The Madness EP
I first wrote The Madness in May 2016 shortly after reading an article about a Palestinian family whose lives were spent beneath windowsill level to avoid one of them taking a sniper’s bullet. Living your life like that is something we in the safety of Europe, whose continent has been largely free from war for 72 years, can never comprehend.
In writing the song, I knew from history that humankind would continue to find conflict and that a return to The Madness is actually never far away. One of the purposes of the European Union was to hold the peace in Europe, and whatever its failings that is something in which it has been singularly successful. Conflicts continued within Europe after 1945: The Greek Civil War 1946-49; the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968; the Northern Ireland Conflict 1968-98 (at least they are the official dates); the Balkan War 1991-2001, and there are continuing murmurings in countries on the fringes of Europe where longstanding conflicts seem destined not to go away.
The list of wars and conflicts in the world outside Europe since 1945 shows that assertions by politicians like David Cameron “why our children must learn the lessons of the First World War” are words only, and that the will of humankind does not extend to ending conflicts altogether. Maybe it is naïve of me to think that can be achieved? So The Madness could be about any of those conflicts, or the extraordinary mess that countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan have been left in as the world battles to secure the vast wealth that has resulted from the exploitation of natural resources in those regions.
I was one of the two million who marched through London on a cold February day in 2003 to tell Tony Blair not to take our country on the coat tails of George Bush into an unnecessary war in Iraq. We were ignored, as peace movements continue to be ignored or dismissed by politicians throughout the world. And look at the legacy they left us. International terrorism is now a fact of life and was perpetrated on the city where I live on 22nd May this year, killing 22 concert goers at the City’s arena.
Two songs on the Madness EP feature The Lewinskies, a man and wife folk duo from Milton Nova Scotia. We got to know each other on Twitter and after several months of conversation it became clear to me that their music would put the icing on the cake of a day long music event I was co-organising. They arrived in Manchester on Friday 19th May, and we rehearsed near Blackpool with the rest of The Folded Arms during that weekend. It was their first visit to the UK so when the bomb struck on 22nd, it added an extra determination to our collaboration together. Our planned recording day on 23rd went ahead as scheduled, and that is where they added their magic to my songs. The great news is that they are back with us in May 2018 for two weeks of gigs, recording and hanging out. So watch this space!
Rewind back to 20th January, and HeyGamal and I had just reached the end of a recording session. These sessions are special because we take our time to get into our day, listening to music, chatting, being stupid, and drinking tea. HeyGamal is a hugely talented producer but also a great friend. We do the same once the track(s) for the day are done, and on this occasion I had picked up his newly purchased £100 electric guitar and started messing about with a few riffs. He spontaneously turned on a his keyboard and began to accompany me, and after no more than a minute he suggested we should record what we were doing, in the same way we have taken footage of each of these sessions.
And so we got into this live jam, which had movement and mood, so we continued until I realised its tempo fitted The Madness, and I just whispered to him “It’s The Madness”, following which we went seamlessly into the song. I added the vocals immediately afterwards, and the result is what you now hear backing the time lapse video that follows. I decided that because the song is stark, so too should the video be, and drew it all out and photographed it frame by frame in about 3 hours on my dining room table.
“The Madness may go but it will come back again” because we humans are fundamentally greedy and stupid. The juxtaposition of the collaboration and warmth of our recording day just 24 hours after the atrocity carried out on those innocents in the centre of Manchester, and the incredible reaction from the people of the city in the days and weeks that followed, demonstrates that no matter where our politicians and corporate business leaders try to drive us, and no matter what those with warped and deranged ideologies of hate try to do to incite and intimidate, hope and friendship will always triumph.