Step On: Rowetta from Happy Mondays

Rowetta from the legendary Happy Mondays talks to The London Word about sobering up, her love of Manchester and the truth about whether Shaun Ryder really is a pigeon killer.

After vowing to never see her ex, Shaun Ryder, again over a decade ago, Rowetta is now set for another series of reunion gigs and a new album with him.

‘We got together in January, after I hadn’t spoken to Shaun Ryder in 12 years! It was really weird before we met, I couldn’t stop shaking.’

Their come-back was prompted by that of The Stone Roses.

‘Because they returned, Shaun’s manager was approached with so many offers. When Paul Ryder heard about it he rang me up.’

‘With Shaun it’s a purely professional relationship, it has to be. We don’t want to go backwards. So I just think of it as work.’

Fights are prevented by deliberately avoiding the subject of the past and separating work from socialising.

‘We don’t go to the pub, he’s not a heavy drinker anymore. It’s just about the singing and playing,’ she says.

However, she and Bez have remained good friends over the years.

‘I’ve just come back from Bangkok with Bez. We just went for a Thai massage and did some sightseeing: there was no drinking even on the plane! So it’s the opposite of what things used to be. It was just really chilled.’

The sheer hedonism of the past meant previous gigs were sometimes patchy in quality. ‘Back then sometimes it was more about the vibe, now we can match that musically.’

But for many , Happy Mondays will always be a celebration of that very hedonistic youth culture the band embodied. So now they are older and a good deal more sober, has some of that magic gone?

‘No. The memories of reckless abandon are still part of the band. I was worried that it might change the dynamics,’ she says. ‘It was a concern that we might have lost our edge. But it’s not like we’re a pop band. The main thing is still having the passion.

‘If we were left alone we’d argue like we did in the old days. But there is also something odd about the chemistry – that somehow makes the music work.’

Along with singing, Rowetta’s other great love is her home city: Manchester. ‘I’d never leave Manchester. There is a real passion here – look at Ian Brown, Shaun Ryder, Ian Curtis – they’ve all got that passion.  And when they’re annoyed they come across as really passionate.

‘London is too big, and there’s too many people. I’ll live and die in Manchester.’

Some of Rowetta’s varied projects include a stint on X-Factor in 2005, and perhaps most surreally, playing herself in the film set in the ’80s and ’90s “Madchester” scene: 24 Hour Party People.

‘We were there on the set everyday, I became really good friends with the guy who played Bez [Chris Coghill]. Tony Wilson, God bless his soul, was on set too.

‘But the thing is people don’t realise it was a comedy. It was Steve Coogan talking, not Tony.’

‘Everything was always being checked, but what didn’t happen was let in if it was funny.’

‘The question I get asked the most is “did Shaun Ryder used to kill pigeons?”‘ she says. [Ryder famously committed birdicide in the film by feeding a mass of pigeons baking soda]. ‘Sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no – depending on my mood.

‘Because you know, it is a comedy, so if you wanna believe it. Believe it!’

Happy Mondays and 808 State will be playing on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 December at:

The Roundhouse
Chalk Farm Road
Camden Town

Box Office: 0844 482 8008

Tickets £32

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