News & Features 11 Sep, 2014

Cathal Smyth aka Chas from Madness

Cathal Smyth aka Chas from Madness is set to perform his brand new solo album for 2 nights at Wilton's Music Hall this October.

In honour of this momunetus occasion we (plus some exciting guest interviewees) managed to get a few minutes with Chas to discuss his life with Madness, his new solo work and being interviewed for teen magazines in the 80s.

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What did it feel like on stage at Finsbury Park when 75,000 people started moving and you registered on the Richter scale?

It was a moment of immense personal satisfaction, I had left Go Discs record company to reform the band and it wasnt easy as there were some doubters in the band, but the reaction of the crowd was a vindication that Madness still carried a great energy and still had something magical to offer.

Any other memorable moments at a Madness gig that stands out?

The moment on Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Jubillee was hard to beat. The connection we seemed to have with the British public came into sharp focus on that day and my son who was in the audience called me asking how long til we started to play and I hearing the pride in his voice brought a lump to my throat. I remembering wishing that my father had been alive to see this.

Judging by some of your videos, you’ve ended up dressed as a woman quite a few times. Was that your idea?

I think I only wore a house coat once in the House of Fun video, I think its Lee who likes wearing the stockings, saying that maybe one day we’ll camp it up. I’ll have to write a suitable song.

Have you ever been in a pub or club when a Madness song has come on and did you join in? 

On the day of Madstock I was walking past a pub off Tottenham Court Road and I could her the whole pub singing along to It Must Be Love. I walked on with a rather lovely warm glow in my heart.

“Take It Or Leave It” seems like a real warts and all film. I think it’s reasonable to say Mike Barson comes across as a little bit “difficult”. Was he like that all of the time?

I think Mike is misunderstood in the film, it was his singleminded determination that not only started the band but drove it through many rehearsals until we became what we now are. He is I think the most talented musician in the band.

What's your rider like these days compared to the past?

Well as I no longer drink alcohol on tour and haven't for some years, I am only interested in the juicer and what fresh fruit and vegetables are available for juicing. I do love a nice bt of ginger and am happy when there’s a good espresso machine . 

What inspired you to write this full solo album? 

It began when I separated from my wife after 28 years. It was a seismic event and the songs began then as a cathartic process. Over the years I have added to them as I have found my voice

Tell us about working on this album compared to a Madness release. 

The process has been at my own pace, in my own way and without compromise.

What can we expect from your upcoming solo gigs? 

A  window in to my life, my heart and my mind. I like to think its thought provoking and in a way a healing.

Tell us about your work with The Hepatitis C Trust (of which the solo gigs support).

I had attended a couple of Hep C events in Ibiza and this year got more involved and the more that I found out the more Ii felt that the charity was something of an underdog. Madness do their bit for charity and we have done a fair bit for the Teenage Cancer Trust yet I felt that The Hep C Trust could do with more awareness in our society and I could in some small way concentrate my efforts and be of some assistance.

Madness are touring again in December too, so which do you prefer?

Madness is and always will be more that the sum of its parts, its a most amazing collective of characters, of friends, of creative’s,  its one of my main passions and has been since i was a teenager. A constant in my life and an evolving reality that continues to stimulate, frustrate, exhilarate and amaze. There is no comparing my solo work and being in Madness. One is not the other. I am Cathal Smyth in December I will again be Chas Smash.

Did you come up with the immortal “Don’t watch that...” and was it planned when you went in the studio?

Lee Thompson asked me to write an introduction to the band as I had been the original bass player and had left the band and i think he missed my energy and was looking for a way to get me involved. I was working in Ashford in Kent and wrote it on the train up to London.

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We’ve found an interview you did from quite a while ago where you described your Likes as “Nice girls”. Is that still the case? 

Who doesn't like a nice girl? though at my age its more nice women these days!

Guest Questions!

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Cathal - is it the case that you can holistically cure 9 out of 10 back complaints? - Kevin Sampson (Author) 

I am abe to bring relief with my massage technique, I have been massaging for some 37 years now so i reckon of have served my apprenticeship .



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What musician or band inspired him to get into music and who would he travel the world to see now? – Stuart Pearce 

I got into music by default as Madness were a gang of mates when Mike Barson said lets form a band as we arent doing anything better. Musically the cannon of my likes and taste are broad but Bowie, Beethoven, Eno and CSNY are on regular rotation.

Cathal Smyth performs at Wiltons Music Hall, October 8th and 9th 2014.  

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