i-Q: shaun ryder of black grape chats aliens and reincarnation

Obscene, excellent and far from shy and retiring, we talk life, death and everything in between with Shaun Ryder of The Happy Mondays and Black Grape.

by Matthew Whitehouse
22 May 2017, 7:10am

Hedonism and hard partying. Shambolic energy and stimulants. The career of Shaun Ryder reads like some sort of ticking time bomb, the apparently incompatible worlds of rock 'n' roll and dance brought together, first in mad, bad band of the E Generation, The Happy Mondays, and then in Black Grape, the hip-hop straddling outfit completed by Kermit of Manchester's criminally underrated Ruthless Rap Assassins. Last week, Black Grape took to the stage at London's 100 Club as part of Fred Perry's Subculture Live events and, with new album Pop Voodoo out this summer, we thought, what better time to sit down with Shaun to talk life, death and whether he's ever milked a cow? This is his i-Q. Hallelujah!

Watch: JME meets Jeremy Corbyn in a café in north London, to discuss politics, power and passion, ahead of the General Election.

Hello Shaun! What would you most like to change about the world in 2017?
Fuck me. Well, instantly get rid of Trump. I would probably be more suitable to be President of the United States than him. But what would I like to change about the world? Good god. At the moment, it's just been taken over by absolute nutcases, hasn't it? I mean, that prick in fucking South America who's killing drug addicts. Thank fuck Le Pen didn't get in in France. But, yeah, the world really does need changing big time.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
Apart from maybe making myself 6'2? Nah, at the age of 54, I think I'm finally fucking happy with myself. I got there eventually.

What were you like as a 12 year old?
I was fucking horrible. Horrible. I mean, I had manners. Good manners are important. But I wasn't particularly good at anything. I wasn't good at sports. But the things that I found myself being good at were, you know, getting into trouble, stealing, burglary, and all sorts of stuff.

What did you want to be when you were older?
I didn't want to be anything really as a kid. It was just day-to-day, you know? Money.

When did music enter your world?
I mean, I was brought up with music. For me second birthday I was bought the Rolling Stones' first album. And then for me third or fourth birthday, I was bought the Beatles for Sale album. And then so on and so on. So music was always there. And me dad was a bit of a Jim Royle, you know? Pull out a banjo and an accordion. Personally, apart from watching Bowie on Top of the Pops, I was more into movies. What got me involved in music was going to watch a movie, in 1973, called That'll Be the Day, and a year later watching one called Stardust. That sort of took my attention. I didn't want to die of a drug overdose but I wanted to, you know, fuck loads of chicks and take lots of drugs, and get off me face, and go and do rock 'n' roll. So that's really what sparked my attention to do music.

Which of your own records do you hate the most?
Oh, god. Well, it's a well known fact that it's the last Mondays album [2007's Uncle Dysfunktional]. When I don't get my own way, I'm not too good.

Are you a lover or a fighter?
Oh, good god. Fucking neither. Neither. I mean, you've gotta be a bit of both, you know what I mean?

When was the last time you had an argument with someone?
Oh, an argument? Fuck me! I'm trying to think now. Oh, good god. Fucking hell. Kermit [of Black Grape]. A couple of month ago in Spain. Paul, he's lovely, but he can be -- and he'll say the same about me -- he can be hard work. Especially when you're close, and you're writing, and you're trying to get shit done. I mean, the good thing about it now is, we're older and calmer. Back twenty odd years ago, I'd just beat the fuck out of him.

We met Kermit once and he told us an amazing story about being abducted by aliens… Do you believe in aliens?
Absolutely! One, we're not alone in the universe. Two, I mean you've only gotta look at what our quantum physicists and scientist are saying. When I was 15 years old, I was a postboy, I was walking to the bus stop and there was this kid who was off to grammar school, it was seven o'clock in the morning and we saw this thing zig-zagging across the sky, literally zum, zum, zum, zum, zum. And we stared at it while it zig-zagged and then fucked off. A year later, in 1979, I saw what now you can see on YouTube quite a lot, which was hundreds and hundreds of lights going across the sky. At the time, they tried to say it was Salford rugby grounds floodlights that had gone crazy. I mean, basically, I looked at that and thought we was being invaded. It was clearly a craft going across the sky, and that was before hallucinatory drugs and all that other shit, so, yeah… I've had a few experiences, yeah.

What do you think you'd look like if you were an alien?
I mean, look, now it's not only the fucking Apollo astronauts talking about aliens, right, and Buzz-fucking-Hawkins, Buzz Lightyear or whatever. And then all the rest of the Apollo crew, because now the Official Secrets Acts are coming to an end, they're getting off their chest what they've seen. These guys, when they went up to the moon, they was watched! There was all sorts of stuff going on and there always has been. It's not just a conspiracy theory, this planet has been one big experimental watch-planet from day one. So if we was ever going to be took over and turned into fucking food, it would have happened years ago. So, yeah, aliens? As Paul Hellyer said, there's a lot of different species. Some look like us, some look like fucking Freddo the Frog.

Read: We've done a few other i-Qs. Not many. But a few. And we'll probably do more soon!

What do you imagine heaven is like, Shaun?
Fuck. I can't. I just can't. I suppose it would be something that's not comprehensible to me. I mean, you could do all the cliche things; nice grass, lovely music, orchestras playing and that sort of thing. But really, I mean energy can't be created or destroyed. And that's a fact. So whenever we do die, it's not the end. Whether we know it or not. Energy's energy, so I just don't know. I can't even imagine it.

What would you like to be reincarnated as?
If I was a really lucky dude, when I die, that would be it. But I'm probably not going to be. And I'm probably not even going to know about it. I'll end up as a fucking dog's bollock or something like that.

If you could do one thing without fear of repercussion, what would it be?
Oh god. Fuck. Fucking hell. Just sit around eating fucking cream cakes for ten years.

If you could say one thing to anyone, what would it be and who would you say it to?
Oh, dude. I don't know. If someone's an arsehole, I just fucking rip them to bits. But that's negative energy, you know.

Have you ever milked a cow?
I haven't, no. No, no, no, no... but I've tried to ride one.

In what situation did you you try to ride a cow?
Me and Bez used to drop acid and we used to go and sit in a field with the cows, and think we was Red Indians and try and ride cows.

Where was that?
In Salford. Believe it or not, we have fields and cows in Salford.

Do you have a message for the readers of i-D?
Nah, mate. Not really.

Any advice?
Get through it! Try your best! Don't take yourself too seriously! Always have a sense of humour.

Black Grape release new album Pop Voodoo on 7 July. Pre-order here


Text Matthew Whitehouse

shaun ryder
the happy mondays
black grape
music interviews
pop voodoo