Master Peace

26 September 2022

Photography Wanda Martin
Fashion Sam Thompson
Interview David Gillespie
Grooming Louisa Copperwaite using Danessa Myricks
Production Trevor Person

Though we meet Master Peace in the musty hue of a lively London pub, his defiant and spirited glow cuts clean through the tobacco-scarred air. Floral carpets lay withered and antique dust rests on the rims of waning portraits.

The sound of laughs, cries and cheers still echo against the tar-stained walls, strung with pleated drapes and nostalgic mementoes. As an artist on a mission of self-determination, his energy and passion is somewhat compelling. He moves only with love, and it’s clear many will accompany him on the way.

Though Master Peace’s career began in the world of rap and grime, his journey deeper into the industry took a different turn; one where he holds the controls, pursuing his indie identity. But this transition hasn’t been an easy one, often mistaken as a rapper who doesn’t rap, rather than an indie artist with a plethora of versatility. Yet it’s this misconception which acts like a fuel to Master Peace’s artistic flare - a wildfire of emotion and devotion to his craft. If you don’t understand, you’ll soon be left behind.

Growing up in Surrey at the center of two detached social circles, his exposure to artistic diversity is deeply engrained in his skill. Inspired by muses like Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys, Master Peace combines deep guitar riffs and catchy piano chords along with alluring lyrics capable of enticing any listener. As his upcoming album release approaches, his new record releases a new side of Master Peace; less soppy, more rude, more open, more honest. We’ll be listening, will you?

Master Peace's first single will be out this year and EP will release in 2023.

Let’s start at the beginning. How was ‘Master Peace’ born?
I started making music about three years ago, towards the end of 2018. But I’ve always been around musically minded people. A lot of my friends made music. I was in a group called Ammi Boyz, then I was in a grime crew called Mob Set as well. I was always in the mix, but I never really committed to wanting to be a musician. I always knew if I wanted to be a musician, I would definitely be like a pop, indie kind of artist. But at the time, there wasn't really anyone trying to help me break into that category. My manager must have seen me on this YouTube clip spraying bars, but it wasn't anything serious. I wasn't really trying to become a musician then. Long story short, he started managing me, but I had to tell him that what he saw on that clip wasn’t the real me, that's not what I wanted to do. If I was going to be an artist, I wanted to be an indie artist. A lot of my influence has come from Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, so then it was just like, okay cool, let's build it from those inspirations. I dropped my first single Nighttime in 2019, and then it was like really the start of when everybody was like “Who's this kid that's come out and made this tune? That is like indie?” It just hadn't really been done before, so it's actually exciting. Then I did my headline show with one song out, tickets sold out, then lockdown happened so I'll still say I'm at the beginning of my career.

Take us through your creative process, from the very first lyric to the final production?
It all starts with the chords. I feel like once you've got the chord structure and you know where and what you want to make and where the records going and I think it is a bit straightforward from there to be fair. Then I'll start rambling lyrics, I'll just start freestyling stuff and saying stuff into my phone, just winging it really. I don't really like to think about it too much, just wing it and hope for the best after that.

How would you describe your style as an artist?
I'd probably say it's indie music. People don't really see me as an indie artist because I wear a durag and they stereotype me as a rapper or something. But in my head, I'm an indie artist as good as if you were to compare me to Wet Leg or Fountains D.C., I think with the new music, people will be like, “Okay, cool, I get it, it’s indie”.

Has it been difficult to break through?
It's been an uphill struggle if I'm going to be honest with you. It's been really hard. I know if it was mainstream music, it would of. But I think when people open their minds a little bit and look at it for what it is, they’ll get it. The way I put it, is if I was a white artist, people would be like “Yeah, this is indie”. I hear white artists rap on certain songs, but it's still indie based production, and people will be like “Yeah this is an indie artist, straight”. But for me, who doesn't rap, people will be like “Rapper Master Peace makes an indie song”, and I'm like ‘what?’, because I'm not a rapper, and it makes the rappers look at me like, “Bro, is this guy like serious? How can he call himself a rapper when he doesn't rap?”, and it's true. But I feel like with my new stuff, if you still don't recognise it as indie music, then that's your own business.

You grew up at the end of the Northern Line in Morden, Surrey. How has your upbringing influenced your identity?
I went to a posh school, so it's weird. I lived in a posh area and went to a posh school, but I had friends that were hood friends as well. So, I had both an understanding of music and I had good friends. I would go to school and some of my friends listened to Two Door Cinema Club and Bloc Party and then the other half would listen to Gigs and Skepta so I was always in between. I knew what was the most relevant thing in rap and I knew what was the most relevant thing in indie music. My mind was always open to every genre of music because I always knew what was going on. If there was like a grime situation where some artists had clashed I would know about it, like when Chipmunk was clashing with Bugsy Malone, I knew about it because it was hot. But also when Oasis and Blur went against each other. That's what influences my music. I think just being black as well in the sense of knowing a lot of music and influences growing up shaped my whole sound and how I listen to music. I feel like I listen to music in like such a broad way.

Who are your top musical muses and inspirations?
I would say Bloc Party 100% inspired a lot of my music. A lot of other people as well. I would also say Oasis, Phil Collins, Gang of Four, Arctic Monkeys of course. On the rap side of things, I wouldn't say there was anyone in there that really inspired me, but I think like I could appreciate what everybody was doing in that scene.

When did you make the decision that you wanted to pursue music?
I think when I realised that there was nobody in the market that could do what I was going to do. I performed at Reading and Leeds I remember people going crazy. And I was like, damn, I could really, really, really make this a thing without me having to do too much. That's what I'm pushing my brain toward, finesse my craft proper.

You've spoken briefly about your upcoming album, what can we expect?
I would say it's very loud, it's very rude, it's very funny. I think it's honest. That's the best way I can explain it. It's very honest. I'm not saying all my other stuff hasn't been honest but I think it’s just more honest. It’s what I've been feeling for years but haven't been able to say it. It’s the times when I should have been so annoyed and frustrated and I just want to say what I want to. It's just me saying what I've wanted to say for years. I’ve always been kind of worried or thought too much about it versus no longer giving a damn. There's so much honesty and I feel like sometimes it's good, to be honest, I feel like being a musician, you have to be honest. I want my fans to understand how I feel, especially about making the music I do and being the person I am.

As an up-and-coming artist in an extremely pressurised industry, do you feel any pressure to behave in a particular way in your personal life?
I think for me, I’m just myself. I don't think anything of it, I just walk with love. I don't really look at things like that and be like ‘oh my god, I'm worried to be myself, I'm myself init. If anybody's going to question it, don't. I think it's always better to be yourself than to be a facade and then just live in fear. I would be honest and keep it real as long as I'm not offending anyone. I suffer from ADHD so for me, I'm just very myself, I just don't care. I do I want, but that’s what makes me, me. That's what makes me Master Peace, instead of it being a thing where I fit the script, no one should live like that. I think everybody should just be themselves as long as you're not offending anyone or being rude to people, just be yourself, be honest with yourself, you will always prevail and nobody will ever get it mixed up.

Lyrically many of your songs describe intimate feelings that aren’t always mutual. Would you describe yourself as a romantic?
Yeah, I am. I feel like with my earlier music, it’s been very personal because it was about a past relationship, that's all I've ever known it. I was going about that particular situation, so my last two EPs were about it. But my new stuff isn’t soppy, it's not like the old stuff, the old stuff was very soppy and emotional. I'm moving away from that because I feel like I need to have a bit more depth in my music. You know back in the day, with Busted and McFly, they just made that one style, just straight in, it is what it is kind of thing. It’s like when you’re getting Maccies, you're going to get a cheeseburger and some chips, that's the way I see it. My earlier music is very digestible, it's very easy to get into, get stuck into it and keep it moving. Whereas this music, this new stuff is much more in-depth and a bit more personal where people can see a funny side, a bit more of a delicate side as well instead of it just being about my ex-partner all the time. You know what I'm saying?

You’ve previously said you want people to listen to your music and laugh, cry and let go. How do you let go as an individual?
I'm the most boring artist anybody will meet. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't take drugs. So I'm very boring. I like watching Come Dine With Me, I like playing FIFA and playing my guitar. I'm trying to learn to do other stuff, but I'm very content just chilling. I'm always on the go, and when it comes to music, I'm always doing something, so when I get the time to just chill, put my head down and not stress out and just relax, I'd rather be at home and chill; I don't know whether it's a bad thing or a good thing. But I think it keeps me out of the mix and it keeps me focused on the music.

Where is your happy place?
I'll say my happy place is like hanging out with my niece, my brother's child. I love that because I feel like new life brings loads of perspective. I think just hanging out with my family means a lot to me and before it wasn't really like that. Our family was very outgoing and everybody was off doing their own thing, but since lockdown, it’s made me closer to my family like because we all had to be in one place together. With music, it’s a complicated one. I feel like that makes me happy, it brings me joy and I like making music, but I honestly don't like releasing music. I’d probably say I've made about 1000 songs, a lot of them will never see the light of day. I love creating it, I don't actually like releasing it. The process of actually making of it and building it and getting everybody excited for it, that's my pride and joy. Performing live is my favourite thing to do, I love touring and performing. On stage is my happy place.

Tell us about the emotions you experience as you walk on stage?
I feel excited and fidgety, but I will say fidgety the most. I’m literally like those kids that can’t sit down and like relax. There's actually a video of my manager telling me to chill before I go on stage because I was like moving scatty. I was so excited to go on stage and I hate waiting. Before I go on, I want to be able to go on, do the show, and go home. For me, it's getting on stage, but it's the most exciting bit. When I'm on stage, I don't even think about anything, I’m just like ‘let's go’. I don't get scared, I don't get nervous, I'm just so on it. That's what brings me joy, that's the main thing for me. If I couldn’t do live shows, I'd be so upset, I wouldn't even make music. If it wasn't part of music, I wouldn’t make music.

You’ve spoken about having ADHD and your struggles with school because of it. What would you say to other aspiring artists who might be enduring a similar experience?
They just need to embrace it. I think the smartest people in this world and the most creative people in this world have ADHD. I've learnt to embrace myself, and not feel sorry for myself. So I'm just like ‘embrace this, this is you, this is Peace, you are erratic and you are crazy and you are tough and you are empathetic, you are all these things’. Plus, ‘you got ADHD, you really love this stuff’ and I feel like wherever you are in life, I don't think anything in life should stop you. I think that's easier said than done, but I feel like, if you truly enjoy something, just do it, because we only live it once.

What would you like your artistic legacy to be?
Anytime I've kind of been asked a question like this, I've always said I see myself as big as Kurt Cobain. But we're in different times now, even the biggest artists now will never be on a Michael Jackson level, because that time is gone. Because of the digital age and social media, that time of being a superstar, like the way I see Freddie Mercury or someone in that category, is gone. As long as I can make a good career out of this, and it remains something I enjoy, I’m happy. As kids, you always aim to be better than your parents. I want to do better than my mum did, and then I want my kids to do better than I did; that's my goal. No matter where I get in music, that's my goal. I never really see it as like, ‘okay, I hope I get a million followers on Instagram’. What matters to me is my kids can gain the rewards of what I did.

Is there anything that you're struggling with right now or have struggled with recently that you've overcome and that you're happy to share?
I would say exercising patience. That's the thing for me that’s really hard, especially having ADHD. Trying to exercise patience is the hardest thing to do because the musician mindset is I want it now, I want it now! Why has that person got it better than me? Why is this happening? Why? But what I don't realise and what I'm now finding, I can't get all the looks down. But once you've got everything, then what? This isn't a race. I was going to jump on a tune with someone that recently went viral right, but I knew true within my heart of hearts that that song wasn't me. I was so in my head, I was like, ‘no, let me just drop this because I know this will blow up on Tiktok’ and I really had to sit back in myself and I was like, ‘Peace, what are we doing this for? Are we doing this to be viral? Are we doing this to build something and build a career?’. I didn't drop the song. I could have, but I didn't drop the song because I was like, ‘Nah man, this isn't Peace, this isn't me’. You need to exercise patience. You need to know that your time will come and trying to force that time to come will never work out. But I'm getting there, I'm getting there slowly.

What hopes do you have for the rest of 2022?
I want to announce another headline show and I want to have a tour. I'll be content with that if I can sell it out. I want to make more content and be on more features with artists I like. But currently, I'm not doing too much wishful thinking because we did just come out of a pandemic. Slow and steady wins the race. I'm just going to build it, build it, build it, build it.

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Above left: Master Peace wears dress by Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY
Above right: Master Peace wears dress by Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY and boots by John Lawrence Sullivan

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Above left: Master Peace wears top by av vattev, trousers by av vattev and boots by John Lawrence Sullivan
Above right: same outfit as before

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Above left: Master Peace wears jacket and trousers by Pariah and top by PARC
Above right: Master Peace wears top by Feng Chen Wang and trousers by Pariah

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Above left: Master Peace wears top by Feng Chen Wang and trousers by av vattev
Above right: same outfit as before

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Above: Master Peace wears jacket by Feng Chen Wang and top by KIMNIIII

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Above left: Master Peace wears jacket and trousers by Pariah, top by PARC and boots by John Lawrence Sullivan
Above right: same outfit as before

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Above left: Master Peace wears jacket by Pariah, shirt by av vattev, trousers by Bally and boots by John Lawrence Sullivan
Above right: same outfit as before

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Above left: Master Peace wears jumper by av vattev and trousers by Pariah
Above right: Master Peace wears jumper by av vattev, trousers by Pariah and trainers by Helen Kirkum

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