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Mura Masa Finds Time for His Demons

The electronic producer discusses A-list collabs, sonic instincts, and the frivolousness of genre descriptors in modern music.

by Aurora Zboch

In his own words, Mura Masa is “out here, vibing.” The electronic music producer sits at home in London ahead of playing UK’s Glastonbury Festival. Wearing a grey hoodie, he appears quite nonchalant as he embarks on a summer filled with massive shows around the world. It seems he’s emerged from a period of sadness with a completely new resolve, finding amusement in even the darkest parts. 

Mura Masa – aka Alexander Crossan – spent the last few years plotting what the perfect sound for an exuberant return to wild nights and live shows might be, resulting in his upcoming album demon time, which will arrive Sept. 16. “Demons represent aspects of ourselves that we can’t necessarily wish away. We have to get on with them like they can be cohabited with,” he says.

His inspiration was the desire to skip ahead to the post-lockdown Summer of Love sentiments of staying out late without regrets. The motivation behind all the decisions on the album came in a series of questions. “Is it fun? Does it feel mischievous? Is it exciting?” he asked himself. “It’s kind of evil, but it’s a good evil. It’s the evil we need.”

He continues, “I was ruminating on what kind of music I would like to hear in order to get to a heading for what I want to make. And I just wanted to jump the gun and skip ahead like past the introspective, What does it mean to be alone? – Just straight to, What does it mean when we come back and we’re able to gather again? and, What kind of stupid things are we going to get up to and how late are we going to stay out?”

Flipping through a book by Portuguese illustrator Ema Gaspar, who designed the colourful demonic creatures that appear on the album artwork, Mura Masa says “There’s an extraterrestrial or an otherworldly aspect to the figures, but it’s totally non-threatening.”

Mura Masa’s rise from bedroom producer to international festival headliner includes notable moments such as collaborations with Charli XCX, future funk producer Yung Bae, and a wide range of rappers including Lil Uzi Vert, Slowthai, and A$AP Rocky. His eponymous debut album was nominated for multiple Grammys in 2017. Using Ableton Live, he channels his eclectic expression to transcend Soundcloud and reach the masses.

Singer Shygirl introduced the phrase “demon time,” to Mura Masa. The phrase evokes a time of night when demonic behaviour is embraced, and its origin stems from a series of salacious early-pandemic streams on Instagram Live. He latched onto that concept immediately. “I’m just in a mode where I’m supposed to be having a good time. I’m not ready to hear any judgement or any kind of umming and ahhing about, ‘oh, is this the right thing or the wrong thing?’ I just want to make the mistake and figure it out afterwards.”

The single “bbycakes,” which Shygirl appears on, is an interpolation of the 2004 hit of similar name by 3 of a Kind. It was the first instance of Mura Masa falling in love with a song, as he very fondly remembers hearing it for the first time as a kid on television at his grandma’s house. With the group’s blessing, he made the song his own, adding new vocals and a drill beat. “I remember sitting in front of Top of the Pops and being like, ‘Baby Cakes’ is going to come on! And my grandma heard the song and she was like, ‘I don’t get it. Anyone could do that’.” Mura Masa  does an impression of her rendition. “It really stuck with me – her derision and the catchiness of the song. This is a real crystalline, circular moment,” he says. 

The hit “blessing me” was born in the final moments of a studio session from a ten-minute take with British rapper Pa Salieu. He and Mura Masa have worked together on numerous occasions, and they both have a talent for quickly conjuring ideas. This finally felt like the right opportunity to put out a track with Jamaican dancehall artist Skillibeng, whose punchlines, attitude and references make a surefire banger. The sexy groove is punctuated with fun sounds and to Tom & Jerry samples. Judging by the wave of TikTok dances, it’s a certified hit. Mura Masa smiles and says, “It makes me feel very old, but you gotta get down, man. You gotta get on board with whatever the way that kids are consuming music because the kids are alright.” 

On demon time, Mura Masa plays with more subgenres than ever in a way he describes as “instinctual.” It includes his first Spanish language track, “tonto,” featuring Isabella Lovestory. There are moments of UK garage, dancehall, 2000s pop, and eclectic electronic dance music sounds scattered throughout. “Even though it’s quite disparate in terms of genre, I mean, what does genre even mean anymore? I feel like it’s not real anymore,” he says. 

His latest single “hollaback bitch” features Channel Tres and another appearance from Shygirl. It evokes the feeling of being out late driving with the crew, stepping out in your baddest outfits and meaning business. The smooth beat melts into a drop of saxophone textures straight out of an 80s disco track, making this the soundtrack to nights out hellbent on romance and redemption. 

Mura Masa says the cohesion comes from the sonic palette, which has always been Mura Masa’s superpower. “I have folders on my computer – these are all demon time claps and these are all demon time snares.” he explains. “I made a palette of sounds and samples and synth patches and stuff first, and then used that so when we were in the process of writing, me and the guests, I already had an arsenal to draw from and I didn’t have to waste time doing that. I can just get straight to the idea.” 

He believes hanging out in person builds a connection that results in more musical ideas than working on a collaboration remotely. He typically invites collaborators into his soundproofed studio shed with a couch and speakers.  “Normally I have people around to my house. I take them to my local cafe and have a cake and a coffee and get to know them a little bit. And then we go make music in the shed. I think that’s the only way to do it,” he says. “I mean, I had a studio room down the road for a while, but I’m a profoundly lazy person and I just found that I didn’t want to leave the house at all,” Mura Masa says like a true bedroom producer. “That’s the process.”

MURA MASA’s upcoming release  – his third studio album demon time, which will arrive on September 16.  Alongside the album announcement, MURA MASA released the brand-new single “blessing me,” featuring Skillibeng and Pa Salieu