How To Make A Debut Album: Master Peace Interviewed

"I don’t think anything else comes close..."

“I genuinely believe this album is the most honest and authentic piece of work from anyone in my pay grade at the moment, in terms of sonics, songwriting and hooks. I don’t think anything else comes close. But the way the game works, people get praise for minimal stuff but then you get people like me who are the underdog. If you guys actually paid attention, you’d realise I’m on to something here. You can’t reference me an album that sounds like it.”

So says Peace Okezie (better known as Master Peace), the brains behind ‘How To Make A Master Peace’. Stacked with anthems-in-waiting, his debut album sees the young man putting the best elements of indie sleaze, electro-pop, and rock music into a blender, garnishing it with his own force of personality to create an eclectic body of work that stands apart from the crowd.

It’s been a long time coming, as Peace tells Clash in our exclusive chat, with debut single ‘Night Time’ now half a decade old: “We’ve definitely seen a lot! There’s been a lot of moments; highs, lows, super-highs, and super-lows! It’s definitely a relief because a lot of artists don’t get the chance to drop their debut album. I’ve managed to make music consistently since ‘Night Time’, so I’m very grateful, for sure.”

The time has been used effectively, allowing Peace the time to diversify both his sound and the lyrical content. “I feel like the early stuff was definitely based on one scenario and on one relationship and one vibe,” he explains. “It was the only thing I knew, because when you’re at that age (18/19) that’s all you ever know, really. You can only write about what’s currently going on in your life.”

“Whereas with this album, there’s a whole lot of things that are spoken about that I’ve never really touched on before. It definitely is very important to me to get these things out for people to eventually see me in a certain light. I feel the early stuff was very one-way, whereas this album is as far away from one-way and predictable than anything I’ve ever put out. I expand on stuff I’ve never really expanded on before, and it’s good that people are going to see that side of me.”

Peace puts a lot of the credit for his development down to producer Matty Schwartz (YUNGBLUD, KSI) saving the musician from ditching everything and subsequently pushing him to do better. “Matty was an angel from God,” he says, effervescently. “That man was sent from the higher-ups. I nearly stopped the Master Peace project. Not music in general, but I was a bit over it and I was going to start a new alias. I was thinking about it a lot and then I met Matty. At first, we didn’t like each other. I couldn’t stand him because we both had differences of opinions.”

“But he was like, ‘You are talented and there’s a certain element of music you haven’t channelled yet. It could serve you really well as an artist and who you are as a person.’ He made my debut EP (for the new era of Master Peace), and he changed my whole mentality. If that man had never come into my life…there would be a new artist, and it wouldn’t be Master Peace. I got chewed up and spat out and I didn’t really want to do it anymore. I was selling out shows and doing a lot more tickets than a lot of artists who have come and gone – and I’m still here, standing – and they were getting more love and praise than me. Essentially, I was feeling sorry for myself.”

“I was tired of being scared and thinking people were going to judge me,” Peace continues. “It’s easy to get judged in this game, people get judged all the time. You are literally asking to get judged as a musician. You’re asking for it, you put yourself on this pedestal and say, ‘Judge me.’ For me, it’s just like, ‘Wow, I could shoot myself in the foot with this,’ but a risk isn’t a risk if you don’t take it. I knew this album is risky, with songs like ‘Shangaladang’ and ‘I Might Be Fake’ with Georgia. I was making records that would stand the test of time and not be what’s in trend right now. I didn’t want to make something where people were like, ‘He’s only made it ‘cos it’s trendy.'”

Displaying a laudable dedication to his craft, Peace spent 2022 listening to seminal debut albums in a bid to identify what made them classics. When asked which albums in particularly he’s referring to, the Londoner answers before the question is finished: “I owe my debut album to Calvin Harris’ ‘I Created Disco.’ That man took a risk. Not many people get that calling from God, but he got it and absolutely delivered. At the time, everybody was so slow and didn’t understand that he was on to something. That’s what I’m saying, this whole scene is so whitewashed, you feel underrated all the time. And for me, double the whammy because I’m a Black artist making a type of music, this indie sleaze stuff. You always feel like you’re getting the crumbs when you should be getting the full meal like everyone else. My music’s just as good, if not better.”

“When I was listening to ‘I Created Disco,’ people were dissing it and putting it down but 20 years on, it’s one of the most experimental, forward-thinking albums of our generation, in my opinion. Calvin probably didn’t even realise he was on to something at the time, but for me that album, M.I.A., ‘Arular,’ Bloc Party’s ‘Silent Alarm’… I reference all those albums because they stood the test of time. The Streets’ ‘Original Pirate Material’… all of them stood the test of time for a reason. They talk about what is happening in their life now, and the sonics and the tools to make it what it is. That’s how I see my album; it’s in that pocket. That’s why I spent so long listening to debut albums because I knew within myself that it was how I wanted my album to sound: as authentic and real as possible.”

Speaking of The Streets, Master Peace was lucky enough to see the genius of Mike Skinner first hand when he supported him in 2023, an experience he regards as hugely informative. “I look up to him very highly,” he asserts. “Letting me do Alexandra Palace and learning from him. He taught me not to give a shit. Before I met him, I felt I gave too much of a shit about how people perceive the music and if it was going to do numbers or not, or whatever. I do still think about those minor things, but I don’t think about it in the way that I used to.”

“He showed me elements of songwriting and music that I hadn’t really come across. He re-introduced me to Friendly Fires’ debut album. It was like, ‘Oh my God, how did I forget this?’ That was another album that was monumental in this process. They were on to something and it’s a shame they didn’t carry it on, but they were on to something, and I know I am too. I can feel it. You don’t know until it’s out, but if people notice and understand, then cool. Mike gave me that mentality of not caring too much about the music and just making it. As long as I’m happy with it, that should be the highest bit of praise.’

The album does indeed recall those heady days in the early part of the century, brimming with youthful energy and vibrancy with a hint of bedlam which – as Peace explains – was by design: “There’s elements of that early 2000s stuff, but there’s elements of what (TV) I used to watch growing up: Misfits (and) Skins. The soundtracks to them definitely inspired this album, that chaos sound. Bands like The Rapture touch on that chaos a lot, and Bloc Party and LCD Soundsystem. I wanted to get that chaos feel but with some sort of integrity and earnestness throughout. An honesty. Calling out my imperfections and the things I’m not proud of, and how I would work on them.”

“‘Heaven’ [a track on the album] sounds like a record from early Example,” he claims, correctly. “I used to be into that music. I used to be scared of the dark when I was a kid and I used to put on the radio when I’d go to bed. There was a thing called ‘Friday Night Kiss’ and they’d play a lot of dancey songs for Friday night. I feel that’s where my brain went to, making songs like ‘Heaven’. It’s a song from that trancey, early 2000 pocket.”

Yet it’s not all bangers: ‘Panic101’ is the sort of arms aloft, heart-on-the-sleeve indie anthem which would make The Lathums head back to the drawing board. “My favourite track,” confirms Peace. “I feel it’s the most honest – again – feeling loss, regret, and shame. Having a failed relationship and feel you can’t make it right no matter what you do. That anxiety and panic of not knowing what’s to come; whether you and this person will be together or not. That was something I was going through at the time and it was weighing heavy on me. I couldn’t understand why it was weighing so heavily, but it was. There’s just something that I really needed to get out and say, and that person will know it’s about them when they hear this record. I struggled with over-thinking and anxiety, and that record’s about feeling like I could lose it all. I made this person my everything and now I’m leaving with nothing, but I wanted to make it right. How we gonna make it right if you won’t pick up all my calls or talk, y’know?”

Although Master Peace may have spent the last few years naval gazing, he’s also keenly aware of the issues facing musicians in 2024. He was fortunate to be the recipient of some funding from the BPI’s Music Export Growth Scheme so his immediate future as a recording artist is secure, but the artist is aware he’s one of the lucky ones: “It’s sad because it shouldn’t be like that. I feel like I’ve put in a lot of work, but anyone who is a musician, I commend them. Big respect because it’s not easy. There’s so much financial stuff you have to take a loss on. There’s so many things that come with it, you have to be thick skinned and strong. You’ve got to be smart as well. Not intellectually but realising what’s for you and what’s not.”

“The government awarding me those funds was insane. I didn’t expect it. I know in the past they’ve given it to Dave and Little Simz and a few other people (and) the fact they give it to artists they think are going to pop off this year, and they’ve given it to me, is crazy. It’s going to help me tour this year and next. I’m very grateful and I wish there was something that could help artists more. After COVID, everything was fucked up for artists to tour, and Brexit and whatnot. There needs to be some sort of thing that’s installed to help everybody else out. Even if it’s not a large quantity of money, just something! People need to eat and pay rent, bills and all that shit. It’s a bit unfair that the government doesn’t really recognise that at times.”

Times are grim, but in ‘How To Make A Master Peace’ there is a perfect soundtrack to party away your troubles. 

‘How To Make A Master Peace’ is out now.

Words: Richard Bowes
Photography: Ewen Spencer

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