Hailing from Guernsey - a titchy little Channel island just off the coast of France - Mura Masa grew up with zero reference points. Armed with a dodgy dial-up connection, and a copy of Ableton, he, real name Alex Crossan, found himself swotting up on Eastern Asian instrumentation, and trawling YouTube for production tutorials in every second of his spare time. Over the past few years, he’s become the sort of producer who whacks strange orchestra arrangements on top of radio singles without a second thought. It’s bagged him a well earned spot in the Beeb’s Sound of 2016 poll, sharing joint fifth place with WSTRN.
“I was actually with Nao the day we found out,” Alex says. Having collaborated with her on ‘Firefly’ - which clashes addictive bass-judders with chiming pentatonics - for his latest EP ‘Someday Somewhere,’ Mura Masa was with the Class of 2016 star on the road the day the shortlist was announced. “We went for Mexican,” he laughs, remembering the guacamole-filled celebrations.
"Guernsey's a lovely place, but the music scene is quite limited.”
— Mura Masa
If there’s one thing Mura Masa has managed to set right so far, it’s his role in kickstarting the flute solo revival. His left-of-field pop banger, ‘Love For That’ (a collaboration with Shura) brought a haze of rich string sections and thumb pianos to mainstream radio, and across the board, his music leaves no potential influence unexplored. It’s something Alex puts down to growing up in the middle of nowhere. Guernsey might boast a shit-ton of cows, and some fairly snazzy blue post boxes, but it’s hardly renowned as a being a thriving musical hub. As a teenager hungry for music, he had to get creative with his reference points.
“That’s exactly how I felt. Growing up without any source of culture or diversity; there’s not really much of anything in Guernsey.” He pauses, before rephrasing slightly. “It’s a lovely place,” he revises, “but the music scene is quite limited.”
The turning point arrived when Alex - having taught himself to produce - stumbled across TNGHT’s music. “Maybe that’s just me being ignorant, but it was the first time I was exposed to exciting electronic-based bedroom producer style stuff,” he says. Lunice and Hudson Mohawke’s gaudy spin-off trap project was a massive turning point for Mura Masa. Though his musical melting point remained just as varied and disparate, his beats became larger, bolder, and crisper.
“I want to move away from the bangers, make something really intentional.”
— Mura Masa
“Chiefly the first thing was we all found each other, and we all dug what the other was doing,” he explains, speaking about how he wound up working with the bursting roll-call of hotly-tipped new artists in the credits of his ‘Someday Somewhere’ EP. Along with Nao, he also collaborated with Denai Moore and Jay Prince. “It wasn’t a complicated process collaborating, it was more jam sessions than anything else, just coming up with ideas,” Alex says. “Jay Prince I never actually met before the track came out,” he adds. “That was just over email. It’s a testament to how the 21st Century works,” he laughs.
Currently holed up in the depths of Oxfordshire, in the process of penning his debut album proper, Mura Masa might be where he is because of connecting with things online, but isolation still has a special place in his heart. Expecting the record to come out towards the end of summer - all being well - Alex has one main goal on his mind these days. “I want to move away from the bangers,” he claims, “make something really intentional.”
Considering the immediacy of everything Alex produces - slashing like electronic swords in line with his Japanese namesake - Mura Masa isn’t just about bangers, though they’re certainly there in his repertoire. Increasingly Alex Crossan is writing music that leaves razor-sharp, lasting cuts, instead.
Mura Masa is currently working on his debut album. His new single 'What If I Go?' is out now.