Shaun William Ryder
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Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays singer, with raised eyebrows): “Did I? I don’t remember that. Not a bad line though…”
Happy Mondays, the Sly & The Family Stone of Salford, release their first album in 15 years on June 18, three band members lighter, several solo projects, two reunions and a whole lot of living later.
As legendary for their lifestyle as their unique collision of rave beats, indie rock and street poetry, the biggest surprise is probably that the band members have even survived this long. But they have, and Shaun Ryder, Bez and Gaz Whelan have a freshly minted deal with Sanctuary Records imprint Sequel and a brand new album tucked under their arms.
The biggest question on most peoples’ lips is, probably, Why now? According to Gaz, there was no initial plan to record, but after writing some songs “for fun” it just evolved. “It was having the time to do an album,” Shaun explains further. “Everyone’s been busy just living, doing whatever they fucking have to do in their lives. We got back together in 1999 and we’ve been doing, you know, like Showaddywaddy shows. We’d never have split up in the first place if it had just been the three members in the band now back then, but the others wanted to so we did.”
Ryder admits that the shows played by various mutations of the original line-up – the “Showaddywaddy shows” he’s slightly dismissive of – happened “because a promoter asked us” rather than any artistic need, but no excuses are being made for the new album. Rockier than the Happy Mondays’ classic ‘Madchester’/baggy days, it’s still easily identifiable as their own. When they formed in 1985, Happy Mondays built their sound around hip hop beats, funky bass lines, blues guitars, samples and Ryder’s inimitable lyrics, a compelling mixture of street slang, drug gibberish and menacing sexuality.
All these ingredients are still present and correct, mixed into a fine new stew by the band and their producer, Sunny Levine (son of Simply Red/Sly And The Family Stone producer Stewart and grandson of Quincy), somewhere between Hallelujah, Wrote For Luck and Step On of old and the psychedelic disco of Shaun and Bez’s post-Mondays band, Black Grape. “I’ve never really stopped doing what I do,” Ryder says, “so I don’t see much difference between Happy Mondays then, Black Grape and Happy Mondays now. We could just as easily called this Black Grape – it would have saved us loads of legal hassles - but because it was Gaz and Bez it just was the Mondays.”