Shaun Ryder: ‘It was cycling that got me off drugs’

The Black Grape frontman, 55, on fatherhood and family life, coping with panic attacks and the truth about UFOs

I left school without knowing my alphabet. By age 13 I was working on a building site with my mates. It was a different world in Manchester back then. Dinner time was watching strippers in the pub. Bernard Manning would come in and tell some jokes.

The Happy Mondays were different to everything else. If anything started to sound familiar we’d scrap it. We’d be on to something great and then go: “Wait a minute, that sounds like Echo and the Bunnymen – get rid of that.”

I didn’t get a chance to be a dad with my first kids [Ryder has six children]. I was still a kid, having kids. You think you’re doing the right thing by building a career, providing material things for them. But I was never at home.

We were supposed to be at the Ariana Grande show the night of the attack. We had tickets. We’d done Little Mix there a couple of months before and my girls were hoping to meet her. But it was a sunny night, we’d been to the ice cream parlour and they didn’t mention it, so we didn’t go.

Tony Wilson once compared me to WB Yeats. It didn’t really mean that much because I didn’t have a clue who Yeats was. The only poet I respected was John Cooper Clarke. I found poets pretentious back then.

It was cycling that got me off drugs. I’d get on my bike very early in the morning and keep cycling until very late at night, day after day, until it was out of the system. I was pedalling from 8am until 11pm. But once that’s done, you still have to deal with the mental stuff.

I saw my first UFO in 1978. There’s a whole world going on that we don’t know about. We’re using 100-year-old technology when we should be in hover cars and free from fossil fuels. I don’t buy it. The powers that be know about something and us lot are being treated like absolute dicks.

Bez ran to be a Salford MP, but would I vote for him? Would I fuck. He’s my pal and I love him. But he’d run the country depending on how he felt each morning after the first joint.

Trying to quit heroin using a stomach implant was disastrous. I tried it in 1995 when it was still a new thing. The problem was that they withdraw you while you’re out unconscious, and I expected to wake up feeling fine. But I didn’t. I woke up and it was fucking murderous.

I didn’t want to do I’m a Celebrity at first. I was worried about the luvvies inside the jungle. But even Gillian McKeith turned out to be all right. Any woman who can blag their way to a TV career just by looking at shit has got to be half all right by me.

When you come close to death, everything slows down. It’s happened to me a few times. Car crashes where the car has flipped around and bounced; an emergency landing in a plane crash; a few guns shoved in my eyeballs.

I had my first panic attack at 52 years of age. I’m glad it came when it did. If I’d had one as a young lad I don’t think I’d have been able to have a career. It’s the most debilitating thing I’ve come across in my life.

Black Grape’s album Pop Voodoo is released on 4 August


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Shaun Ryder: ‘I’m a really good dad, this time around anyway’
The Happy Mondays singer tells James McMahon about UFOs, coming off drugs, children, Bez and losing his hair

James McMahon

17, Aug, 2019 @1:00 PM

Article image
Shaun William Ryder – review

Shaun Ryder's slim, sober and fresh from the jungle and discovering whether his TV heroics can revive his career. By Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

20, Feb, 2011 @12:05 AM

Shaun Ryder – review
Opener Kinky Afro offers a tuneful reminder of why Tony Wilson compared Ryder's addled street poetry to Yeats, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

21, Nov, 2011 @6:20 PM

Article image
Shaun Ryder: My family values
The Happy Mondays singer talks about how he's become a better father and how he used to be the dad of the band. By Nick McGrath

Nick McGrath

11, Jan, 2013 @5:49 PM

Article image
Twisting My Melon: The Autobiography by Shaun Ryder – review
Shaun Ryder's account of his life is colourful and candid but still leaves you wanting more, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

08, Oct, 2011 @11:04 PM

Article image
Cameron asks Shaun Ryder to advise on class and help to detox Tories

After a week of gaffes, No 10 calls in the Happy Mondays singer who helps to launch a T-shirt campaign to banish 'pastygate'

Luke Bainbridge

01, Apr, 2012 @8:00 AM

Article image
'Shaun Ryder in the Happy Mondays wasn't me. He was a caricature'
The Happy Mondays frontman has survived addiction, attempts on his life and depression. But writing his autobiography has forced him to face up to even more uncomfortable truths about his past. He talks pills, thrills and bellyaches

Simon Hattenstone

15, Sep, 2011 @6:59 PM

Article image
Jon Bon Jovi: 'there’s no chance I’d put on a pair of ripped jeans now'
The musician, 54, on growing up in New Jersey, being happily married and getting bored of singing his own hits

Shahesta Shaitly

15, Oct, 2016 @1:00 PM

Article image
Cerys Matthews: ‘I love today’s attitude towards gender neutrality’
The musician and broadcaster, 48, on her nursing days, what motherhood taught her, and why she doesn’t miss the strangeness of fame

Shahesta Shaitly

17, Jun, 2017 @1:00 PM

Article image
Gene Simmons: ‘I’ve never got high or drunk in my life’
The musician and Kiss frontman, 68, on what he learned from his mother, what capitalism means to him and why he’s so proud of his hair

James McMahon

23, Dec, 2017 @2:00 PM