Exclusive Interview: Murkage Dave with Lansky Jones – “I was on my sweet boy flex back then, that was 2002”
Murkage Dave speaks about the incredible backstories behind the songs on his deluxe edition album
Murkage Dave’s seminal debut album, Murkage Dave Changed My Life, came out this time last year, almost exactly a year to the day and thankfully he revisited the soulful tape recently, gifting us with the deluxe edition of the project.
With all the new versions of the songs included, there are great back stories behind how they came about. So just before he set out on his UK tour (which ends tomorrow for his sold out Studio 9294 London show), I met up with Murkage Dave and Lansky Jones over a tantalising brew of coffee at Ace Hotel’s restaurant. Delve into the insightful interview below.
What was the thinking behind coming back to revisit Murkage Dave Changed My Life for the deluxe album?
MD: With every new version of the songs, there’s a story behind it where the artist who is featured either found me through the song or we’ve built some sort of relationship through doing it. So with Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn, they found out about me through ‘Put You On My Shoulders’ and that’s how we ended up doing the song ‘Easy Looking’ for their project. Or with JGrrey, we knew of each other already, but when ‘You Always Ring Me’ came out, she sent me a video of her singing it and she sounded amazing, but then as soon as I played it, it just deleted. So I was like, can you send me the file and she was like, ‘There’s no file, I just recorded it on IG and it just deleted’. Since then I wanted to get her on the song, so we made it happen. Even with the album outro, ‘Pay My Taxes’, that’s a really important song to me.
Did that one come from a harsh personal experience with taxes?
MD: I always wanted to do this type of song and even though it’s not part of the main message of the bulk of the album, the song had to be recorded, as it’s the truth!
With ‘Keep Up The Bad Work’, how did the Lansky Jones link up come about?
MD: That was actually through my manager. I’m lucky that my manager actually likes music. But the mad thing is, since we’ve met, we connected great: we speak all the time, whether it’s online or in person about deep things, ignorant things; everything. His verse on ‘Keep Up The Bad Work’ is cold, it’s like an onion. Every time you listen to it, there’s another layer to peel back with what he says. He hit the song’s concept perfectly and since Lansky’s been in London, we’ve been working on more music.
It sounds like it’s the same drum pattern as Clipse ‘Grindin’ – am I right?
MD: Yeah, the drum pattern is very similar, but it’s not the sample though.
If anything it’s the perfect beat to get a New York style rapper on?
MD: Do you know what’s funny?
LJ: Dave sent me two songs, and it was ‘White Nikes In The Rain’ and ‘Keep Up The Bad Work’, and ‘Keep Up The Bad Work’ just resonated with me because that drum pattern is what everybody used to freestyle to in the lunch room.
MD: It was out in New York where I first heard that kind of fusion of sounds. The first time I went there you could buy the bootleg CDs on the street. So you’d have like a soulful singer going over a Mobb Deep beat. They used to do that to the ‘Quiet Storm’ production a lot. The idea for the song came to me because I had a demo of the record; I had that hook and I thought to myself, “this is something”, but the demo was pretty smooth, it sounded like an acid jazz song. From the days when I was DJing daily, what kept me sane was being able to be creative with the mixes, so I kind of incorporated the same ethos into ‘Keep Up The Bad Work’.
One surprise I did have was that you reached out to Houston’s Peyton for the ‘White Nikes’ NARX remix, as it’s an authentically UK Garage song – but she absolutely smashed it in the end.
MD: Do you know why I think it works? because she’s quite young, I think she’s in her early 20s. But she’s influenced by a lot of the early 00s R&B sound; you can hear Aaliyah in her sound as well and actually UK Garage producers were flipping all of that stuff at the time. I think that’s why the song works, because she’s influenced by that era.
Lioness brings a whole different energy on the alternative version – I can’t lie she had the other features on the rope with her flow ha.
MD: I was losing my mind when she was first laying down those lyrics, as she came and recorded that in the studio with me. With that one she gave me the female perspective backed by a lot of venom. When she was spitting the bars, I was feeling the pressure (says laughing).
Quick Fire Five: Lansky Jones
Nike Huaraches or Clarkes?
Huaraches. They’re more comfortable, it feels like you are walking on a cloud and when I wear the Clarkes, I feel like I’m wearing homeless people’s sneakers. Like I’m wearing two paper brown bags on my feet.
Grime or garage?
Grime. It has the content of the stuff that I’m used to, but at the same time, it’s a whole different vernacular they are using compared to the New York lingo. I also love the way grime MCs find pockets in the beat, it’s fire.
Stone Island or Palace?
I have some Stone Island in the crib; I don’t have any Palace, but I’d say my style probably fits more with Palace.
Fish & Chips or Sunday Roast?
I would probably say the Harry Potter food (Sunday Roast).
Jorja Smith or Steff London?
Jorja Smith. She’s fire. What’s crazy is when we did Wireless a couple years back, she just came up to us and started singing a few of her tracks.
Quick Fire Five: Murkage Dave
Jordans or Timberlands?
I’ve never owned a pair of Jordans in my life, so I’ll have to go with Tims. First time I went to New York, I bought a pair of baby blue Tims. I was on my sweet boy flex back then, that was 2002.
Soul or hip-hop?
It really depends on era, because right now, I’d say I listen to more hip-hop. But when I was growing up in the early 00s, I listen to a lot of soul and R&B because my mum was really into those genres. If we’re talking 2019 though, I’m going for hip-hop, as I feel that there is a real range of expression within the sound at the moment.
Supreme or Ralph Lauren?
Nah nah, Ralph Lauren man. I’ve never owned any Supreme actually, whereas Ralphy never goes out of style, like when we used to go to raves back in the day, you could get a Ralph Lauren shirt from TK Maxx and make that work!
New York style Pizza or Tacos?
Well me and Lansky had a back and forth over pizza recently. Because people tell me that Chicago has the best pizza, but Lansky was aggressively arguing in favour of New York pizza and said that it’s even better than the pizza in Italy. So I have to trust my brother on that one.
Teyena Taylor or Ashanti?
I think if it was for the feature, I’d say Teyena Taylor, because she’s got that pain in her voice and I just like how she’s not having it, as well as her being very attractive. But I would say that Ashanti has matured like a fine wine over the years. I’ve seen her on the gram recently and I was like, “wow”. If it was a romantic situation, I would probably go with Ashanti, but if it was for vocals I’d probably go with Teyena.
Interview by Denzil Bell
Photos by Jordan Hughes