M.I.A. opens up about what she learnt from Elastica’s Justine Frischmann

The rapper also discussed her dislike of media's evolution at the UK premiere of documentary 'Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.'

M.I.A. has opened up about the impact Elastica’s Justine Frischmann had on her career when she started out.

Speaking at the UK premiere of the documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. tonight (September 19), the rapper spoke of Frischmann’s attempts to keep the band alive and what she learnt from their demise.

Despite an acclaimed 1995 self-titled debut album, Elastica folded in 2001 – a year following the release of their disappointing follow-up, ‘The Menace‘. 

Frischmann met M.I.A. in 1999, and the pair would later share an apartment together, with the former Elastica frontwoman credited as a co-writer on M.I.A.’s 2003 debut, ‘Arular‘.

“Elastica’s first album was huge, but she retired at 25 and I met her in her late 20s”, M.I.A. told NME. “She was the best person to meet because this was a woman who was so tough that she kind of said, ‘Fuck it, I’m only going to make one record and call it a day’.”

“I did convince her [to carry on]”, she continued. “I was like, ‘You should do this, you should do this’. I was constantly convincing her, but she was no longer in love with the music industry. That was not what gave her joy.”

Speaking of what insight this gave her, M.I.A. reflected: “Learning what she felt and what she had gone through was helpful to me. I learnt not to have a band because Justine had so many band issues. I thought I couldn’t be in a band because bands break up – if you just rely on yourself you’ll be alright.”

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. utilises home video footage to document her first forays into making music and the politics that would go on to fuel her output. It charts a time that precedes social media and crosses over into the present day.

The evolution of the media irks her still. “It has become frustrating because there is so much that goes over people’s heads. You have to refine things to bitesize chunks; news that is 140 characters on Twitter and a post on Instagram”, she railed.

“Everyone’s happy getting this other sort of stimulation, which is made by guys that designed fruit machines in Vegas. And they won, really, because they’ve now programmed all our technology that way. It is all [based] on instant gratification.’

After premiering at the Sundance film festival back in January, the documentary has subsequently toured the festival circuit receiving plaudits along the way. Directed by her old film school classmate Steve Loveridge, the filmmaker has observed the effect that this exercise has had on his old friend.

“It’s been really good for M.I.A.,” he said. “I think she was in a bad place before the documentary happened. She had just become disillusioned with the music industry or celebrity or speaking out. That kinda thing. Tired of it all. Suddenly, we’re in rooms with people watching the film and girls coming up afterwards saying ‘You made me go to college’ or ‘I started a band because of you’. It’s been really great to see.”

M.I.A. added: “I quite like how difficult Steve has made the film. You have to be quite engaged to ‘get it’. He didn’t simplify things.”

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. is released on Thursday (September 21) in the UK. 

Earlier this year, M.I.A. said she thinks today’s mainstream music “sounds like what [she] and Kanye West used to make” a decade ago. The London artist made the claim in a new interview with actor and musician Riz Ahmed.

“If you listen to mainstream music now, every beat sounds like what me and [Kanye] West used to make back then,” M.I.A. explained. “I came digitally to an industry that started from selling cassette tapes, so when [Interscope] signed me, they were like, ‘Okay, this girl is the future of music.’