Sunday 18 February 2018

'I devoured drugs but now I'm sick at the thought of it'

Eamon Sweeney chats with Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder on the highs and lows of an astonishing career

Compared to today's safe and sanitised entertainment world, Manchester's Happy Mondays belong to an almost bygone era of excess-all-areas hedonism.

Led by Salford-born-and-bred singer Shaun Ryder, whose grandmother Annie Carroll came from Co Cork, they got up to all sorts of hair and hell-raising capers, but somehow lived to tell the tale.

"Just thinking back, about the amount of crack I smoked, just makes me sick," Ryder says.

This week, they start a tour in Newcastle that calls to Dublin's Olympia tonight and tomorrow night. It's the very first time all the band's personnel have played together since imploding in 1992 in a haze of drugs and recrimination.

The support act for one of the most anticipated reunion tours of the year is Inspiral Carpets, another iconic act from the lairy era of what became known as 'Madchester', a term coined by Ryder himself.

Back in the day, Ryder branded the Inspirals "clueless knobheads", but in the sober light of 2012, hatchets have been buried.

"I was a real kid back in the day," Ryder explains. "I said a lot of daft things."

Ryder was famous for three things -- being a brilliant lead singer, a lyricist who Tony Wilson compared to WB Yeats, and a chronic drug addict. The literal highs and lows of his astonishing life are documented in the recently published bestselling memoir Twisting My Melon.

"We took drugs and we let people write about us taking drugs," Ryder states matter-of-factly. "However, I was never an intravenous drug user and that's why I'm still here. I was addicted to heroin and crack, but I never put a needle in my arm."

In 2012, Ryder even keeps having a few post-show ales to a minimum. "I'm certainly not anti-drink, but I don't have booze in my house and I don't go to the pub," he reveals.

A fit, healthy and happily married Ryder certainly hasn't given up having fun. At the beginning of last month, Ryder pretended that David Cameron had just appointed him as a special advisor on class. Many fell for his ingenious April Fool.

"You won't believe the amount of people who bought it," Ryder laughs.

Another unexpected string he's added to his bow in recent years is reality television. Ryder was runner up in I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2010.

"I went into the jungle because I was in my late 40s and wanted to show a side of me which I'd always hid. I let the cartoon stuff come out. Now I'm on daytime television as myself and it pays the bills."

Ryder had his fair share of financial troubles. For years, all his income was taken off him to pay off a string of debt to former managers, agents and the tax man.

"I don't have any real regrets," he concludes. "I wanted to be in a band, make good music, see the world and avoid getting a proper job. I did all four and had a ball."

Twisting My Melon is out now.

Irish Independent

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