The festival experience with... Black Grape

As we look ahead to Moovin Festival in August, Henry Lewis spoke to Shaun Ryder about merchandise men being taken hostage, Lou Reed going unnoticed and why you shouldn't party in your 50s.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 18th Apr 2017.
Originally published: 3rd Apr 2017

Image: Karin Albinsson

Shaun Ryder is doubtless a busy man. In between being in two bands, giving countless TV and radio interviews, along with starring in and presenting TV shows, he is also a father and a husband.

Only a few weeks ago his original band The Happy Mondays headlined a mammoth show at Bowlers Exhibition Centre, an event that represented the cream of Manchester music. Now,  the group are already looking toward the end of the year when they tour the UK to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their song 'Twenty Four Hour Party People'.

Before all that, there's the small matter of a new Black Grape album, which Ryder is currently penning alongside musical partner Kermit, with whom he has patched up what was a rocky relationship in much less drug-addled days of musical creativity. Ahead of a massive Black Grape headline slot at Moovin Festival 2017, Henry Lewis caught up with Shaun Ryder to learn more about some of his festival experiences.

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Hi Shaun, what have you been up to?

Doing this.

I'll try and keep it entertaining then, you must be bored out of your head.

Well I'm doing both, I'm doing Black Grape and I'm doing the Mondays so it gets confusing, so I've sort of got to guess which one it is because I've forgotten what I've been told. 

This is a Black Grape one...

Oh it's a Black Grape one? I've just done a Mondays one so that's alright innit.

Is it nice in Manchester today?

Yeah man the sun's out.

Is it getting you in the mood for festival season? You've got a few dates haven't you?

We're doing bits and bats aren't we cos we're starting to promote the new Grape album. We've got a few festivals, we've got a few shows with Richard Ashcroft, then we've got the Mondays and then we're back to Grape again next year.

Are things coming on well with the new Black Grape album?

Yeah well it's just me and Kermit so it's dead easy. With the Mondays there's six people and five really big personalities or six of you, whatever. It takes time to organise stuff, you've got somebody in Canada, someone in New York whereas with Black Grape it's just me and Kermit so it's brilliant, it's better than ever. We're writing better than ever, we don't have habits to support any more so it's just the music. 

I want to talk to you about your festival experiences - were you in band when you first went to one or did you go as a punter first? 

It was different when we were younger. We (The Happy Mondays) played Glastonbury in 1989 or something like that, and even that wasn't what it is now. We had one or two local sort of things up in the hills somewhere, travelers things but my first proper festival was when we played Glastonbury. 

It was pretty basic, nothing like it is now. There was still a lot of Hell's Angels, who were wandering around and different types of security. Our merchandising guy got kidnapped, tied up and tortured to get dough off him. He'd buried it and they had him there for like 24 hours and the kid wasn't telling them anything. We had a laminate machine making passes and stuff as well. 

What was your performance like on the day, can you remember?

One of the reasons I don't remember it was because I spent most of the time in the luggage compartment of the tour bus with about ten pals smoking heroin, and then wandered around the muddy site. There's a great photograph which my Mam's got up in her living room of us playing at Glastonbury. It's taken with my back to the camera looking at the crowd - so that helps me remember. 

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And you were there with Gorillaz in 2010 too?

Yeah I've done a few different things there...

How was that for you, there were a lot of special guests coming onto the stage that night...(Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed)

Well the funny thing was there was no like "and now, Lou Reed", he just came wandering on and the crowd didn't have fucking clue who he was. It's not like when Gorillaz came on and someone walked out and announced it before they did the tunes, but if they'd said it was Lou Reed everyone would have gone wild but no-one knew who he was. The thing is with Snoop Dogg is everyone knows who he is, he's just Snoop Dogg but with Lou Reed it was like "who's this fucker?"

What are you more barmy experiences?

I spent a lot of years just off my face, at V Festival and stuff like that and I really don't remember that much. Nowadays with festivals, there's a couple of family ones that I take my girls to but nowadays I just go, get up and do my bit and then get off. I'm sure when the girls get a bit older I'll be wandering around festivals with them because they'll be wanting to go more. 

Are there any you enjoy more than others? 

It doesn't bother me pal, it's just a job. I just like going up there and doing what we do.  I just don't join in on the big partying thing any more.

You were saying about new material before, will that be a part of your set for this year's festivals?

I don't know exactly how many we're doing but we've got to do that. That's sort of what these festivals are about, letting people get into the new tracks off the new album so we will be putting a few in there. Obviously we'll be doing 'Reverend Black Grape' and 'Name Of The Father' and all the other stuff but we'll be sticking four new tunes in I'd imagine.

What's the difference like for you onstage between Black Grape and the Happy Mondays, if anything?

Black Grape is still relatively new really because we only took it on the road about a year ago, something like that. Again, like I say, doing the new album and all that lot. But I enjoy the Mondays, with the Mondays we're playing better than ever. We all get along better than ever, we're all grown up, we're all pretty respectable old dudes. The sex and drugs has gone, it's just rock and roll now. Everything is compos mentis so the Mondays are playing great shows. 

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I wanted to ask you about Reading Festival in 1996 - it's known to be quite a wild performance of yours and apparently at one point you had Chris Evans up on stage with you?

Where was that?

Reading, with Black Grape...

I don't think we've ever played Reading

You headlined in 1996...

Like I say, I have no idea. I can remember the 1960s better than the 1990s and I was what, eight, in the 1960s. I really don't know. At that time Chris was knocking about, I was doing his TV show quite a bit and we did go out on the beer and stuff so he could have been there.

Do you miss all those times?

No mate. I've enjoyed all my times. I started in the Mondays at 18 and gone through all that, doing what young men do, rocking and rolling and all that and then I'm happy doing what I do now.I think I'd be a bit of a mental retard if I enjoyed partying in my 50s as much as I did in my 20s. 

Some people do though...

You're obviously very sad if you are though, you've obviously got no family life and kids and love their wife and love going on their bike. That's as wild as I get in my 50s. 

When I hit 40 I thought "woah I shouldn't be doing this anymore" and it took me five years to get it all out of my system. When I was 20, if I'd seen 40-year-old blokes running round, and I did see a few and it looked odd because they look like old men, or older men. Once I hit 40 I just thought "I shouldn't doing this" 

Do you notice a younger crowd coming to your gigs?

Oh yeah, we're really lucky with the Mondays and Black Grape and a lot of it is to do with reality TV stuff that me and Bez do. We've brought a lot of different fans and our age group is from literally like 12 to 70 odd. It's just like when I was a kid, I was listening to the Doors, the Velvet Underground and Stones and Beatles. They were on the radio when I was a little kid but when I got into my 20s I was discovering Creedence Clearwater Revival and all sorts of stuff.

It's just what you did. We've got sort of two different sets of aspects to our fan base - when we were coming up in the 1980s, a lot of our fans were at university so they're now dentists, doctors or lawyers. Then a lot of our fans were stoners and Sun readers and whatever. We've got big range. It's like when I do these Q&As, you go to some parts of the country and it's very proper and we've got some that just want to talk about getting stoned and off your face.

Black Grape headline Moovin Festival 2017 which takes place between Friday 25th and Sunday 27th August at Whitebottom Farm in Stockport. Find tickets below.

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