It’s hard to think that three years ago, British multi-instrumentalist Alex Crossan A.K.A. Mura Masa released his self-titled debut album (Mura Masa) and slowly grow to be one of the UK’s sought after electronic talents, along with high profile collaborations with artists like A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX and Slowthai. Now, he’s back with his new guitar-led album Raw Youth College (R.Y.C.) and a bunch of intimate shows across the UK, including a date at the 1865 in Southampton tomorrow.
The Edge’s deputy editor, Theo Smith, caught up with Alex before his Southampton gig to chat about the new album, the intimate shows, and his university experience.
When was the moment you realised you wanted to make a new album?
I guess it was probably the end of the 2018. I went out and bought a new guitar and kind of got straight it, but it definitely took a while to reach that moment as there was a lot of mulling around before I put anything from pen to paper.
I was listening to the album before this interview and it reminded of 90s/00s band like Pavement or The Strokes. What bands inspired you in relation to this album?
Definitely the two that you just mentioned there. Slowdive, as well another band called American Football which I’m really into, but I was also influenced by slightly older bands like Joy Division and Talking Heads as well.
How did you go about picking the collaborations for this album? Was it more loose or specific?
It was definitely very specific because I tried to pick artists who would fit into the world of the album.
What exactly is that world?
It’s kind of nostalgic as I based it off a lot of music that I grew up with, as well as having some vulnerability to it because I think all of the collaborators on the album are kind of vulnerable songwriters where they write about their own life. I guess they’re writing urgent music about the current state of things too, especially Slowthai – I think he’s kind of the voice of this generation.
In terms of the instrumentation, was this album more acoustically based or electronic based?
I would say that it was much more on the side of acoustic like me playing guitar a lot, and trying to do thing as organically as possible which is a bit different from the first album. I think it’s fun to change what you’re doing and kind of grow a little bit, otherwise you know…. you’re just dying haha.
What is your style of recording?
I tend to do most things on my laptop and while there is lots of guitar on this album, I tried to keep everything lowkey as possible, so I didn’t book out a studio or buy a bunch of expensive gear.
What was the most challenging thing to record on the album?
I don’t know if it was challenging to record, but I ended up doing like 20 minutes of improvised stuff with Slowthai for ‘Deal Wiv It’. The original version of it was 20 minutes long and it’s an insane rant from him so trying to edit that down and find the best bits took quite a while.
Was ‘Deal Wiv It’ made at a very similar time to your previous collaboration, ‘Doorman’?
No, they were both recorded a couple of years apart and we made Doorman on the first time myself and Slowthai met during the first two hours of meeting, so I guess ‘Deal Wiv It’ is a sort of return to that.
Now the opposite question: what was the easiest stuff to record?
The things that came to me easily were probably the guitar riffs. I tried to keep them all quite simple and natural and to play whatever came into my head first, just to keep the process quite honest, I guess.
How different was it to recording this album and your debut (‘Mura Masa’)?
Good question. I guess that it was a different approach: the last album was made over the course of two and a half years in various locations and I made most of the music while I was touring. However, with this album, it was more about pulling up in a studio and really focusing down for like six to eight months and getting all the music done in quite a short time.
Moving onto talking about your upcoming Southampton gig – what’s different about an intimate gig in comparison to your usual show?
It’s going to be more stripped back, kind of rough-and-ready I guess, and I’ve pull together a sort of rag tag team of musicians. They’re all quite young kids and a lot of them don’t have much touring experience, but I wanted it to be kind of raw and natural. It’s really fun!
How have the rehearsals been going?
It’s been good! It took probably a good four weeks of 10 hour solid days just trying to figure how to play all of the music, get everything in place but I think we’re ready.
As The Edge is a student entertainment magazine, in your mind how does your music connect to students?
I think students are at an interesting time in their lives where they’re discovering a lot of new things, including music. I guess I’m quite young so maybe I connect to them in that way, and I went to university for about a year so I had a bit of that experience, but people are going to like whatever music they like.
Do you feel that your music was affected by your university experience?
Yeah, I think so because I grew up in Guernsey which is a really small place. However, when I went to university, I was suddenly covering all this new music as well as new sub-cultures. Most of my first album was written around that time when I would’ve been at university and out of university, so it definitely had an effect.
Finally, what are your plans after this intimate tour?
After this intimate tour, I will be going on a world tour which starts at Alexandra Palace in London and Victoria Warehouse in Manchester and the latter houses 10,000 people so it’s quite intimidating but exciting.
Alex, thanks ever so much for your time.