Interview: Shaun Ryder from Happy Mondays

Mancunian hedonists Happy Mondays are stopping off at Brixton Academy on 3 December for their ‘Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches’ 25th anniversary tour. Arts co editor Barney Evison spoke to frontman Shaun Ryder to discover what it’s like being the world’s greatest dad and what he thinks of Taylor Swift.

Shaun Ryder - press shot 14 - please credit Elspeth Moore (1)
Shaun Ryder, lead singer of the Happy Mondays. Photo by Elspeth Moore

You have a reputation for crazy hedonism and mad partying, is that still your scene?

We haven’t done the parties like that for 10 years or so. When we all hit 40 we decided to knock that on the head – apart from Bez. Bez is still very much like he was when he was 19. I’ve never known anyone like him in my life ever. He’s just unreal – he looks fit and healthy. He’s incredible.

So what’s your lifestyle like now?

I’ve been lucky enough to become a dad again. First time round I wasn’t around, touring and that. This time round I’m grown up and I get to do it right – I’m the world’s greatest dad.

Shaun Ryder - press shot 5 - please credit Elspeth Moore
Photo by Elspeth Moore

Do you miss the old ‘Madchester’ days?

No. I’m Incredibly happy being 53. I enjoyed being 20, I enjoyed being 30. When I got to 40 I decided to clean myself up and that took a couple of years but then I started enjoying 40 too. The sex and drugs have gone and now we’re just left with the rock and roll!

You said in old interview that you were just “a bunch of talentless arseholes from Salford”. Do you still think that?

Listen, if we were in school now, every one of us in our band would have a label; ADHD, behavioural problems, whatever. We got very lucky. We got in the right place at right time, and met the right people. We got our break because we knew a guy who knew a guy who was friends with Tony Wilson.

You’ve played Brixton Academy before, did you like it?

Oh yeah, we’ve played there loads of times. It’s great, I love it – it’s always a good show at Brixton Academy. Back in the day we were a hit in London before Manchester.

Have you spent much time in Brixton otherwise?

A long time ago – I worked down there back when Stereo MCs had a studio there. It’s a long time since I’ve been out in Brixton – back in the old druggie days! Obviously we used to score down there.

The Happy Mondays are playing at Brixton Academy
The Happy Mondays – Shaun Ryder 3rd from left

What do you think of music these days? What’s most exciting for you?

Because of the six and seven year olds the music I listen to now is Taylor Swift, Jessie J and Miley Cyrus. When the kids get a bit older I’ll go out and watch bands. If I do put music on now I’ll chill out with Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra, or a bit of northern soul.

So what do you think of Taylor Swift?

I think she’s great, very talented. And Miley Cyrus is too. You’ve got old farts saying she’s corrupting youth and all that – it hasn’t really changed since Elvis’ day has it? What’s she doing now that Madonna didn’t do back in the day?

How long will the Happy Mondays keep going for?

Until we’re the same age as Keith Richards and Mick Jagger! If we’re enjoying it and we’re not shoving anybody’s arms up their back to come and see us we’ll keep going. I’m enjoying it now more than ever. We’re just a bunch of old men playing rock and roll – all the bullshit’s gone.

So what’s next for you then?

I’ve got solo album coming out at beginning of year, and when that’s out I’ll be recording a new Black Grape album. Then at the end of next year we’ll get into recording a new Mondays album!