Happy Mondays' Paul Ryder: "I never learned to slap, but there’s a single pop on Kinky Afro"

(Image: © Paul Husband)

The Happy Mondays return with a string of anniversary shows later this year, so we caught up with bassist and founding member Paul Ryderand quizzed him on his gear loves, early influences and current adventures with Superfreak.

“I’ve used a Fender Jazz bass for many years now. I started off on a Westone Thunder II, and all the hardware on that bass was really good quality, but the neck was too long for me. The Jazz was perfect because I’ve only got little hands.

“I bought my first one from a store called Vintage & Rare Guitars in London, with my share of the Mondays’ publishing deal. It had only been in the country two days when I saw it at the shop: it had come from Texas, where some guy had gone to buy guitars.

I had a very big heroin habit: I said I’d never sell my Jazz, but I did. Luckily, [Smiths guitarist] Johnny Marr ended up with it

“I plugged it in and it was perfect: I’ve never done anything to it. It was even set up perfectly for me: it was one of those ‘meant-to-be’ moments. I used it on a lot of recordings, but on a couple of songs on the Pills ’N’ Thrills And Bellyaches album [1990] I used our producer Steve Osborne’s cheap Squier bass. It was one in a million, and sounded absolutely fucking amazing.

“I kept that Jazz for many years until times became tough, and I had a very big heroin habit: I said I’d never sell it, but I did. Luckily, [Smiths guitarist] Johnny Marr ended up with it in his collection, because he’d always wanted that bass. At least it went to a good home. I did ask if I could buy it back, but he said he wasn’t selling it. Now I’m back on my feet I’ll be asking him again when I see him! 

“I’ve got a 1977 Jazz now, which I bought from a store in Santa Monica. It’s beautiful: another one where I didn’t have to do anything except change the strings to flatwounds. Apart from that I’ve never really touched it. I never learned to slap, but there’s a single pop on the song Kinky Afro, just for a quick second. I tried, but I could never do it.

“The grooves I played in the Mondays came from Northern soul and disco. I can’t read music, so I just copied the basslines, but I could never get them spot-on so they turned into my own basslines.

Thick slab of Thin Lizzy

The Fender and Ampeg combination suits me down to the ground - I like to feel my trousers flapping

“A lot of it came from my cousin’s record collection. I was really into Phil Lynott as well - I was a big, big Thin Lizzy fan. I saw them in 1977 in Manchester and caught Scott Gorham’s guitar pick when he threw it into the crowd, and then taught myself to play bass using that same pick, until it fell to pieces. I was also really into Jean-Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers: he’s amazing, man, really cool. And James Jamerson, of course. They were my three main influences on bass.

“I’m using Ampeg again now. For 25 years, I used two 8x10 cabs and an SVT Classic head, but when we got back together the first time I decided to go with Mesa/Boogie. I used those for four years, but now I’m back with Ampeg and it feels really good. The Mesa/Boogie was good and did its job, but there’s a warmth with the Ampeg that I love. The Fender and Ampeg combination suits me down to the ground - I like to feel my trousers flapping.

“I’m recording a new project called Superfreak at the moment, and it’s freezing over here! I miss my home in Malibu. I moved out to California years ago and got acclimatised within a week... I do miss some of the Manchester vibes, though.”

The Happy Mondays’ Twenty Four Hour Party People - Greatest Hits Tour runs from 14 November to 23 December.

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