As the original Happy Mondays prepare to face Sheffield David Dunn talks to their leader
SHAUN Ryder knows a thing or two about having a good time.
But he’s the first to admit he’s learned how to have not quite such a good time in recent years.
With his 50th birthday on the horizon and a couple more young kids in his brood at home in “the posh bit of Salford” it’s perhaps no surprise the iconic frontman has helped foster peace among the full, original Mondays posse for a tour finding Sheffield in May.
“The thought was there when the thing was announced with the Stone Roses,” he says, clearly also excited about Ian Brown’s mob reforming. “As soon as that was announced my phone and our manager’s phone started ringing with similar offers.
“But our tour is different from the Roses. They’ve never been back together since they split up. We sort of did it in ’99, 2001, 2004, and then in 2006. The only difference is this time when we got offered it was ‘If we’re gonna do this then it’s got to be the whole original band that haven’t been together for 18 years’.”
With Mark Day and Paul Davies out of the music business all together and Shaun’s brother not talking to him reality might not have matched desire, but it seems Shaun’s not the only one who has mellowed.
“Some of the lads I haven’t seen since 1993. I haven’t even spoken to my own brother since 1999 – he moved to Los Angeles five years ago – and it was about time we did, we’re brothers; me and him forgot what we were arguing about.
“But it was relatively easy really. Apart from everyone being a bit older, a lot more refined, everyone pushing 50 years old, we’re just the same bunch of blokes, but older. I was going to say a bit quieter, but not once we started chatting....
“The weirdest and hardest thing was with my own brother. Me and our Paul, we’ve got a lot of bridges to build, but we’re both grown ups.”
The band, including Rowetta and Gaz Whelan, met on neutral ground at Manchester’s Lowry Hotel, up the road from where Shaun and a couple of others live, but by then the tour had been agreed.
“I always knew this would happen. The only person I didn’t think would do it again was Bez,” admits Shaun.
“Bez is nearly 50 and just finds it a bit ridiculous that a man of his age should by dancing around on stage like that. I wasn’t worried about anyone else but we persuaded Bez to do it because he can have a break and go and do a DJ set. He can take it a little bit easier than he did back in the day.”
Bez, of course, found fresh fame when he won Celebrity Big Brothers, but he was performing the likes of Step On, Kinky Afro, Hallelujah and 24 Hour Party People with a version of the Mondays up until 2006.
And what that reality show did for Bez, I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here did for Shaun, not least in making the world realise there was more to the singer than a reputation for partying and chemicals.
“Let’s not beat about the bush, when I went in that jungle I didn’t want to go – it was the manager and the record company and my wife and younger kids that wanted me to.
“Reality television for my generation is a no no. I got asked years ago to do Big Brother and Bez did it. But I went in the jungle and enjoyed it.
“At that time of my career it opened it up. I never did anything like that before because I didn’t need to. There was no point, but the age that I was... why not?”
Among other things it also led to more TV work for Shaun, including a show about UFOs. But, importantly, the jungle exposure saw the performer confront some of his demons and reveal a big heart beneath the bravado.
Of the initial Mondays motivation, he says: “We were a bunch of mates from around the same area who all had a love of music in common.
“We were kids. You don’t get a rule book when you start a rock ‘n’ roll band, you make it up as you go along and you deal with it.
“I can’t even remember what anyone argued about back in the day. All that’s gone.”
So will the Mondays’ return to the O2 Academy on May 6 be a night for the band discovered by Tony Wilson in the Hacienda to simply let off steam and celebrate?
“I can’t speak for anyone else, but obviously I wanna enjoy it, I enjoy playing shows now more than ever. I don’t have any baggage with me.
“But I’m a pretty boring old fart really. When I go out to work, I work.
“Even though I had kids back in the day – we had children with us when we were recording Pills ‘n’ Thrills – I’ve got a two year old and a three year old so I’m going through that again and I’m older and wiser.
“This time it is more fun. You know how it is, as you get older you don’t want to be drinking. You’re happier in yourself and with what you do. You can either say no to these things or yes.
“These kids who fill these clubs listening to this music every night of the week, no one’s putting their arms up their back and forcing them in there. They love it.
“If there was no market out there we wouldn’t be doing it.
“Then there’s the lot that are older and married, kids going off to university, that’s our audience as well.”