Gigslutz Interview With: HAPPY MONDAYS

Released just as the second summer of love was about to explode, Happy Mondays second album ‘Bummed’ remains a classic album. Spawning some of the finest material the band ever put out, it is about to reach its 25th anniversary. To celebrate this the band are about to take it out on the road to be played in full.

Gigslutz had the pleasure to be invited along to their rehearsal studio to have a chat with Gaz Whelan, Mark Day, Paul ‘Horse’ Ryder and Rowetta about the making of the album, the inspiration behind it and the possibility of new material. Meeting some of your heroes, and people you grew up listening to can be daunting. Any nerves are immediately wiped away however as Paul Ryder offers the ciggies around, Mark Day puts the kettle on and Rowetta gets the heating going to make sure we are nice and cosy…


Gigslutz: So let’s try and think back to going into the studio to record Bummed. How did it come about?

Gaz Whelan: We had all the songs ready to go before we went into the studio. Usually we aim to go into the studio with 8 songs and do 2 in the studio but for ‘Bummed’ we had the 10 songs ready to go

Horse: Bummed was the difficult second album…. But it wasn’t difficult!

Gaz: We didn’t have time to write stuff in the studio, especially with Martin [Hannett] there

Horse: Yeah Martin he hadn’t recorded anything for ten years had he….

Gigslutz: So where did it come from getting Martin involved after he had been out the game for so long?

Horse: It was Alan Erasmus’ idea. He was the sleeping partner in factory. He never wanted any of the glory, it was enough for him setting up the factory night, which was in Hulme and then the label but he did lots behind the scenes. It was his suggestion.

Gaz: It was weird; it was done in an old converted slaughterhouse, called ‘The Slaughterhouse’. The clue’s in the name I suppose! They’d put all new equipment in and he hadn’t done anything for 10 years so he didn’t know what all the gear was. It wasn’t digital back then. There was some young whiz kid in the studio with him and you could see him looking at Martin thinking “this is going to be a fucking nightmare” but 4 days in he was like “he’s a fucking genius”! He ended up loving him and his home made techniques like using cigarettes in the microphones…


Gigslutz: Did you feel any pressure with it being the second album?

All: No!

Mark: We were heavily sedated at the time…

Horse: I’d never heard of the phrase, ‘difficult second album’. It was a piece of piss!

Gaz: It was a bit of a party recording actually. There was a room at the back which was pitch black with just a stereo in it that was playing house music 24 hours a day. You’d go into the studio with Martin and do your bit live, then straight back into the party room. It was bizarre. It wasn’t like a normal recording session. I think that’s why we can’t remember much about it! It wasn’t like we were in the studio always doing stuff.

Mark: All I remember was there was a telephone box there. [pause] Was there?

Horse: Yeah, and a cobbled street

Mark: Yeah, that and a drum booth, where I was sleeping! [to Gaz] When you finished your drums, I went to sleep in there. Also was there an army base nearby, was it Driffield?

Gaz: Yeah, it was weird. We got there the first day, and this was before pubs were all day opening and we got there with Martin who hadn’t had a drink for 8 years. We had picked him up at his house and we’d never met him before. All he said was “Don’t pick a Ford, or a red car”, so we turned up in a red Ford. So we get there and we were like “why’s the pub open at this time” then we found out it was market day so they were allowed to stay open all day. So we said, “come on we’ll go in for one”. 12 hours later we stumbled out of there having made Martin fall of the wagon big style!


Gigslutz: Karl Denver pops up on the recordings too. How did that come about?

Horse: He was on the 12 inch wasn’t he?

Gaz: Yeah he wasn’t at the session though

Rowetta: I know he was at the Gmex and he was in the video. He was on the remastered album I think but he wasn’t there at the sessions

Mark: That would’ve been Tony’s idea [to get him involved]

Horse: Nah, there were some guys called ‘The Baily Brothers’ who made our videos

Gaz: Oh yeah, they were from Newcastle and we used to call them Tyne & Wear. Actually they came up with the phrase Madchester!

Horse: Yeah, so the Baily Brothers had some kind of budget together and they were making a film called ‘The One Armed Boxer’, which was about, well, a one armed boxer and ‘Lazyitus’ with Karl Denver was going to be the theme tune off the film, but the movie never got made.

Gaz: I didn’t know any of that!

Horse: Stick with me son…! Yeah, so it was meant to be a soundtrack

Gigslutz: So that’ll be why there’s the One Armed Boxer Mix! It’s all fitting into place now. What about the name Bummed, what was the thinking behind that?

Horse: I can’t remember. I presume it’s to do with our state of mind.

Mark: There was that much going on we don’t know!

Gigslutz: And how did the album end up sounding like it did? As you mention you were listening to a lot of house music, and as musicians you are quite funky. Was it a conscious effort or just natural sound when you get together?

Gaz: That’s just us. It’s weird though because what we were recording sounded nothing like what was going on in the party room. To listen to Bummed you wouldn’t think people were listening to house music when they were recording it. Bummed is us trying to do house music. That’s how shit we were!

Horse: I think the only thing we said was that if we ever started to sound like another band we’d immediately scrap it.

Gigslutz: Was there a concept behind the album?

Gaz: It was the Performance film. We were really into that film at the time. We used to listen to the soundtrack of the film all the time so that maybe why it sounds so dark. It’s a very trippy film. It was James Fox, Mick Jagger, and Anita Pallenberg. That was the spark for the album I think. There are loads of samples and references in there in there. Mad Cyril was a gangster in it. It wasn’t a concept album as such, but that film was the spark for it.


Big Audio Dynamite sampled it too in E =mc2 where he says [adopts mockney accent] “He thinks he’s Jack The Lad”. That was nicked from the film too. It’s Mick Jones’ favourite film as well, which is a strange coincidence. The soundtrack is brilliant, loads of slide guitars, loads of reverb. Actually I’ve never thought about this before but that probably why the album sounds like it does, and not like an acid house rave which was happening in the next room! Thanks for that you’ve solved that one…

Horse: Get yourself to blockbuster on your way home Steve, you need to watch it.

Gigslutz: I will do that and glad to be of service! Can you remember the reaction when it came out? The fans, the press etc

Gaz: We were all still heavily sedated!

Mark: We were constantly touring so we didn’t really notice I don’t think.

Horse: I’ll tell you what happened, it was the first time we had a launch party

Mark: The one at the zoo?

Horse: Yeah, London Zoo

Rowetta: No! That was ‘Pills n Thrills’ because I was there

Horse: It was ‘Bummed’ I’ll Google it [pulls out Ipad]. I remember the ‘Bummed’ faces on all the tunnels in the zoo

Mark: Did we not get kicked out the zoo?

Gigslutz: What for?!

Mark: I think we let some animals out. Potentially….

Rowetta: It was definitely ‘Pills n Thrills’

Horse: I’m not having it….

Mark: In those days we were constantly touring and we didn’t really know what was going on. I know it didn’t really sell much, did it?

Horse: Not at first…

Gaz: It was critically acclaimed, but it didn’t sell a lot….

Mark: Didn’t we get one of those gold, silver things

Gigslutz: A gold disc?

Gaz: Yeah, [laughs] it was a bit of a slow burner though. We’re still arguing over the name of the band. We still don’t know whether we are called ‘Happy Mondays’ or ‘The Happy Mondays’

Rowetta: I’ve been told off from fans for saying ‘The’.

Gaz: We don’t even know the name of our band, that’s how fucking bad it is!

Rowetta: [to Gigslutz] What do you think it is?

Gigslutz: I think it’s just ‘Happy Mondays’

Gaz: That’s what we said. I remember speaking to Ian Brown about this. He said “I always thought you were ‘The Happy Mondays’, and we were ‘Stone Roses’, but it’s not, you’re ‘Happy Mondays’ and we’re ‘The Stones Roses’ aren’t we?”

Gigslutz. So what do you remember about touring the album?

Gaz: Well from about ‘83 onwards we were just constantly touring so the ‘Bummed’ songs would’ve been part of the songs we were doing. We wouldn’t have done a separate ‘Bummed’ tour, it would’ve just been mixed in with all the others. We were in Europe a lot these days I remember, we spent a lot of time in Germany.


Gigslutz: And what about the TV appearance on ‘The Other Side Of Midnight’ when you did ‘Performance’. Can you remember much about that, you all look like you’re having a good time shall we say!

Gaz: there is actually 3 different ones recorded and put together if you watch it Shaun has his glasses off in some of them

Rowetta interrupts after googling on her Ipad: Here is a poster for the bummed tour!

Gaz: Oh so we did do a tour then! Was it the one we did with James?

Mark: The Colourfield maybe?

Gaz: Yeah, that’s it, we did some with New Order and some with The Colourfield with Terry Hall. Terry Hall used to get a load of cigs on his rider and as soon as he went on stage, we would go in his dressing room and nick them!

GS: Do you feel the controversy around the band and some of the antics that were reported ever took away from the music you were making as a band?

Gaz: Yeah it always has done

GS: And does that piss you off?

Gaz: It does now, but it didn’t at the time. At the time we’d meet so called straight laced pop bands on Top Of The Pops and they were worse than we were. We were just like every other 17, 18, 19 year olds at the time, we just had journalists there when we were doing it. Stupid working class northern kids, that’s all we were. It pisses us off a bit now, but that’s just the way it is isn’t it.

Gigslutz: Did you have any input into the remixes that came out as part of the album. There are some top ones about with Paul Oakenfold and Vince Clarke getting their mitts on you. 

Horse: I’ve gotta give that one to our kid [Shaun Ryder], it was his idea to get Paul Oakenfold on there

Gaz: Wasn’t it Bez? I thought Bez had met him in Ibiza?

Horse: No. You sure? I’ll fucking Google it!

Gaz: Vince Clarke did a few, he was great on the first ones

Horse: Yeah I like Vince Clarke

Gaz: We just sort of clicked with Oakenfold. We stared going down to London with him and go to Heaven and Shoom. We were hanging out with him Andy Weatherall and Danny Rampling. And the infamous Pete Wylie.

Gigslutz: Sounds like my perfect party! Whats your own personal view on Bummed as an album? Where would you rank it? Top, middle or towards the bottom? 

All: Middle

Gaz: Not selling it that is it! A lot of people love it though, it our kids favourite. It’s the hardocre’s favourite….

Mark: At the time we were still learning and we were going through a phase where we were learning what we were all about and what we were meant to be doing

Horse: I started listening to it again last year and I think the songs have really stood the test of time

Gaz: Now we’ve had to rehearse them and break them down, we realise there is actually tunes behind the fucking reverb!

Gigslutz: Will that make them difficult to play live?

Gaz: We’ve had to change them and compensate for that so it’s a bit more transparent now

Gigslutz: Do you have a favourite song on the album and ones you are looking forward to playing live?

Horse: I like ‘Do It Better’, it’s a great pop song

Gaz: I think ‘Country Song’ will be good. I like ‘Performance’ me though, I know it’s an obvious one bit I like it

Gigslutz: Are you going to do all of them all from ‘Bummed’

Mark: Yeah all them, back to back

Horse: Plus some others, otherwise we’d only be on stage 35 minutes!

Gaz: Around the same time we did ‘Bummed’ we did some other EP’s too, like the ‘Rave On’ EP so it’s all like the same album to us. Like when The Beatles used to say ‘Revolver’ and ‘Rubber Soul’ were the same album, that’s like this for us. It was all the same party! So we’ll probably do some of them too and come back on for some of the obvious karaoke ones too.

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Gigslutz: So what about getting back out on the road, are you looking forward to it, or is it a bit daunting now?

Mark: We can’t wait!

Rowetta: This is the first time we’ve done a lot of these songs too so we’re looking forward to it

Gaz: It’s different now; Shaun finishes and is straight off stage and away home. We’re proper boring these days; we’re like The Shadows now!

Horse: It’s a lot easier touring now Shaun is not with us and we’re not all in the same van…

Rowetta: He must enjoy it better too. I think we all do, there’s just no arguing any more.

Gaz: Bez is still out, he does all the after shows

Gigslutz: So its 25 years of ‘Bummed’, do you think you’ll do 25 year tour of ‘Pills n Thrills’?

Gaz: Nooooo. Ask me in in 2 years and I might though.

Rowetta: I’d be up for it, cos we’d be doing songs we have never done before. ‘Grandbags Funeral’ we’ve never played live. I’d love to do ‘Holiday’ too. We won’t have done the likes of ‘Loose Fit’ for ages too as they won’t be played this tour.

Gigslutz: And what about any new stuff. Is there anything in the pipe line?

Gaz: hmmm, we’ve done some, but every time we try to get a break to do stuff we just can’t get the time.

Horse: I think Shaun’s doing the voice over for the new Pepper Pig movie

Rowetta: The demo’s sound good anyway and we’ve talked about different producers doing it. If there is a gap next year, then maybe.

Gaz: We’ve done 6 or 7 but every time we get close a tour comes along. We’ll look at it again in January. And it’s got to be good, you know what I mean. We can’t have it coming out sounding like Level 42.

Horse: I thought we’d already started the album?

Rowetta: We have, just demos though. Tell Shaun to stop chasing UFO’s!

Horse: He’s always at it, he’s been seeing UFO’s since he was 12.

Gigslutz: Gigslutz will be at the Liverpool show. Are you looking forward to that one?

Gaz: Yeah, Liverpool was a massive influence for us starting out. In the early 80’s we were more into Liverpool music than anything else.

Horse:  We were all into the Bunneymen, Teardrop Explodes, Wylie, Lotus Heaters.

Gaz: Bunneymen were massive for us, massive. Pete De Freitas was probably my favourite drummer, I loved his style. The song ‘The Cutter’ actually inspired our name too. The line where it says “By The Happy Loss” we thought it said “Happy Laws” until McCulloch told us at Tony Wilson’s funeral that it was “Happy Loss”. So we were called ‘The Happy Laws’ for a day or two until somehow it changed to Happy Mondays. Bez’s parents are both from Liverpool too so there is a big connection with the place.

Gigslutz: Top stuff, can’t wait for the gig and thanks for having us round!

All: Cheers!

Tune into the Gigslutz Radio Show on Hoxton Radio on 5th December to hear a Happy Mondays selected playlist!

You can catch Happy Mondays playing Bummed at the following venues: