Creative Soccer Culture

Murkage Dave Talks Music, Football Upbringing & Arsenal Memories

If you’re going to make it big, there will come a time in your life when you have to make a decision; a choice between passions if you are to succeed, when you will ultimately have to sacrifice one so that you can dedicate yourself to the other. And it’s certainly a truth for Murkage Dave.

Like many musician’s who have had dreams and aspirations of making it in the scene, Dave Lewis, aka Murkage Dave, had to sacrifice his passion for football – and particularly Arsenal – as he strived to get his sounds out there. Late last year the versatile singer songwriter laid out his first album, ‘Murkage Dave Changed My Life’, and as part of the musical journey that took him to Manchester, he found himself back in the East of London, where it all began. We caught up with Dave to talk all about his music and the influence of football on his life.

Can you tell us about your earliest memory of football? When did it come into your life and did anyone bring you into it?

My first memory of football was watching the 1989 championship decider, Liverpool v Arsenal, on the telly; I wasn't even in Primary School yet! I just remember my dad explaining to me that whoever won this game would win the league, and I decided that whoever won the league I would support. My dad was a hammer though. So the first match I ever saw live was West Ham v Leeds at Upton Park, mid-nineties I think. It was 0-0 but I remember it was one of Gordan Strachan’s last matches, and every time he came down our end he was getting a bag of abuse!

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At what point did Arsenal come into the picture and what was it about them that meant they were the club for you?

1989 was the year I picked them as my team but it was the 90s where I remember feeling like I could really relate to the club. I think Ian Wright was a big part of that. He spoke and behaved like my mum’s brothers, but he was this huge star banging in goals every weekend. Racism was big in football back then but Arsenal felt like a bit of a safer space for black fans. 

When you think back to best Arsenal memories, what sticks out?

David Seaman saving penalty after penalty, especially in Europe. A memory that sticks out, but maybe not a good one, is the time he got lobbed from the halfway line by Nayim from Real Zaragoza in the final minute of extra time. I was sad as hell about that shit, I remember switching on my Gameboy and thrashing them 11-0 on Sensible Soccer as some kind of weird digital revenge. It didn’t feel any better. 

What players personify the club and who did you particularly admire?

Adams, Dixon, Winterburn, Keown; the greatest back four of all time. Ian Wright of course. Merson, Seaman. And also later on Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Vieira. I look back on those Arsenal eras with fondness. I spoke to Kevin Campbell on the phone the other day which was pretty random. Proper cool guy though, very friendly.

Why do you think they’re such icons for you?

I was just young and really passionate about football. It meant everything to me at that point. The JVC logo on the chest as well, especially on the yellow away kit. It was so relevant to the culture at that point beyond football. The way I remember it, JVC were the speakers of choice for everyone who was thumping out music on the weekend, their speakers had a heavy sound.

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I remember switching on my Gameboy and thrashing them 11-0 on Sensible Soccer as some kind of weird digital revenge. It didn’t feel any better. "

Where does football sit in your life now? Have you grown out of it at all?

I’ll be honest, I don’t follow it as much these days. Being an Arsenal fan has come with its fair share of heartbreak and I just can’t hack it! My brother is still a deep fan and a lot of my uncles too. One of my uncles bets against Arsenal every game so that at least if they lose he’s won some money to balance out the disappointment.

Obviously music is your core passion, at what point did that intercept or supersede football?

From the time I started making beats on my Playstation, and then moving onto programs on the PC at school, the amount of hours I spent doing that began cutting into my obsession with football. And then, once I started linking girls, it was a wrap bro.

What would you say were your major cultural influences growing up? Where did your sound and style come from in that respect?

Soul music that my mum and dad used to play in the car, bits of reggae. And then once I discovered pirate radio and UK Garage, it unlocked a whole world that reflected where I was at perfectly. The sounds, the clothes, the parties. The garage scene was such a cornerstone for me when I was a kid and is still a big part of my foundation today.

What kind of music has really helped shape your own music?

Soul/R&B and Garage was the foundation. But also folk music, indie rock. And rap, grime and drill too. Visiting Jamaica has been super important to me as well, every music fan needs to go there.

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In the last few years I realised that all I have to do is be myself and be consistent. It’s been a great weight off my shoulders realising that"

Can you tell us about the challenges that come with trying to break it as a musician?

When you are trying to build a career in music, the main issue is running out of money. That’s why rich kids and drug dealers tend to prosper in this game. It’s also why people end up signing pretty bad record deals too.

Not many people make it as professional football players, even less as full time musicians. Can you see similarities in the way both professions have to hone their craft?

It’s a bit of a 90s myth to say that very few musicians make it. There’s actually thousands of musicians making a living out here. But that said, I would agree that if you want to be great, the mentality is similar to that of a professional athlete. I’m obsessed and, as much as I hate to admit it, I am competitive too.

What’s the last few years been like for you and how are you looking ahead to the next couple?

In the last few years I realised that all I have to do is be myself and be consistent. It’s been a great weight off my shoulders realising that. So the years ahead will be more of the same.

What milestones do you aim for as a musician and where would you like to play most?

I’m on the road to The Roundhouse. And after that Brixton Academy, then Alexandra Palace. But for me the most important thing is to do it on my terms. It’s gotta be because of the songs I write. I’m not interested in hype in the slightest.

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How would it feel to have one of your tracks playing at the emirates?

Yeah man that would be really cool still. The club still means so much to me man, and my family would love it too!

The album 'Murkage Dave Changed My Life' is out now.

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Daniel Jones

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