FEATURE T IN THE PARK
The living dread
Dreadzone: the good, the BAD and the dubby
Dreadzone have a credible track record when it comes to the business of integrating samples with live rock instrumentation. Greg Roberts. co-iounder oi the band with Tim Bran, was in at the beginning oi Big Audio Dynamite the better part ol a decade ago, back when they seemed to be pointing the way to a bright iuture. Lately, he and Bran have been joined by iormer BAD bassist Leo Williams. whose lines help anchor the band to a deep reggae/dub base while allowing them to explore across the spectrum - even, as on their new single, ‘Captain Dread’, into the realms oi the ambient sea shanty.
Post-BAD, Roberts and Williams spent some time in the splinter group Screaming Target. That band, he says, ‘dldn't go anywhere ’cause we were only using the methods that we’d learnt lrom BAD, and we had to, er. die to be reborn as something completely new. But it’s all carrying on the same strand. We had to strip it down to drums and bass and allow contemporary inﬂuences in a lot more, listen to what was going on, and that was a case oi going to a lot more clubs and a bit of travel, doing lots of things.’
Visually, too, Dreadzone like to mix things up, spicing up their live shows with clips ot spaghetti Westerns, Jamaican ﬁlms, the inevitable Clint Eastwood and shots at stage and audience irom the ‘Timmycam', a camera strapped onto Tim Bran’s head. And it the quick change-overs required at T in The Park don’t allow them to use the visuals to their toll extent, there’s still the vibe.
“The energy that we create and the onslaught oi sound and vision that comes out, basically we just go with it. We can do a rave tent, we can do a pure reggae dub thing, like we did tor a iestival in Germany, we've done rock gigs. The energy's always there. cause it's being played like a band.‘ (Alastair Mabbott)
As Black Grape prepare for the release of their debut album, Chris Sharratt finds a post- Mondays Shaun Ryder in wicked shape
When Happy Mondays split in the wake of their critically-panned Yrs I’lease.’ LP and the demise of Factory Records. Shaun Ryder was on the ropes. punch drunk to the point of incoherence. Struggling with a crack cocaine addiction. he looked ready for the scrap heap. It was a classic tale of rags to riches to rags.
That was February I993. Two-and-a- half years later. Ryder is back. as cocksure and rnouthy as ever. although wiser and more wary with it. He has good reason to be confident. His new band. Black Grape — featuring his old pal Bey. from the Mondays and songwriting partner Paul Leveridge. aka Kermit from Manchester rap crew the Ruthless Rap Assassins — have already scored a Top Ten hit with their debut single. ‘Reverend Black Grape‘. The new single. ‘ln The Name Of The Father", is sure to follow suit. The band‘s eagerly-anticipated debut LP is out in early August.
For most. Ryder‘s return amid ablaze of front covers and glowing reviews has come as a total surprise: everyone thought he was all washed up. For the man himself. it‘s simply two years‘ hard work coming to fruition.
‘As soon as the Mondays split. me and him (Kermit) were together straight away.‘ says Ryder. ‘We were writing stuff in my living room. We had nothing else to do.‘
Ryder and Kermit have known each other since the early 80s. but it‘s over the last three years that they‘ve become close friends. In that time. both have kicked heroin habits and this appears to have cemented their friendship. In fact. just as the Mondays were a gang of males who started a band. Black Grape is also built on friendship rather than a calculated career plan. How else do you explain the presence of Bez. in Ryder‘s own words, ‘one of the least musical people you‘re likely to meet"? He‘s in the hand because he‘s Ryder‘s best friend. His job‘.’ Just to be Bez.
Ryder and BC]. always were the public face of the Mondays. supplying mad quotes to the press and dominating the band‘s chaotic gigs. But as things turned sour. they became a target of resentment for the rest of the group. Particularly after they shot their mouths off to the NMIf. laying into gays like a couple of pop star bullies. pockets full of money and mouths full of shite: from Artful Dodgers to modern day Fagins in one interview.
‘All the rock 'n‘ roll cliches you can think of happened with the Mondays.‘ says Ryder. half incredulous. half laughing. ‘You remember in the film Stat-(last when the rest of the band are throwing darts at the pictures ofJim
Maclaine'? All that tackle happened with us. Secret meetings to get rid of me and Bez. “How can we stop their money?“ Stuff like that. Really funny.‘
It‘s funny now. but back then. with Ryder graduating from heroin to crack during the recording of Yes l’lease.’ in Barbados. no one was laughing. The drtrg rehab that followed saw Ryder on methadone. then Valium and most recently Prozac. which he took for nearly a year and credits with sorting his post—Mondays head out. But at the same time as he was popping Prozac. Black Grape was taking shape.
‘Me and Kermit were putting the deal together. finding management. doing the music.‘ enthuses Ryder. ‘When the Mondays split we were left with no equipment. didn‘t have any samples or fuck all. nowhere to rehearse. but we were busy. And trying to get semi- straight.‘
Meanwhile. the rumours about Ryder‘s drugged-up. overweight state continued to spread. His only two public appearances since the Mondays split seemed to confirm the worst. ()n The ll’anl. he slurred and slobbered. talked rubbish and danced with Zippy and Bungle from Rainbow. At a gig with fellow Mancunians lntastella in September 93. he mumbled the words to one song. barely opened his eyes and shambled on and off the stage like a man twice his age. He was a mess.
‘That‘s what we let everyone think.‘ laughs Ryder. not entirely convincingly,
Black Grape: they don't like Mondays Once there were reports saying “Shaun‘s fifteen stone. he‘s grown a moustache. he‘s a fat fucker” and all that. once those sort of things were coming out I was really getting a buzz. off it. It‘s good to be slagged. it gets you going. But in that two years I was probably straighter and happier than for a long time. It was cool.‘
Of course none of this would matter if Black Grape were just an inferior version of Happy Mondays. But they're not. In fact their forthcoming album is as good. if not better. than the Mondays at their most deranged best. A crazy concoction of srnutty. seedy just-funk tunes packed with hip hop beats. hard bttt poppy guitar riffs and bouncy production. it is a glorious fusion of sounds and songs. a collision of rock. rap and ragga packed with potential singles. Mad lyrics. mad tunes, a classic album.
And in keeping with Rydcr‘s new Mr Clean image. the LP is called It's Great When You're .S‘trar'glrt. . . Yea/1!
‘That was just said as a joke and the management thought it was a great title.‘ sniggers Kermit.
‘We were all straight and we were double bored.‘ adds Ryder.
What. so despite all the talk of kicking heroin and crack. it‘s not great when you‘re straight after all? at;
‘No. no, it is.‘ says Ryder. d”
leaning forward to stress his mum point. ‘lt‘s wicked. dude.‘ continued
3 The List 28 Jul-IO Aug 1995