SHAUN RYDER has got himself a personal assistant. Rather than the Mancunian Miss Moneypenny we’d hoped for, Gaz, a childhood friend of Ryder’s who has worked with him for years off and on, turns up to escort us to the pub in Hadfield where we’re to meet up with the singer.
I’m half-expecting to walk into the pub and find a huge, disembodied Shaun Ryder head waiting for us, just like his memorable if nightmarish appearance in the Gorillaz Dare video – this is Royston Vasey after all – but, of course, Shaun is a good half-hour late so it’s us who are waiting for him. When he does turn up his head is, thankfully, fully attached.
The affable Gary has stepped into the breach since Ryder’s marriage to Felicia – mother of the singer’s youngest child and his unofficial PA – hit problems earlier this year. Ryder begins to explain Gary’s role in the two companies, improbably named Three Little Pigs and Yes Please, which now manage his intricate business affairs. But nothing can ever be that simple for the man still known to his friends as X.
After much umming and aahing and theatrical side-glances around the bar, Ryder decides: “It’s like, er, well, it’s, um .. Put it this way, just say it’s called Yes Please and I’m not going to go into it more than that.”
For someone who likes having an audience as much as Shaun Ryder seems to, the singer is a uniquely uncomfortable interviewee. He’s almost comically paranoid about being misquoted and misinterpreted but, endearingly, can’t open his mouth without saying exactly the wrong thing. In the past, lawyers have quoted his words back to him in court, leading to convoluted explanations about how for example, no, he didn’t make a single penny from the bootlegs of other Factory acts the Mondays used to put together before they actually signed to the label.
Doing press is something he could do without (“I’d rather sit back, keep my mouth shut and get on with things..”) but the reformed Happy Mondays have a gig at the MEN Arena to promote and needs must.
At one point Ryder talks movingly about 20 years of being looked at and observed and you can’t help but feel for him. The rock’n’roll lifestyle has undoubtedly had an effect on the artist formerly known as Baby Horse, but then so has sitting on his arse watching satellite TV in Hadfield for the best part of five years. It’s called being over 40.
Either way, Ryder seems as sharp as he ever was (sartorially this manifests itself in head-to-toe Adidas clobber) and, after a couple of false starts retreading old material at the Get Loaded festivals, the reformed Mondays – featuring only Ryder, Bez and drummer Gary Whelan from the original line-up – are now working on new music.
While he is on record as saying that he “couldn’t give a fuck” whether the Mondays went down in musical history or not, Ryder is clearly a lot more comfortable now that they are able to record new material – the first release being the decidedly Black Grape-ish Playground Superstar from the Goal! soundtrack.
“We was unable to sort out things, with the name and everything, and this and that, and copyright, and it was taking years, as well as other court cases. It all meant we couldn’t record. So every three or six years, we come out and do a show. It’s no good if you’re out every fucking week or out all the time, you’re just working your way down to chicken-in-a-basket.”
Why is it important not to end up on that circuit?
“Well, if I wanted a real job, I would’ve got one. Wouldn’t you?”
But for a lot of bands who reform, that’s good enough for them.
“Basically, right, that’s cool for them and I’m not knocking them for it but y’know, there’s other things in life that you can do, and still make music or whatever. You can produce music. Gaz, me, Bez, we fucking .. we do what we do, y’know.”