Black Grape brings Shaun Ryder and Kermit back with an Orange Head and a new UK tour - which is coming to Hampshire
Black Grape’s debut It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah, outdid any of the Mondays’ albums by hitting number one on the charts and going platinum.
The Monday’s have long since reformed, and Black Grape have also split and regrouped in the interim, with the latter finally releasing their third album Pop Voodoo in 2017. A new album Orange Head was due earlier this month but has now been postponed until January.
While he may be better known to some these days for his turns on Gogglebox or various reality TV shows, the idiosyncratic vocalist, is thrilled to be back with a new album from his “other” band.
As on Pop Voodoo, the band worked with super-producer Youth at his studio in Spain – heading there after Shaun left the “all-star” I’m a Celebrity… show in South Africa back in spring.
"Youth's a really big friend of (current band manager and Creation Records founder) Alan McGee's, so when we were looking for producers, he thought Youth would be a good idea. Me and Kermit met up with himm and we got on really well because he's a brilliant dude, he's a proper old crusty hippy! He's a really talented bloke, and a really nice bloke, so why break something that's not fixed?” Shaun laughs and corrects himself. “Why fix something that's not broke? So we thought we'd have another go with him, and it's turned out really well. I was really happy with the Pop Voodoo album, and I'm really happy with this one – it's just as good if not better – and a little bit different, which is what I always like to do. And it's like with a Mondays' album – they're always different to the last one.”
Anyone looking for deep meaning to the new album’s title will be overthinking it – which is in keeping with the band’s freewheeling approach to naming things, even themselves.
"It's not a reference to my teenage daughters,” he chuckles, “the first thing they say to me before they go out the house is: ‘Dad, do I look too orange?’
“Matt, from Central Station, who's always done our designs, they sent me some ideas, and I said: ‘What's that?’ And he just said that it’s a big orange head – it's just what it looks like, so that's what we called the album!
"It's like how we picked the name Black Grape. We were getting pressured because we didn't have a name, and we couldn't think of anything.
Kermit walked in the studio drinking a bottle of black grape juice. We thought, we need something or they're not going to hand any money over to us, (then band manager) Gary Kurfirst said there's no money coming until you've got a name, so we went, right, we'll call it Black Grape.
"We could have just as easily been called Stella Artois, or Boddingtons... Mind you if we'd been called that we could have got some nice sponsorship!”
After this short run of shows, there’s a Mondays tour in spring after which the latter band will be “laid down for a year or two,” so he can concentrate on Black Grape and yet another project.
“We've had a great run on the Mondays for a good few years now, and we've got other stuff on that front I can't talk about yet.
“Black Grape sell more records than the Mondays – we got a number one with Black Grape, we only ever got to number two with the Mondays. It was a bigger band, but the Mondays have become more iconic.”
That other project is the “super people” group, Mantra of The Cosmos with Zak Starkey from The Who and Oasis, Andy Bell from Oasis and Ride, Brix Smith of The Fall and solo, and Shaun’s long-time right-hand man, Bez.
"Zak didn't like the record label calling us a supergroup, so I said we're all ‘super people’, it's a super people group.
"When Zak asked me to do that and I heard what he was doing, I jumped into it straight away. I went to his studio and heard the tunes he had lined up and thought they were great. To me it was a bit Pink Floyd-y, acid house disco, and a bit Hawkwind-y! Zak said, do you think Bez will be involved? So I answered that question for him. I said, yeah! Where I go, he goes, and where he goes, I go.
"A new band at 60 – forming a new rock'n'roll band at 60 can't be bad, eh?
Given their histories, had Shaun crossed paths with Bell back in the guitarist’s days with the indie/shoegaze darlings, Ride in the ’90s?
"Not back then,” Shaun recalls, “but I did meet Andy in the early 2000s at Bolton Reebok Stadium because we were supporting Oasis.” Bell was in the Gallagher brothers’ band from 1999 until they split in 2009. “A pal of his was having an argument with a pal of mine, me and him wandered over at the same time and got involved, so I was thinking he's a dick!
“I'd not seen him for over 20 years, and when we all got to Zak's he's actually one of the nicest blokes I've ever met. He's a really nice dude, really mellow and cool.”
Black Grape play Engine Rooms in Southampton on Saturday, December 2. For tickets go to engineroomssouthampton.co.uk