Murkage Dave, the promoter-turned-artist who counts Mike Skinner among his friends—last month, he put out a beautiful debut album, Murkage Dave Changed My Life. And then there’s Poundland Bandit, the balaclava'd meme-maker who’s roasted every iteration of Londoner born since 1989. They met up, and “interviewed” each other—really, they chatted—for a bit of insight into how city life has fed into both their work.
Murkage Dave will be known to Manchester natives as one of the guys behind the messy, lively Murkage Cartel parties (from which left-field artist GAIKA also sprung). As a solo artist, he makes music steeped in storytelling, his experiences and the textures of English life in cities that can crush and love you in equal measure. At one point during their conversation, Poundland Bandit brought up Murkage Dave Changed My Life single “Magic Mission Deja Rinse,” and how it tells such a vivid and relatable story of encountering ruckus on a double-decker bus. “What you’re talking about in the first verse... it resonated with me, I could get it,” Poundland Bandit told Dave, before Dave reflected on how that in turn makes him think about newer UK rap today:
"I feel like, people make music in different ways... and my thing is, I listen to a lot of grime, drill, UK rap. I’m not an MC myself but what I do find is with a lot of that music, it’s almost one extreme story getting told again and again, with the best songs floating to the top. If you go on Link Up or GRM Daily you find one story. It’s like the gospels in the New Testament: the same story getting told in different ways.”
We pick up their conversation just after that, when Poundland Bandit moves to chatting about being a youngster on the estate, knowing violence could be around a corner even though it didn’t affect him personally.
Murkage Dave: I left London around 2002. I was in Manchester for ten years, and when I came back I noticed the buses were just way calmer. When I was doing my A-Levels that was the peak of it all: you couldn’t lock mobile phones yet, so resale value was high. I was lucky cause I always looked older… when I was 15, I was already going out in the West end, drinking tap water in clubs.
Poundland Bandit: I’ve seen photos of you from back in the day; you didn’t have the beard.
Murkage Dave: I had stubble or a goatee. That was the garage look. So yeh, for the most part I got left alone. I feel like we came from similar backgrounds but had the opposite experience. My mum and dad were like, “you are not playing out.”
Poundland Bandit: My mum and dad were a bit like that but my mum would be like, “go on the estate but you have to be back by this time.” My dad grew up on a council estate, and always said: “don’t get yourself in trouble.” I do love him, he’s my boy, but it was kind of negative – he would say,”‘if someone starts fucking with you and starts pushing you around, hit them back.”
Murkage Dave: My dad said the same shit haha. Hit him back twice as hard.
Poundland Bandit: But I’ve done that to a man twice my height and got licked.
Murkage Dave: Weirdly, he probably respected that—you showed him you had heart.
Poundland Bandit: I never involved with the oldies’ business, but I never got invited to nothing, we would go to a few house parties but I never went proper raving until i was older, 16 or 17.
Murkage Dave: The first party i went to I was 13. I went to Atlantis in Epping; it’s shut down now. It was MJ Cole, Artful Dodger, Robbie Craig was doing a PA of Woman Trouble & I was convinced Craig David was going to be there even though he wasn’t on the bill
Poundland Bandit: I remember sneaking into Brixton Jamm when I was 17 to see Luck & Neat. Around then I started hanging out with this guy in Southbank and watching people skate. I could do a few tricks, but I never got good at it. I liked going to the parties to skate and hang out. I met some of my best mates through skating. But over time I started getting out of skating and more into the streets.
Murkage Dave: Do you still skate now?
Poundland Bandit: No. I can do a few tricks, but I don’t really do it much anymore. There was a period when I was 18 to 21 when I considered myself a skater boy. After that I fell off because I never tried, and I never put the effort in.
Poundland Bandit: I still need to learn the JayKae verse that comes after yours on “Every Country.”
Murkage Dave: That record was so important to me—just the fact that it was produced by Skepta, so now I can say I’ve put vocals on a Skepta beat. By that point “Car Bomb” had come out, so people were beginning to see what I was doing, but “Every Country” was a bigger record. Ut helped people make sense of the new style I was trying to bring through.
I felt like no one got it. My back was up against that wall. I’d just left Manchester, where I’d gone for uni. I got kicked out pretty much straight away because I only went to the lectures where the girls were. And I ended up living there for a while after that So, at that point when I’d back to London, making music was really important to me. I was putting out songs like “Car Bomb” which connected a little, but outside of that no one really gave a fuck.
Poundland Bandit: That’s what pissed me off. The only song I could find of yours via YouTube was “Car Bomb,” and I was like "wow this guy has got something." It was at a point where I wasn’t necessarily sick of UK music, but everything was sounding the same. Everyone was doing drill and throwback grime.
Murkage Dave: I feel like there’s a hive-mind process with UK rap. Everyone making the same shit. Seeing what sticks and the best rises to the top. Whereas with me, I’m an outsider. I’m common. That’s why a lot of grime artists like me I think.
I’m not trying to be sexy or compete with Not3s. I’m a little bit older. “Every Country” opened people to my sound and let them know what I do. I want to influence people to open up creatively and be honest in their music. Being a ‘badman’ is a guard and being ‘stush’ is a guard. It’s a way of telling everyone to keep away from you because actually you’re vulnerable.
Poundland Bandit: They’re the ones who are looking for someone to connect with but are scared of being criticised. But then you meet people who are stush because they’re just pricks. It’s mostly guys. I’ve met a few guys who make music and when I’ve been introduced to them and try to shake their hand, they’ll turn around as if there’s dog shit on their shoe. I’ve never understood that because nine times out of ten, no one has heard of these guys outside of London.
Murkage Dave: There’s one thing I wanted to ask you, cos obviously I can see your memes, and every day you buss jokes. I wanted to know, do you deliberately put yourself in situations where’s there’s people around that you hate? Or do you just hate everyone?
Poundland Bandit: It’s half and half. I don’t deliberately hate anyone. All my stuff is pure observation. Like my friend will bell me and say, “Yo there’s a party here, do you want to come?” and I’ll be like “yeah, I love a party, I love a drink and I love chatting to people.”
Which is a misconception a lot of people have about me, which is like if they know I’m going to an event they are always looking over their shoulder like I’m going to do something. But I like it when people come over and want to have a chat. Normally people think I’m going to be an arsehole, but I do love talking to people. Over the last six months every event I’ve been to, I’ve seen someone who’s been a piece of shit. I don’t look at people and judge them. I only take the piss out of people, who take the piss out of themselves by acting a fool. I would never purposely victimise someone.
Murkage Dave: So, it’s kind of similar to me: I’ll write down everything mad that I experience or even see.
Poundland Bandit: Yeah, it’s the same process for me. I like a drink, I won’t even deny it. But I’ll write stuff down because If I overhear someone say or see something that’s a bit suspect when I’m hammered, I’ll write it down in my notes. So, the next day when I feel a bit shit, I can be like, ‘ah I’ve got to do this’ then I’ll check my notes and be like, ‘oh shit that actually happened. ’I’ve got to find something for this. I’ve got about 700 notes saved on my phone, like: “the guy in the cowboy hat, who said that hip-hop has changed now” and I’ll remember.
I have ADHD, so the person who I used to go and see for it used to said there are ways to make it deductive. She suggested to try and start playing the drums or drawing, so I downloaded loads of synthesiser apps to my phone, so when my I’m like this and my leg starts shaking uncontrollably, I need to do something. So, I’ll get out my phone and start making a beat.
Murkage Dave: So creating helps you?
Poundland Bandit: It’s not helped me in the sense that I was bad before, to the point where I would be like “arghhh” and flip a table. It helped in the sense where if I am at home, and its 2AM, I can’t sleep and my legs bare shaking, I’ll listen to a song and try and play it on the synthesizer.
Murkage Dave: We should collab on something. With your level of insight, I can tell you’re gonna have good lyrics.
Poundland Bandit: I’m not trying to sing like John Legend. You sing but you’re conversational, like Steve Lacy or something.
Murkage Dave: Growing up, my mum had a huge soul collection . When you grow up with singers at that level, you feel you can’t do it yourself. When I started listening to Ian Brown, Bob Dylan, Morrissey, I realised I could sing better than all these man!
Poundland Bandit: No Morrissey can sing, don’t get it twisted. But I was gonna ask you – that bar (in “Magic Mission Deja Rinse”) where you mention racist teachers, what is that about?
Murkage Dave: I talk about this on the “Murkage Dave Changed My Life” title track as well. In the 90s, Waltham Forest it had some of the lowest-achieving schools in the country. My dad was a school teacher at that time, on some Coach Carter shit. You couldn’t take the piss. And he was like, “you’re not going to school around here.” So I ended up getting a scholarship to go to a good school off ends.
Poundland Bandit: What was it for?
Murkage Dave: A government thing for low-income families; they don’t do it anymore. So my whole thing is that I grew up here but I went to school there. All the kids i went to school with thought i was a rudeboy, they used to call me the Fresh Prince of Leytonstone! And the kids back home thought I was a bit too proper. You see what I’m saying?
Every teacher I ever had was white – there was maybe one Asian teacher. And even the cool teachers, that were a bit younger and had a bit of banter, them ones yeah… bruv. Imagine this. After every lesson I’d have a chat with my history teacher. And he just said to me, “well the thing is David, no African country will ever be able to successfully rule itself.” That’s what he said to me! This was what I was having to deal with, and that was from the cool teachers. You know what the bad teachers were saying? A teacher got retired at the end of a year – he didn’t get sacked – for calling two students ‘coons,’ bruv. I can’t complain because at the end of the day, I got a good education. But, the teachers were fucking racist. Anyway, any last words?
Poundland Bandit: Murkage Dave Changed My Life is out now and it’s, honest to god on my mother’s life, the best album from the last two years from the UK.
Murkage Dave: Thank you man. Poundland Bandit is a fucking British icon and his work will be in museums in the future. We’re out. Bless.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity because they were genuinely talking for about three hours and it would almost be a book otherwise. 'Murkage Dave Changed My Life' is out now.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.