Daily Discovery is a feature that will highlight a new or recently discovered artist that we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.
In the UK, you’re never more than 70 miles away from the sea, you’re never more than seven miles from a pub, and, as seems to be the case right now, you’re never less than seven minutes away from learning of a new producer you need to get familiar with.
Mura Masa—named after infamous Japanese sword-smith Muramasa Sengo—is the alias of 18 year-old Sussex-based, Guernsey-raised songwriter, producer, and beatsmith Alex Crossan, and his music does indeed cut like a knife. With a sound palette which will sound familiar to fans of the LuckyMe or Wedidit camps, Mura Masa manages to tread that fine line between ornate, delicate sounds and huge, boisterous basslines, usually with sliced vocals floating somewhere in-between.
There’s a quality to his productions which makes them seem handmade; even laboriously so. But that does’t mean he doesn’t know how to have fun with it. Despite the fact that the legend of Muramasa Sengo revolves around his swords inducing bloodlust in the owner (sometimes leading them to take their own lives), Mura Masa’s creations will at most encourage you to pour one out, roll one up, or just to have a dance right where you stand.
He recently released “…Girl” and “Lotus Eater” online, both taken from his forthcoming album Soundtrack To A Death. They are due for a full release at the beginning of 2015, and if they’re any indication of what’s to come, we would highly suggest you keep your focus sharply on this producer (and his Soundcloud account, here).
Namaste, Mura Masa.
What was your earliest exposure to music and what would you say is the instrument you feel most comfortable with?
Well my dad was a very musical man so I grew up around it. I think one of the earliest things was watching early Gorillaz videos and just noticing and loving the way the music complemented the context of everything they’re about. Even now I’ve got a giant poster of Noodle and everybody which I wake up to on my bedroom wall every morning. As far as instrument, hand me an old, beat up acoustic guitar any day. It’s like an old pair of gloves to me.
How much do your seaside surroundings affect the music you make?
The sea and I have an abusive relationship. I equal parts love and fear it! It’s so great being able to stare out and imagine what might be out there, invent your own adventures. But it can also be quite isolating which is interesting. The whole thing I think adds to the rustic sound I go for, for sure. I live in Sussex now, but my real home is in my childhood house, 200 feet from Vazon bay. Good times.
Whilst comparisons can be drawn between your production style and that of people like HudMo and Cashmere Cat, which artists or musicians would you say have provided you the greatest inspiration over the years?
I think the Cat changed everybody’s world view. So influential. I guess growing up it was guitarists like Marc Ocubo, Mick Thompson. Also guys like Rick Wakeman and Morrisey. Hugely also, James Blake and Jamie Woon. I could list hundreds probably. Just anybody who had something to say about music, with music. I’m a bit of a mongrel bastard when it comes to taste but I love it. I get to enjoy everything so much!
A significant part of your palette has to do with Eastern sounds, too. Is there a particular reason?
I think eastern music is very modest and honest. The instruments are simple and just kind of organic, and nobody was really pairing that with the context of hip-hop or beatmaking, so I wanted to bring that to the fore really. It totally sets the mood for an organic sounding, lo-fi record. I think also the increased pairing of anime and hip-hop culture is the absolute coolest thing in the world. It’s definitely a conscious influence for me. Who doesn’t love “Cartoons and Cereal” by Kendrick, right?
After looking up some info on the 15th century Japanese swordsmith Muramasa Sengo, the first quote I read about him described him as, “a most skillful smith but a violent and ill-balanced mind verging on madness”. How much would you say you relate?
I’m not all that skillful in my own eyes, probably erring more on the mad side. But all the best people are I suppose, as Carroll might tell you. I just loved how Mura’s swords were equal parts beautiful and suicide-inducing. Just something morbidly hilarious/macabre about the whole thing, it’s cute.
What was the first piece of music you remember creating?
Production wise it was an extremely poor dubstep attempt which sampled Robin Williams shouting, “GOOD MORNING VIETNAM,” before the drop. God rest him, he didn’t need that.
Before that, it feels like I’ve always been writing love songs in my room that nobody ever heard.
Your debut performance as Mura Masa is going down in Brighton on the 20th of this month, followed by the release of your debut album early next year. What can we expect from both?
As far as the album, Soundtrack To A Death, expect what’s hopefully a cohesive, thoughtful project that makes for just as much dancing as it does crying and staring at your ceiling, thinking about that one person. There’s an arc to it, and I hope people really enjoy it as an object. It really is meant to make people feel great, not with with the energy and head-nodding, with catharsis as well. I really hope that comes over.
My live performance is intended to be just that; instruments will be played, the music will be put together live and hopefully it’ll be a fantastic and interesting night for people, as well as one filled with sub bass and pitched up vocals. I’m also deftly shy about my music and myself so I’ll probably be lit from behind, covered in smoke introducing the next song in a breaking teenage voice.
Soundtrack To A Death is an interesting title for an album. What’s the idea behind it?
I remember turning to my girlfriend at the time and just being like, “I know what I’m gonna call it.” It’s just a perfect title for what I wanted to get across with the project; The death of a moment, transition. Each song has a story, some aren’t very long, but they’re all moments, just like each part of somebody’s life, everything that happens to them or doesn’t happen, it’s all constantly dying and reigniting. Nostalgia and the sensation of looking back at those things is something that’s super important to me, I think it’s one of the most powerful emotions. The idea for the dying flowers I think is very closely linked to that, because although it’s a sad thing, it also is a very powerful symbol of change and transformation, and it once might’ve been a very pretty thing. Sometimes roses have to die a few times before you get the most beautiful bloom.
This project was always that, it’s very architectural as a whole. I think great art is always a balance between pure expression, and careful consideration. Anyway, that’s quite enough of that Oscar Wilde flower business! You can choose to take it that seriously, or you can just view it as a bunch of songs, that’s what’s nice about the thing I think. It’s just forward thinking music.
If you could have anyone spit bars over your tracks – dead or alive – who would you go for? And why?
I think Kendrick is the dream really. G.K.M.C really got to me on so many levels, it’s just a perfect snapshot. Or Biggie. So many though.
Which tracks would be played at your funeral?
Kimya Dawson – “My Heroes“
American Football – “Never Meant“
The whole of James Blake’s self titled album.
“Concerning Hobbits” from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, that shit is tight.
Actually, the whole funeral would just be the song “Bump of Chicken” by Sharin no Uta (below), and everybody would be glancing at each other and letting out shrill smiles. Or thereabouts.
Thank you so much for having me, a real honour and a pleasure.