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Madness. Muthafuckin’ Madness. As I sit down to prepare my interview questions, a couple things go through my mind: who the hell am I to interview Madness, and what the crap do you ask one of the coolest bands on the planet? Well, I think I did alright as I fired away at Chas, co-singer to the awesome UK ska band Madness. What do you think?

RACKET: Hey there!

CHAS: How are you doing, man?

RACKET: Fantastic, and yourself?

CHAS: Doing pretty good.

RACKET: Awesome. Well, I’m going to jump right in here.

CHAS: You jump right in, then.

RACKET: With regards to The Dangermen Sessions, I was wondering what factors led to a cd of cover songs?

CHAS: It’s been something we’ve been talking about for sometime. Last year was our twenty-fifth anniversary and we thought it would be interesting to do some shows, so we started out getting us some shows in a pub that we started out in 25 years ago. And we advertised it as The Dangermen, but we just invited friends and it seemed like a good idea at the time, and everyone seemed to get into it, so we made an album.

RACKET: What determined the songs you covered?

CHAS: Everyone had a choice. Madness is sort of a democracy. Everyone picked two songs and we played a lot more live, and we just whittled it down. We couldn’t put it all on one album.

RACKET: Does that mean there’s going to be subsequent albums?

CHAS: I don’t know, really! We’re thinking of doing an original album next. We’re going to be working on that for awhile. We’ve got one foot in rock ‘n’ roll and one foot out of it when the planets are in alignment, and the material’s there, we’ll do it. That’s why we’ve lasted so long.

RACKET: Being together for twenty five years, how have you learned to tolerate one another?

CHAS: I guess by not doing it that often. Essentially, we all like performing and there’s various reasons, you know. It also comes from love and respect for each other, and then the relationship we have with our fans; that’s a powerful thing that’s hard to let go of.

RACKET: You recently played Inland Invasion in San Bernardino, then the House of Blues in San Diego. I would like to know which venue you like better.

CHAS: To be really honest, I don’t mind whether it’s large or small! Each one has it’s merits. The disadvantage of Inland Invasion was playing in the daylight. I think all the bands prefer playing in the dark. Apart from that, the great thing about playing small shows is the intimacy. The advantage of a big one is that you have a really great sound system. A performance is a performance regardless of size and I suppose for the people watching the show, it’s probably more of an experience being up close and more intimate.

RACKET:What is one question that you’ve never been asked, but want to be asked?

CHAS: How complicated are you really?

RACKET: Well, how complicated are you really?

CHAS: Very.

RACKET: Right! I have a book of questions here… Pick a number between one and one hundred twenty-three.

CHAS: Okay. Seven.

(As I start flipping the pages, I am interrupted.)

CHAS: … Do I get to pick another one?

RACKET: Well, you can pick between one and four. (the number of questions per page)

CHAS: Well, let’s start all over, then. The first one should be 108.

RACKET: (turns to page 108) Now pick between one and four.

CHAS: Three!

RACKET: If you could have been told one thing you weren’t told as a teenager, what would you have liked to hear?

CHAS: Being calmer is better in the long run.

RACKET: Who is your favorite superhero?

CHAS: I’ve always liked the look of the Silver Surfer.

RACKET: You guys guest starred on "The Young Ones," and I would really like to know if Vivian is as crazy off-camera as he is on-camera.

CHAS: I think, like most comedians, the craziness is deep. When they’re performing it’s out there, and then they are off stage, they’re pretty mellow. You get the craziness when you perform.

RACKET: My girlfriend likes to steal things, like my money. Have you ever stolen anything?

CHAS: Yeah, absolutely. I stole some Bazooka Joe bubble gum when I was a kid. I stole some eight-tracks once. What else? That was a long time ago. I did some petty pilfering before I was eighteen, but I got caught. And I’m a great old Catholic, so the guilt kicked in.

RACKET: I think the food "spotted dick" sounds disgusting, but I have no idea what it is. Can you tell me what it is?

CHAS: It’s a dessert. It’s like a jam rolled in custard.

RACKET: Is there any food with a name that you think is gross?

CHAS: Pretty gross? Yeah, McDonald’s. God, man, it’s just too much. Texturized vegetable protein reconstituted mush. God forgive me, it’s terrible.

RACKET: What do you think about the current state of ska music in general?

CHAS: I think it’s good. Essentially, dance music keeps evolving and ska music is one of the early roots of dance music. The Aggrolites were really good supporting us. It’s interesting.

RACKET: What bands are you listening to now?

CHAS: Eric Blaine. I’m listening to a British hip-hop group called Task Force. Someone got me into Madelaine Peyrova’s easy listening. I listen to whatever comes my way. I listened to that Gorillaz album recently, and that was interesting, yeah. I liked that. Whatever comes my way, really.

RACKET: How are you so awesome?

CHAS: We believe.

By Jonathan Yost,