Paul Ryder, the bass guitarist who helped power the hugely popular “baggy” funk sound of the Happy Mondays, has died aged 58.
A message posted on the band’s social media said:
The Ryder family and Happy Mondays band members are deeply saddened and shocked to say that Paul Ryder passed away this morning. A true pioneer and legend. He will be forever missed. We thank you for respecting the privacy of all concerned at this time. Long live his funk x
No cause of death has been made public.
Ryder, whose brother Shaun fronted the group, was a founder member since their formation in 1980 and had rejoined for the group’s most recent reunion in 2012.
The working-class son of a postman and nurse, Ryder was born in Salford in 1964, and was a self-taught guitarist. He said it was only later in his career that he “learned what the different strings were. I’d call them the fat one, the thin one and the one down from the fat one.”
First inspired by Motown artists, Ryder was then drawn to the Chicago house music of the 1980s, saying that his bass lines were “me trying to replicate that style but using a real instrument rather than a computer”.
Ryder played with Happy Mondays for their peak era in the late 1980s, as the group communed with the rave scene of the time while innovating their own brand of psychedelic pop. After minor success with second album Bummed, they had a huge hit with the follow up Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches in 1990, buoyed by the singles Step On and Kinky Afro, which both reached No 5 in the UK singles chart.
Unlike his showman brother, Ryder admitted: “I am embarrassingly shy – that’s why I used to take copious amount of drugs before I went on stage … with Shaun being a Leo and older he was so much more the extrovert, and from what I know he always loved the attention.”
After the notoriously fractious recording of follow-up album Yes Please! – Ryder began to struggle with heroin use – the group split. They reformed in 1999, playing large-scale gigs and recording a comeback cover of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys are Back in Town that reached the UK Top 30, but amid a poor relationship with his brother (“I would have ended up killing myself or killing him”, he later said) Ryder left the group in 2001.
He didn’t rejoin for another reunion in 2004, but returned in 2012 when the original members reformed – the group continued to tour until the present day.
In his years away from the Happy Mondays, Ryder released an album with another group, Big Arm, in 2008 and moved to Los Angeles in the late 00s. He also performed live with the New York funk group Tom Tom Club, whose members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (also of Talking Heads) had produced Yes Please!.
Among those first paying tribute was Manchester DJ Dave Haslam, who said Ryder “made a massive contribution to Happy Mondays and was good company and a top fella”.