Gig preview: Black Grape at Leeds University Stylus

Black Grape. Picture: Karin Albinsson
Black Grape. Picture: Karin Albinsson
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Shaun Ryder is a man not used to second chances.

From creative exhaustion to High Court writs – via several nightmarish drug habits – Ryder has faced the sharp end of fame’s fickle fate.

But, at 53, the Happy Mondays and Black Grape frontman is back and is determined to do things right.

Black Grape had top 10 hits in the mid-90s with Reverend Black Grape and In the Name of the Father, and Ryder has reformed the band for a UK tour this summer.

And, despite his reputation for hedonism, Ryder believes this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy himself the second time around.

“I suppose the big difference now is I’m compos mentis,” he said. “When we toured back in the day, it was more like work than anything, because you were always so busy.

“But it is much better now – I have more energy. Instead of doing it as a job, I am now doing it to enjoy it.”

As he recalled the height of his Happy Mondays fame in the late 80s/early 90s, Ryder was keen to point out it was as much a story of hard work behind the scenes as it was the exhaustively re-told tales of chemical excess.

“The problem back then was I was working all the time,” he said. “After we brought out (1988 album) Bummed we were either touring or recording constantly for years.”

Bummed went top 10, and a string of hits such as Step On, Wrote For Luck and Hallelujah followed. For a time, the Mondays were the biggest rock band in the UK, selling out stadiums and touring all over the world.

However, success took its toll, as the infamous 1992 album, Yes Please, proved to be the beginning of the end for the band, and the Madchester craze itself.

Ryder soon bounced back, forming Black Grape to huge critical and commercial success.

And, despite a personally turbulent decade that followed Black Grape’s mid-90s success, a now sober Ryder is back once more.

“When I hit 40 years old, I thought ‘I have to stop this’,” he said. “At that age, your body has to go through an MOT, so I needed to make a conscious decision to grow up.

“I live a different life now. I would recommend the partying to anyone, and I was very lucky to do all that stuff while playing in a rock n roll band, but you reach an age where you have to stop.”

Despite being a keen music aficionado, Ryder confessed to not having listened to much of his own back catalogue until recently.

“When we recorded Bummed, I didn’t even listen to it. It was just your job, and you moved onto the next thing.

“It wasn’t until 18 months ago when I was getting the Mondays back together that I played it for the first time – I thought ‘wow, this is bloody great!’ We really were a top band.”

After a successful Happy Mondays reunion, Ryder contacted fellow Black Grape member, rapper Paul ‘Kermit’ Leveridge with a view to getting Black Grape back together.

“I suppose I shouldn’t call him ‘Kermit’ any more,” he added. “He’s pushing 50 so I should call him Paul!

“When we got Black Grape together, we were originally only going to do five or six shows, but it soon turned into a UK tour!”

So what can fans expect from Black Grape 2.0?

“First of all, it’s a great show. I’m not just saying that because we are plugging it, but we really are sounding good!

“We’ve still got the chemistry and the testosterone is still there!”

And what for the man himself?

“My oldest children are in their twenties now,” he said. “I didn’t know them when they were growing up, and I am now just a stranger to them.

“But I am lucky enough to be an older father – I have kids aged six, seven and 12 now – I get to do it right this time.

“It’s like I’ve had a second chance.”

Black Grape play at Leeds University Stylus on Saturday July 11. For details visit http://www.blackgrapeofficial.com/

J P Cooper at Leeds University. Picture: Louis Hobbs

Gig review: JP Cooper at Leeds University Stylus