MASTER PEACE: GET TO KNOW THE NEW FACE OF UK POP ROCK
Master Peace Is exactly the artist we need to help revitalise the UK’s waning Punk presence on festival line ups and award shows. For those not familiar with his latest album Public Display Of Affection his sound can best be described as fusing the free flowing self expressionistic attitude of the Sex Pistols with the pocket control and lyrical playfulness of JME. Throughout the album, Master Peace masterfully pulls pieces of his past as a fire breathing grime MC and elements of his diehard passion for punk pop to craft a one-of-a-kind sound that is both forward thinking and nostalgic.
He and contemporaries like Wet Leg, SAULT, Mac Wetha and Biig Piig are helping to breathe new life into an alternative rock/pop scene that puts real instrumentation and originality at the core of its creations. Following the release of Public Display Of Affection, Master Peace has returned to the stage at Boardmasters festival, performed alongside Kenny Hoopla, attended Skepta’s All In launch, all while writing a soulful followup single titled ‘Eyes On You’. We sat down with Master Peace to look back on his roots in UK grime, break down the ins-and-outs of PDA, and uncover his love of the Busted era.
First off my guy, just checking in, how has the last year or so been for you as a creative? How has it been trying to stay inspired and creating during this time?
It’s been really hard, my whole thing revolves around being a live in-person artist so I feel like I’ve really had to adjust and maintain a sense of keeping my head afloat. I’ve just tried to stay on top of everything I’ve got going on, whether it’s the music or the content. I’ve definitely had to reevaluate how I listen too and create music as well, which I believe actually really helps the music as I’m no longer crafting the music for the purpose of bringing energy to a live context but rather really focusing on the intricacies of how it sounds.The lockdown allowed me to think “okay cool, i need to change this and keep this other thing” in order to craft a really good body of work. It gave me a whole lot of time…maybe a little too much…to really focus on the music and gain a lot of confidence.
You recently jumped back on stage at Boardmasters, how was it being in front of the fans again? Was it your first chance to play ‘Overdrive’, ‘Chemicals’ and ‘Eyes On You’ live?
Yer man totally, that was my first time ever playing them live because I didn’t have any of them before the lockdown. It was a crazy reaction, everyone was going off, it was a bit surreal but i was too busy being gassed to think about it. The whole build up to it I was just thinking ”Let’s Go!” having been waiting for this moment for time, so by the time the show rolled around i was just ready to have it you know?
Did you have any nerves to play the new tracks for an audience?
Honestly I never get worried about it, I just feel like there really isn’t any point of stressing about it. I think everyone that comes to see me knows what I’m on and knows what type of music I make already so I’m always more excited to see their reaction to a new tune. It doesn’t matter where the show is or how many people are there I’m just going to give it my all at all times.
Growing up, who were your biggest creative influences? What music was playing around the house as a kid?
I would have to say that it was a lot of Phil Collins, Sex Pistols, Simply Red and then also a lot of R&B influences like Usher and P-Diddy. Really it was a healthy mixture of everything. A lot of my melodies come from R&B but then I blend it into that Indie Rock kind of thing. I actually never wanted to be a musician if I’m being completely honest, it was just one of those things where I just didn’t have anything else to do so I thought to myself “If I was going to make music it would sound a little bit like this…” and then just started making it. Everyone in my house was more academic minded so they were all more focused on me getting a degree or studying rather than making music because none of us were really artists. My uncle used to play the Saxophone but that was really it. It wasn’t until 2017 that I really started making my own music for the first time. Before that I was in a couple of rap crews that I would write with but 2017 is when I really branched out and became the solo indie rock guy.
You recently released a really beautiful stripped back cover of ‘Go Your Own Way’ by Fleetwood Mac, what made you want to cover this track in particular? How did you approach adding your own secret sauce to such an iconic track?
I felt like that song meant a lot of different things to a lot of people and it meant a lot to me too. I went through a breakup last year and at the time that song really called out to me as one that I could really do my thing on. Out of all the covers I could have done there wasn’t one that related to me and my situation more. I definitely wanted it to sound like a Master Peace track rather than sounding like the original and a lot of people have said that it sounds like I could have made the song. So many people have come up to me and asked me if i wrote that track haha. But seriously big up Fleetwood Mac.
Are there any other classic rock tracks you want to give the master peace treatment too?
‘Something In The Way’ by Nirvana would be crazy or something like ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police. I would love to do both of those.
Take us through your writing process bro? Are you a short spurts of creativity kind of guy or do you like to sit on tracks for a while and let them marinade?
I’m always writing but usually I will write a lot of stuff and then sit on them for a very long time. Sometimes I’ll come back to a track a year later just to check in with it but I still make sure that I’m writing all the time in the studio. I find that my sound is always changing and I hate doing the one trick pony kind of thing so I change up the style of old tracks or move onto a new sound all the time. You have to mix it up and switch up the sound, that’s all part of the experimentation process of making music.
A lot of people may not know when first listening to you that you do in fact play guitar. Why did you feel it was important to be able to craft music with instrumentation in an era where you can make everything under the sun on a laptop?
My thinking was always that if I’m a ‘musician’ then I feel like I should know how to play at least one type of instrument proficiently. It’s kind of crucial, you know? It’s so important to really learn your craft or learn your instrument. I only picked up the guitar in 2019 so I’m still figuring things out but I know enough to be able to do my thing. It takes me a long time to really get to grips with stuff because I have Dyslexia so it takes me quite a while to understand a lot of the technical stuff. It may take me a while but once i’ve clocked it I get it, you know?
Eyes on You really shows your ability to embed your character into your track. Your use of London slang like ‘you look like a snack and I want a bite’ on these classic traditionally Indie alt rock tracks makes for a very unique sound. When you look back on your early days of spitting grime sets on Radar Radio, was there a particular moment or reason that you decided to branch out from that sound and create your own London indeed rock sound? or was that just the natural progression of you discovering yourself as an artist?
I try to use elements of where I came from and then blend it into the new stuff that I’m on now. The whole concept of rapping over indie beats isn’t something that a lot of other artists would do. I try to just say exactly how I feel and to stay really free with how I write, I’m not trying to pretentiously write a mad song, but rather just say “Yo, this is how I feel and hopefully you lot like it”. I never think “I’m going to write a big song” I’m actually just trying to write a bloody song and get it out there haha.
When it comes to the grime sound, it was just one of those things where I knew that I had to stop. Way too many people were getting confused asking if I was a grime mc or an indie rocker so I knew I had to pick a sound and stick to it.
Is there anything you miss from those early grime set days?
I miss the fact that there was no pressure. I didn’t really give a shit what it was that i was dropping and because i was in a crew nobody really knew who i was as an individual. So nothing bad that I made was ever going to affect me personally. So i always had the attitude “if we blow we blow, and if we dont, we dont”. Whereas now I’m the face of this whole thing and I’m solely responsible for making sure that this train keeps on moving.
There’s a lot of pressure to be an artist these days, pressure to stay relevant, pressure to stay on top when a new artist comes out of the woodwork nearly every day. Trying to stay relevant in that kind of climate is really really hard. To anybody out there looking to do music, you have to be so committed because this shit is going to test you and take a lot out of you.
You recently attended Skepta’s All Eyes On Me launch and you have an upcoming show in September with Frisco so you’re pretty much surrounded with BBK royalty. How did you guys first get connected and how have you used your roots in grime and applied it to your own sound, perhaps specifically in a track like ‘PDA’ or ‘Slow Song’.
Ay those guys are the big bro’s man. We first met because my manager actually used to tour manage them so they have worked very closely together for ages. He showed them my music a while back and they have supported and helped promote me ever since, Skepta & JME in particular. They are like family now so big up to them for always pushing my shit.
Grime is very free in how you approach writing. It’s the only form of writing where you can tell someone “suck your mum” and they have to reply with something even madder. It’s just so free because there are no rules and no boundaries and that’s exactly what I love about it and definitely something I still apply to my writing now.
Continuing with the BBK theme for a sec longer, you had JME jump on the remix for ‘Night Time’. You guys have quite a similar sense of humour in the way you put your character in the music, is he an artist that you admire for their creativity?
100%! JME is certainly an artist I admire, he inspired me growing up and he still inspires me now. There was definitely a point when I was younger where I literally just wanted to be JME. I actually have a mad collaboration on the way, not with Skepta or JME, but with someone in that pocket. I’m loading right now man you guys are just going to have to wait and see haha.
Switching it up on a fashion tip, we’ve seen you styling everything from streetwear kings like Daily Paper to independent up-starters like Joshua Samuels. Is there a particular era of clothing that you love to experiment with? And is there one designer you would wear for the rest of your life (vintage shops count as one)?
I would probably say the early 2000s. I love the skateboard kind of look and that era is actually a lot of what I draw inspiration from for my records too. In terms of designers I actually don’t know! Personally I’m more about how it actually looks no matter who it comes from. It could be bloody Primark, if it looks good then i’ll book it. It just totally depends on the way it fits on me.
I feel like you have a great ear for recognising dope artists in the game so I’d love to play a quick game. I’ll give you an artist that I think you like and give me a little thought on what you like about their work, sound good?
Yerr man, let’s go…
I think he’s hard man, a mad lyricist! He’s one of those guys that I look at and think ”I wish I could rap like that”.
All fucking day! Inspiration. Not going to lie, they are like my parents mate haha.
All day again! I would love a tune with Busted, I actually think if i could have a tune with anyone it might have to be Busted.
Ay that’s my guy right there man. Big up Merky! Again a massive inspiration to me back in the day and someone I would love to work with again.
Lastly man i’ve got some rapid fire questions to close out this interview so we can really get to know the real Master Peace. So, if you could open for one artist currently touring, who would it be?
Trippie Redd! I would literally cry. He is the goat man, if he asked me to open up for him I would just start running. I would literally do that shit for free any day. I love Trippie Redd, I think he’s so so sick.
If you had to pick one P&B track to summarise your artistry to an alien what would it be?
‘Overdrive’, no doubt whatsoever.
What are your desert island disks? Three albums to last you the rest of your life.
I’m going to take Bad Blood by Bastille. Then i’ll go with The 1975 by The 1975. Finally, i’ll go with Life is a Trip by Trippie Red.
Who is an artist you think deserves more recognition and want to shout out?
There is a kid called Psyche that I’m really backing at the moment . He is really good, you should definitely check him out! I think he is next up to blow up.
What’s the plan for the future? Any plans for an album incoming?
All I can say is that it’s in the works. We are working with some mad people to get it done, so its coming!