With his new album having just dropped, it’s likely you’ll have heard a lot about this guy over the last week. We caught up with Murkage Dave to chat a bit about his upbringing, his music and the Manchester Rave scene just a day after his UK tour sold out in 24 hours.
After teasing fans with singles over the last year, East London artist Murkage Dave is finally dropping his debut studio album Murkage Dave Changed My Life. Described as “a collection of folk songs for the culture”, the LP includes collaborations with some of the freshest UK talent, with features from Jaykae and Manga Saint Hilare, production from Star Slinger, Skepta, Hologram Lo, Narx and Massappeals, as well as additional vocals from Sam Wise of House Of Pharaohs and Scally of Halfbrother.
Raised on pirate radio, his unique brand of British soul and London street slang brings a Morrisey-eque melancholy. In the past year, Dave has worked with Mike Skinner, Jaykae, Skepta and French rapper Nekfeu. His music reached the ears of American rapper Pharrell Williams, who played ‘Car Bomb’ on Beats 1 Show OTHERtone.
But it was tracks like ‘Put You On My Shoulders’ and ‘Every Country’ that put Dave on the map. They were regularly played on Radio 1 and Radio 1 XTRA. The singer and DJ has been working hard on his new album and we spoke to him about his upbringing, music and the Manchester Rave scene just a day after his UK tour sold out in 24 hours.
Describe yourself in three words
I’d say I’m quiet but loud and resilient
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
This happens to me a lot when I meet somebody and they ask this. It’s weird you know how every artist says, ‘I’m not like other artists, I’m my own person’. With me there’s not a lot of artists like me. I would say my music is a new lane. I like to think of it as folk songs for culture. There is a lot of music about violence and crime, I feel like I am saying the things that are in other artists heads.
Once you become a musician you come out of a certain life – but often artists will talk about that life because that’s what sells for them. I’m just talking about what I’m going through, being a person in this culture.
[So, has your music changed as your life has changed?]
Yeah it has. As i moved to Manchester and then back to London, my songs evolved into what’s happening now, which is what my album is kind of about.
How did you get into music and when did you know that it was the career path for you?
I’ve been making music since I can remember – writing songs, stories and drawing. That’s what I did as a kid, it was all I could think about. I just carried on doing that. I’ve just never stopped. Looking back, I can see how I ended up where I am. Maybe when I first started trying to take music seriously I couldn’t see but now looking back I can see its one straight line.
“UK Garage is the foundation for that British sound that ran through my whole childhood”
Did you spend some time on the rave scene in Manchester – how much did that, and working with a legend like Mike Skinner, impact your album?
The Mike Skinner stuff happened at the end of when I was in Manchester. I was running a club night called Murkage, that’s how I got my name. That was great, I got up to a lot of nonsense in Manchester. I have a lot of stories of that time because of being that guy in that’s how I met Mike. We have worked together on parties and music and I’ve learnt a lot from him but I learnt more from him in the studio, just chatting shit. He’ll be talking about music and I would just learn stuff.
Who are your influences and inspirations?
UK Garage is the foundation for that British sound that ran through my whole childhood – Magic Mission Deja Rinse is all about that and what my childhood was like with Garage music. I’ve been into everything at some point. I was into Dizzie [Rascal], I had a period where I discovered guitar music when I got to Manchester. Ian Brown and the Stone Roses also influence my music.
How much of a role has you’re upbringing played in your musical style?
I feel like it did have a role in my music. I grew up in Leytonstone, which was interesting. Now it’s getting a bit nicer but back then Leytonstone/Stratford wasn’t the nicest place to live. I was on both sides of the track, I went to school out of the area. Because of that, I had a bit of a feeling of not belonging in the ends and not belonging out of the ends. You hear that on the record.
“It’s a great time to be around the scene and I’m just extremely thankful to be active currently.”
Ahead of your album release, you released ‘See Man Smile,’ what’s the song about and what inspired it?
For a few years I was a resident DJ at Vision in Dalston and when I was writing it I thought about that and my time in Manchester a lot. So, it’s about going out but how you feel when you go out. You’re excited but you’re also a bit nervous, there might be some social anxiety. Then it’s how you deal with that, whether it’s by drinking or taking drugs. Situations like seeing someone you like at a party and you’re a bit nervous to speak to them or it’s too busy in the rave, stuff like that.
It’s trying to get to that place where we feel calm and comfortable. Everyone is trying to get that in their lives, were all trying to get comfortable. I guess it’s about going on a night out, sometimes you hit that vibe and sometimes you don’t.
The album has a lot of collaborations with some of the freshest UK talents, what’s it like making music in a time where UK music is constantly evolving and growing?
I’m super thankful to be involved to be honest. It’s great to have somewhere where I can be but also bring something unique to the table. People I listen to might listen to my music, and they’ll sometimes ask me to do hooks for them. It’s a great time to be around the scene and I’m just extremely thankful to be active currently.
This is your first studio album, why did you think it was the right time to release something?
People want it. I’m a bit long and take quite a while to make music. For some artists it’s easy for them to make a project and put it out but I take quite a while. Me and Jaykae made ‘Every Country’ that Skepta produced, that did well. It was played on the radio a few times. I put out ‘Put You on My Shoulders’, which I think is my best song. That gave people a lane into my world. When i dropped ‘You Always Ring Me When I’m Busy’, people were like ‘okay this guy is quite consistent’. It made sense, I know if I drop an album now there’s a demand for it, people want to hear it. It’s built up to a point where I’ve got to do it, if I don’t I’m messing around.