It's been a busy few months for Madness. Not only can they be spotted on our screens playing Baggy Trousers very slowly for their beer money and they played to huge crowds at the Reading & Leeds Festivals at the weekend (27 and 28 August), but the band are staging their own event, The House Of Fun Weekender between 25 and 28 November at Butlins in Minehead. To discover the cause of this renaissance for the Nutty Boys there was only person to go to, Suggs of course. So you're tired of stealing the show at other event events and you're organising your own festival, have you had enough of everyone else's? "I love festivals, but they were all crammed together in a month in the summer. The opportunity came via Butlins for us to do something down there for a super gig, a state-of-the-art holiday camp. It seemed like an opportunity that was too good to miss. We were talking about doing something at Butlins, I used to go there for a Northern Soul weekend at Camber Sands when I was a teenager so I always liked that idea: a festival where you go on a Friday and you don't go back to work until Monday afternoon. It's all going to be indoors and it's an amazing fucking complex with about five different venues. The people come and stay for the whole weekend and we're... what's that thing you do when you're in a museum? "
Curating? "Curate [laughs] for a whole weekend. It's really a dream come true and really good fun."
So who have you curated other than yourselves? "We've got Jerry Dammer's Orchestra, one of my favourite acts of the last year. We've got fantastic DJs as well like Andrew Weatherall. Got so many fucking DJs, it's escaped me now. We've got a band called Man, Right And Me who I think are a brilliant young band. We've got Lee Thompson our saxophone player's ska orchestra, which is a sight to behold. Plus we've Rob Da Bank, the DJ, and we've also got Beardy Man who's just a bit of old school really. Paul Heaton is coming down from the Beautiful South. So we've got a real mixture of stuff."
And are Madness playing 37 times over the weekend or just the one gig? "I'm not actually sure yet. We're going to do a big gig on the Saturday and on the Friday night we're going to do something, but we're not entirely sure it's going to be yet, but we're not supposed to say that. We may do stuff from the new album, that might be the plan. I've seen Primal Scream at Glastonbury doing the whole of Screamadelica, fucking brilliant. So there's some sort of wind in the sails about the band maybe just performing the whole of One Step Beyond. But then again we might do our new album. We'll be out and about too. We're all involved in various family activities. Chris is in charge of Rockieoke, which is a live band that will play any song you want and you can get on stage and sing with them. The problem if you're not going to be able to get us off. I'm in charge of the knobbly knees competition, but I've got a big feeling I'm going to be the winner of that. We've got a darts symposium with Phil The Power Taylor and we've got extreme apple dunking which involves you actually having to get in the barrel. So a lot of good music, a lot of good things."
We're assuming Madness will be in red coats for the rest of the weekend? "Of course, of course! You try getting me off that fucking PA system, I'll be there from dawn till dusk. 5 o' clock in the morning: Come on! Let's get up and at them campers!"
Aren't you worried that everyone will know where you're staying and you'll have a queue of people outside your door asking questions every morning? "Knowing the veracity of the original members of Madness, it's the paying customers who should be worried about seeing us coming towards them. We're going to sleep for three days and three nights beforehand to store our sleep, like camels, and unleash our lively souls for 72 hours."
Minehead is also used by ATP for festivals, any plans in place if Battles fans get their dates wrong and turn up at your event by mistake? "I thought you said 80p [laughs] it's a bit more than that! It won't be too stultifying, they might wander into something they'll actually like."
Away from festivals we presume you are swimming in French bear from the advert? "Well, they keep promising it and it hasn't arrived yet. I'm still paying good money for that shit down at my local pub! Apparently it's the third most popular beer advert in the world, did you know that?"
Was it a struggle for Madness to play so slowly? "Absolutely! Every fibre in our beings wanted to jump up and down and get going. The director was very specific because he was a young chap, you know. But we had to do it as slow as possible. I've got to tell the kids out there what hard work it is sitting at a table with a never-ending pint of beer for three days. Day one I was really good, day two I started about two in the afternoon and day three I started at 11 in the morning. I just had to sit there and do nothing in a long shot and I realised it was real beer not just a prop. I just took a sip and they had the thing topped up of course. It was like being at one of those functions at an opening of a gallery where you've got a glass in your hand and people go round topping them up.You're not sure whether you've had nine or 900 glasses."
Having slowed things down, would you consider reworking more of your songs that way? "Yeah maybe. I know it's been done a million times with that unplugged and acoustic sort of thing, but I've got a feeling that it would be interesting. We once did Tomorrows Just Another Day with Elvis Costello in a sort of jazz ballad, which is very good if you ever get a chance to hear it. You get some subtleties out of those songs when you slow them down, so maybe that's an idea. It's something we've been talking about amongst the other million things we talk about on a daily basis."
So apart from beer and music festivals, what else have you been up to? "I'm doing a series on BBC Two called Teenage Kicks which is all about the history of tribal culture in England: the Teddy Boys to the mods; the skin heads to the punks and even further back . The Victorian times had gangs walking around with Mohawks and steel toed clogs. Also in the post is a one man show. I did four goes at it in a year and it's an anecdotal thing with a pianist and I'm going to do that at the end of this year for two weeks at the Kings Head in Angel and maybe go to go on tour with it. I've obviously never done anything like that before."
Are you doing stand-up? "It's just anecdotal. People keep saying it's stand up but it isn't. What happened was, I was 50 this year and my kids moved out and on my sisters birthday I was in the bath and I heard a crash and the cat fell off the shelf and died. And its this enormous crossroads with the cat dying made me think about mortality and all the rest of it. And so that's what got the whole thing going. I just start off talking about myself, like how I ended up in the band, but then I sing a few songs along the way. It's relatively amusing. We're also in the process of making a new album, which will possibly come out at the end of next June and that's going very well too."
Sounds like you're so busy, you won't have time to drink all that beer if it turns up? "Well yeah. And I'm sounding like a dork here but I'm writing a bleeding book too. Now that's hard. Have you ever tried writing a book? How can people do that? I got on the euphoric roll on the first week, writing 2000 words a day or more and I thought I'd be done in a month. Of course by week two you're doing 1000 and then it's 500, 200 and then it's none for four days and then one word. Then you're like: Fuck, this is going to take the rest of my life!"
See Madness.co.uk for more information on The House Of Fun Weekender.