INTERVIEW: SHAUN RYDER – Talks New Albums, Aliens and Singing In The Rainforest


Music legend Shaun William Ryder is back on the road with his post Happy Monday’s band Black Grape. They played a brilliant show in Belfast on Saturday night, I caught up with him earlier in the day to find out what he has been up to.

You have a busy year ahead with Black Grape, Happy Mondays and releasing solo material, where do you get the energy from?

I think it’s down to a testosterone injection on my backside every three months. So I feel like being 21 again without all the bullshit that goes with being 21. Me and McGee (Alan McGee, Shaun’s Manager And Creation Records legend) are on the same thing, we both have no testosterone so it’s not that we go to the gym and pump ourselves full of steroids. He’s got the patches that he sticks on his back and I have an injection on my arse. It gets to about 4 weeks and I have lots of energy, when it gets to 8 weeks you can tell that you are ready for your injection, but as soon as you have it within 24 hours you are back up there again, you feel bursting with energy.

I suppose its a bit safer than what you used to take years ago.

Oh well yeah! I have a thyroid problem as well, it runs in the family you either get diabetes or a thyroid problem and I copped the thyroid thing so when they were sorting out my thyroid they also found out I had no testosterone, so i’m bursting with it.

Years went by without hearing anything from Shaun Ryder and now all of a sudden you have loads going on.

Yeah, I haven’t done a solo album since ‘Amateur Night At The Big Top‘ in 2004 which was experimental. At the time the record companies didn’t realise what I was doing and to some people, it was a bunch of ramblings. It was meant to be a crazy right off the top of your head experiment, you know what I mean? and now with bands like what do you call them? something Mods, Sleaford Mods they are doing it and now you’re getting those same guys saying oh yes! yes! this is genius!

Then I ended up doing another solo album with Sonny Levine, production is in his blood, his old bloke did everything from Dr John to Simply Red to Womack and Womack, his grandad is Quincey Jones. He started off as a tea boy at 8 years old so he’s always been hanging around studios. We became really good mates when we did the Mondays album, we would get everyone else out of the way and put on their bits during the day and then at night time we’d get in fuck all that off then start on things. We just carried on doing stuff together and it turned into a solo album.

When can we hear it?

It will be out sometime next year, it’s ready to go I don’t know when McGee is going to put it out but it will be next year.

I have read over the past few years that you mentioned a solo album, so is this it?

Yeah! we probably have got enough for 2 solo albums I’ve been stockpiling stuff. I’m glad that we haven’t released it in a way because what we are gonna do now is gonna be really good.

I like the 2 tracks ‘Close The Dam’ and ‘Electric Scales’. its just good to have new Shaun Ryder material out there

Thank you.

On the subject of new material will there be new music from Black Grape?

Yeah well it’s gone a bit arse over tit really, with Black Grape we were gonna do a load of shows next year and we ended up when the offers came in with initially 20 odd shows, we only wanted to do a handful of shows and then do that next year, so it’s turned into like 15 shows now and we are definitely gonna do a Black Grape album and we are gonna do a new Happy Mondays album but with the Mondays, there are 5 of us who have all got a say, but with Black Grape it’s me and Kermit. Back in the day we had Danny Saber he played most of the instruments on that album and produced it, then we got some session guys in to take it on the road, so it’s dead easy its just me and him, there’s not this big mad board meeting of people saying when can we do this? and when we can do that? so there will be a Black Grape album before there is a Mondays album.

Is everything great with you and Kermit?

Yeah, it’s really good and I’m not just saying this cos I’m out selling it, it is better now than it was back in the day, we are both compos mentis and I’m off the treadmill. When I think back to the lead up to the first Black Grape album in 95,  basically year after year after year gone with the Mondays albums, Squirrel and G-Man, Bummed, Pills N Thrills, Yes Please!, a short break then 2 Black Grape albums, then your on that treadmill of tours, Press, and writing. You don’t appreciate what your doing, it’s like the other year we went out and played ‘Bummed‘, I had not listened to ‘Bummed’ since I walked out of the recording studio in 1988, then I listened back to it because we’re going to take it on the road and we were going into rehearsals, and I’m thinking fucking hell there’s some good stuff on there lad pat yourself on the back, but at the time you just don’t appreciate what you’ve written or what you’ve done, your just doing it.

You mentioned ‘Yes Please!’, I think its a great album will we ever see an anniversary tour of that album?

No! (long pause) I’ll have to listen to it again, I haven’t heard that since the day I walked out of the studio in London where I finished off writing the lyrics. I like ‘Stinkin Thinkin’ but I can’t think of anything else I really liked on it. I will listen to it again but at the moment there is no plans to go and do that one, but you know what? we probably might!

The first Black Grape album should’ve been the last Mondays album, there is a lot of ideas on ‘It’s Great When Your Straight’ from that Mondays time and the way that I wanted that last Mondays album to sound should’ve been like ‘It’s Great When Your Straight’.  Chris and Tina Weymouth are fantastic producers, and fantastic musicians but I didn’t think they were right for that Mondays album.

Because you wanted Paul Oakenfold to produce?

Yeah!  I wanted Oakenfold, I wanted to wait for him, imagine right the guy hadn’t done any albums before, he’d done a couple of 12 inches he had remixed ‘Jibaro’, so after that with the success of Pills n Thrills he was just bombarded by everyone from U2, everyone was on him he was double busy some people took that as a sign of fuck-offishness, you know why should we wait for him? you cant really do owt about it really.

It would be great to hear another Happy Mondays album with Paul Oakenfold producing.

Yeah! certainly, the way you work nowadays is you don’t use the same producer for all the tracks, and that’s great, so if we do record another Mondays album we would love Paul Oakenfold to do a couple of tracks on it.

I suppose working that way gives the album a bit of variety and a different vibe.

If you look at all our albums even though you know it’s us, each one we tried to make completely different.

You released your autobiography, but more recently there has been ‘The Happy Mondays – Excess all Areas’ book by Simon Spence published.

The guy who wrote that book should’ve done his homework properly, the thing that got me about that book is you’ve got Gaz Whelan and our Kid talking to this guy, and as soon as I heard this I went whoa! what are you doing? I have a book publisher, big publishers, why are you talking to this guy when you can actually get paid and paid for the rest of your life for doing a proper Mondays book. We are not perfect in the Mondays we are a dysfunctional family and it’s a labour of love, but in the book from that guy, there’s a lot of crap! and I’m sure it was all about trying to rubbish my biography.

What is the most exaggerated story you have heard about yourself?

God! I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head, there are all sorts of fucking crap!

Will your book be made into a TV series?

No we sold the rights to Granada television they make great stuff, it would have been brilliant if we could have got it made but it’s now ended up being a movie.
I wanted it to be on TV, at the end of the day right you’ve got British movies and a few thousand people go and see them at the weekend if your lucky and that’s it, but if you get a good time on a Friday night or whatever it is and you put your movies on the Television then 10 – 12 million people are gonna watch it, so I really wanted it to be on TV, but now me and Alan McGee have just done a deal with the same company who are making his film, so it will now be a movie.

You have already been immortalized in film before in the ’24 Hour Party People’ movie.

Michael Winterbottom never met me and I never met Michael Winterbottom and the thing about Tony Wilson’s portrayal in that, its a caricature, its a caricature of Tony Wilson, its a caricature of Shaun Ryder, from the young guys that were in the NME and Melody Maker and the press that we made. It’s a very funny film, it’s entertaining, there is aspects of it that are right then there is a lot of it that’s not real.

If I was that guy in the movie id still be wandering around in my fucking pyjamas at half past 7 at night trying to find the door out of the bedroom.

Who do you think should play you in the new movie?

I have no idea, just some good unknown actor.

Do you think governments are hiding the truth about aliens?

Yeah absolutely! in South America we went to their military and their police, on camera they would say certain things, off-camera they would say “yeah of course”, they are not arsed there are aliens, but the military wouldn’t say it on camera but they let us have access to their stuff you know. Also knowing what I saw myself in 1978 before the madness started when I was a 15-year-old junior post boy, at the Post Office, this is how I got into it. I was walking to the bus stop it was a bus stop full of people and we all look up in the sky and there is this thing zig-zagging about left to right up and down, going at a good few thousand miles an hour and then it shot off after a good 5 minutes and we are not supposed to have anything like that now and we certainly didn’t in 1978.

Will we ever see ‘Showbiz Shaun’ again?

Yeah yeah, we have just been back to the jungle, we went to South America in the Amazon Jungle. it’s really funny television because we actually went into a jungle and the show is called ‘Singing In The Rain Forest‘ and in Australia that was a rain forest and it was a jungle so it shows what television is like. We went there and lived with a tribe of indigenous natives, we went hunting with them, and lived with them. They were a tribe of percussion players and drummers, we made some great music with them. when the show airs in September you can download the track the night it airs and then all the dough goes to their tribe so they can carry on living the way that they live for ten thousand years.

Did any of the Mondays look to you for help cos you have been in the jungle before?

You know what it was a good bonding thing for us as well cos we all had to live in the same hut, so they all dealt with it.

Xsnoize Author
Mark Millar is the founder of XS Noize and looks after the daily running of the website as well as hosting interviews for the weekly XS Noize Podcast. Mark's favourite album is Achtung Baby by U2.

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