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Interview: Happy Mondays

1 July 07 interview: Michael Simon

"We’ve been followed around since we were eighteen. I’m forty five in August and a bit of an old fart now. I just did what most of the kids where I come from did"

Shaun Ryder, frontman of The Happy Mondays and Black Grape needs no introduction. His legacy goes back to a time when rave wasn’t ‘nu’ and day-glo flares weren’t so much ironic as drug induced. Despite having mellowed somewhat, Ryder has a vast reputation for chemical enhancement. He also has the peculiar distinction of being the only person banned from live appearances on Channel 4 in the company’s official Compliance Manual. Having reunited The Happy Mondays for a second time (minus his brother Paul) they have just released their first studio album in more than a decade and make an appearance at Rock City at the end of September.

The Mondays have been together for over twenty five years now. How has the band changed over time?
We’ve all got old and boring! I’m a sad old get that only watches telly now.

Black Grape sat between the original Mondays line up and the first reunion. How did that work?
The first album we did with Black Grape was basically a solo project but I didn’t want to go under the name Shaun Ryder. That first album should have really been the Monday’s last album.

How’s Bez?
He’s alright. We just got back from Barcelona so I haven’t seen him for a few days. He’s fine. He’s Bez, ain’t he? You could throw him out of an airplane and he’ll land on his feet.

Are you touring all summer?
Yeah, we’ve been touring for the last month or so, and I’ve got a day off today, so I’m sat here watching TV. I’ve got an hour of interviews and then I can get into my Heroes and Band of Brothers.

What do you make of your reputation with drugs?
If you look at it, we’ve been followed around since we were eighteen years old. I’m forty five in August and a bit of an old fart now. I just did what most of the kids where I come from did. Kids go out and party and we were lucky enough to get paid for doing that.

Has being a parent changed your outlook on life?
I’ve been a parent for years. It’s just a natural thing. I’m not twenty-one anymore.

Did the Happy Mondays invent rave?
A lot of people get into something at the same time don’ they? It was really more about dropping E and having swimming pool parties. I don’t think we ‘invented’ anything really.

What did you think to the 24 Hour Party People film?
It’s a movie isn’t it, it’s got poetic license. I thought it was funny. Upside down, inside out and back to front. The kid who played me (Danny Cunningham) was a good actor, but I didn’t meet the lad. He got my character off TV and magazine interviews. In some ways it comes off worse and in some ways much better.

Did you have any involvement with the making of the film?
No, none at all. I didn’t really want anything to do with it.

So, the Mondays are currently reunited for a third time.
Well, with the Mondays from the start we’ve had pure legal problems. We finished this album a year ago and we haven’t been able to get it out as yet. I can’t really go into it. We’ll probably get another album out soon and take it from there.

Was the legal thing to do with the name?
Well, yeah, yeah. The band has three of the original members (Shaun, Gary Whelan and Bez). We’ve just had problems with my brother (Paul) and you know what it’s like.

So are you still talking?
Ah, you know he’s my brother. We don’t talk…

So are you like the Gallaghers then?
Oh we’re worse.

In a good way or a bad way?
In a bad way.

So which one of you is Liam?

Oh, he’s Liam, I’m Noel.

Do you think you had a big influence on people like Oasis?
I’ve no idea really. I know that they used to like our band. I suppose we were just normal working class kids, who were in a band and they did the same thing. But I don’t know if we’ve had any musical influence on them.

Do you still have strong ties to Manchester?
Well, my family’s from Manchester and I was born in Salford. I don’t really go into town that much now though.

What do you make of ‘Madchester’ in retrospect?
The Madchester thing was real, but to us it wasn’t a band thing. It was made out there was a big friendly scene there, but we didn’t really mix with other bands. The scene was just everyone popping pills.

Is it true that the name is a reference to Blue Monday?
No, not at all. Blue Monday came out in 1983 or something like that and we had the name in 1980. I’ve no idea where the name came from. I think it came from an Echo and The Bunnymen song.

What do you think of the ‘nu-rave’ thing?
I don’t really know anything about it… this is how out of date I am. I’m a proper boring old twat now and when I’m done with the music business I’ll probably be up and watching the news.

What was it like working with Damon Albarn and Gorillaz on Dare?
It was great, very quick, very easy. We only ever played a couple of shows in Manchester and in the Apollo in Ireland. It was great! Damon’s a very clever bloke. I walked in, and they put the cameras on and then “Turn it up, it’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s dare” and Damon went “Right that’s okay, it’s done.”

Was the song meant to be called ‘Dare’ or ‘There’?
Just ‘Dare’. It was basically about getting the cameras right and getting the sound in the headphones. I was going to do some freestyling but Damon just gave me the line and that was it.

I’ve heard that Damon can be quite difficult to work with…
He was alright with me. I’ve known Damon since Blur first started, he was a new kid on the scene when I first knew him.

What was it like putting together your new album Unkle Dysfunktional?
It was really easy. We had great people to work with, like Sunny Levine, whose dad produced Sly and the Family Stone and Howie B who was engineering. We wrote it really quick, we were through the studio really quick and that was it. We just have a lot of fun doing what we do. I get bored doing some of the old stuff… we’ve been doing it long enough.

You’ve had some pretty stormy interviews in the past. How do you feel about the press now?
It’s great that I can still go into studios and make albums and I don’t want to sit here moaning about doing TV or press, but it’s just part of what you’ve got to do. I’ve never really liked doing any of the stuff. If anything I find it embarrassing. I can never understand why people hero worship people in bands, it really baffles me. There’s a difference between writing great songs and walking on fucking water.

The Happy Mondays play at Rock City on 27 September 2007.

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