Shaun Ryder on growing up, an end to rows, and heading to Sunderland for Sunniside Live
It may be more than three decades since The Happy Mondays burst onto the burgeoning North West music scene, but it's clear frontman Shaun Ryder has lost none of his passion for performance.
Alongside the likes of The Stone Roses, the Inspiral Carpets and New Order, the Mondays were one of the bands that defined the ‘Madchester’ scene.
Shaun formed the band with kid brother Paul and mates Gary Whelan, Paul Davis, Mark Day and Mark “Bez” Berry.
The line-up has changed over the years, with Shaun and Paul falling out in classic ‘brothers in a band’ fashion, but now features all the original members with the exception of keyboardist Davis.
“We have been doing this since 1982,” says Shaun, down the line from Manchester.
“I was the guitarist and the oldest. Our kid was 16 and the drummer was 15 – he was still in school.”
The band became synonymous with hard living and Shaun admits some of his memories of the time are hazy.
When talk turns to the Stone Roses’ legendary gig at Widnes’ Spike Island, he says: “I was there, but I was just off my nut.
“I can’t really remember it – I THINK I watched some of it from the side of the stage.”
Tales of the Mondays’ excesses were legendary, but while Shaun admits they partied hard, he points out that if half the stories were true, he’d be unlikely still to be here.
These days, he’s living clean: “The sex and drugs are pretty much gone - now it’s just the rock ‘n’ roll,” he says.
And he maintains that even at the height of the band’s notoriety, reports of their excesses were exaggerated for the benefit of the scandal-hungry media: “We played it, man.
“We learned early doors how to get the front pages, how to get the centre spreads.
“When we started out, there were better bands than us, playing better music than us – but we created all the headlines.
“We chucked out a line on the pool table, we sucked on a joint and we got the centre pages.
“We did party, just doing what most of us would want to do when we were 18 or 20 – but you can’t get away with it in your 40s.
“I’m 54 now – I knocked it all on the head when I hit 40.
“It took me about three or four years to get to grips with it but I’m great now.
“At the end of the day, if I’d been using needles, I would probably be dead.”
While the band may have had its fair share of rows and the classic ‘creative differences,’ after more than three decades in the business, there’s little left to row about.
“We have all grown up now,” says Shaun.
“We are all together and we all get on.
“We sound better, we play better than ever, we all like each other.”
And while the band have aged, so have their fans.
The Mondays still attract the crowds, but these days there’s a much greater age range in the audience, something Shaun is delighted about.
“We get kids from 13 or 14 to 70-year-olds, especially when we play festivals,” he says.
“We get whole families coming now – we’ve even got two shows.
“We do the ‘PG’ show if we’re on at a festival during the day, and if we’re on later, we do the ‘18’ show.”
He’s clearly still in love with performance as he looks ahead to performing in Sunderland at Sunniside Live.
“It’s great that we’re still doing it,” he says.
“I was never in it for the short run, I was in it for the long haul. I wanted to make a career in music.”
A pivotal moment in Shaun’s transformation from musical bad boy to budding national treasure was deciding to take part in ‘I’m a Celebrity’.
“I was asked years earlier to do Big Brother and I let Bez do that because at that time I couldn’t really accept that being in a band, you could do reality TV,” he says.
“But now it’s totally changed. It is a totally different ball game and I was the right age to do it.”
Shaun is still recording, dividing his time between the Mondays and Black Grape.
He is combining promotional work for the latest Black Grape album with preparations for the Mondays tour.
“Some days I have to ask what I’m supposed to be talking about,” he says.
•The Happy Mondays are performing at Sunniside Live in Sunderland on Saturday July 8. Tickets for the festival are £35 for the weekend or £17.50 for the Friday and £22.50 for the Saturday.