Happy Mondays

Rowetta from the Happy Mondays tells us how she got embroiled in Madchester’s messiest band and how they’re now sounding better than ever before…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 29 May 2014
  • min read
‘We can now remember playing gigs - it’s not such a drunken mess,’ says Rowetta from the Happy Mondays.

The singer is comparing the difference between the Mondays of the Madchester years and now. For her, despite their ever advancing years, the band are sounding better than ever.

The Mondays reputation for hedonism is legendary. During their late eighties peak, both frontman Shaun Ryder, dancer-now-turned politician Bez and the rest of the group were not only one of the best bands in the world (on defining hits such as Step On and Wrote for Luck), but one of the highest. The recording of their fourth LP - Yes Please! - took place in Barbados, allegedly bankrupted their label Factory due to excess and led to bitter fall outs which curtailed the band’s lifespan.

Fast forward over twenty years and the group are now back together, getting on famously and even contemplating recording new material. Singer Rowetta has been with the band through thick and thin and enjoyed some solo success working with house producers such as Trevor Jackson and New Order’s Peter Hook. Ahead of the band's show at the RugbySpy event in Ibiza we quizzed her on her time with the band and why they’re now sounding better than ever before…

Which songs first made you want to get into music?

I loved the Beatles, Marvin Gaye and Motown but I always wanted to be in a punk band and it didn’t really work with my voice. It was a bit more complicated than being one of those people who came out of the womb wanting to sing. I never took it that seriously.

When did you realise you had a voice?

Singing was just a reaction to an audience when I got on stage aged 13. I was told that my voice stood out too much when I was in a choir when I was younger and that put me off. I never thought I was good enough. I practiced all the time after that initial reaction and just persevered. I had the opposite of a pushy mother – she’d tell me to shut up!

How did you get involved in the Mondays?

I saw Tony Wilson and the Mondays on his programme The Other Side of Midnight. And was blown over. I just thought I’ve got to sing with these. Playing with a punk band was something I wanted to do as a kid. I also thought they’d be great for me but I also thought that I could benefit them. I knew I could create a role in that band and it would work – from the way I dress to my personality.

I convinced the manager to come and see me. I was doing this guest spot at a club called Legends in in Manchester with a 20 piece band where they filmed the Wrote for Luck video. They loved it. I got a call a few weeks later saying that Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne were now producing and they wanted a singer on the tune - it was Step On - I’ve been with them ever since.

So it was a match made in heaven from the start?

Yeah I love the band and the music. We all get on really well. Me and Bez are like brother and sister. I just knew it was meant to be. I hung round with them for about six months before they said yes. Everyone knew each other from the Hacienda. I’d be going there two or three times a week and knew all the same people - it just worked.

How is the musical creativity in the band?

It’s better now than ever. Initially we thought getting back together was only going to be for one tour. But we got on so well it made sense to continue. Many of the people in our band previously had problems with addiction. But that’s gone now. So everyone is playing better musically than ever before.

We can now remember playing gigs and it’s not a drunken mess. Which was great back in the party days but there’s a time and a place for it. And the audience keep saying when they come to the gigs that it’s better than ever.

We’re not together 24 hours a day like we were before. Because of the internet, we can skype and practice, send parts to each other, do vocals and send them to Paul in LA or Gaz in Canada. It’s much easier.

Are you working on new material?

We started last year - but to be fair Paul Ryder’s son developed cancer. He’s only 11 years old so that came first. We’ve got about nine demos done – they’re still demos at the minute. We’ll see what happens when we get back together in June.

What have been your career highlights?

I’ve had so many - I wrote Reach Out in 1989 which people are still sampling now. Black Eyed Peas sampled it on Boom Boom Pow. It was an amazing honour. But people still sample it and use it. I’ve just landed a deal on CR2 records, they’re an amazing house label and I’m working with a fantastic producer called Alex Gray.

I’ve had so many highlights - playing Rock in Rio, it was so big - but I’ve loved this latest tour. Performing Bummed, one of my favourite albums, is just brilliant.

Have you any tips for aspiring artists?

You’ve got to keep doing it. Get on the stage as much as possible as it’s all about experience. Many people try to take this quick route to fame but I can’t live without singing. I’m just miserable if I’m not in the studio or on the stage.

Catch the Happy Mondays at the RugbySpy event on 8 June in Ibiza. Visit the website to find out more.