Shane Richie: 'Nick Knowles is a chippie who sings. I do this for a living’

Don’t lump the EastEnders star in with his light-entertainment peers. The Planet of the Apes and Paul Weller obsessive has played festivals, you know

Hi Shane. What’s new?

We’ve got a Nando’s opening here soon (1).

Have you got a black card?

I did have. It meant nothing to me. Ed Sheeran, who was living with my son, Jake, said that of all the accolades he’s got – the Grammys, the Brits – the one thing that meant the most to him was his Nando’s card. I used mine once. I was filming in Belfast with Kevin Bishop and John Sessions. I said: “I think we can get a freebie at Nando’s.” John got such a giggle out of not paying for a Nando’s. He said: “I can’t believe it, Richie: we’re having as much chicken as we want and we’re not paying for it!”

Rank the Planet of the Apes films (2).

You know I’ve got the original wagon, don’t you? Mate, I’ve got the original wagon they threw Charlton Heston into. I got that when I was doing eBay while drinking Jack Daniel’s. That was a lost weekend. I’d just gone through a divorce and I was Billy No-Mates and eBay had just been invented. If you read Pierre Boulle’s La Planète des Singes, Tim Burton’s film is closer to that than any of the movies. Look at me, I’m full of this old shit.

Have you got a country soul (3)?

I’ve got an Irish country soul, certainly, because my dad used to run Irish country clubs in north-west London. One of the first songs I learned was Black Velvet Band by the Dubliners when I was eight. People have picked up on this American country thing, but there’s a tip of the hat to Irish country as well. It’s a throwback to my Irish roots. Have you heard any of it yet?

I haven’t. I heard your last two albums

Ha ha ha! You fuck! You’ve not heard Once Around the Sun (4)!

It’s on YouTube. Let’s Do Sex (5) is off that album, right?

Sometimes you write a song and your tongue can be in your cheek, but people don’t see it.

Who do you prefer, the Jam or the Style Council?

For me, I’m still Style Council. When Bob Dylan was given his Nobel prize, I went: “Fuck that. Paul Weller is my poet.” [Debut Style Council album] Café Bleu is a work of art. He raps on it. There’s jazz, there’s soul, there’s punk on that album. When I was going through my midlife crisis, I didn’t know whether I was going to buy a Harley-Davidson or have a tattoo of Paul Weller on my back.

Why are you always touching your face on your album covers (6)?

You know what? My son said exactly the same thing to me. He said: “Dad, why are you always touching your face?” I said: “It’s because I don’t know what to fucking do with my hands.” But you’re right. I did a big photo shoot for the album, and they said: “He loves touching his face. He loves resting on his arm.”

Richie in his Alfie Moon days on EastEnders
Richie in his Alfie Moon days on EastEnders Photograph: BBC Adam Pensotti/BBC

Did you ever meet that woman who has got your face all over her car?

Mandy, yeah. That was a backlash to her splitting up with her husband, who ran off with his stepson’s girlfriend. Her husband was really anti her fixation with Alfie Moon, so when he fucked off, she embraced her fantasy. I felt for her, she’s lovely. They surprised me on The One Show; they brought her down, but they had security hidden in the crowd in case she ran at me.

Are you aware of the albums by Bradley Walsh and Nick Knowles and Jason Manford?

That lot, they do it for a hobby, but I do this for a fucking living. When I wasn’t working on EastEnders, I’d go and play with my band. I’d play festivals. I’d get changed in car parks. Two years ago, I was funding this album myself. I met with all sorts of labels, and they said: “You like country, why don’t you do Johnny Cash?” and I said: ‘Why don’t you fuck off?” I don’t know Nick very well, but he’s a chippie who sings. I do this to make a living. When I wasn’t on EastEnders and there wasn’t much in the way of work, I’d put in a three-week tour and we’d go and play for cash. It’s horrible being tied in with Nick Knowles and Jason Manford. I’d like to be judged on the tracks. If they think it’s shit then, fine.

If you could bring back any of your gameshows, which one would it be?

Don’t Forget the Lyrics. Did you see it?

Don’t Forget the Lyrics got me through a breakup once. They had a marathon on Sky2, and I watched it for about two days straight.

I hope you quote that, and you mention the girl. I dare you! (7)

A Country Soul by Shane Richie is released on 10 November


(1) I’ve edited out a large portion spent comparing the chain restaurants in Kent and Surrey.

(2) This next answer is also heavily edited. Shane is the biggest Planet of the Apes collector in the country and knows his stuff extensively. Extensively.

(3) This is the name of his new country album.

(4) Shane’s second album, released in 2000 and quickly deleted.

(5) Chorus: “You say let’s do lunch / But I say let’s do sex”.

(6) Album one: touching his ear. Album two: hiding mouth. Album three: classic chin-prop.

(7) Nope.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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