Interview: Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays



Happy Mondays were pioneers in fusing psychedelic rock and soul with house music, becoming a standard-bearer of the club culture-mad Manchester scene in the late 1980s and early ’90s. The heyday of the Factory Records period was depicted in the movie “24 Hour Party People,” which got its name from a Happy Mondays hit. Those were wild, drug-addled times, and over the years frontman Shaun Ryder paid the price.

Now the 47-year-old vocalist has the band back on the road again, touring the U.S. with the Psychedelic Furs and – for Friday’s stop at Club Nokia in downtown L.A., up-and-comers Amusement Parks on Fire. It’s the Happy Mondays’ first SoCal appearance since their 2007 gig at Coachella, at which they were introduced by Factory Records founder the late Tony Wilson.

On Buzz Bands’ behalf, local promoter and DJ Larry Gjurgevich – one of the driving forces behind the long-running L.A. weekly Club Undergound (where, on any given Friday, you’re likely to hear the Psychedelic Furs and Happy Mondays) – caught up with Ryder via telephone. The interview follows, largely unexpurgated:

By Larry Gjurgevich

Thank you for taking time out. How is this tour going?

In San Francisco to have a shower and some sleep.

It’s great, ya know what I mean?”  It’s great, but I’m an old man now and this is a young man’s game, ya know what I mean? I’m getting old for this game of night after night after night of shows. Been good, though.

You played huge festivals over the summer such as V Festival, how was that?

It was great, really great.

Any plans to write a book like many of your contemporaries?

No, no. not yet. Won’t even consider that for another 20 years.

What bands are you listening to at the moment?

There are a lot of bands that I like at the moment. I’m not like the other older fuckers slaggin’ on all the new bands. There’s load of good bands out at the moment.”  Problem is, I can’t remember their names. As far as English bands go, I am a big fan of Twisted Wheel. I been pushing them for some time. They are a great Manchester band, I think they are one of the best bands to come out of Manchester in the last 20 years.

happymondays-NMEreprintWhere do you find your music? Do people send you demos?

Well, I have kids, I have an 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. So I get to listen to a lot of their stuff and whatever is loaded on the iPod. I don’t listen to as much music as I used to. At one point I totally went off music for a while, but now, thank God I am back listening to music. Back to Johnny Cash now.

So any new material in the works from the Happy Mondays or solo?

Yeah, I’m doing it now. You know Sunny Levine? Me and Sunny have just done an album that’s gonna be out pretty soon. Just finished it a few months ago. We did some of it in Manchester and the rest in Venice.”  The Venice in L.A., obviously, not the one Europe. And we are gonna be doing some of those songs when we get to L.A. [Levine is the grandson of Quincy Jones’ and son of producer Stewart Levine.]

So a solo album or a new incarnation?

Yeah, it’s a solo album – I mean it’s not like “Amateur Night In The Big Top” [his first solo record] x’cause that was like, ya know, like … This one is a bit more serious. I’m really pleased with it, actually.

I quite liked “Amateur Night In The Big Top.”

Yeah, well, it was a different time period and a different state of mind. I was just trying to keep myself sane doing that album. And now I’m sane and it’s a different kettle of fish. Really pleased with it.

So the Stone Roses just release a box set – will there be a Happy Monday box set sometime soon?

For the anniversary they did the “Pills n Thrills” and “Bummed” discs last year. And obviously they will be doing more shit like that. But there will definitely be something out like that, yeah, there will be.

Is there a song or album from another artist you would have liked to have been a part of?

Fucking hell .. I wouldn’t of minded being Sly Stone. Any Sly Stone, my main geezer.

You just mentioned Johnny Cash and Sly Stone. Is there anyone you would have liked to work with (living or dead)?

Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix.

You have been called a “modern-day Bob Dylan” ”“ how does that make you feel when you hear such things?


Being called a “modern-day Bob Dylan,” is pretty nice, but, I mean, he’s Bob and I don’t think I will touch Bob in a million years,”  ya know what I mean? You just smile at that sort of stuff.

So you are humble and talented, I will make a take note


[Note that the laugh is the famous “hey hey” refrain from “Step On,” by the Happy Mondays.]

So if Kanye West interrupted your acceptance speech, what would have happened to him?

I really don’t know. That girl did the right thing, she just kept her mouth shut, which is the most dignified thing she could have done, and looked at him like a twat. So I don’t know. I actually like Kanye and took my kids to see him, but he did make a bit of knob of himself. But every year someone has to make a knob of themselves on a TV show.

Manchester City fans, Oasis split, what do you make of that?

It probably won’t be the last time Oasis play together, let’s put it that way. Give it a couple of years and they will be doing shows.

For the football fans, Manchester United or Man City?

Everybody – because of Oasis – thinks everybody from Manchester is fucking Blue, ya know what I mean? I hate City, I fucking detest them. I’m a Red. I was born just over the road from Old Trafford, ya know, Salford boy. It’s our team, we’re Red, born and bred, Red.

There was a rumor about Johnny Marr joinng the Happy Mondays for a few minutes one upon a time ”“ any truth to that?

No, Johnny was gonna produce our album. The last album we ever made that Chris and Tina ended up producing.”  Johnny was in the running to do it.”  It did not happen ”“ one because he is a mate and also because did not wanna get involved in band politics, so it just didn’t happen.

What is Bez up to?

He actually left the band right before the V Festival, and so he is not doing America.”  And yes, I am still friends with the mad fucker. I have been friends with him too long not to be. Every now and then we need a break from each other. Plus, they wouldn’t let him in the country and I don’t blame the county for not letting him in …


Any message to the kids in America?

Is that what I got to do, a message to the kids of America? Just come and see us and enjoy us.


Insert image is a spread from an Uncut magazine special edition titled “Madchester,” comprised of reprints from NME back in the day. Recommended reading if you’re interested in exploring the history of the Manchester scene.