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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007, 08:30 GMT
Talking Shop: Suggs from Madness
Madness have achieved the near impossible - being successful in the 1980s and maintaining their credibility two decades later.

Their catalogue of memorable songs continue to inspire dedicated enthusiasm from some fans.

The band are working on their first album of original material since 1999. The first single, Sorry, is released this week.

Frontman Suggs discusses making new music - and if the band ever grow tired of their classic hit It Must Be Love.


Why so long between records?

(l to r) Suggs, Lee 'Kix" Thompson and Chas Smash of Madness
Some people propose to Madness songs - apparently
It feels like minutes in Madness time. The band is a very slow-moving organism, mainly because there are seven of us - so it's hard enough to get us in the same room together let alone do anything productive!

While we wanted to get back to that classic pop/reggae Madness sound, we also wanted to create a more complex record for people of our age.... we started it last year and we are driving our managers to distraction. It's about half done.

Sorry features Mobo winning hip-hop artist Sway. How did that come about?

I first heard him through my daughters and I liked his stuff.

We heard he liked Madness because the first flat he moved into someone had left a Madness album in a cupboard and it was the only music he had for a while.

We are careful of trying to combine styles of music but we tried this and it was perfect.

What is the most overused word used about Madness?

We got called "nutty" a lot. Especially in some of the further corners of Europe they would say to us 'come on, be nutty and zany'. We were just having fun and it becomes a strain if you try to turn that on and off like a tap.

That made us come up with songs like Yesterday's Men, One Better Day and Grey Day because we got fed up being portrayed as clowns. But when we came back after a few years we realised it was two sides of the same coin and it was foolish to completely deny the comic side of the band.

Is it hard to still be the boys from Madness after all these years?

A bit. I feel that I am part of the first generation which didn't want to let go of being young. It used to be pipe and slippers on the dot of 35 but that boundary is increasingly blurred.

At the same time as I would like Madness to have the same energy we had as kids, it would be undignified not to realise it has to change slightly and that has been going alright.

I take a lot of inspiration from the film Buena Vista Social Club, that's how to grow old gracefully as a musician!

Madness' early hits still sound good 25 years later. Did you realise at the time you were making classics?

Not in the slightest. We just wanted to make a record and have some proof we were musicians - and make enough money to go out on a weekend!

What do you remember about appearing on The Young Ones?

Madness
Madness maintain their reputation as the "nutty boys"

It was a great time. We knew Ade Edmonson and Rik Mayall and those comedians and we would go and see each other perform.

Then we were offered this TV series where Margaret Thatcher went back to Mars and we were elected to government. But the BBC decided it was too expensive.

Then bits of that show turned up in this new comedy The Young Ones, so we went on. It had the same sense of fun we did, very spontaneous. You could veer off the script. One time we said 'Why don't we have a fight with police and smash up a few cars?' and they went 'great idea!'.

And then you appeared on Strictly Come Dancing.

We get offered all sorts of things and the great thing about being in a band is that only about four of you have to turn up to make it happen and the rest can be padded out with blokes in sunglasses. Enough agreed to do Strictly to make it worthwhile. You can't argue with the bald facts, it's one of the most watched programmes on TV.

Having done a bit of media, my attitude is a bit more laissez-faire. Some of the others think rock and roll should be more, well, rock and roll.

Do you ever get sick of hearing It Must Be Love?

No. Seriously, no. It's a great song. It's simple but powerful. At first we couldn't quite believe it was for us, as we were so sarcastic - but it ended up with a Madness vibe.

Pop records can be such snapshots of people's lives and that song is that first love to so many people. When we toured again in the '90s, people were in tears when they heard it. On the last tour three people proposed to that song.

Speaking of touring, you caused an earthquake at one Finsbury Park gig.

We are proud of that. They even sent a scientist in a white coat to talk to us about it.

I can remember the moment. We hadn't played in a while and when we opened with One Step Beyond thousands of slightly overweight 45-year-old blokes started jumping up and down and apparently some cavity under Finsbury Park magnified the effect.

Your audiences do have a reputation for showmanship.

It's a bit like the Barmy Army. There is always groups of men singing away, often done up in curlers and a pinny, and occasionally a fez. It's like an episode of Monty Python.

So when can we expect the new album?

Ah, yes. We booked five nights at the Hackney Empire in June to give us a deadline for launching it. But it's already looking like we are going to have to shift those dates. Hopefully, really hopefully, September. Maybe Christmas.

Suggs spoke to BBC News Entertainment Reporter Greig Watson




SEE ALSO
Talking Shop: Marty Wilde
02 Mar 07 |  Entertainment
Talking Shop: Lady Sovereign
29 Jan 07 |  Entertainment
Suggs takes mike for radio show
07 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
An embarrassment no more
24 Nov 05 |  Magazine

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