Emily Evans talks sex, drugs and UFOs with the icon of ‘Madchester’.

“Black Grape is still so fresh, we’ve only been back 18 months,” says Shaun Ryder, as he prepares for the stage this March as Black Grapesfrontman. He’s lived it all –  the Rock ‘n’ Roll dream, as the King of ‘Madchester’, with even the odd UFO sighting. He’s overcome some old habits and is feeling better and busier than ever. He gives us some insight into what life has been like with both Happy Mondays and Black Grape, and what is in store for him within this next episode of his career.

He immediately said that he’s eager to get Black Grape back up on its feet to perform to their beloved fans. He said, in comparison to Happy Mondays, organising and managing is something which comes more naturally to Black Grape.

“Happy Mondays had six members, so everyone wanted to say their piece but Black Grape’s nothing like that… They sold more albums worldwide now than the Monday’s did, so yeah, it’s going really good.”

Shaun’s passion for music has stemmed since he was a young child, with his dad giving him LPs of the Beatles and The Rolling Stones for his third birthday. This later encouraged Ryder to form a band and see where it would take him. Within many different creative industries, it is suggested that for success, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. When asked if this was true of the music industry, his opinion was very much to the point.

“Well, when you get your chance, you have to smash it,” he said. “Nobody’s gonna sign you if you’re shit, they won’t even give you a chance, you’ll just get fucked off. It’s really all about how good you are, with a bit of who you know as well.”

As the topic changed to Shaun’s interests, we discussed his curiosity for extraterrestrial life, something which has enthused him for years. However, something to note is that there is often a misconception with the topic of UFO’s and Shaun merging together, that drugs and psychedelia must have played a part in there somewhere. Yet the reality is, is Shaun was just a young lad of 15, off to do his messenger rounds when he saw what he thought was a UFO. He claims that another boy saw the phenomena alongside him.

He explained: “We saw this thing flying about over our heads doing about thirteen thousand miles an hour going across the sky, then it stayed still, and then it zig-zagged off again. And that was back in 78, so all before the sex, drugs and rock and roll!”

However, a few years later his life included all those three things, just after he got sacked from his job as a postman. “I was fucked off because I was shit, simple as that. And that was it, after that, I started a band. When we were young we did stupid shit, but we were just doing what all young men did when in a rock n roll band.”

The icon of ‘Madchester’ culture summarised his youth as being packed with drugs, drink and utmost fun, but insisted this was not the case now.

“I’m living a different life now, things aren’t moving at 100 miles per hour anymore… When I hit 40 I was ready to stop all that, as I was basically living the same way that I was at 16. I’ve done rehab, I was in and out all the time, because quite honestly I didn’t want it to work, really, I’d just get straight back into it again when getting out. But I’m happier now, and busier than ever.”

Black Grape will be touring the UK within March of this year. They’re performing at The Plug in Sheffield on Friday 22nd March.

Image: Rob Annis


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