Bez on Happy Mondays, Madchester and what twists his melon in 2018
Celebrating 18 years since his autobiography Freaky Dancin’ was published, we caught up with the once-notorious party animal ahead of his Q&A at the Leadmill to find out where it all began. We spoke about 30 years in the industry, being a Granddad and what really twists his melon these days…
Hi Bez! How are things going?
I’m great thank you! My son and his girlfriend had a bit of car trouble this afternoon so we’ve been trying to sort them out. You know, you have to come to the rescue when you’re a dad and a granddad.
You’ve previously said that joining the Mondays was a happy accident, the result of too many drugs and a nervous Shaun Ryder dragging you onstage with him. Were you always interested in music and dancing?
Well, when I was a kid there was the punk scene and then I got into ska and northern soul. We were always surrounded by dance music and by people doing mad dancing, especially to northern soul. It was definitely a big part of my lifestyle growing up.
What was it like to be part of the Madchester scene at its peak?
It was great! The Madchester scene, for me, was a really good time. I was on stage doing all this mad dancing and then the ecstasy came along and it went hand in hand. It was perfect timing for us because there was Factory Records around, it was the beginning of the ecstasy explosion and then that E-scape sound that came out of 85’ and 86’. So it all came togeher. I got my time to dance onstage and I’ve just been going ever since. I can’t believe its 30 years later … I’m not just for Christmas, me!
How do you feel about the decline of iconic Manchester music venues like the Hacienda?
That was a really sad day, but in a way it’s done the place a world of good because it closed in its peak instead of things just dying down. That’s done well for Hacienda’s reputation. I think because of Tony Wilson’s connection and because of Factory Records, it’s now become this legendary place – and rightly so.
Is it true that you have never seen 24 Hour Party People?
Yeah, that’s true. I just couldn’t be bothered to talk about it at the time so I thought if I never watch the bloody thing, I won’t have to talk about it. I still haven’t actually watched it. There’ll come a day when I’m dying and while I’m on my death bed, I might stick it on then.
You’ll be at The Leadmill next month to celebrate the 18th anniversary of your autobiography, Freaky Dancin. What can people expect from ‘An Evening With Bez’?
I’ve done this sort of thing before and it’s always turned out really well. When I’ve been doing it, it’s all off the top of my head and I sometimes forget where I am. I always get people shouting out to me and reminding me where I’m up to. I start interweaving all the stories! I always enjoy doing it though, so hopefully it will go well again and people will be interested in what I’ve got to say.
What is the greatest achievement of your career so far?
Erm, well I haven’t achieved any sort of greatness at all really. Like I say, I’ve just had this luck with timing and by mishap it’s worked out really well for me. I haven’t achieved any greatness as yet. I’m still waiting for that moment to happen.
The Happy Monday’s are playing a new of festivals this year. How is performing on stage different now to back in the day?
The band is now at the best they’ve ever been. It’s much more enjoyable now. They’re playing the best they’ve ever played and Shaun is singing the best he’s ever sang. I don’t know if I’m dancing the best I’ve ever danced, mind, but it’s a really great show! When we were younger, it was very hit and miss because we were all off our heads. It was complete chaos. It could either be the best gig you’d ever seen or the worst gig you’d ever seen. It was weird. Now we’re all at our best and it’s constantly at a good level.
How has the music industry itself changed over the years in your mind?
Digital media has completely destroyed the music industry. Nobody buys records anymore, everyone downloads their music. There are no proper record labels and there’s no support for bands to grow anymore. There are loads of great bands out there and they get to a certain level, but then it doesn’t go anywhere. The support system that used to be there in the record industry isn’t there. It’s gone, completely changed beyond recognition.
What do you remember it being like when you started out?
I remember being sat in the studio with John Cale when we were doing the 24 Hour Party People album and he kept looking at me sucking this thumb. He basically said, ‘What the fuck is this?’ He just couldn’t believe that we didn’t understand the basic 1,2,3,4 music timing. We just used to play. You couldn’t have a band these days that didn’t understand basic timing. People go to college and university now to learn about music, but we were all kids. We were lucky because we had Factory Records who supported us through the madness.
Now you’ve all mellowed out a bit, how do you keep yourself entertained when you’re not on stage?
I’m living a sustainable lifestyle at the moment. We live in a community and we grow a lot of our own food. I still do the things I love every day. Like, I DJ most weekends and I enjoy riding my motorbike. I’m involved politically with the anti-fracking movement as well. And I’m a granddad these days, not the average granddad though, I hope. I just keep myself busy. I’ve been doing all sorts. I’m not slowing down, mate.
And finally, what really twists your melon in 2018?
I daren’t say! Well, what bare twists my melon the most is the stuff I see happening in the world today. We haven’t learnt anything from our history and we go forward making the same mistakes, being led by the same people. That’s why I set up my own political party because I think something can be done to change that. But people aren’t interested; they’re just happy living in their own bubble. Oh, and when I drink my homemade cider, that tends to twist my melon as well!
An Evening With Bez comes to The Leadmill on April 1. Tickets can be found here.