An Ibiza afternoon with Chas Smash of Madness

February 24th, 2009 - 1:50 am Posted in cathal smyth, chas smash, ibiza, liberty of norton folgate | Comments (0)

madnessCathal Smyth is one of the collective known to music lovers as ‘Madness’, the UK Ska band of the 2-Tone era that dominated the British charts during the first half of the 80’s. Cathal, or Chas Smash as he’s better known, recently hit the local news by inspiring a donation from the people of Carlisle to the islands’ ‘Ibiza and Formentera Association for children with Special Needs’ (APNEEF).

This extraordinary and generous act came about because Stephen Dunn, stadium announcer at Carlisle United and a loyal Madness fan, contacted Cathal to ask if it would be possible to do a Carlisle specific voiceover to the song ‘One Step Beyond’, which the club always played when the team ran out onto the pitch for a game.

apneef, ibizaThe upshot was that Cathal re-recorded the opening sequence of lyrics to include a reference to Carlisle United, but asked the club to make a donation to APNEEF instead of paying him. As aficionados of both football and music we needed to know more about this benevolent act, so we made contact through Jill Canney, one of APNEEF’s major fundraisers. It was she who had first made Cathal aware of the disadvantaged children helped by APNEEF.

She did so by talking him into performing an exclusive acoustic set at their annual charity fundraiser, the Butterfly Ball. Nonetheless, she and the kids of APNEEF were blown away when a giant toy box arrived from Carlisle…

We meet him at Foodism in Santa Gertrudis for afternoon tea and as soon as introductory vetting is out of the way he invites us back to his place to see what he’s currently up to. On the way back he confesses that he’s got no previous special connection with Carlisle United, or football in general, but the opportunity to help APNEEF was irresistable. Meanwhile he cranks up the car stereo to show us his new dub step project. There are no vocals on this recording as his partner in the project, ‘Master Krook’, doesn’t arrive until next week, so he fills in with his own rendition as we drive back to his finca, wondering whether we’re unwittingly participating in one of those old Madness videos…

liberty of norton folgateThe new tunes whilst still retaining the feel of Madness, a rawness of delivery that evokes that north London ska sensation, are enhanced by an undercurrent of Brixton dub to remind you of the mix that is London.

Once inside the finca he introduces us to the ‘soon to be released’ new Madness album ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’. We’re watching it on an HD screen and can’t decide whether it’s a video of a Victorian stage show at the Hackney Empire, a documentary of the last 130 years of the district of Norton Folgate, or the evolution of music in the same district over a similar time period.

We conclude that the best plan would be to give it to Boris Johnson as leftfield advertising for the capital now under his stewardship – it’s a brilliant, and currently apt, advert for London and the strength and versatility of its downtrodden people.

cathal smyth aka chas smashWe discuss the future, in light of the fact that this thirty year old band are now planning a world tour. The impression is that it won’t be every night of the year, as Cathal has clearly settled into Ibiza this past year and is looking forward to the arrival of his children tomorrow.

We share family experiences and find similarities. He split from his wife of 28 years just four years ago and is going through the experience in a way that anyone who’s tried it will sympathise with. He’s got his head down and he’s doing what he does best – working on the music.

He plays us a few more songs, as yet unrecorded, on the guitar then takes us through to the adjacent studio where he plonks himself down at a grand piano and spills music from the heart that almost makes me weep. So far he’s shown us four new projects that are ‘works in progress’ and each and all are stunning in their own context.

The man of Madness we may recall from the early 80’s is not just a proficient musician and the foremost exponent of the London-Irish school of thought on the island, but also flat out ‘on it!’ – he’s far from retired…

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