Black Grape are Shaun Ryder and Paul ‘Kermit’ Leveridge. Formed in the mid 90’s, their first album ‘It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah’, spawned great tracks like ‘Kelly Heroes, Reverend Black Grape’ and ‘In The Name Of The Father’ It quickly went platinum and received massive critical acclaim. Then came addictions, court cases, thefts, critical illness (for both members) and snakebites (Ryder only, as far as the writer is aware). Back after 20 years ‘Pop Voodoo’ marks a joyful and triumphant return. With Ryder spitting out his famed social commentary and Leveridge’ acerbic wit spilling over. Fuse that with what sounds like every musical beat and instrument known to man, you have the perfect pop record.
Browse spoke to Shaun Ryder about, amongst other things, the timing of the reunion, fatherhood and memories of Hull,
How are you Shaun and where do we find you today?
“Hiya pal. Good thanks. Yeah, I’m just on the motorway, on my way to do Celebrity Juice, so I’m just travelling down to London to do that.”
Why did you decide the time was right for a new Black Grape Album, and how did it come about?
“Oh, well. Ok. We were all sat about one night in the house and I got an email from our person in the States, Amanda Gretton. She mentioned that it was 20 years since the last Black Grape album and was I thinking about doing anything.
At the time I wasn’t, but, then I sort of thought about for a bit, and gave Kermit a call. I found out he was all right and in a good place. The next thing, we were already going to do a Mondays album but the thing is with the Mondays, is getting everyone together. We tried for a bit but it wasn’t working out.
So, we thought we will just do a Black Grape album.
Was the writing and recording process any different from working with Paul in the past?
It was actually easier the time around. Alan Mcgee sorted it so we would be working with the producer “Youth” and before we knew it, we had an album wrote, recorded, mixed and produced all within 4 weeks.
We had a brilliant time, we are both “compos mentis” these days so our writing was better. We were always good together but now, without the distractions and that it’s great.
Saying that, Kermit was on the wine. I mean, fuck me wine!!! I can’t drink that stuff. And I was on the Guinness. We are a lot busier nowadays, more prolific as well, but I always seem to have time, if that makes sense.
Your upcoming Hull gig is being held at a local shopping centre right in the middle of the country’s biggest council estate. Is it important to you that you bring your music to these areas.?
Oh well, I didn’t know it was on a council estate, that’s fucking brilliant, I’m happy with that. It’s good that we can get our music out somewhere like that you know. Yeah, I’d seen that you’d got awarded that. It’s brilliant for that city. I mean, Hull has always been great. One of my favourite gigs back in the day was playing in that house. I believe it’s still going that venue. In that terraced house. Fuck me Rich, what did you call that house?
Adelphi!!! Yeah, that’s it. That’s where we got our stripes in them kinda gaffs. To go in a venue and there’s not really a stage, you know, you’re just on the same level as all the punters. That’s learning your craft gear is that. They were the venues I loved playing and still do.
Your parents and your Aunty Mary had a big influence in regards to your early musical life. Did being around a diverse range of music help shape the Happy Mondays and Black Grape sound?
Absolutely. Those sounds shaped Me and Our Kid, you know. There was so much going on back then and such a diverse range of music that it caught my attention. It was like an education for me really. All my cousins were all ages but only a few years apart. Our Pete was into his Commander Cody and his Captain Beefheart and that sort of stuff. Then you had Our Joe, who was into his ska, and Our Deano into his Motown and Reggae. Us younger ones were bang into Bowie, Our Pat was playing all Northern Soul stuff so it was lucky for me being brought up around that kinda music.
You mentioned David Bowie there and obviously, Mick Ronson, Bowie’ guitarist, is one of Hull’s favourite sons. There is a memorial to him in one of the local parks. Do you think Salford will be erecting a memorial to you anytime soon?
Haha! You know what, I think there was talk of something but they haven’t even put one up in Manchester for Tony Wilson after all he did. Mind you, Salford University has done one of those…erm. What do you call them’? I was going to say thesis or dissertations, on me. I’ve not got a Doctorate or anything though but, as for a memorial, I very much fucking doubt it, Hahaha.
You’re a father of six. What do they think of what Dad does and what music do they listen to?
Oh, they think it’s great what Dad does. They think Dad is great, Dad’s Superman to them. They like the new album as well, so that’s good. They’re listening to Arian Grande and Miley Cyrus. I tell you what though those American can do the lot. They make natural singers, natural musicians, and great entertainers.
Your Dad was a massive part of the Monday’s, being a roadie, driver, and soundman. What is he doing now?
My Dad’s from that generation that never goes to the doctors for nothing. He’s had all sorts wrong with him and he’s not well at the moment but, what are you going to do? You can shout at him and go on at him or let him get on with it the way he wants. Saying that, he can still manage to eat his weed or smoke his weed, whatever he does with it so..
You always liked to rip old, obscure records for Mondays and Black Grape albums. Was that mainly in the hope that they would be re-discovered by new audiences.?
Absolutely. That was the idea, that’s why I and Our Kid put those in there. Especially the Marcel King stuff you know (King was on the Factory Records label, with Ryder). We’d hope they’d get the credit that they never got before. We thought that should have been a huge commercial track, Top Of The Pops, the lot. The Factory never really promoted stuff so that was our way of trying to get it out there. We’d mention it in interviews in the hope people would go out and listen and maybe buy it, you know
Is it true you, were once criticised for ripping tracks?
Yeah, we did. Certain people didn’t get what we were trying to do. They were like “You’re ripping this off “ and it’s like, well, you might know these records but if we’re going to be selling, at the time, thousands of records, then that was our way to get it to a wider audience.
Finally, you said about Hull being one of your favourite gigs. Any more memories of Hull?
Haha, one time I was in Hull, I got fucking chinned by some Cockney!!!. This Fat Cockney firm right. What they do, they go in town centre’s you know, shaking the cans, collecting money, blagging. It’s a scam. So, I’ve gone up to this one kid, right. While I’m saying something, someone’s just turned round and smacked me right in the kipper. It’s all gone off like. The police were called and I had to get out of there.
Interviewed by Rich White
Black Grape play a sold-out gig North Point Shopping Centre on Friday 3rd November as part of City Of Cultures Back To Ours programme of events. This is aimed at taking music, art, poetry and other spectacular surprises to local communities.