By Rosine Alleva, Journalist-Photographer, Rock At Night France, Switzerland
While at the Baloise Session, Rock At Night had the privilege of interviewing one of the best and most famous ska bands of our time–Madness! Please see the interview below:
MADNESS, no need to present the famous English ska band from London anymore.
Although I know most of their hits – who doesn’t? – I learned more about the band. I really had a great moment chatting with Graham”Suggs”McPherson and Mike Barson!
RAN– Formed in the late seventies, with 15 singles in the charts, you still perform with the original line-up. This is amazing!! What‘s your recipe ?
GRAHAM McPHERSON – There are great vibes, Mike and I know each other since we were very young, we‘re friends for a long time, we’ve some tolerance, when you‘re different people, you’ve different ideas.
That’s what makes it a good combination, when you mix up some things, but you have at least to listen to each other. So that‘s one thing, for sure yeah !
MIKE BARSON– Another thing is the rate with our publishing where we share half of the publishing through the all band. So instead of the song writer getting all the money, he shares it with the band. There are a lot of bands you hear, it’s quite understandably, if it’s just two people writing all the material, everybody else can be gaining much less money and then after a while ….It’s the style at the moment you know, eight people own half of the planet ! It’s different for us or for people all related to each other you know, on the same bus all together. The fact that we share the money helps I think,, it’s the other thing yeah !
RAN– On your site, you announce your tour as “European vacation“, I found it so funny, love it! Do you feel on vacation when you‘re on tour ?
MIKE BARSON– We were at the lake of Como yesterday, it was lovely, we had a nice lunch there!
GMcPHERSON– It‘s always a vacation and it felt definitely like a vacation yesterday! But really as a job compared to other jobs, it‘s quite a nice one!
RAN– You just announced your brand new 42-track hits package ‘Full House – The Very Best Of Madness’ released this November, will there be any special concert for the event ?
GMcPHERSON– Well, we only work till a certain amount of time, we‘ve doing this tour and then we’re not really sure. There is another couple of things… But we will do something at Butlin‘s in Minehead in 2018, which is a special event, which we’ll do for a all weekend. We‘ll probably promote this, it’s a great album (laughs).
RAN– What do you think about Stiff records good times?
GMcPHERSON– Yeah, Yeah, very good times! We were young and it was a good time for music in general. There were a lot of exciting things happening, the music industry was a very vibrant place, full of ideas and very individual people. There were big personalities and Stiff was full of them, the Belle Stars, Ian Dury, the Damned, The Pogues, Kirsty MacColl…It was a great place to be.
MIKE BARSON– And also, when Punk came along, Punk sort of shook everything up with the old guard, throwing it to disarray. Some even finished injured in hospital. Bob Harris who was a DJ in the Uk had a breakdown because of Punk music. It sort of showed how people couldn’t get it in their head. That period was sort of after the Punk thing. They called it New Wave then. So it was indeed the time where the rule book was broken, thrown out the window to an extend , like “anything goes“. Very exciting moments I think. Now when an album comes out, it’s like a machine the music industry.
GMcPHERSON– At that time it was exploding! Every day there was a new record. Seemed that all the time there were very exciting records to hear! And young people!
MIKE BARSON– Yeah, cause until then, there were these very established artists and it was very difficult to get a looking for new artists. Unless you had a big record company, like KATE BUSH I still remember. She was paid lots of money, it was a big operation. And it was very difficult to penetrate I think. And then suddenly people, who one week they were playing in a pub in London somewhere and the next week they were having hits. So yeah, exciting times.
RAN– Talking about Music Industry, what do you think about it nowadays?
GMcPHERSON– I think it‘s changing all the time. I think equally it‘s very difficult for young bands because there are less and less venues. I think you look for a prettier golden period for that kind of thing. With all the streaming it‘s very hard, the money is streaming off in one direction sort of. I think a lot of people are trying to make that fairer but that‘s quite hard, sort of crossroads somehow.
RAN– I think it helps for bands like yours for having become famous in the good times
GMcPHERSON– Yes, of course! It was great to be a young band back then. Now it’s kind of against us, now we become the old timers they’re trying to get out of the way (laughs).But obviously it’s like dementia… All you do is hang for life at the end, not knowing what you’re doing anymore. You just have to be on stage getting this adulation till it just ends up till the last person falls down dead (laughs). But I mean we’re just enjoy what we do and we’re very lucky to be doing it!
MIKE BARSON– And obviously the fact that we’ve got an history, that creates a momentum for sure! We’re lucky and again we worked our asses off all these years to create that, fair enough I suppose, we did something. One vacation after the other, we call it work (laughs).
RAN– What about the story of the movie ‘One Man’s Madness’ by Lee Thompson ? How did you decide this ?
GMcPHERSON– I think Lee and his friend’ the director decided to do it. And it turned out great. Lee is always been a very good actor and a very entertaining person. There are small bits he gets on tv shows with his saxophone but when you see him on stage, you can watch him on his own. And this is another interesting piece, and how much work he puts into it. When he gets into things he works very hard, and it’s a very detailed, interesting film.
MIKE BARSON– I hope it will be of interest to general public, maybe not particularly to MADNESS fans, cause I think it’s very interesting, very different. And at the same time it’s a sort of window into the band cause there’s a lot of the all band in it. We’ve all been interviewed about Lee Thompson so there’s a lot of the band dynamics coming. He’s sort of central into it, it’s quite mad.
GMcPHERSON– Yeah, by looking through Lee‘s eyes, you get a good of a window into the internal work of the band somehow.
RAN– Your lead single “Mr. Apples” was accompanied by a video, why is it the first one since 2009?
GMcPHERSON– We had some funny times with different record companies, again it took about Music industry nowadays, we made a video for this one and it seemed to go quite well and then they didn’t want to make a video for the next one…So, we were having conversations about what we want. We’ve always enjoyed making videos. This was a great one, it was Lee again who made that, he was Mister Apples, he finds it very easy to play the pervert in a Mac strangely enough (laughs).
RAN– Tonight you will present your last album “Can’t touch us now”, do you enjoy more what you’re doing today? On stage?
MIKE BARSON– Well, recording the album, as you get older, you get better I suppose at what you do, at making music nowadays. And that album felt like a mature album, I enjoyed it a lot. When we were making music in the early days, it did mean to come out all right but it was a bit hap hazard. Now we feel we‘re a lot more experienced, mature, we really enjoy it and I think the album is great!
RAN– And I really enjoyed this interview. Thank you very much!
If you missed the concert …ArteTV Baloise Session Madness concert
From Belgian and Italian parents, I grew up with music, dance and big fun! I love singing since I'm a little girl, I still am, haha. When I was 14, I saw my first concert: T-Rex. Later it was FrankZappa, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Fela, Canned Heat, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Earth, Wind and Fire ....
I dreamed to have a chat with each of them 😀 Before interviewing bands, I used to sing (and still do) and met lots of great musicians. I had the chance to be the support band to Joe Cocker in 2007. I love to communicate and meet people (Italian blood).
Working for magazine, a few years ago, l met José Oliveira! We were working at the same festival in Colmar. 2 people from the South with the same passion just recognized each other...and we stayed in contact since then. Here I am! Enjoying concerts, covering interviews and articles with José for Rock at Night!!