Interview: Suggs talks Top Of The Pops, '70s music and Ski Dubai
What’s On chat to Madness frontman Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson ahead of their Dubai gig on October 6.
Mega British ska band Madness got their first taste of fame almost 40 year ago when, just teenagers, their song One Step Beyond reached the UK Top 10. Led by frontman Suggs, the Nutty Boys then dominated the charts through the ’80s, dishing out hit anthems including Our House, It Must Be Love and Baggy Trousers – they clocked up 214 weeks in the UK singles chart in a decade.
The lads are about to release their new album Can’t Touch Us Now, but not before they bring their antics to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium at the Irish Village tonight.
Here’s what Suggs had to say…
Is it true you were about 16 when you started singing with Madness?
I was about 17, I think. I went to The Roxy club in Covent when I was 16 and I remember there was a band who were 14 years old and I thought ‘if these can do it then why can’t I?’ By the time I was 18 I was on Top Of The Pops. My daughters look back now and say that I look so little; we were kids, really.
How have things changed for young musicians, do you think?
It’s a lot more difficult for bands now. When we were starting out in Camden Town there were probably 20 Irish pubs that had function rooms where you could gig. But now you have to pay to a gig in a London pub – kids have to pay like 200 quid.
What was it like growing up in the 70s music scene in London?
Everything was happening in the 70s. We were coming out of a period of austerity and things were pretty dark and then punk came along. It taught us that you didn’t need to be a musical virtuoso to start a band – and we certainly were not.
Your videos always look like fun. Does ‘madness’ describe you all well?
It’s been the right name, because it has been madness, everything is madness, the world is madness. Those videos are recordings of seven young people really enjoying themselves. It wasn’t in any way constructed or pretentious, it was totally spontaneous and still is. I keep waiting for that day I grow up, I’m looking forward to it.
What music do you listen to in your spare time?
I don’t mind a bit of grime and was listening to The Weekend and Tinie Tempah. Then on the other end of the spectrum, I’m getting into jazz and things I despised as a kid, but there’s a whole raft of music that you’d hate because they were wearing the wrong trousers, you know?
You’ve been to Dubai before…
We have, about four years ago. We had a disastrous afternoon at Ski Dubai, when our PA went flying head first down, taking all the snow with him and ended up in a heap.
What can we look forward to at your Dubai gig?
The usual unbridled joy. Hang on to your hats and make sure your shoes are done up tightly because you’re going to lose something, if not only your marbles.
10 things you didn’t know about Madness
Mad about the band? How many of these fun facts can you tick off?
- The year they released One Step Beyond Suggs was only 17
- Madness have their own festival, the House Of Fun Weekend, which takes place in at Butlins in Somerset, England every November
- The band opened for David Bowie on the US stretch of his 1983 Serious Moonlight tour
- The band were originally called The Invaders
- They were once interviewed by Neil Tennant (before his Pet Shop Boys days) for Smash Hits magazine…
- …and in that interview Suggs said he didn’t want to still be performing when he was 30
- Suggs’ actual name is Graham McPherson
- The Madness lead picked his nickname at random from his mother’s encyclopedia of jazz musicians (Peter Suggs) after being made fun of for his Scottish surname
- Madness has performed live on top of Buckingham Palace, (fortunately it was part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations)
- Suggs was kicked out the band in the ’70s for missing band practice to watch Chelsea football team (luckily they let him back in)
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, The Irish Village, Garhoud, Dubai, 9.30pm, Dhs250. Tel: (04) 23950000. Metro: GGICO. platinumlist.net