Mura Masa Gets On Demon Time As He Prepares For The Release Of His New Album
When we’re talking about some of the most defining musicians of our time, there is no doubt that 26-year-old instrumentalist and producer Mura Masa should be part of that conversation. Hailing from the small island of Guernsey, Mura Masa already has a Grammy win under his belt, alongside three other nominations, a feature in Forbes 30 Under 30, an Ivor Novello nomination and unquestionably, billions of streams. Mura Masa is this generations chameleonic curator of unparalleled sounds and sonics.
As he slowly bloomed in the industry with his first studio release Soundtrack to a Death, his self-titled album Mura Masa was one that allowed us to see an exemplary side of his skill, flare and was met with glowing reviews. With this album also marking his first huge US collaboration with rap heavyweight A$AP Rocky on ‘love$ick’, he switched musical avenues with his 2020 project R.Y.C which fell into an angsty and punk-filled mélange for this generation’s youth.
It would only make sense that his fondness for friend and collaborator Slowthai formed in this way. As he touches on the creation of ‘Doorman’, he also mentions his strong bonds, that’ll continue to thrive throughout the duration of his career with PinkPantheress and Shygirl alike. Mura Masa recounted working with the incredibly prestigious Damon Albarn, musical legend Nile Rogers and fills us in with his love for dance music as well as his current obsession with Beyoncé’s latest single ‘Break My Soul’.
“If you think you know what you’re gonna get with me, you’re probably wrong.” He affirms us. And that is exactly what we love about Mura Masa: his unapologetic and unique nature of producing art that will surprise and excite us time and time again. With his next album, Demon Time, bubbling away in a melting pot of pure fun, his chatter allowed us to have a peek into a world that he is creating: mischief, misbehaviour and bangers that’ll soundtrack that midnight to 6AM fuckery.
Journalist - Shenead Poroosotum ( @shexead ) Creative Director - Derrick Odafi ( @esco_boomin ) Production Manager - Efosa Idubor-Williams ( @iamfo_will ) Photographer - Amy Peskett ( @amypeskett ) D.O.P - Sami Zubri ( @samizubri ) Gaffer - Omar Sultan ( @omarw.sultan ) Stylist - Seyon Amosu ( @theofficialseyon ) Hair Stylist - Aaliyah Sanchez ( @aaliyahsanchez ) MUA - Amie Harfield ( @muahlondon ) Production Assistant - Shorayi Mauluka ( @sshorayi ) Production Assistant - Shenead Poroosotum ( @shexead ) BTS Photographer - Bijoux ( @b__joux )
New Wave: Hi Mura Masa! How are you doing?
Mura Masa: I feel very lucky. Just putting music out, about to go play Glastonbury, doing a sick interview. Very good!
NW: Nice! So, you're on tour right now and you performed at Primavera recently, isn't it? This is your next big slot! This Glastonbury is the first one since COVID, right?
MM: Yeah, I think all the tickets say 2020 on them, because they just were using the same ones which is kind of trippy. Yeah, it's like the ‘Summer of Love’ one where everyone's going mental.
NW: What's something that you missed about performing and being on tour?
MM: I think it's just gratifying, like playing the music in real life super loud. It’s very easy to create memories to music at live shows and I miss being able to do that with people. Yeah, because touring is quite a schlep. It's quite hard work, but that kind of that makes it all worth it. [laughs]
NW: You do for the fans, man.
MM: Yeah, it's for my wonderful fans! No, but seriously, it is an important part of having a musical project. And it's been really cool to see. People are really eager because they’ve missed it. So, that's been fun.
NW: Have you had any standout or favourite moments whilst being on stage?
MM: There was a Coachella that I played years ago now where we had a different guest brought out for every song. We had Charli XCX, A$AP Rocky, Tom Tripp, Desiigner, Cosha… Just so many guests and I feel like that will never ever happen again. It was proper like stars aligning. We had people arriving on planes, and I would be told “Rocky is here, do the Rocky song now!” it was hectic. That’s a standout moment for sure.
NW: That’s insane! They would never do that in England, we can’t even get people through the border.
MM: I've got a few people showing up at Glastonbury, which would be really exciting. I've got Shygirl coming out and Pa Salieu. I was going to bring Slowthai out if I can find him because apparently he's just there as a punter. So, if we can find him and bring him on stage it should be very exciting.
NW: When you have people that collaborate with you on stage, as well as it being a crazy experience for the fans, do you find that you learn more being with them on stage whether as a musician, producer or just as a person?
MM: Yeah, for sure. It's interesting having to try and adapt to everyone's performance style. Because, you know, Slowthai is very different from Nao or Christine and the Queens… Everyone’s kind of got their own thing that you have to play into. But that's kind of my favourite part of it; being adaptive and being able to curate different performance styles. But it's so interesting every time you have a different guest on stage, you kind of get a little window into what makes them a star, almost. It's like, particularly with someone like Slowthai, he comes out and it’s like Michael Jackson just walked out or something and everyone’s suddenly ready to beat each other up and have the best time. [Laughs]
NW: Yeah, and just mosh. I feel like his music is very much something you need to mosh to.
MM: Some people just bring my expectations with them as soon as they appear on stage, and I find that really interesting.
NW: I wanted to talk about you personally because I feel like a lot of people know who you are, but they don’t really know who you are. I saw that you’re originally from Guernsey so what has your journey been like compared to now? Is there anything you would have changed?
MM: Nah, I wouldn't change anything that happened. But there was one thing that I wished I had realised sooner. I always felt… coming from a really small place that people hadn't heard of and being a bit of an outsider in that sense, particularly when I moved to London — I didn’t have any school friends who I was working with or wasn’t part of a clique or anything to work my way in. But I’ve actually come to realise that the outsider perspective is so interesting. And it offers something really unique that people really yearn for. I just wish I had realised that sooner and that it’s okay being from somewhere that isn’t poppin’ music-wise. And actually, the people I gravitate towards more often now are people who are from more remote places or kind of quieter places than London for sure. I wouldn’t change anything about the process. I’m a believer of ‘it happened as it happened’ and you know, that’s it.
NW: Everything happens for a reason! When talking about one of your first projects Soundtrack to a Death, what did that project in particular do for your growth and confidence as a budding artist?
MM: I'm trying to remember what the rationale was at the time. I just wanted to make loads of beats and kind of bring them together in a mixtape-y way. And, at the time I had been growing a bit of a SoundCloud following, this was pretty early SoundCloud days, and I was sending music to blogs and getting posted occasionally… that sort of thing. And then, just around that time I think putting a body of work like that out just solidified my presence as someone who wasn't just dropping the odd single or doing edits on SoundCloud. It established me as more of an artist I guess, which is a difficult transition to make for producers. At that time, the producer/artist paradigm was dominated by your Calvin Harris’s, your Mark Ronson’s, and people that were a bit shinier and more established in the electronic dance or pop world. So, I remember feeling early on that it was very important to transition out of that solely online presence and into something a bit more real. Not that one’s better than the other, I think that both are important. I really wanted to do vinyl for Soundtrack to a Deathand things like that. That just established me in a bit more of a real-world sense but, yeah. I had my first UK radio plays off that mixtape and it was definitely a turnkey moment for me.
NW: I feel like even though like your previous album releases steadily did really good numbers the more you became known, your self-titled 2017 album Mura Masa was the one that just completely blew out of the water. Especially because of the collaboration with A$AP Rocky on the remix of ‘love$ick’that I don’t think anyone saw coming. What would you say is probably one of your fondest memories of creating that project?
MM: Well, on the subject of Rocky, I think I owe him a lot because he was one of the first triple A-star gatekeepers who was like ‘You know what, I fuck with this guy. I’m gonna give him a chance. I don’t know anything about him, but I really liked that instrumental so let’s hang out.’ And you know full credit to him for putting me on in that way. So, we recorded at Abbey Road Studios because I was really trying to impress him. It’s funny, I booked Abbey Road and then he came in and was like “What are we doing here? What’s your connection to Abbey Road?” and I was like “I just thought it would be cool because of The Beatles…” and he said “Okay but next time I want to see your ends and I want to be in the shit studio.” [laughs] and I thought well, that’s interesting, that says a lot about you! But we spent most of the time talking about fashion and how he can’t do runways because he’s too short, even though he’s not short but he’s not like 6’7” or however tall you need to be on the runway. We talked about Virgil Abloh, Tame Impala, LSD, psychedelics, and things like that. And then we did a little bit of music-making on the side [laughs] and assembled the song that way. That moment of him trusting me and putting me on definitely clicked a lot of the other collaborations into place, because we were kind of begging it a little bit with other people. We were trying to be like, ‘Come on, I promise you want to be on this album, this is really good, it's going to be exciting…’ But then as soon as the Rocky thing became apparent, suddenly everyone was like, ‘Okay, Rocky thinks he’s cool.’ So, credit to him. That was a good moment.
NW: As you were talking about how you booked Abbey Road Studios, when it comes to recording, do you prefer to use a professional studio? Or do you like having like your ‘shitty home studio’? Not to say that your home studio is shit!
MM: Oh, it is. It’s intentionally not shiny at all! [laughs] Actually, I'm a big believer in limitation driving art. So, that's what was funny about the Abbey Road thing, is that once we heard that Rocky's got a spare two or three hours between whatever he was doing as it was Fashion Week, I was kind of, you know, panicking and like, ‘Okay, let's book the most iconic studio and blah, blah, blah’ only then for him to walk in straightaway and say“What are we doing here?” It really taught me that you don't need crazy resources, you just need people who are really good at what they do, and you can flourish in any environment. I still work off my laptop exclusively. Maybe I'll use one or two bits of gear for certain sounds or spend a day or two in a studio with lots of gear just harvesting samples and making melodies and stuff. But the core relationship I have with creating and working is still based in that laptop/bedroom-y style thing. And I want to keep that the same, as long as it's kind of interesting.
NW: Going off on that as well, aside from a lot more people wanting to collaborate with you, how else did things change for you as a musician, producer or maybe even in other ways?
MM: I think it took a long time for the meaning and the success of that album to properly affect my life and my career, retrospectively. I've always been sort of low-key, embarrassed to exist in a very British way. [laughs] Like, it's not about me. So, I don't think I fully took advantage or realised what that meant for me at the time. It was only much later that it became apparent that I thought ‘Actually you know what, that album did very well and formed a lot of opportunities.’ But at the time, I felt that it was just nice to be making really good music with people who I really love. And that's still true now, that hasn't really changed.
NW: You also collaborated with Damon Albarn who is one of the most prestigious British musicians of all time which must have been so exciting. Was there anything that you adopted from working with him that you use now?
MM: That's a great question. That's a much better question than just asking ‘What was it like?’ because obviously the answer is amazing, it was crazy! [laughs] I think the significance of him agreeing to be on that first album can't be understated really, because the first album I ever bought was Demon Days by Gorillaz. That was the first CD I ever went out and bought with my pocket money. And what he does with Gorillaz is so curatorial. It's like, he's taking influence from all sorts of worlds and kind of gathering this cast of characters and making really interesting pop music that can't really be defined. If you try and ask what kind of music Gorillaz is, you’re kind of at a loss. It’s just Gorillaz. Sometimes it's rap music, pop music, dance music, ballads… so, his influence on me is still super prevalent.
Originally, he had asked me to come in and listen to some Gorillaz stuff a couple of albums ago and ask, ‘What do you think?’ or to work on it a little bit. But that didn't really end up going anywhere. I think we just had different ideas of what we wanted to do. But in the course of doing that, I had sent him this song that I had written, and he really liked it and responded to it. But I think the key thing that I learned from him was hanging around with him in the studio and realising that he's got a really amazing way of tapping into a childlike kind of process of improvisation. And you can hear that on ‘Song 2’ by Blur, there’s not really any lyrics. There's a demo vocal that they use, it’s just the feeling of it and it's obviously the first thing that came out of his mouth. Watching him do that made me realise that one of the greatest things you can do as an artist is turn your brain off and really rely on your instincts, and he's a genius at doing that. I've been trying to hone that skill ever since hanging out with him.
NW: What about with Nile Rodgers?
MM: Crazy! Crazy good and crazy cool. You could tell him ‘That’s a nice hat.’ And he'll be like, ‘you know, I was wearing this hat in 1972 when I was writing, let's dance with David Bowie…’ [laughs] He's got a some crazy story for everything. He's the same kind of person, where he's not thinking too hard about what he's doing, just really trusting his instincts and trusting that what comes out of his brain is what people want to hear. And you can hear it in really good music. You can hear people making it up as they go along in the song. He was super kind to me and just like overly nice. He said some very nice things about me in interviews when we were working together. And again, I grew up on Chic and Sister Sledge and things like that. He's like, the ultimate minimalist and arranger so again, that’s the GOAT. When you when you line it up, back-to-back, I've just been super privileged to be able to even hang out with some of these people. But it's not lost on me how great it is to be able to pick these people’s brains a little bit.
NW: When it comes to the art of producing itself, I feel like there wasn’t as much appreciation for producers in the early 2000s as there is now. What would you say are some processes or concepts that people take for granted?
MM: It's really hard to talk about it because it's so ill-defined. It's like, sometimes… Now with the prevalence of hip-hop, a lot of times, there's a beat that a producer makes. And by beat, I mean drums, chords, song, structure, everything, and then the songwriter or the rapper, whoever, kind of goes on top of it. So, you could argue that the producer is kind of in charge of the genesis of the idea. But sometimes songwriters come in with chords and written songs and the producer’s job is to curate that and turn that into a song. I think the reason why it's very hard for the listening public to get a handle on what a producer does is because it's quite complicated and quite multifaceted. It can mean a few different things. Like you've got the whole range from people like Pharrell, who not only does the beats, the song writing, records but he records the hooks himself and writes quite often the rap or the melody or whatever. So, he's kind of doing everything. And then you've got DJ Khaled, who you'd also call a producer, but who essentially is not mechanically involved with the making song at all. He's like an A&R person who links the dots and puts good rappers on beats. You could call him a producer as well.
I think it’s a really difficult question to answer, but soundbite-wise, I think it's a producer's job to write the instrumental. When you hear music, you would think, ‘Okay, the producer is in charge of the instruments and the drums, and the singer is in charge of the top line.’ That’s a super simple way of putting it. I think it's interesting what you're saying about the early 2000s, because I think guys like Pharrell or Timberland, people like that, having their voice present on the song physically saying things, or Pharrell in ‘Grindin'’ by Clipse: “The world is about to feel something that they’ve never felt before.” Suddenly, there's a presence on the track for the producer, and I think that is really seminal. And it's really important for producers now. That was an important moment where it was like, what do you mean, there's another person involved? I thought it was just the rapper, or whoever. And also Kanye’s transition from producer to artist, that's important as well.
NW: I guess you would say that was kind of like the birth of the producer tag.
MM: The tag thing is really interesting, because it arose out of necessity. People were selling beat packs and if it didn't have a tag on, somebody might use it, or it might just not be credited to you. I think now it's used as a sort of marketing or branding exercise. But it's interesting that it arose from that utility, that you need to plaster your tag on the beat so that people know. It’s super interesting.
NW: When it comes to your collaborations, everyone has their own style and way that they work as a musician. Do you have any defining moments of bringing an artist out of their comfort zone whilst collaborating with you?
MM: Yeah, I try and do that every time and that’s what I see my job as. I think it’s the invisible part of what a really good producer does. Someone like Rick Rubin, you know, a lot of his job isn't just technically recording the song or making the beat, it’s kind of talking to the artist and getting them to realise things about themselves or pushing them to write about something that is uncomfortable or whatever. It's bit hard when you're not Rick Rubin. He's like, 50 and works out Shangri-La Studio, in LA, wears no shoes and has a massive beard. [laughs] He’s this zen curatorial figure. I'm 26, so I can't quite come with that authority over people. But I think part of the reason that this whole project exists is getting people to step into my world a little bit. I step into their world and what comes out is maybe something thing that neither of us would have done individually, but together it kind of adds up to this interesting middle ground. Slowthai is a really good example because the first time we met, I said to him ‘Shouldn't you be making punk music though? You're like a punk.’ And he was like, ‘Well, I never thought of it like that.’ He was still thinking of himself as a rapper, or sort of Keith Flint-esque figure. And then we made ‘Doorman’ the first time that we met in about two hours. And I thought this feels very correct. This feels like exactly the kind of thing that you should be doing. And that was a destination that both of us were interested in getting through. I was starting to get really interested in punk music and guitar music and he was obviously looking for something a bit more interesting than a typical rap beat to go over. That's a great example of two people kind of meet in the middle out of each other's comfort zones. And what you get is a really interesting track. It feels obvious now in retrospect, Slowthai – Doorman. At that time, he was making things like ‘T N Biscuits’ and all that amazing stuff that came before. But I think it's really interesting to be able to push people in ways that are unexpected for both parties.
NW: For sure! I feel like with your 2020 album R.Y.C, that was more of a transitional album for you as well. We moved a little bit way from electro and more into indie rock because of the collaborations like with Wolf Alice, Slowthai and Clairo. With a 2000s Britpop vibe all the way through, were you listening to more of that sort of music at the time? Was there anyone in particular that spurred you to make that?
MM: I think at the time, I was just noticing the revitalisation of guitar music and the guitar scene. Particularly, there's a label called Speedy Wunderground, who’ve released with Black Country, New Road and Black Midi. There's a little scene that populated around Windmill in Brixton that felt like to me what CBGB’s (Country, BlueGrass and Blues) was to punk in the 80s. And then I just found in my own listening habits that I was going back to The Stranglers and Iggy Pop. I naturally kind of just took notice of that and I thought maybe that's the exciting new place to kind of take it. I feel like that punky tempo is really prevalent now in pop music even with Lil Nas X songs or ‘STAY’ by The Kid LAROI with Justin Bieber - that's essentially a pop-punk song. Or Machine Gun Kelly suddenly deciding to pivot to pop-punk and having a number one album, that sort of thing. So, I think I was right about it. But more so than that, I think second albums are just really difficult, especially when you've had a first album that is quite successful and quite widely listened to. And I just wanted to do a left turn and just be like, ‘Look, if you think I'm just going to do that over and over again, that's not going to happen.’ And I think, to some cost to my own fans, that's not what a lot of people wanted to hear from me. But I thought it was important to put that statement out there. If you think you know what you're gonna get from me, you're probably wrong. A bit of intentional self-sabotage born out of passion. I love that album. A lot of people that I work with now say to me that that album was when they first started getting into me, and that there are a lot of great tracks on there.
NW: We really love that you meet up and work with some really interesting voices that follow the same musical values as your own. One of my favourite tracks that came out this year was ‘bbycakes’ with Shygirl, PinkPantheress and Lil Uzi Vert. I think a lot of people didn’t expect that mix of people on a track either, but it worked really well! Was that something that was planned? Or did that come together organically?
MM: It took a long time to get that together. Originally, at some point during lockdown, I made the beat and flipped the ‘Babycakes’ song. And then I thought well, if I want features on this, the obvious thing to do would be to go for UK features and make it a big UK thing. But the cornerstone of this being really interesting would be to have a massive US rapper on it, who might not even know what ‘Babycakes’ is as a record and the history of it. That's when Uzi came into the conversation. The idea on this new record is just to do things that are outrageous, fun, tongue-in-cheek, and mischievous. Having those three features on one record that samples ‘Babycakes’; you don't even need to listen to it to get the idea of how fun it is. You can describe it to someone, and they’d be like, what the hell are you talking about? And I'm so glad it had that effect because that was kind of by design!
NW: I wanted to touch on your relationship with PinkPantheress. You produced her track ‘Just for me’ off her debut EP to hell with it, but also co-produced the track ‘Where you are’ featuring WILLOW with Skrillex. What was something that you saw in her that made you want to work with her?
MM: She is so sharp, so intelligent, and just very inspirational to me. How she thinks about music and the decision-making process that goes into advising, is super interesting. And we figured out that we only live 15 minutes away from each other so, it was quite a natural hanging out process. The first time we met, we talked a lot about Panic! At The Disco because we both love them. There was a lot of interesting coincidental linkups like that where it was just like, okay, we're speaking the same language, in terms of our influences and stuff. I think she's so refreshing in terms of her taste and her attitude to what makes good music. She's quite punky in a sense, having the super short songs with owning the one chorus on them and things like that. How she was leaking her own music on TikTok and stuff, it’s quite counterculture, which I really love. But I think the chief thing is just song writing. She's such an amazing lyricist and she writes amazing melodies. You can see her making decisions intentionally that are really interesting. She's just a complete vibe.
NW: I guess one of the best parts about collaborating with all these people is making close connections along the way who are going to be by your side throughout your career. It’s not just something you’re doing for a label or whoever, it’s genuine.
MM: I guess it's like anything else. You meet a lot of people and some people you just click with, and those relationships endure even outside of the context of making music. Me and Thai, for example, and I keep talking about him because I just love him, we hang out a lot more than we make music. We still make music together, but it’s taken on the mantle of friendship more so than collaboration. It’s the same with PinkPantheress and the same as Shygirl. There's definitely these characters that I'm working alongside that I'm just super invested in on a personal level. I'm just like, you're brilliant and I want to see you do really well, as a friend. That's one of my favourite parts of the position I find myself in; just being able to hang out with these amazing, talented people.
NW: Let’s talk about your next album Demon Time, which is due to be released in September this year. You’ve released the track list and features too, so how does this project differ from your previous releases? Did you try and do something different with the album?
MM: Yeah, for sure. I'm quite a premeditated person and I'm quite detail-oriented. I like to plan something and then execute the vision. There was a bit of that on this release, but the difference between this and the old stuff was that a lot of it was process-wise. What I really wanted to do musically was during the during the lockdown era, I think a lot of people were making quite introspective music and soundtracking how they were feeling, and very validly trying to therapise through this hugely traumatic group event. I started playing with trying to do that and then I was like, that's not really what people want from me, that's not the purpose that the music from this project serves. I started thinking ahead to what happens when this is starting to normalise itself again and people can go out again? Surely there's going be a huge pendulum swing the other way towards blind hedonism and fun. Once I decided that, I started really leaning into the idea of not thinking too hard about what you’re doing and just doing it. The only questions you're really answering yourself is ‘Is it fun? Is this exciting? Is the idea fun?’ You know, ‘Is it fun at its bones? Is there a bit of mischief to it?’ hence, PinkPantheress Shygirl, Uzi, Babycakes, those kinds of decisions. Before, I would mood board, heavily lean into a concept and try and execute it in a very efficient way. Conceptually this time, I was working as quickly and as mischievously as possible to come up with a bunch of fun music. I kind of did the opposite this time and made a sonic palette of drums and synth patches and things like that. So, when the moment came when I was with people in the studio, I wasn't overthinking about whether a snare sounds Demon Time-y. Or is that synth right? Because it was all already there so, I could just throw stuff into the project and it was all predestined. That is a very roundabout kind of philosophical answer to the question. But I think you can hear it in the music where the intention of it is quite clear. These are supposed to be bangers to soundtrack the midnight to six AM fuckery. [laughs]
NW: As you said earlier about with the album and the way you work, a lot of it is premeditated. You take details into consideration, even physical copies. What do you personally try to do differently?
MM: That's an interesting question. And that question kind of permeates the whole process from top to bottom doesn't it? Because if I feel like I'm doing something that somebody else would do, or lots of people have done before then to me, it's a wrong answer. I'm not really contributing anything or at least trying to push the envelope a little bit. And that goes for everything. Music, artwork, the way the live show is, the merch… This time round, we're doing jewellery for the merch which has been such a crazy process trying to do. And the result of it is just this crazy thing that I’ve not seen anyone else do. That goes for everything across the board on this project. The art direction has been so fun and trying to come up with things that are just mental and that make you kind of go ‘He did what?’ I guess every step in the process I’ve been checking myself and asking ‘How interesting is this? Does it serve a utility that is forward thinking?’ And that is reflected in my tastes I think, that's just the kind of person I am.
NW: With a few of your more recent releases, we’ve seen you edge towards working with rappers a lot more such as the track ‘blessing me’ with Pa Salieu and Skillibeng. What did working with them bring out of you?
MM: I think the chief thing that comes when I’m working with these kinds of people is the excitement about them and what they're doing. The question isn't ‘What can I get out of working with this person?’ or ‘What can I bring to them?’ – it's ‘How can I serve what they do and how can I help to create a kind of playground or a stage for them to be their best in line to do their best work?’ It's a respect thing. I appreciate the position of being able to work with them and think ‘How can I create an environment for them to do really, really fucking good work?’ That's chiefly what I'm thinking. I think that's an important question as a producer, especially when I feel like a lot of producer/artists are really obsessed with putting themselves alongside the artist and saying they’re just as important. And because of what we talked about earlier, and how difficult it is to explain what a producer actually does, or how like ephemeral the nature of it is, that's just never going to be the case. You're not going to look at me standing next to Pa Salieu and think, wow, both of those people are equally exciting. [laughs] Obviously Pa is, so how do I serve that? How do I offer something that you wouldn't get elsewhere? Or how do I work really hard to see what it is about him that is special?
NW: So, what sorts of pressures do you get doing what you do? What sorts of challenges come with it?
MM: I think the only pressure that I really put on myself consistently is that this has to be very good work. And if it isn't, then it's not even worth doing. That can be a difficult question to contend with because as an artist, as someone who's putting creative output out there, not everything you do is going to be genius. It can be quite difficult to not get too in your head thinking ‘I've got this person in the room, oh my God, we have to do something amazing.’ Because that really can destroy your confidence, you know? But other than that, I'd say sometimes there's a certain responsibility that comes with being in a privileged position. I've been given the opportunity to work with this person, you know? How do I do that the best way possible? How do I give them what they need, as well as what I want out of it? But ultimately, pressure-wise, I just recognise that it's a huge position of privilege. And I'm super lucky to be able to have the opportunity to even be in the same conversation as a lot of these people. It's constantly humbling.
NW: When it comes to dance and electronic music, we just had Drake release his album Honestly, Nevermind as well as Beyoncé’s new single ‘Break My Soul’. Would you say you’ve been able to bring emotion to dance music or how have other artists been able to do that successfully?
MM: I was hoping we would talk about this! I’ll put it this way, dance music or what we've termed dance music in the past like 20 to 30 years has been very whitewashed. I feel like we lost some of the core element and sold what the original guys from Detroit and places like that brought to it. It's kind of misframed to be like, oh, you need to put emotion into dance music. Dance music is emotional. At its root is its celebration. It's like catharsis, you know? And that was always true, but I think at some point along the way, the big profit machine was like, yeah, this is for like people to be at festivals and get really high to. I think at some point the idea of dance music, being emotional, got washed out by this idea that it belongs at massive festivals. It's such a good profit machine because a single person can make dance music and a single person can play live with a USB stick. It's so profitable and it's been taken advantage of, I think. Without getting into the race politics too much, because it's not really my thing to speak on, it is so important that Beyoncé released ‘Break My Soul’ because it's just like, finally! We're seeing some reclamation, that's what it's supposed to be. I love that song so much, it's so good.
NW: So, tell me, what did you think of the Drake album?
MM: Too political, couldn’t possibly comment. [laughs] No, I love the production. I love the selection, it’s amazing. And it's really interesting that he's obviously doubling down on these dance sub genres. Because it's not all house music, there's some like Baltimore club, there's some Jersey club in there… It's super interesting. And it sounds to me like he made it quite quickly, which I rate. I think that's quite interesting. Having Black Coffee executive produce is genius. I think a lot of people don't like it at the moment and everybody who says that to me, I'm just like ‘First of all, you're wrong. Second of all, you do love it, you just don't know it yet. In three months, you're going to be singing all the bits!’ That's kind of what he does, though isn't it? It’s super interesting that him and Beyonce lined up on that dance music moment because it makes me very excited. But very scared because it gives so many people permission to make like, crappy piano house.
NW: I think the fact that Drake tries to touch into a little bit of everything is great and it shows his versatility. Him releasing this album had a lot of backlash from people saying that he was trying too hard to be KAYTRANADA. It’s like that’s the only perception people really have of mainstream house.
MM: This is what I mean about dance culture being so out of whack. I shouldn't drop any names, but people think of a certain type of white dude when they think about EDM. But they should be thinking about Omar-S and Steve Poindexter. But that will come, I think. That's why I'm excited for this Beyoncé record and the Drake album is a good opportunity for a) people to get their heads in the game and realise that dance music is a black art form, and b) you've totally got your head in the sand if you think KAYTRANADA is the only guy making house music. He’s one of the best making it and he's developed such a personal style that is referenced constantly by all sorts of people. But there's so much more out there, and it's exciting that Beyoncé and Drake are the two biggest artists in the world platforming that. It's so interesting, I've been talking about ‘Break My Soul’ every day since it came out and had so many great conversations about it.
NW: I think it's really interesting that she did that, and coincidental that the both of them released something dance-focused in a short space of time between each other.
MM: I've put it I put it down to exactly the motivation by my next album. She's probably been sitting on that song for a couple of years but it's only now that like we're getting it. You know, it’s the first Glastonbury in three years, things are happening again, and this is the music for that. You won’t break my soul, release your job… It's anti-capitalist in a way and super interesting. Crazy record. And it's written by The-Dream and Tricky Stewart who are the single ladies crew so, it was just like set to be so iconic. I love it so much.
NW: I had to mention it! But also, we know you’re a big fan of UK underground music, too. What are some of the main differences you hear with young artists these days compared to the ones you grew up with?
MM: It's important to know that I'm not actually from the UK. So, I would have been enjoying these things from an outsider perspective. But it's interesting to me now, just because of globalisation and the way social media works. There are a lot of UK people who are ‘big men on campus’ in the UK, and then they slightly try and Americanise their music, with some dream of crossing over. But there's essentially a language barrier. If an American hears a London accent or a regional UK accent, they just kind of switch off. It's on them though, being ignorant, but it's really hard to cross over. I think a lot of people are Americanising their own music almost for no reason and they should be bedding in on what makes them special and what makes them UK centric. There's very few and far between underground UK artists that have the potential to crossover just by sheer luck of their accents being acceptable or like the music they make being interesting enough. I think amongst those are the ones that I try and work with. Shy, Thai, PinkPantheress… It's very hard for a UK artist to have crossover appeal in that way. But then there's so many underground UK artists who are playing the O2 Arena in London, then they go to Amsterdam and play a 300-capacity venue. I think it's so hard to break out and there's very tense internal UK drama where everyone's looking at each other, copying each other, trying to compete locally when really, they should be thinking about their audience and expansion.
NW: With issue XI focusing on the theme of luminance so, the intensity of light being emitted, we wanted to ask you what you think links yourself as an artist with our theme?
MM: I think rather than see myself as a provider of light, I think I would see myself as the battery or something where I'm trying to make people shine as much as possible in new exciting ways that they couldn't imagine. So, I'm the curatorial wall-plug and the… I’m the plug, rather than a direct source of light, I think I'm trying to help people to shine.