Madness Drummer, Woody very kindly found time to talk to us about his debut solo release with his brother, Nick Woodgate - who together are recording under the name Magic Brothers. We discuss the influences that helped form 'The Magic Line' (out September 30th), the legacy of Madness and weekends at Butlins, amongst other things.
You're here today to talk about your new solo project with your brother Nick, Magic Brothers. What can people expect to hear on ‘The Magic Line’?
Well not Madness that's for sure, although some people tell me there are Madness influences, I certainly can't hear them, maybe I'm too close to it all, it's more kind of Beatles, Suprertramp, ELO, Pink Floyd-ish guitar solos - a very eclectic mix of music really, but it's certainly more kind of Beatles-esque than anything else.
We thought it almost sounded like somebody covering David Bowie, covering Pink Floyd.
Well that sounds good to me. It's difficult to say because I'm so close to it. Nick and I have written music for years now, our tastes go right back through the seventies, so we like a bit of mish mash and we like a good guitar solo.
You seem to be referencing a wide range of British subcultures on the album, composing them into a compact coherent package. Is there one artist or record in particular that you found yourself returning to, again and again?
That's really difficult to say really, we've been influenced by so many artists, I know that Nick is naturally drawn to The Beatles, all his oohs and aahs come straight out of the Abbey Road album. It's a really difficult question. If I'm honest I'd say no. It's too eclectic, we've got too many influences. The seventies - the whole lot - just whack it all in.
Along with The Specials, The Beat and The Selecter you were a big part of the 2 Tone movement of the late 70s and early 80s. How did it come about that you released 'The Prince' on the 2 Tone Records label?
It was just the best of the lot - it seemed to be the most commercial of the three that we recorded. We recorded 'My Girl' which Mike Barton, the keyboard player, sang on. We did 'Madness' and 'The Prince', which wasn't a cover. Because Mike sang on My Girl it wasn't released as a single - we needed Suggs to sing really, and it's as simple as that really - it was the 2 Tone feel as well - it was the most Ska of the tracks.
Madness always utilised silliness and humour more than those other bands. Where did all that comic inspiration come from?
I suppose not looking at life too seriously. You've got to remember that we came out of a generation of musicians that took themselves far too seriously, and we were influenced by all the comedy around us, Benny Hill, The Keystone Cops. We just mixed British music hall with modern pop music I suppose - and with the emergence of videos - we were just seven blokes having a laugh. We just thought up a load of funnies and went and did it. That's not to say that we didn't take the music seriously. That was something that was very dear to our hearts. We wanted to be taken seriously as musicians, but we didn't see why you had to stare at your shoes to get taken seriously.
Although shoe-gaze came along a few years later?
Well of course yeah - but it had been around for ages - people pulling silly faces whilst playing their guitar solos - not really taking any notice of an audience. We liked dance music - because it was fun.
Madness remain one of the best known British bands of all time. How does it feel to be such a huge part of the UK's musical heritage?
It's kind of strange. We were always seen as the rebellious, not to be taken seriously, bunch of fools, for years. So, to be acclaimed - for our music to be recognised as a good body of work, and make a lot of people very happy, it's nice to be appreciated after all these years. I think we were just looked upon as a bit of a joke, but it's nice to know that people can look more deeply into some of the lyrics - what we're really about. It's very nice, but kind of weird as well. We've not changed, but people's perception of us has changed.
There are always surprises at a weekend at Butlins. But, if I was to say there was going to be a surprise, it wouldn't be a surprise anymore would it?
Finally, what's next for you after 'The Magic Line' and the weekender?
Well Nick and I, as we speak, are putting together a band, so we're going to be able to perform some of this album, well all of this album, and Nick and I have already started to work on our second album. We're a little bit torn between what we're going to put on our second album, and what we're going to give to Madness because we've actually become quite a part of the Madness process now after writing a couple of songs on the last album. We wrote 'Leon' and 'Kitchen Floor' and we've got loads more, and I think that will continue. Madness will definitely begin recording a new album next year, and so will Magic Brothers, so I think there's going to be a bit of a bun fight over who gets what songs. It's going to be great. So Madness will be in the studio next year doing the new album, and Magic Brothers will be on the road, in between me being in the studio. It's quite an exciting future.
Find out more about the excellent debut release from Magic Brothers at www.magicbrothers.com