The Devilish Joy of Mura Masa’s demon time

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The post The Devilish Joy of Mura Masa’s demon time appeared first on Consequence.

One of the primary visual inspirations for Mura Masa‘s album demon time was none other than Sonic the Hedgehog. “There was an image of Sonic the Hedgehog that I had remembered seeing years ago and I was like, ‘That seems like a cool pose,'” says the songwriter and producer born Alex Crossan. “He’s got this circular look, his shoes are kind of bending around… it became a muse of mine.”

The image was so influential for Crossan that he recreated it for demon time‘s album cover — but beyond the contorted, warped aesthetic, Crossan was drawn to the “joyfulness” he’s projecting, the frenetic ecstasy that Sonic embodies.

With demon time (out Friday, September 16th), Crossan had a simple objective: create something fun. But “fun” is still a bit of a vague descriptor — for an electronic producer who came up during EDM’s Top 40 dominance in 2015, Mura Masa’s early dancefloor jams were entirely fun in their essence. Even when he shifted styles dramatically for the introspective, alt rock-inspired R.Y.C., fun was still apart of the equation, especially on the raucous “Deal Wiv It,” featuring Slowthai.

But there’s a more devilish energy to demon time (Crossan’s third album as Mura Masa), a sound that reverberates from the back rooms of clubs, rather than the dancefloor. His guests and collaborators — always stellar on Mura Masa albums — are as diverse as ever, with each providing an attitude that can switch from suave to brash in a matter of seconds. In addition to regular collaborators like PinkPantheress and Slowthai, demon time features some rousing verses and vocal work from Lil Uzi Vert, Shygirl, Channel Tres, and Isabella Lovestory, as well as some burgeoning artists like Leyla and BAYLI.

And though Crossan didn’t get the full opportunity to tour in support of R.Y.C. — which he had assembled a full live band forhe’s happy to have been back on the road this summer bringing demon time‘s bangers to festivals and dancehalls alike. His show at this year’s Mad Cool Festival in Madrid was a career-spanning tent set, and proved how versatile and diverse his catalog is.

Crossan also shares that he’s interested in assembling his own festival: “When I make an album, it is a festival,” he tells Consequence, “I’m booking all these different artists and giving them platforms to sort of do their thing on. So it would make sense to do a demon time festival or something… but that’s a whole sinkhole. I really want to do it, I just don’t want to be bankrupt — maybe I’ll work out a way to do it in the spirit of fun.”

Ahead of the release of demon timeConsequence spoke with Mura Masa about the themes behind the album, his various outstanding collaborators, crafting the album during the pandemic, and the fifth anniversary of his self-titled debut album. Read below for the full Q&A with Mura Masa.

demon time is set to come out in just a few days. How is it all feeling?

It feels good. It feels like I’m still running around trying to put things in place, sort music videos out, just really make sure everything comes out right. I think it’ll be a big sigh of relief after the release party and everything.

You released your last album R.Y.C. in January 2020, two months before the pandemic effectively shut down live music. Was it a weird transition ending that album cycle a little bit early and starting work on the next one?

Yeah, that album campaign definitely got taken around back and kinda shot in the head against anyone’s will. But it was kind of poetic in a way — I mean, I had put together a band and I had spent loads of money on an incredible set, and it was a really amazing show for that album that we got to play maybe eight or nine times. We played some really good shows and it was incredible. But, yeah, we were on tour in Europe and every city that we were driving to was just getting locked down as we were arriving, so eventually, I just put everyone on planes and sent everyone home, cause at that point, we still weren’t really sure what was going on, it was kind of unprecedented.

I had to spend a long time kind of winding down from that and not getting to enjoy it being out in the world, really. But it was an interesting album, like, nobody really asked me to make that album — it wasn’t really what anyone expected or wanted from me. But I look back at it very fondly. I think after that I just spent a lot of months being depressed. It was the first time I haven’t been on tour, probably in my whole adult life. So yeah, getting from there to making a new album was an interesting process.

This album kind of represents a little bit of a return to form for you, after the change up from R.Y.C. What made you sort of go back to the basics for this record?

Yeah… the word “fun” is gonna come up a lot. I really need to find a different way of saying it. Joyfulness, hedonism. I think the kind of revelatory moment was during… I mean, it pains me to have to talk about the pandemic so much, but it really was very creatively shaping for a lot of musicians and people in other industries as well. But I think we were robbed of a lot of joy and a lot of socialization and a lot of interaction. I think a lot of people’s initial knee-jerk response to that was to make introspective music, music that reflected the times we were in, and that sort of thing. But the big moment for me was realizing, “Oh, actually, I can just focus on being optimistic and imagining what it sounds like when we’re finally allowed to all hangout and kiss each other again.”

And that motivated the creative process around the whole album, just that idea of wondering, “What’s it going to be like when we’re let out of the cage again, and people are going to be up to no good, and kind of making mistakes again?” It’s going to be a complete summer of love. That’s how I got from being super depressed to trying to imagine a more optimistic future.

Was there a part of you that felt like this process was hearkening back to the old days, confined to your bedroom, computer in front of your face?

Yeah, kind of — but that part of the process has never really changed. I’m still a laptop producer. I mean, I have a little studio in my garden, but it’s basically out of necessity, because you can’t share a pair of headphones. You need somewhere that has speakers if you’re gonna work with people in the room. But it was interesting returning to club-motivated music and dance music in a way. And it’s funny, I wouldn’t really compare this album to my first one, but I guess from an outside perspective, it’s like, “Oh, good, he’s making bops again.”

But yeah, I think it was weird being sort of on my own in my bedroom again. But it kind of encouraged me to tap into that childlike idea of, “Well, why don’t I just try and make something that I think is cool.” And you know, there’s no club to play it at, there’s no show to play at, so it released a lot of the boundaries that I maybe put on myself as a sort of person who had been touring for a long time previously, and had come to really be aware of my audience and those sorts of things. So, yeah, I always feel guilty saying like, “I actually had quite a good pandemic,” but there’re positives that are raised from it, definitely.

Since “fun” was the guiding principle for this record, how did that translate into the actual recording of this album? Were there moments that you found yourself not holding back where you otherwise would have?

Yeah, I think that idea kind of permeates the thing from its foundations. Normally, the process for me when making an album is I’ll do the artwork first and then I write a statement about what I want it to sound like, or feel like, or what the sort of cultural references are — more for the people around me’s benefit than anything else, or for the collaborators’ benefit.

But for this one, I just wrote the word “fun” in my Notes app and kind of kept referring back to that. Letting loose, letting ideas just happen and not being too concerned about what’s right and wrong — just what feels good, or what’s interesting, or what’s provocative, or what’s funny, those sorts of questions. That was much more the motivator than some kind of high concept thing. The concept was that there’s no concept, I guess.

What were some of the visual inspirations for demon time?

I mean, it’s not a very high-brow answer, but there was an image of Sonic the Hedgehog that I had remembered seeing years ago and I was like… “that seems like a cool pose.” He’s got this circular look, his shoes are kind of bending around and his hair is crazy. So that image of Sonic and the joyfulness that he’s projecting… that became a muse of mine. But also there was this idea of distortion — that’s why it’s such a wide-angle lens that we used for the photo of me, in a kind of extra-liminal space, it’s kind of dreamscape-y.

A lot of people who I’m talking to about this album seem to bring up like the whole Y2K thing and that wasn’t something conscious that I was focusing on, but aesthetically, I think the kind of late ’90s and early 2000s is really interesting, because I think back then it was still possible to imagine a really futuristic idea of what was going to happen in a positive way. But now, it’s like, “Oh, Mark Zuckerberg says that you can go to Target in the Metaverse and that’s supposed to be interesting,” or like, climate change being the biggest human catastrophe of all time — that’s the future.

But in the 2000s, it was like, “Yo, what if people had really big heads?” It was just this really joyful, extraterrestrial vibe. So yeah, I think a lot of it ended up having quite a 2000s feel to it, but it was less about the aesthetic and more about the mood of that time.

There are a ton of great collaborators on demon timeI was particularly fond of “prada (i like it)” and “Blush,” both songs that feature Leyla, who has an incredible voice. How did those tracks come together?

Yeah, Leyla is a total enigma. This might be the first time that anybody says anything about Leyla in public. Like, she’s a total unknown force. She’s an incredible songwriter and singer who was kind of scouted out of music school by some friends of mine. And we have written lots and lots of music together. But in my mind, she was still developing as an artist and I never really thought of her as a feature.

Then, in the spirit of, “Well it would just be fun,” she’s a really good singer, it doesn’t really matter that she’s an unknown entity at this point. The songs were really good. She appears twice on there and I’m really excited for people to kind of get to know her as an artist in her own right and yeah, what a way to enter the stage.

You’ve also been working a lot with PinkPantheress. How did “bbycakes” come together?

Yeah, that was kind of the turning point moment for me. That was the first thing I had made in months that wasn’t really depressing. That was the realization of like, “Oh, it’s okay to just do fun ideas and silly things that sound cool.” And yeah, just speeding up the original “Baby Cakes” song and putting this drill beat under it and then hypothesizing about what would be a knockout list of features.

I think it’s really important that Lil Uzi Vert is on that record as well. Because it creates this interesting tension between this low-key, underground UK moment and this stratospheric, triple A, American punk star. And yeah, that’s the record that I would refer to as being philosophically most in line with the ideas on the album. It’s a flip of “Baby Cakes,” but it’s a drill song. It’s like, this is already interesting, and then it’s got PinkPantheress on it, she’s the best, and Shygirl — so here are two vanguard, UK acts that are incredible, and with Lil Uzi Vert, it means we’re in hyperdrive now. That feeling around that record, it was the start of me realizing, “Okay, so I can just have fun and that’s fine.” There’s that word again.

It’s been five years now since your self-titled debut came out. If you could go back in time to making that record and give yourself advice, what would you say?

I wouldn’t say anything, because I wouldn’t want to poison the well of whatever was going when I was making that music. I don’t know, it is something I reflect on, because I’ve been in rehearsals the last few days and obviously playing songs over and over again that I made five, six years ago now, it does put you in a reflective mindset. And I think it’s nice that the more time passes, the more they sort of become time capsules of a completely different time in my life, a completely different time in the listener’s life as well.

It’s an interesting challenge that arises when you’re an artist for a while — how do you wrestle with older material not reflecting how you feel in the moment, but still being a really important part of your canon? I find myself being really happy about it, that music is still very good, and maybe I wouldn’t make that type of music now, but I love that people still love it and it’s a pleasure to be able to play it live and get people excited about something that for me, feels like a lifetime ago. But yeah, I always liken it to if somebody showed you a tweet that you wrote five years ago and they were like, “This is you?” and you’re like, “Yeah, that doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel now, but you know, I said it.”

What’s in store for Mura Masa in 2023? Another world tour, I assume?

Yeah, we got some stuff in the works. I had a crazy idea the other day to try and do a festival because basically when I make an album, it is a festival. I’m kind of pulling together and booking all these different artists and giving them platforms to sort of do their thing on. So it would make sense to do a kind of demon time festival or something. But I mean, that’s a whole sinkhole, you know. I’m gonna think about it but hopefully, that’s somehow possible. I really want to do it, I just don’t want to be bankrupt — maybe I’ll work out a way to do it in the spirit of fun.

demon time Artwork:

mura masa demon time artwork
mura masa demon time artwork

The Devilish Joy of Mura Masa’s demon time
Paolo Ragusa

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