Happy Mondays and Black Grape singer Shaun Ryder talks ahead of Shiiine On Festival in Birmingham
He’s never less than supremely entertaining. Shaun Ryder, professional Mancunian, taker of more drugs than Keith Richards, maker of brilliant tunes with Happy Mondays and Black Grape and national treasure who finished as runner-up on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, has more stories to tell than Roald Dahl.
We start, however, with Shiiine On, a one-day indie festival scheduled for Birmingham’s O2 Academy on September 8.
It will feature co-headliners Orbital, Happy Mondays, Shed Seven and Embrace in a line-up of 20 bands that will be followed by an official Hacienda afterparty.
It will give fans the chance to go on a trip down memory lane as they relive the thrills of the late 1980s and early 1990s with Glasvegas, Julian Cope, Cast, The Wedding Present, A Certain Ratio and more.
But gone are the days when Shaun would gig on a Saturday and party until Wednesday. These days it’s all about getting home to the wife and kids.
“I don’t tend to see the other bands. I might have a bit of a wander around, especially if the kids and the wives go. The kids and the wife love it when they come to gigs. They think it’s brilliant. We get them all up on stage.”
The kids, in truth, run the Ryder family. “When we’re in the radio, we have to suffer Capital Radio. I don’t get to choose. It’s the bling, innit. When they’re not in the car I switch the radio back to Steve Wright in the Afternoon.”
Shaun is happy to be playing Shiiine On, though he’s happy to be doing so many things – from touring the UK with the Happy Mondays and Black Grape to recording new records. He’s never been in more demand.
“I enjoy it now more than ever. All of us do. We’re all compos mentis and we’re all hang-up free. We’re off the treadmill. When I look back at how it was in the Mondays and Black Grape, it was making an album then touring for two years then coming back and doing the same. It’s not like that now and we get more respect than ever. I’m not just saying that to promote the gig. We’re tighter than ever. We’re better than ever.”
Shiiine will focus on the 1990s – not that Shaun remembers that decade. He was blotto on whatever he could find.
“I’ve said it before. I remember the 1960s better than the 1990s. I was seven back then and I can remember more about it.”
The 1990s were the decade when Happy Mondays defined the pre-Britpop era of Madchester, along with The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and others. Their seminal Pills’n’Thrills and Bellyaches was released in 1990 though by then the band were talking so many drugs that they pretty much imploded.
“When you’re young you just take it all for granted. We were pally with a guy called Phil Sachs, who owned the market stalls and sold us jeans. His pals were Mike Pickering and Tony Wilson. Phil started managing us and then, through Mike and Tony, we got picked up by Factory Records.
“At that stage, we were kids. We weren’t even ready to produce records. But we were given this great chance. The city was changing and coming out a Victorian era and turning into technicolour. Everything changed and it was brilliant.But we took it all in our stride.”
The Mondays fell apart after 1992’s Yes Please! and it was 15 years before they made another record, during which time Shaun formed Black Grape and got clean by riding his bike for days and days.
“My side of that story, like the Mondays, is that me and Bez wanted to keep the band going. We were 18 but it got big and people deal with it in different ways. The egos set in. But I was lucky enough to go straight into Black Grape. Then when Black Grape did well, Kermit had people in his ear telling him could be the new TPac of Manchester.
“Every cliché that can happen happened to us. There was the Yoko Ono-type woman, the drugs, you name it. Now we’re lucky to be busier more than ever. I wouldn’t go back, y’ know.”
Time has given people the opportunity to appreciate the remarkable quality of Shaun’s recorded output. He was, of course, described by the late Tony Wilson as being a latter day Yeats.
“I appreciate the albums more than ever. A couple of years ago we took Bummed, our second album, out on tour. I hadn’t listened to it since 1988 the day we finished in the album. I put it on before the tour, to get back into it, and it was great. It was really, really good. I did some not bad writing. I was really chuffed with it. At the time, I didn’t know what we were doing. It was all about finishing things and moving onto the next.”
Shaun had writer’s block for 10 years but these days he writes quickly. On the most recent Black Grape record, he and Kermit finished it in four weeks in Spain and London. “We started it off in my place, a studio in the back garden. I thought we were going to make a football record. But suddenly I started buzzing and the writing and the beats came. Then we had a brilliant record on our hands. It happens quickly.”
Shaun will be back later this year with another Black Grape album, then, who knows? “It’s great,” he says. “The thing I enjoy most is time with the family and kids. I didn’t do it first time round. I was just touring the world and doing shows and building a career. This time I’m trying to get a better time with my family.”