Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Duff Interview: Jean-Pierre Boutellier and the Madness 30th Anniversary Tribute Album

To mark the 30th anniversary (!) of the release of Madness' first single and their debut album One Step Beyond... (both in 1979), mega-fan Jean-Pierre Boutellier is assembling a Madness tribute album that will be released on Big 8 Records in the spring of 2009. As you will read below, JP is no stranger to the French ska scene--he's managed a few ska bands (like Les Frelons, who were featured on several Unicorn "Skankin' Round the World" compilations in the late 80s/early 90s); produced two French ska comps, including one for Moon; hosted a plethora of ska radio shows; and published the long-running Skanews zine (JP was kind enough to remind me of an interview he did with me in 2000, when I was running 7 Wonders of the World Music, which can be found here).

To date, JP's Madness tribute album features some big brand-name acts on the scene, such as Dr. Ring Ding, King Django, Desorden Publico, "Rocksteady" Freddie Reiter (of the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble), as well as Nouvelle Vague (a pop group that covers New Wave and post-punk songs in a lounge style) and a slew of newer European, South American, and Australian ska bands. Considering the extraordinary array of brilliant ska and pop songs that Madness created over the past three decades, this record should be a winner and we can't wait to hear it!

Thanks to JP for taking the time to do this interview, both in English and French (DGTS's first bilingual interview)!

Duff Guide To Ska: On the Madness tribute album's Facebook, page, you state that the band is aware that you are putting together this compilation and has essentially given you their blessing. Which members of Madness have you been in touch with and what has been their reaction to this project? And will they have any involvement in the release of this record?

Jean-Pierre Boutellier: First thanks a lot for this interview.

Let's introduce myself for your readers. I am Jean-Pierre Boutellier, 42 years old. I run the French non-official Madness fan club. In the past, I managed some Ska Reggae bands like Les Frelons (1988-1991). I also produced some [French ska] samplers like Skappellation for Moon Ska/Moon Ska Europe in 1999 and It's a Frenchy Ska Reggae Party 3 in 2001. I also worked on a paper skazine called "Skanews" between 1993 to 2002 (I put the interviews and reviews on and released Ska radio show called "Skanews" on several Independent French FM and web radios between 1984 to 2003.

Madness is my favourite band since 1979. I wanted to do something for the 30th anniversary of the first Madness hit, "The Prince"... Madness gave me since 29 years lot of emotion and more! Madness, it's like a brother for me, who give me energy when I am sad, and give me more happiness when I am top of form... So, I wanted to do something to pay tribute to this great band. My first idea was to release a remix album of some of Madness tunes and send the CD to the members...But Jérome Lanvin who run Big 8 Records in France (Big 8 Records produced some bands like Jah On Slide and Cherry Boop and the Sound Makers and some Ska samplers as So Precious Ska) ask me to work on a Madness tribute album.

I send an e-mail to Garry Blackburn, Madness' manager. He send me an e-mail to tell me: "Thanks for the amazing job you do on the Madness info service (French MIS). The band are very flattered by your idea (Madness tribute album) and wish you all the best with the project".

No, Madness members are not involved on the release of this record. But some musicians (very good friends to Madness members) will play on this record!

Heu... perhaps we will receive a Madness cover by the Maddies under a nickname! Who knows? Imagine Chris on vocals, Carl on piano, Mike on bass, Suggs on guitar... it will be great, but, JP, please, stop dreaming!

I am also very happy that the MIS Online/Madness Central (UK and US fan clubs featuring members of all the world) is also involved on this project... They will record some "surprises" for this tribute album.

The artwork of the cover and the booklet will be release by Mister B and Sean Gaskin.

In fact, it's important to say that all the rights of the songs will be paid to Sacem/SDRM in France, who distribute the writers, artists etc. royalties via MCPS/PRS, copyright control etc...

When I said yes to Jérome Lanvin to work on the band choice for this sampler, I said to him that it is very important to me that the all the rights will be paid and that all the bands will a have a deal. I saw too much problems about this (money, deals...) in the past with other labels. Jérome is a serious man, so no problems to me to work with him on this record.

About the bands and the covers. We can't say to a band that we put it on the sampler if we have not listen to their cover (demo version in the first time or final mix for the bands who have recorded a Madness song in the past). We have received many tracks and for some we have said yes, it's alright, your version will be on the tribute album and you will have a deal etc... and for some we have said no (for different reasons)

Merci beaucoup de m'interviewer.

Je me présente pour vos lectrices et lecteurs. Je m'appelle Jean-Pierre Boutellier, j'ai 42 ans. je m'occupe du site fan-club francophone non offciel du groupe Madness. Dans le passé, j'ai managé des groupes Ska reggae dont les Frelons (de 1988 à 1991), travaillé sur plusieurs compilations dont Skappellation pour Moon Ska/Moon Ska Europe en 1999 et It's a Frenchy Ska Reggae Party 3 en 2001. J'ai édité un fanzine Ska, "Skanews" entre 1993 et 2002 et produit une émission de radio Ska sur différentes FM et web radios françophones entre 1984 et 2003.

Madness est mon groupe préféré depuis 1979. je voulias absolument faire quelque chose pour les 30 ans du premier tube de Madness, "The Prince" en 2009. Madness m'a donné beaucoup de bonnes vibrations durant 29 ans. Madness, c'est un peu comme le grand frère que je n'ai jamais eu. Ce groupe par sa musique m'a donné de l'énergie quand j'étais pas bien, et plus de pêche encore quand j'étais en gand forme. Donc je voulais, en retour, leur rendre hommage. Ma première idée était de remixer plusieurs de leurs morceaux de de leur envoyer le CD. mais Jérome Lanvin du label Big 8 Records (production de groupes comme Jah On Slide et Cherry Boop and the Sound Makers ou de compils Ska comme So Precious Ska) m'a proposé de travailler sur le Madness tribute album.

J'ai envoyé un mail au manager de Madness, Garry Blackburn, Il m'a répondu dans la positive, me disant que le groupe était très flatté par ce projet.

Aucun membre de Madness n'est impliqué dans ce projet. Mais certains musiciens très amis du groupe y participent.

Mais...peut-être allons-nous recevoir un titre enregistré par les maddies sous un faux nom... Imaginez Chris au chant, Carl au piano, Mike à la basse... Se serait génial! Mais, bon, c'est beau de rêver! Lol.

Je suis très heureux que le MIS Online/Madness Central (fan club anglais et US réunissant des membres du monde entier) participe aussi à ce projet avec l'enregistrement de plusieurs surprises pour le disque.

La pochette et les dessins du livret vont être réalisés par Mister B et Sean Gaskin.

C'est très important pour moi de dire que tous les droits des chansons de ce disque seront payés à la SACEM/SDRM en France qui s'occupera de la redistribution à MCPS/PRS, copyright control etc...

Quand j'ai dis à Jérome que j'étais d'accord pour travailler sur le choix des groupes/morceaux pour cette compilation, je lui ai précisé qu'il était très important pour moi que tous les droits soient payés et que les groupes aient un contrat. Jérome est quelqu'un de sérieux, donc pas de problèmes de ce côté là, j'ai confirmé le fait que je bosserais sur ce disque.

Au sujet des groupes et des reprises. nous ne pouvons dire à un groupe qu'il sera sur le disque si nous n'avons pas écouté sa reprise (en premier lieu une démo). nous avons reçu de nombreux titres. Pour certains groupes nous avons dit "oui", pour d'autres "non".

DGTS: Of the tracks you are receiving, are they mostly faithful covers of Madness tunes or are the ska bands doing their own interpretations--changing the songs a bit to reflect their own particular style of ska? And which Madness song have the bands wanted to cover the most?

JP: The idea is very simple: try to find bands all over the world who want to release a very own cover of a Madness song.

I don't want to do a Ska sampler. Madness is not a Ska band. It's a band who like to put time to time some Ska and Reggae spices on their music! I am not happy when on radios the DJ say: "It was 'Our House,' a big Ska hit by the best UK Ska band, Madness."

If "Our House" is a Ska tune, "Let's Dance" by David Bowie is a big rap hit!

I don't want on this record "clone covers" (I have lot of respect to all the Madness tribute bands in UK, but it was too simple and not exciting to put songs by these bands).

I think it will be great to have several styles...imagine "Los Palmas 7" in a 60s Ska style, "Mrs. Hutchinson" or "Our House" in Latin Salsa Style, "My Girl" in a great pop style sung by a woman, "Johnny The Horse" sung in Italian, "The Opuim Eaters" in Electro Dub style or "You Said" in a today Brit Rock Pop style!

No problems with the covers, we send list of "free" tracks to the bands. Also, bands are very imaginative. It's a great good surprise for me to see bands who want to cover songs like "Never Ask Twice" or "Day On The Town."

At time we try to find bands who want to do very own covers of "Embarrassment" or "Shut Up."

L'idée est très simple, trouver des groupe du monde entier qui veulent reprendre dans leur propre style un titre de Madness.

Je n'ai jamais eu l'idée de faire une compilation Ska. Madness n'est pas un groupe de Ska. C'est un groupe qui de temps en temps épice sa musique de sons Ska ou Reggae. Je suis outré quand j'entends à la radio l'animateur dire "C'était le plus grand groupe Ska anglais Madness dans l'un de ses tubes Ska "Our House." Si "Our House" est un morceau Ska, "Let's Dance" de David Bowie est un tube rap!

Je ne veux pas non plus d'un tribute avec des morceaux "Clonés." J'ai beaucoup de respect pour les Madness tribute bands anglais, mais les mettre sur cette compilation aurait été trop facile et pas assez original.

Je pense qu'il faut laisser libre cours à l'imagination des groupes quant à l'interprétation de leur reprise. Imaginez "Los Palmas 7" en version 60's Ska, "Our House" ou "Mrs. Hutchinson" en version Salsa Latino, "The Opium eaters" en Electro Dub!

Nous recherchons actuellement des groupes pour reprendre à leur manière "Embarrassment" et "Shut Up."

DGTS: From what you've heard so far, do you have any favorite covers that have been submitted for inclusion on the album?

JP: I love all of them...but I am very happy for the JAG version of "You Said." Very own version! Kick the ass... I think it will be a massive hit, if the band put the video on MTV2!

Je les aime toutes! Mais je suis envoûté par la version de "You Said" par JAG. Un vrai coup de pied dans le cul! Si la vidéo passe sur MTV2, je suis sûr que se sera un véritable tube!

DGTS: What is your all-time favorite Madness song? And how did you come to be such a huge fan of the band?

JP: I love all the Madness tracks, except the melody of "Memories"...don't know why! My favourite album is The Rise and Fall. Favorites songs: "Embarrassment," "NW5," "Johnny The Horse," "You Said," "Samantha," "Missing You," "Give Me a Reason," "Bingo," "Dust Devil," "Sarah's Song"...stop!

J'aime tous les titres de Madness sauf la mélodie de "Memories"... Je ne sais pas pourquoi! Mon album préféré est The Rise and Fall. Mes titres favoris: "Embarrassment," "NW5," "Johnny The Horse," "You Said," "Samantha," "Missing You," "Give Me a Reason," "Bingo," "Dust Devil," "Sarah's Song"...stop!

DGTS: It seems like the majority of bands involved in this project are European. Are you expecting more contributions from American ska bands? (If not, why do you think there hasn't been more interest on this side of the Atlantic?)

JP: Lot of European bands, but some of South America, like Niko Costello, Desorden Publico, and Inspector.

From USA we will have King Django with a great version of "Night Boat To Cairo" and Freddie of NYSJE who played as Freddy Loco. Perhaps more from US soon, but lot of US (very popular in all the world) bands want many dollars before the release of the sampler!

We also have bands from Down Under.

You can find all the news, photos, videos, listen to some tracks of the Madness tribute album on our Facebook page.

Oui, beaucoup de groupes Européens. Plusieurs aussi d'Amérique du Sud comme Niko Costello, Desorden Publico, et Inspector.

Pour les Etats-Unis, King Django reprend de très belle manière "Night Boat To Cairo" et Freddie du New York Ska Jazz Ensemble joue de la flûte sur le morceau de Freddy Loco. Il y aura peut-être d'autres groupes US. mais de nombreux groupes américains très connu nous ont demandé beaucoup de Dollars avant la sortie du disque pour qu'ils jouent dessus !!

Vous pouvez trouver toutes les informations, photos, vidéos, titres à écouter du Madness tribute album sur Facebook.

DGTS: Will the Madness tribute album be distributed in the United States?

JP: Don't know at yet. I hope so. I think it will be on and

Je ne le sais pas encore. Je pense qu'il sera en vente sur et

DGTS: Since you're a massive Madness fan with connections to the band, do you have any idea when The Liberty of Norton Folgate [their brand new album] will be released?

JP: Madness have work on this album since around three years. I have listen to lots of tracks of this record (live versions) and I can say that the band done a great work. I think it will be a masterpiece like The Rise and Fall. I think the band wait until 2009 to release this record. 2009 will be a great year for Madness fans...30th anniversary! Records, concerts, surprises!

Madness a travaillé sur cet album pendant près de 3 ans. J'ai écouté de nombreux titres en version live de cet album et je peux dire que le groupe a fait de l'excellent travail. Je pense que se sera un Chef d'oeuvre tout comme l'était The Rise and Fall. Le disque sortira certainement en 2009 pour les 30 ans du groupe. 2009 sera une belle année pour les fans de Madness: disques, concerts, surprises...

Again thanks a lot for this interview. The Madness tribute album will be out in spring 2009. Bands who want to be involved in this project can contact us as soon as possible at or

The deadline to receive final mix tracks: 15th Janury 2009.

Encore merci pour cette interview. l'album en Hommage à Madness sortira au printemps 2009. Les groupes qui veulent particper à ce disque doivent nous contacter rapidement aux adresses suivantes: or

Date limite de réception des morceaux mixés: 15 janvier 2009.

You Said

From the upcoming 30th Anniversary Madness Tribute Album on Big 8 Records (spring 2009).

Monday, November 17, 2008

OMG! Preview of New RiceRokit Video! Betrayal of a Genuine Heart!

"Betrayal of a Genuine Heart" (Preview)

Stay tuned for the rest...

I'm still waiting for a video of "Dull Boy." Whaddaysay?

Our shameless promotion of this album knows no bounds.

Ska Tunes for Our Times, Version 2

Dave Barker
"What a Confusion"

U Roy
"Earthquake" ("What a Confusion" version)

"What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man

While the grass is growing
The horses are starving
Cost of living rising
While poverty flowing
And now that Jah book has been opened
From A to Z
Brothers killing brothers just for a piece of bread
just for a cent, he'll 'move your head

What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man

This is the hand of Jah writing on the wall
United we stand, but divided we fall
Now let this be a lesson for one and all

What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man

The fat is laughing, while the meager is crying
Believe it or not brothers, I'm not lying

What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man"

Despite the depressingly gruesome lyrics, it's a beautiful, soulful song. And Scratch conveys Rasta Babylon Revelation Time Dread like no one else...

As I mentioned in the comments section of recent The Trojans post, the Dave Barker/Selecter version of this song is really worth tracking down. It's on "Cruel Britannia," a very underrated Selecter album, which was released in 1998 on Snapper and re-released on Moon Ska World in 2004. You can listen to a sample of this song on CD Baby. While you are there, make sure to check out "The Viper," its version "Lyrical Sniper," and their cover of Delroy Wilson's "Better Must Come." Good stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ska Tunes for Our Times

The Trojans
"Brother, Can You Spare a Pound?"
From The Trojan's Skalatitude album (released in 1992 on Gaz's Rockin' Records).

This is a cover of the Depression-era hit, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," with lyrics by Yip Harburg and music by Jay Gorney.

It's a melancholy tune to begin with, but it's all the more sorrowful with Gaz's melodica in the mix.

Monday, November 10, 2008

America Goes 2-Tone!

Seeing President-elect Barack Obama and his family on stage in Chicago on election night as they embraced Vice-President-elect Joe Biden and his family was such an extraordinarily powerful image, as was the wonderfully multiracial crown in Grant Park--images that are not seen nearly enough in the media and pop culture in the United States.

And it reminded me of the daring symbolism of so many of the 2-Tone era bands (particularly The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter), who promoted tolerance and racial harmony/unity simply by hitting the stage and playing music together, during a time in the UK when the National Front was on the rise and violent attacks on non-whites (Brits and immigrants alike) were commonplace. We've come a long way since 1979, but I still remember reading an interview Bucket did in the late 90s talking about how it was still a strong and provocative statement for the multiracial Toasters to perform in certain parts of the USA...

In high school, I caught onto ska music just after 2-Tone collapsed, as the surviving bands were expanding their sound (see The English Beat's Special Beat Service and the Special AKA's "Free Nelson Mandela") and I worked my way back to the proper 2-Tone albums, as well as some vintage ska from The Skatalites and Prince Buster. The music drew me in immediately, but the image of these integrated bands (including UB40, whom I saw live many times) influenced me enormously, too (particularly, since most of the British New Wave acts I was into were lily white). Growing up, my parents had taught me the evils of racism (they had been actively involved in the Civil Rights movement in the 60s), so it wasn't like I needed this lesson, but it was cool to have these values that I strongly believed in reinforced and celebrated in the pop culture I happily consumed every day.

I've heard a lot of pundits opine that Obama "transcends race," as if white Americans who support him are oblivous to race. (The subtext is that the only way white folks could vote for Obama is by denying his ethnicity completely--that, or he somehow tricked us with all his fancy words and smooth talk!) C'mon! Obama is a BLACK American and he is embraced by his fellow Americans (white, black, brown, etc.) for the totality of who he is--the content of his character, the depth of his intellect, as well as the color of his skin. We know he is black and we're okay with that. Obama is different from some of us, but we're not afraid of "the other one" as McCain so demeaningly referred to Obama in one of the debates. Diversity doesn't scare us because we know better: we're a stronger, smarter, and healthier nation for it.

One of the overt goals of 2-Tone was to normalize racial integration--black and white people making music together was no big thang, so we all should be able to live, work, and play together! And a lot of us got the message and incorporated it into our lives. Now, with the election of Barack Obama, my kids and generations of kids to follow, will find it perfectly normal for a black man to be the President of the United States (and will see him on TV, hear about him from their parents, and read about him in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and in their history books)--an extraordinary development for a country founded on the principals of freedom and equality (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...), so long retarded in its evolution by its long and ugly history of slavery, institutionalized racism, and pigheaded ignorance. Obama will serve as our kids' 2-Tone image and message (hey, he's literally 2-Tone!), one that's very much overdue.

Our society has finally caught up with our ideals (okay, we're not perfect yet, but we're working on it). I've never been prouder of my country or happier to be an American.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ska Gig Alert: The Dance Bash with The English Beat (Providence, RI)

If you are in the New England area on Saturday, November 15th and have some extra scratch in your pocket, you might want to head to Providence, RI for The Dance Bash at The Foundry, a fundraiser to benefit Save the Bay (an environmental organization dedicated to "protect, restore, and explore Narragansett Bay and its watershed"). The featured performers at this benefit are The English Beat (really Dave Wakeling, who is big into environmental causes, particularly clean ocean waters), with the Cobra-Matics (rockabilly, featuring the guitarist from the Royal Crowns) opening. This is The English Beat's only gig on the East Coast this fall (except for one in Teaneck, NJ at Mexicali Live), so this is the time to catch them!

Here's the deal: it's $75 for an open bar, a dessert bar, and the show. Doors for this ticket level (The Dance Bash) are at 9:00 pm. So, for your hard-earned cash, you can catch two great bands; drink all you want; load up on sweets, and help keep the Narragansett Bay clean! Sounds like a bargain to me!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Duff Man in the Street: 3 Floors of Ska at the Knitting Factory, 11/1/08

Had I been a more diligent blogger, this post would be more of a show review (and I would have ended up actually seeing more of the bands that played last night). Seriously, I had the best of intentions...I brought my mini-tape recorder for interviews and my digital camera to capture some bands in action! Instead of making our way from floor to floor, catching some of the acts that I've been meaning to see, Adam and I spent most of the night in the sub-basement--with all the ska merch tables (hey, Mr. Keyboard player from Westbound Train who sold me the cool Rasta colors belt for $5, I asked for the one with the Lion of Judah buckle not the plain one!), the DJ (who was spinning a surprising amount of Clash and Yellowman & Fathead), and an easily accessible barkeep--chatting with a lot of peeps from my Moon Records daze that I haven't seen in far too many years. And at some point late in the night, I ended up behind the Megalith merch table, digging around in the semi-darkness for size medium Toasters shirts in the Rubbermaid bins and pushing the RiceRokit "Hang Loose" CD on anyone within earshot (Kendo, I sold a bunch, dude!), while Megalith man Jeremy Patton hit the head (Bucket told me that Jeremy was the "new me," i.e.: he is at Megalith what I was at Moon). Weird piece of trivia: we figured out last night that Jeremy was the first person to purchase some songs from my old digital-download only label, 7 Wonders of the World Music.

What I can report is that there were about 800+ fans in attendance, and Adam and I managed to catch most of Void Union's set in one of the smaller rooms (after trying to see the Hub City Stompers--who sounded great, btw--in the jammed mainstage space). I'm happy to report that Void Union put on a fantastic live show, with a good mix of vintage-ska style original instrumentals (like "The Long Road") and songs featuring the guest singer Hayley Jane (pictured in the top picture, with a cool Betty Grable tattoo on her arm), who is a really gifted frontwoman, and drummer Jesse Hayes (also pictured in the top photo). I'm working on a review of their debut CD, which I'll post in the near future...

Thanks to Buck for getting us in the club and Shay for the hospitality!