Mike Skinner’s 2002 breakout ‘Original Pirate Material’ is often referenced as the album that captured the zeitgeist and hammered it down onto a piece of vinyl. Post millennium tension and pre-illegal Iraq invasion, ‘Pirate’ was conceived in a new, unstable, Britain where the first wave of digitisation was rapidly upending century old political and social foundations. Skinner’s voice was the narrator for those hitting maturity in a country rapidly immaturing.
Some seventeen years later, performance artist Dizraeli may well have produced the natural follow up to Skinner’s turn of the century time-capsule. Released earlier this year, ‘The Unmaster’ captures the spirit of our times perfectly, channelling cultural norms about mental health struggles, cctv induced paranoia, and living in a post Great Recession environment. A difficult album to listen to, The Unmaster uses Skinner esque beats and distressing effects to backdrop Dizraeli’s personal stories about mental breakdowns, struggling to stay alive, and finding the truth in an often untruth world. He may call himself an unsmaster, but his album is masterful.
Driven by a song-writing style which reflects on deeply effecting life experiences, it’s perhaps no surprise to find Dizraeli today at the heart of Trafalgar Square, peacefully joining in with the Extinction Rebellion movement and standing up for the causes he believes in. “These movements are important because they help you remember that in order to heal, as an individual, you can only do that with the help of others. It was only by having therapy, and grief therapy in particular, that I was able to share my feelings with other people and that sharing is at the centre of my ability to function as a person. Without these movements then we’ll never heal”.
Taking The Unmaster on the road is another way Dizraeli finds opportunities to share himself, a process which still feels uncomfortable; “It can be really hard to stand in front of 500 people and perform tracks about being afraid, and being unable to sleep. Especially the first times I performed those tracks live I found it difficult reconnecting with the emotions caught up in those songs, and to do so in front of a room full of strangers is perhaps even harder”.
Facing such challenges however is one of the reasons Dizreali credits for his healing and a process which he will continue to do; “What you find with performing live is that as difficult as it can be to tell others how you are feeling people tend to start telling you their stories in return, and what starts out as bravery from me can often result in us all being brave. There’s an immediate intimacy which seems to come with the shows and if my struggles can help others in even the smallest way, then that’s a worthwhile pain”.
Not long before police movement stops our conversation Dizreali hints at new material and his hope to continue the conversation he is starting with his audience; “I’m working all of the time and have gigabytes full of ideas and lyrics and sounds which reflect where I am now and how the world affects me. The taps are always open”. Whatever the future may bring, there’s a strong chance that in seventeen years’ time people may reference The Unmaster as the album that captured the zeitgeist.