Interview: Shaun Ryder

All Image Credits: Paul Husband

Interview: Shaun Ryder

Shaun Ryder, the man who needs no introduction (but will happily give you one anyway!). From his Madchester days fronting the iconic Happy Mondays to his genre-bending Black Grape alongside Kermit, his career has been a whirlwind of baggy beats, tabloid headlines, and enough stories to fill a Madchester museum (with an optional “Caution: May contain explicit language” sign). Now, with a new album, the ever-quotable Ryder is ready to remind everyone why he’s a living legend.

“They think I’m a twat around here! my neighbours, don’t think, I’m a living legend. They think I’m a living twat. That goes for my kids too!”

So let’s start off with a little bit of fact checking. Is it true that Bez joined the Happy Mondays because you were so twatted on acid that he came on for some moral support?

“It wasn’t quite like that. I mean, me and Bez had been knocking about together for a bit and we’d been taking acid for about a year every day. I just got him to get on stage at the Hacienda. It was one of our first, in fact, it was probably our first at the end of show, and I just got him on stage and give him some maracas, and he’s been there ever since!”

So you two got pretty messed up back in the day and how are you still going? How do you still keep it together?

“Bez still thinks he’s 21, and no one’s told him he’s not! Well, me, I’m 61 now aren’t I. I’m not on the gear anymore, my two youngest kids who are 15 and 16 have never seen me off my face! I don’t even drink at home now and I drink when I’m doing a gig or when I’m on the road I’ll have a few drinks.”

“I started taking drugs as a young teenager and I got a heroine habit by the time I was18. I was 19 or 20, gave it a break, doing some E for a while, but then went back at it and then at 40 after I’d done a few rehabs, I did a rehab in Chelsea. I did one in Manchester in the eighties and nineties and I wasn’t ready for it. And then by the time of me 40th birthday, which I think was 2002, it was time for me to knock it on the head and I did.”

Yeah. And do you miss it? Do you look back on it?

“Oh fuck no! I was a young kid when I started taking drugs. I had a great time and then it gets a bit dodgy, by mid twenties to thirties. I’m a 60 fucking year old bloke now. It’d just be ridiculous going back there.”

“I was lucky as well because I ended up in a world in a sort of an unbelievable fairytale fucking world music business and entertainment mean, so I was really, really lucky.”

“When you’re in this business, you go on the road, you make an album, you go and tour it for fucking a couple of years, and then you go and make another album, go and tour that for a few years. You go and make another album, go and tour that for a few years. The fucking strongest of people are just going to lose the fucking mind sooner or later. You’ve got to be really tough to be in this entertainment and music business anyway.”

I mean, when your testament of coming out the other side though, I mean, as you say, you’ve not touched anything for a long time now, but you’re still going strong. You still got your marbles. A lot of people who partied as hard as you did that haven’t made it this far, didn’t come out of it. I mean, Christ, there’s so many people that went the wrong side and overindulged and that was the end of it. So there’s a testament to being resilient, I guess.

“Well mean, it’s basically a lot to do with me being ADHD. I mean, I’ve got six children and five of ’em are ADHD, one of ’em is autistic. So I’ve got a bit of all sorts going on and so I explained a lot about with me with drugs. And also that I don’t retain shit. I mean, learning’s all about retaining stuff. I don’t retain stuff really. You try and teach me anything at school, by the time I walked out of that classroom, I’d forgot it. So I already had a bit of a fucked up head anyway.”

“That’s why I say I was lucky to be in the entertainment world. I didn’t know one of my kids who’s now in her thirties, I didn’t know she was ADHD until I told her about the two youngest ones, and then she comes out and tells me she grew up in the States and tells me she’s ADHD. So that’s how I went and checked and basically all my fucking kids at birth. It comes from dad. It doesn’t come from their mother, it comes from me.”


You had some pretty fucked up times, one I read about was your time in Hulme Crescents. Was that as mad as it sounded?

“Yeah, it was pretty fucking mad! It could be heavy! Heavy on the crime, heavy on the party scene. If you wanted to make your flat bigger, you just knocked into another flat. There were recording studios in there, and ‘the kitchen’ that was just a few flats knocked together, that turned into the place to be. I was on Barry Crescent which was right next door.”

What do you think of Manchester nowadays, it’s a very different place to those times?

“I don’t go out in Manchester, I don’t even got out for meals in Manchester nowadays. My lad, he’s a promoter, and he’s got a club and puts on stuff, so he’s doing all that now, not me. I wouldn’t have a clue where to go in town.”

What’s it been like being out on tour with the Mondays?

“We’ve done the tour of Australia, and finishing up the tour here. That will be the last for a few years. The Monday’s is going to bed after that for a few years. I’m going to concentrate on the Black Grape stuff, and Mantra of the Cosmos. We’ve been at it for a good 10-11 years full on! It’s been full on with the Mondays and it’s time to give it a rest for a bit. The mad thing is the fucking band’s better than ever at the moment!”

That’s because you’re all not so fucked up, isn’t it?

We’re better than ever. We really are. I mean, we’re all playing better and getting on better.

Weren’t there some rifts in the band, back in the day?

“Well he’s dead now, our kid! That was the main rift. I won’t go into it, but he didn’t make it easy my brother, he didn’t make it easy! Any advice to people out there starting out. Don’t give fucking jobs to your family and friends. Don’t give your Dad a job, and don’t join a band with your fucking brother!”

Well, I think there’s another Manchester band that would agree with you on that one as well! But onto Black Grape. Would you have liked to have taken the Mondays in that direction, was it a bit of a creative itch you needed to scratch?

“Basically, every Monday’s album was different, and that last Monday’s album ‘Yes Please’ really should have been the first Black Grape album.”

“It’s a well known argument that I didn’t want Chris and Tina to produce that last album, and I wanted to wait. Anyway, it got made, and it wasn’t successful, and the rest of them (not Bez of course) they decided that they wanted to split up, and we never did anything after that, until they joined the Monday’s again. We begged them not to split up at the time, me and Bez. We were a bunch of mates, we was a little firm.”

“We were all a bit odd and as ADHD as one another and didn’t quite fit in, but we did with us lot. It was the worst thing they ever did splitting up the band. So that’s really where the first Black Grape album came out of. It should have been the last Monday’s album or the next album after Pills ‘N’ Thrills.”

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What about the new Album ‘Orange Head’?

“It’s been done for a good year or so, but they kept putting back when it was coming out. I went over and did that Celebrity Jungle thing in South Africa, and basically flew straight to Spain and recorded and made that album. This one’s a bit more dancey whereas the last one back into 2017 was a bit more rocky, this ones got dance and hiphop in there.”

Do you think making music is easier nowadays with a clearer head, over back in the days in the haze?

“I don’t know, when we were young and raw, the drugs would work. Certain drugs will work for creative. I mean look at ‘Sergent Peppers’ and all that stuff that was produced in the 60’s you can do some great stuff on drugs, for a while!”

“The thing I found out is that it was so much fucking easier without being off your face, but that’s a man talking from his 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. By the time I got into my 40’s, I sort of knew who I was, and was more confident as a bloke, than I was a young kid.”

“I mean, drugs helped! I didn’t feel normal, terrible thing to say right? Knowing now that I had ADHD, they made me feel normal. My drug choice was Heroine, and it made me feel fucking normal. It stopped me fiddling about and fucking scratching and not being able to focus, I could focus.”

“I wouldn’t want anyone out there with ADHD to start fucking doing Heroine, because they will probably die. I was lucky.”

“It’s the same with them prescribing Amphetamine, it helps you focus, and slows you down, when you haven’t got it, it speeds you up, and makes you an erratic cunt!”

I guess the I’m a celebrity time for you, you didn’t really know what you’re getting into. But I’m guessing it’s changed a lot of perceptions about you as your reputation of being a wild man of the music industry.

“The first time I went in was 2010, I was about 48 or 49, and when I went back to South Africa I was 60 and it just brought out all my Thyroid problems, and I also got a fucking hip replacement, so I found it a breeze the first time, but 12 years later it was a bit fucking hard!”

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So you won’t be doing it again then?

“No, no! That was the winners show, the South African one, I’ve never said never, but I would just make sure I was in better condition if I ever got asked to do it again. I was pretty fucked up! I had a blast, the first time round! It was life changing, and I really enjoyed it. So when they asked me again, I said yes straight away, and I wasn’t really thinking, I’ve got a fucking hip replacement and one that needs a hip replacement, my fucking spines fucked, I just said yeah, I’ll do it. My thyroid had blown up, so I probably shouldn’t have really done it.”

Are you going to find that a different type of people come to your gigs as a result of it?

“When me a Bez started doing all the tele stuff, really. I mean our fanbase for both Monday’s and Black Grape goes from fuck me… 13-80! Because the people from the TV, there were something like eight million people tuned into the first one, and a good few mill, tuned into the second one, so you pick up a different fanbase.”

“It’s great now for kids, they turn on Googlebox, and think, who are these two old cunts, then they’ll look us up on their phone, and before the show’s even ended, they’ve downloaded all the albums, and then turn up your gig!”

Both of you are very outspoken personalities anyway. You’re the exception from the rule. I’ve always had this opinion that a lot of musicians are introverts creating a persona of themselves on stage to kind overcome their introversions. And I think you, and Bez kind of contradict that.

“Oh, I shrink on stage! I’m a fucking big show off in front of the boys and out of the house, but as soon as I’m out on stage, I’m like “fucking hell, everyone’s looking at me”. Which isn’t really what you want as a lead singer. I hear other people say, when they get on stage, they come alive, and I’m like fucking hell, I shit myself!”

What’s the rest of the year looking like?

“I’ve got this theatre thing, with Q&A sessions, the audience get the chance to ask me anything. There’s fucking hundreds of them! I’m everywhere (laughs).”

Just you, or with Bez?

“No, just me he does his thing, and this is just me.”

Are you both still just as tight?

“Yeah, we’ve been to Australia, and he does Gogglebox with me in my house. I say it’s like a sexless marriage.”

Let’s finish off on some light hearted questions… Google’s called you because they’ve run out of disk space. You need to delete one track and save one track. Anything come to mind?

“Well, let’s wipe out that fucking ‘I’m a Barbie girl thing, in a Barbie world’ Get rid of that. The I would save ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ That’s perfect for me, because it’s like two/three minutes long. Short sharp sweet, and then done!”

One last question. Trump has taken over, Maga has taken over the world, and he’s banning all fun apart from Golf. You’ve got one last night of fun before it’s banned forever. What are you going to do?

“Right! I see. Well basically the worlds going to fucking end with Trump there. I would say something really sick like I’ll invite all my mates over down to my house and we’ll get out the tin foil and we can all fall asleep together (laughs).”


Shaun and Kermit’s new Black Grape Album is out now.

Shaun’s Q&A spoken word tour kicks off in September and goes through to May 2025, he was not exageratting when he said there were hundreds of them, there are lots of locations and dates to chose from!

Check out –