you nervous going on?
Yeah, it was my first show of the year – and actually my first show in 5 or 6 months. There was new music, new tech, the stakes were really high. There was so much to think about…
You tweeted last month that your highly anticipated self-titled album is finished. What was inspiring you the most over the album writing process? Were there any songs, artists or albums that you were constantly drawing inspiration from?
I was listening to a lot of Prince after he died, I got all his stuff on vinyl before it was on Spotify. I went out of my way and bought everything he ever did on vinyl, and was banging that out. I listened to a lot of old Gorillaz, and a lot of UK underground rave tapes. There was a rave night in the 90’s called Helter Skelter, and they recorded the DJ sets and released them on cassettes – I was listening to them a lot. My greatest song pick of all time though is ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ by Prince…it’s a great pop song, and every gap or pocket is filled with something. Jai Paul ‘Jasmine’ a lot too…and his brother A.K. even made it to the album.
Who are you excited about that is featuring on it…
A$AP Rocky, A.K. Paul, Bonzai, Christine & the Queen, Desiigner, Damon Albarn, Jamie Lidell, NAO, Tom Tripp that’s everyone! There is a feature on every song, except two – which I sing on!
How relevant are musical influences to the Mura Masa sound?
I think it’s impossible to make anything without some kind of influence. Now more than ever, anyone can hear any music they want on the internet. It’s important to draw from the wider basket of influences, if you’re a jazz musician you can easily listen to other jazz musicians – but really good jazz musicians will listen to rap, and draw from other places!
You mentioned that you were playing in live bands before you did Mura Masa – what kind of genre’s were you playing?
Haha, I started in a gospel band when I was really young – from there I went the exact opposite way and was in a lot of punk and thrash bands. I was in a couple of hardcore bands, and a genre that was kicking around called ‘deathcore.’ Sometimes I was on guitar, other times on drums, sometimes bass…I was making my way around, doing the laps. It was all about having fun where I was from as there wasn’t much of a music scene. As far as live gigging went, you could play some pubs and that was about it…there was a weird thriving metal and punk scene so I was involved in that. From there I moved into this new sound.
I’m sure everyone’s asked you about this – BUT we were major fans of lovesick fuck, and that whole EP – then Rocky hopped on it. How did that unfold?
Man, I thought you were gonna asked me about how my name was formed…that’s the one that I’ve answered fifty times *laughs. Rocky heard the original ‘Lovesick Fuck’ and he enjoyed it, someone from his entourage got in touch and mentioned he was in London. They then suggested we have a sit down, and I was like ‘ok we need him to show up to this thing,’ so we booked Abbey Road and even Studio 2 where The Beatles did everything. I thought ‘he’s gotta come now, this is sick,’ and he did! You never know with rappers and hip-hop cos it’s a different way of working. We listened to the track and freestyled, he did it all off the top of his head in this crazy trench coat and he blew me away. I’ve been listening to him since his first mixtape, so it was mental to be honest. It set in on me a few months after…Rocky really breathed new life into it, and highlighted parts of the song that weren’t as obvious.
What influence do your fans have on your music and how significant is it?
To be honest, I just do it for myself – if you listen to everyone else’s thoughts you’ll go crazy. Everyone has their two cents, and all you can do is make what you like and hope that those who are left love you for what you’re doing.
You mentioned in an interview with DIY mag that in the latter processes of the album writing you were “doing the Rick Rubin ‘Yeezus’ thing” on your new record. Can you elaborate a bit more on this and what you meant?
When Kanye did Yeezus he locked himself in a Paris loft, with 3 hours of music he had made. He called Rick Rubin over, and played him the whole 3 hours. At the end Kanye asked Rubin what to do. Rick Rubin grabbed all the music and he said he’d sort it out. On the back of the album instead of ‘produced by Rick Rubin,’ it says ‘reduced by Rick Rubin.’ He took all the music, fucked off everything that didn’t need to be there and made it minimal and tight. When I said that I meant that I was separating the wheat from chaff, and tightening things up – ‘Rick Rubin-ing.’
You recently co-wrote and produced ‘First Things First’ on Stormzy’s ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’. How does your creative process differ producing and writing for other artists rather than producing Mura Masa records?
I think the way a lot of rappers and grime artists work are by having lots of beats, and then picking out ones they like. They then rap over them, and that’s it. It’s a different process from writing a song with someone. I had that beat lying around, I made it in an airport a year and a half ago…I was saving it for something special. I knew it was a good beat, and Stormzy said he wanted it to be the intro on his album – I was like ‘of course.’ I met him for the first time after Coachella, we had never met before. It was a very 21st century way of working…
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at Mura Masa show…
*laughs* – on Saturday Desiigner had his hype man come out, and just before the drop he threw a bunch of dollar bills into the audience. Desiigner stage-dived through the money, and I was like ‘what, what is happening here…’
A few ‘best of’ questions we love to end on – your top 3 soundcloud gems right now…
Shy Girl – Want More
Arca – &&&&&
Air Head – Shekure
Who’s been your favourite artist to see live as of late? And why?
Tame Impala 100% – top thing I’ve ever seen live. But also, shout out to New Zealand – I saw Lorde and it blew me away. She’s so young, and there was this looming question if she could sing amazing live…and she kicked everyone’s ass’. I was blown away by that…
Also NAO, I’ve seen her 15-17 times and everytime I’m there for the whole show and really interested – she’s sick.
There’s some wild music coming out of New Zealand at the moment, the likes of Montell2099, Leisure, and you’ve even remixed Kiwi golden girl Brooke Fraser. Are there any Kiwi artists you’ve got your eye on?
Is Montell2099 from New Zealand – sick!!! He is a sick producer, I messaged him some time ago on Soundcloud. Leisure too, I didn’t know they were from New Zealand either. I’m pumped for the new Lorde, and I’m sure everyone says that but I’m truly pumped on that album.