Rowetta talks Happy Mondays
By Martin Unsworth at Sounds Magazine
Ahead of the band’s big show at the Macclesfield Festival in July, we caught up with Happy Mondays singer and general Manchester legend Rowetta to see how things have been going since the band got back together.
How’s has it been getting back on the road with the Happy Mondays after so long?
Rowetta: It’s been brilliant, actually. When we first reformed in 2012, I didn’t know how long it would last as we’d not spoken for years. We thought we were just reforming for one tour to be honest and a few gigs, and then we’d all go our own way. The Stone Roses had reformed so we got so many offers, so we thought if we could get along for one tour it’d be brilliant; we’d all make a bit of money and we’d all made friends and it’d be great. But the fans came out and we sold out almost everywhere, and we all got along. At the end of the first tour, we got more offers and it’s carried on ever since but it’s been brilliant; we’re just really, really enjoying it. In fact, the last tour we did, I enjoyed it more than any other tour I’d done with the Mondays because we’re just getting along. Since we reformed, we lost one original member, Paul Davis, the keyboard player decided to leave after the first tour, other than that, we’re all still together so it’s great.
How does it compare to ‘the good old days’?
The thing is we couldn’t remember a lot of the good old days, everyone was wasted! We were in our twenties, but we were more like teenagers the way we were acting. Teenagers who’d just got a load of money! We had loads of people who came along for the ride with us so it was all a bit mad. If you ask me could I do it now, with all the same members doing all the same things that they used to do with all the same people who came with us, probably not? I don’t think we’d last long if everyone was of the same mindset. It was just partying all the time, which was great – very enjoyable. We only did one long tour of America back then, but we’ve just done two months on the road and because we’re older and because we’re all behaving ourselves, it’s doable. I don’t think we could have done that back then, it would have been too much. Every day was like ‘where we going next?’, it was a bit of blur. Of course, it was brilliant, I was the only girl on the tour bus – I loved it, it just got very messy sometimes. I don’t think I can do that anymore.
The whole scene’s changed now.
Yeah, definitely. People come to our gigs now and you can see some of them because it’s a Mondays gig, they overindulge and quite often they’re getting thrown out before we’ve started and it’s just stupid. They think they’ve had a good night, but that’s not what it’s about. You see these people who think because it’s a Mondays gig or a Roses gig or whatever, that they have to be off their faces. Not at all! The music can stand up for its self, and we’re playing and getting on better than ever. It’s a shame if you miss it by peaking too soon before the gig, which is what a lot of our fans do. Just because of the reputation of the band I think. Or they’re trying to get back to what they were doing in ‘89/’90 or whatever. But everybody’s been having a great time and we’ve been getting great reviews, so it’s working for everyone. I would advise to pace yourself if you’re coming to our gigs.
Have you noticed a change in the crowd, other than the old school coming back, are there a lot of new fans too?
Definitely. There are people who thought they’d never see us. Obviously, they’d heard our music and got into that but missed it the first time around as they were too young. Sometimes their brothers or sisters or their mums and dads got them into the music and they didn’t think they’d get to see people like the Mondays or the Roses. So when the Roses reformed, they were able to see those and there’s a lot of people who’ve just never seen the band and I was getting loads of messages saying ‘why can’t the Mondays do it?’ I was just thinking ‘I don’t know’ and when it happened, the fact that we’re playing really well and doing different versions of tunes, it’s exciting for these new fans. Our audience is completely mixed – from probably people in their sixties to people really young. I’m always getting asked ‘can you get in if your 14?’ Some you can, but people are always asking so it’s great. The songs, to be honest, are really catchy, certainly since I joined them. Really catchy tunes and the kids like it. Things like Kinky Afro are just classics. They always fill a dance floor. I love the early stuff as well but a lot of them have been reworked so all ages can enjoy them and do.
Will you be recording together again?
Well, hopefully. We did one song; we went into the jungle in Panama for a programme called Singing in the Rainforest and we recorded a song together. We had started a load of tunes and nothing ever happened. I think it’s because Shaun ended up reforming Black Grape as well, they ended up doing an album. It’s difficult with us because there’s so many of us in different places. I’m always working with other people doing my house tunes and things like that, different producers so getting all of us to have time to do it. The bass player lives in LA, the drummer lives in Canada, but we don’t have to be in the same room anymore, it doesn’t have to work like that, we can all do our bits but you do need probably to get together quite a bit so it’s just timing. So we went to Panama and write a song – one! – and finished it and that was released and all the money was going to the people in the jungle and it was connected to the TV show but it gave everybody a buzz that we know that we can do it. So I think Alan McGee, our manager, is saying we definitely want an album, but it’s the Black Grape one first, which was easier to do as it’s just Shaun and Kermit that are the proper writers in the band. I think it’s looking like we’ll do an album next year all being well and if we’re all getting on. Everybody at the moment is trying to put it on our schedules to get done or out for next year. I’d be a nice thing to do as we’ve had five or six years already now of a successful reformation, it’d be a shame not to do the actual album. Like I said, we’ve started tunes but I think the ideas have been used on other projects so we’ll probably have to start again. I think because everybody’s in a good place and able to write with a clear head now and play better than ever, Shaun’s lyrics are still there, it’d be great. I hope it does happen.
Are you looking forward to playing the Macclesfield Festival?
I really am because I think anything that’s near home is brilliant. I live in South Manchester so it’s fantastic for me. It means that people I’ve actually known for years can come down without having to pay loads on hotels and stuff like that. I did Junction 16 I think it was last time with Hooky and the Mondays, so I’m hoping its something like that. Because it’s local and it’s a big festival and because of where it is. When you have to go to Glastonbury or somewhere, it’s a pain. The fact that it’s in Macclesfield, it’s a lovely place anyway.
Will you be altering the set seeing as it’s a family friendly event?
Well, we’ve not rehearsed yet for the festivals, but we don’t really change sets because it’s family as we do a lot of family gigs anyway. It’s just Shaun is careful not to swear. It’s quite funny, the words that he sings are not swearing, but when there are kids in the audience, he starts to feel guilty even though they’re not swearing. So he’ll say no to one word, then go and say something that’s even worse. It’s funny watching him trying to self-edit himself as he’s singing. Parents who come to see us, I think they know there won’t be loads of swearing because it’s a family festival. There’s nothing to worry about, we are a family-friendly band now. Bez is the healthiest – he’s healthy to the extreme, he’s obsessed with talking about organic stuff; organic food, organic drinks; organic highs, organic everything! He doesn’t even smoke spliffs anymore, he’s a really clean-living guy and he’s looking healthier for it and feeling great. He just buzzes off life, which is fantastic.
How times change, eh?
Yeah – and long may it last! You can be there thinking ‘bring back the old Bez’, but then think actually, no we don’t want the old Bez because he’s just as great on stage, thank goodness. Dancing with him on stage is as mad as it used to be back in the day because he’s got this hypnotic thing about him when he dances. He keeps everybody going, he’s still got that stage presence. I just get a buzz off that. We don’t need to go on drunk or whatever, we really get a buzz. We can arrive at a gig ten minutes before completely sober and just go on stage and it’s back again and I love that.