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Ryder rides again: Black Grape are Belfast bound

Shaun Ryder's recently reunited Black Grape kicked off their first tour for nearly 20 years this week. David Roy spoke to the Belfast-bound Madchester survivor about celebrating 25 years of their debut LP It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah

Kermit and Shaun Ryder are back together for the Black Grape reunion tour

HI SHAUN, what are you up to today?

I'm doing loads of interviews and after that I'm gonna do the school run.

Changed times, eh? There's plenty of interest in the upcoming Black Grape gigs, are you getting excited about them yourself?

Yeah yeah, it's weird: it started off as a couple of shows and now we've got 21 to do, so it has turned into a proper tour. The first charity gig we did in Manchester at Old Granada Studios back in April was brilliant, it really really was. It's a great venue, you pull up outside and before you know it you're on the old Coronation Street set.

Me and Kermit (Black Grape's 'other' singer) loved it, I think we're better now than we were the first time around  and I'm not just saying that to sell tickets. At least we're both really enjoying it now. 20 years ago, we was on the treadmill: album, tour, album, tour, as well as being off our tits half the time.

It was a blast and for a good cause too (Salford homeless support charity Coffe4Craig), and obviously Bez was there and did a bit of his politics for the All Star Reality Party election campaign as well.

Is Bez back in the band for the tour?

No, he's not. I know there's been some confusion over that, but he was only in the group for about five minutes first time around anyway. Black Grape has always been me and Kermit.

The current tour is celebrating the 25th anniversary of It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah, a record that was absolutely massive at the time but kind of gets overlooked today. Would you agree?

It's because of the whole Britpop thing, really. Just as we released it, the first Oasis album landed. But it was still number one and that kind of caught people by surprise.

Pretty much everybody had written me off after what happened with the end of the Mondays. In fact, that record should have been the fifth Mondays album, really.

When I first got Black Grape together, I was living in Didsbury. Me and Kermit would use my house to write and jam out tunes and while we was doing that I was getting knocks on the door from everybody  Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus, everybody  all telling me how I'd f***ed up and what I should be doing next.

But by that stage I'd already been on the plane over to New York to meet Gary Kurfurst (manager of Ramones, Dee-Lite and Debbie Harry, whose BMG-affiliated Radioactive label signed Black Grape for the US) so we was on a bit of a buzz about that  but we did the best thing we could do which was just to keep our gobs shut and come back with a number one album.

You were still heavily into drugs at the time. How did that affect things when Black Grape took off so quickly?

Yeah, me and Kermit were both on the drug scene then, everybody was like "look at them two junkies". Black Grape was his first taste of commercial success so that sort of went to his head a bit.

By the time we was doing the second album (1997's Stupid Stupid Stupid) he was really bad  he was like, "get rid of him and I'll become Biggie and Tupac and do me own thing". That's why it all went a bit tits-up.

After the second to last show of the tour I just left  I'd had enough so I walked out.

But he's come through all that now and he's in the right place for us to have another go. In fact, Kermit's better than ever  like, he's 50, but the kid's so fit he looks about 29.

Are there plans to do a new Black Grape album if the current tour is a success?

Hopefully. It's all going really well so far, there's none of the bullsh*t that goes with being young any more. There's no partying or drugs.

It's the same now as it is with the Mondays  it's just a blast going out and doing the songs and enjoying it this time around. So if this goes really well there's no reason why we won't go and do another album. In fact, we've already got more shows lined up for 2016.

So, it really is great when you're straight?

Oh totally, man. The Monday's are touring again later in the year, I've got another solo album about to drop and I've got loads of TV stuff happening as well. I've said this before  you take drugs to escape, but now I've got nothing I want to escape from.

It's just so easy. You just get out there and do stuff, it's brilliant.

:: Black Grape, Saturday June 23, The Limelight, Belfast.Tickets 23 from Ticketmaster outlets.

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