January 11, 2020
He’s the in-demand producer who has worked with BTS and Chic, so why has Alex Crossan left it all behind for grungy guitars?
Mura Masa: on why hes swapped sunny pop for moody nostalgia
In a cramped south London rehearsal space, producer Mura Masa, AKA Alex Crossan, is quietly losing the plot. Takeaway boxes and empty bottles rest on crates full of wires, while a small rug added for ambience is covered in upended cardboard boxes. Heat, meanwhile, is provided by two whirring laptops, their screens full of chunky colour bars representing something technical Crossan doesn’t even attempt to explain. The 23-year-old only got back from Asia yesterday, marking the end of a tour in support of 2017’s Grammy-nominated, self-titled debut, which saw him collaborate with A$AP Rocky, Damon Albarn and Christine and the Queens. Now he’s got to figure out how to play his forthcoming new album RYC (Raw Youth Collage) with a full band, hence the place looking like an unmanned stockroom.
While that sun-dappled first album poked and prodded at the pop zeitgeist, fusing tropical house and trap while joining the dots between Disclosure and Jamie xx, its grungier follow-up offers a sonic volte face. Out go the uplifting bangers and in come dense guitars – fuelled by his childhood obsessions with bands such as Joy Division, Talking Heads and Blur – and a lyrical heaviness that reflects, well, 2020. “[My debut] was about pop music, essentially, but trying to come at it from an oblique angle,” Crossan says, perched precariously on a cardboard box. “I think in the past five years that grand obelisk of ‘pop music’ has been destroyed, because as the next generation come in they’re really not interested in genres. Anything can become pop.” He also sees the lyrical themes of this new, looser kind of “pop” shifting, too. “I think there’s a real appetite for vulnerability and emotional transparency. We’ve had a good decade of ‘Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care’ and people are like: ‘This isn’t reflective of what’s happening geopolitically any more.’” He smiles knowingly at that last bit. “They want something that connects to the world they’re living in, and I think there’s something about the guitar that’s really expressive.”
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