Shaun Ryder Has Some Stories You Won't Believe
We spoke to the Happy Mondays and Black Grape frontman about drinking underage, going on the rob and the worst nights out he's ever had.
"Share Location" is a new interview series in which we speak to musicians, actors and public figures about their younger years and formative experiences.
Happy Mondays and Black Grape frontman Shaun Ryder has crammed more into his lifetime than many could manage in ten. Renown for a life of hedonism – although, at 55, he's now settled down, sober and into cycling – he has survived car crashes, heroin addiction, being held at gunpoint and even a stint on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Born in Salford in 1962, for the inaugural edition of "Share Location" he talks us through some of his very British experiences of growing up.
VICE: When was your first snog?
Shaun Ryder: That would be in the toilets in the reception class at St Mark's [primary school] on Queensway [in Greater Manchester]. It was with a girl called Catherine Lomax. We had a couple of adventures – you know, as much as you can at four.
What was your first shitty job?
My first proper job was at 15, when I left school. I was a messenger boy for the post office. I swore the Official Secrets Act and got to have a pretty interesting time. I mean, I hold up the Act to this day, so I won't tell you about all the underground buildings in Manchester that stretch to Liverpool and all sorts going on under the city. It was actually a brilliant job, and probably one of the happiest times of my life. In the 1970s, Manchester was still pretty much a black and white episode of The Sweeney – it really was still Victorian. We'd go for a pint in the John Bull and watch Bernard Manning do his dinnertime set with a load of strippers; it was just brilliant.
Which pub first served you underage?
Oh dude, I was in the pubs at 12. Pubs in Salford on Bolton Road, Pendlebury – that road goes on for miles. There was a pub every ten yards and we got served in all of them. When the cops raided the places you'd be just be out of the back door and up to another boozer – it was great.
"The first time I discovered I could go to the bar and get free drinks in the Hacienda – well, that was it then. We'd march in and there would be 26 of us coming in on my guest list."
What was the first thing you stole? If indeed you've ever stolen anything.
Robbing was my biggest buzz as a kid. Before drugs, the buzz of getting into someone's house; you can't imagine it – it's fucking huge. It started when I was in reception class, in the same toilets where I got my first snog. We had a toffee tin in the teacher's desk, and I used to leave the bathroom window open in the toilets so when we were all out at playtime and the classroom was locked up, I would sneak back in through the window, go into the classroom, get the key and just rob the toffees and the crisps. This went on for ages, until one day I sneaked in there and all the teachers jumped out, shouting, "It's you, Ryder! It's you!" As a four-year-old kid I was then wheeled out the next day in front of the rest of the juniors and infants as the toffee thief.
What was your first experience of smoking weed?
You have to go back to the 70s and 80s in Salford here. First of all it was amphetamine – that was the thing; that was the first drug I took. When I got to 15 or 16, weed wasn't the easiest thing to get. You could get hold of some skag or speed, but weed just wasn't dead easy to get hold of. There was only a select little part of our group who were weed smokers. We did one of the first grows ever, actually; I brought all of the hydroponics back from America and did one of the first proper grows, and it was really successful, but it ruined the fucking flat. We did that in Granby House, which is the same place where that fucking dickhead bomber made his bomb [Salman Abedi, who attacked the Manchester Arena].
Are there any clubs or bars that you're barred from?
God, no. As a mature 55-year-old now, I should hope not. I remember when the Dry Bar got taken over in the late-90s and I'd moved to Ireland and not been in town for a while, and I came back and walked in, and I see this big sign saying "Shaun Ryder and Liam Gallagher are banned from this bar," and I thought, 'Fucking hell.' So I had to have that sorted out.
Back in the day I was told all the time I was barred or couldn't come back to places. Top of the Pops told me I could never do it again. The producer there at the time was this horrible little fucking nasty fella, and I didn't get on with him. The first time we played, it was us and the Stone Roses, so I was trying to get everyone to swap bands. I was trying to get Ian Brown to play drums for us and I was going to be the singer of the Roses, because nobody would have known, and I thought it would have made great television. I think they got wind of it, and the next thing he's telling me I'm banned, and I had a big argument with this bloke.
I also remember when this firm from Wigan took over security in Manchester for a few bars and clubs, in about 1998. I remember walking into a bar on what they now call Deansgate Locks, and I was with Nuts, who was in the Mondays with us when we all got back together. The bouncer stopped me and said, "Ryder, we're from Wigan and we're doing security, and we're telling you that you're not fucking coming in here. I don't like you and I don't like n*ggers." I'll never fucking forget that guy.
What's the worst night out you've ever had in Britain?
Oh, I've had lots of bad nights out. Most of them consist of being linked to cocaine and spending eight hours in the toilet. You go in the toilet with a load of Charlie and you just don't get out. You go in there at 9PM, and then, next thing you know, it's 3.30AM and you've been in there all night, your head looks like plastic, you've got no dick, you've got no balls, you've got this horrible grin on your face that's not really a grin – and that's it: the night's gone.
Do you remember your first fight and what caused it?
It goes back to reception class again. There was another little thief in our class, as well as me, and this was an Italian kid and he'd robbed my bag. We all had our own pegs to put our coats and bags on, and my peg was a banana, so when it was lunchtime I went to my bag, and my Taxi chocolate bar wasn't in there. This Italian kid was sat munching on a Taxi bar, so at four years old that was my first fight. I then decided that I was robbing everything out of his bag – anything off him I could, I would steal and either cut it into little bits, or if it was his jumper or something I'd cut his sleeves off.
Do you remember the first time you were dumped?
Yes, I do. Josie Crumbly. I was banned from going out as I'd been done for receiving stolen goods, so I couldn't leave the house. She came up to our house, which was a good two or three miles from her house, and she turned up at ours and then told me I was dumped.
What was your first run-in with the police?
I'm 11 years old and I'm riding my bicycle on the road in Salford. A cop starts waggling his finger at me while I'm riding on the road, so I rode over to him and then got on the pavement and I said, "Yeah?" He said, "You're riding your bike on the pavement," and I said, "I'm not." He said, "You've just done it now," and so I got nicked for riding my bike on the pavement and I ended up in court, and that's what gave me my criminal record… the twat.
Where was the first time you got in somewhere for free, or were given something for free, because of your newfound fame?
The Hacienda. We used to get in there for free, which we took for granted. The thing about us was that we never took the piss; we sort of tried to play it really cool, and so we never really abused our little position of power. Although, the first time I discovered I could go to the bar and get free drinks in the Hacienda – well, that was it then. We'd march in and there would be 26 of us coming in on my guest list.
Black Grape's new album, Pop Voodoo, is out now on UMC.
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