Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder did an intimate Q&A in which he had “more stories than a fucking library”, touching on his early life growing up in Salford, musical influences and time in the Madchester indie dance rock group, which saw him work with legendary producers such as John Cale, Martin Hannett and DJ Paul Oakenfold overseeing the creation of the band’s best known albums ‘Squirrel And G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile’, ‘Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellaches’ and ‘Bummed’.
Ryder grew up in a home where from the age of three he was listening to The Beatles, Elton John, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and “all sorts of hippie music”; his first gigs were seeing the Buzzcocks and The Ramones and David Essex was his inspiration to be in a band: “[David Essex] became a rockstar and died of a heroin overdose in a big castle in Spain and I thought I’m having that, but I’m not dying of a heroin overdose!”
He also provided an insight into the famed ‘Madchester’ scene of the late ’80s: “‘Bummed’ was when things started changing; all the ecstasy was there – we checked into a studio and went mad for about three months. And [Martin Hannett] the producer was fucking more nuttier than us lot. We were just doing what we did which was rubbing off everything: funk, Northern Soul, punk rock, the lot…and then that drug came in and it changed everyone’s way of doing things – everyone got funky.”
Ryder spoke a lot of about Happy Mondays’ drug use and their open approach to the subject compared to other bands of the time and how it was the key to their commercial success: “We were on a fucking half-arsed label and we just said what we wanted to say. Piers [Morgan] put us on the front of The Sun with Ronnie Biggs and then we sold 300,000 fucking records. In the late ’80s we went back to how it was in the first Summer of Love, ’cause we were just an honest fucking bunch of kids who didn’t have anything to be embarassed about. We were just doing drugs.
“You’re gonna meet the NME in a pub but you’d walk in, chuck a line out on the fucking pool table and the next thing you’ve got the centre pages. We wasn’t the best writers ’cause we was learning to write; we wasn’t the best musicians, we were still learning to play; we couldn’t produce ’cause we didn’t know a fucking thing about being in the studio, so you use what you’ve got and that’s what we did.”
He later talked about how the Mondays came to an end on the recording of ‘Yes Please!’, paving the way for his new venture, dance funk duo Black Grape, which he said is currently recording a new studio album.
21/02/20: Shaun Ryder @ The Water Rats, London.
Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.
© Ayisha Khan.