The story of Black Grape
As the band kick off their reunion tour, Shaun Ryder reflects on a life of excess all areas
"Every three months I have a shot of testosterone up my backside, and it's great! It feels like I'm 21 again!"
After addiction to everything from smack to crack to Rennie indigestion tablets, it’s fair to assume there's not many drugs that Shaun Ryder hasn't put inside his body over the years, so this must sit firmly the healthier end of the chemical spectrum for him. But going back to being 21? Would that really be so wise?
This is, after all, a man who, at that tender age, was just embarking on a career as singer with the Happy Mondays that became as well known for extra-curricular excess and surreal mischief as it did his inspired, unhinged lyrics and louche charisma, and his band's warped but wildly original funk-rock racket.
"Well, 21 without all the bullshit that goes with being 21," he quickly adds.
Not that Shaun Ryder has ever shown any desire to grow up any quicker than is absolutely necessary.
By his early 30s, the Mondays had imploded after recording their hit-and-miss (if often underrated) fourth album Yes Please! in Barbados. While many observers feared he was finished as a creative force, within a couple of years he had suddenly re-emerged in Black Grape, alongside perennial Mondays partner in crime Bez (on maracas and vibes if nothing else immediately detectable) and ex-Ruthless Rap Assassin Paul 'Kermit' Leveridge. With the help of American producer and multi-instrumentalist Danny Saber, they made one of the best albums of the '90s in the shape of It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah.
They may have split only three years later after a disappointing second outing and, in Kermit’s case, a close encounter with the grim reaper, but 20 years on from that iconic October 1995 release, Ryder and Kermit are back, fighting fit and 50-something, with a 20-date UK and Ireland tour.
**The cover of Black Grape's 1995 album, 'It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah!' and right, Kermit and Shaun
**(Photo: Mike Prior/Redferns)
Shaun is in spritely form when TeamRock calls him at home in Manchester (an improvement on a previous occasion in the late 1990s, when he seemed as hung over as Oliver Reed after rising from the dead, and punctuated every second answer with 'gorrany coke, dude?'). Maybe he's had a fresh injection. Which would be entirely right and proper if so, because this time there's a perfectly good medical reason for his intoxication. "A few years ago when I ballooned in size, I found out I had no testosterone, no thyroid gland, and pneuomonia. WIth the thyroid thing, it's hereditary, it's in the family, and if you don't take your Diotroxin you go into a coma and die – and your testosterone is all connected with that so I have no testosterone. If I didn't have the injections I wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning.”