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Interview: Bez of Happy Mondays

Interview: Bez of Happy Mondays

Interview by Mitch Marks / Tuesday 26th February, 2019 12:35PM

Talking to Mark Berry – who Wikipedia lists as “Bez (dancer)” – on the eve of Happy Mondaysfirst ever trip to New Zealand I found that he was a man of contrasts. He was hungover, yeah, but because of a friendly session on elderflower wine that he’d made himself on his sustainable homestead. He listens to metal at home because his girlfriend takes over the decks; when he DJs he plays what the fans want to hear, which is music from the ‘Madchester’ scene that made him famous for dancing around onstage, and he’s just happy to be there. And NZ – he’s bringing a big bag of maracas to you.

I spoke to Bez on a Friday night (my time) / morning (his time) and confessed that I’d drunk more wine than was advisable in the time it took to get through on the phone. He reassured me “that’s allowed! That’s what we were drinking last night, in fact we drank every bottle in the house!” As a result of both of our over-indulgences we talked a lot, so here’s an edited version.

On his current lifestyle:

I’m in Herefordshire, we have a smallholding thing where we try to do the sustainable life. I keep bees and all, we grow our own food and all that. I’ve got a few friends living in caravans and horse boxes in the garden.

We’re making honey beers, cider, we have an incredible amount of apples where we live. And elderflower champagne, elderflower wine. We ‘drink the hedgerow’ as we call it. We had friends down yesterday as well so we ended up having an unexpected drink last night – I was a little bit worse for wear earlier on today.


On Happy Mondays’ first visit to New Zealand:

It’s our first trip over, I’m really excited to get there. I’ve got family who emigrated over there, I get to see some of them. Shame it’s a flying visit – to go all that way and not see the country is a bit gut wrenching. It’s the other side of the world… not sure how it copes being upside down all the time. My uncle emigrated there during the recession in the ‘70s so I’ve got cousins flying from Featherston to see me.

We’re looking forward to playing [Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches live]. We played some of it a couple of years ago, another version of this show. The band sound amazing, Mark [Day] is an amazing guitarist. He’s got an individual style of playing. I always think the band sound better live than the record.


On winning UK Celebrity Big Brother in 2005:

It’s an experience I wouldn’t like to repeat anyway. I was really surprised I actually won it. My saving grace was I’d never watched the program so I had no expectations going in. So I just behaved my own way. At the end of the day we had a huge following, the Happy Mondays, at the time so a lot of fans got behind and supported us, so I was the surprise winner.

I only found out three days before I went in there that I was gonna do it, someone else was supposed to and he got cold feet on the last minute and pulled out and my name came up and I said “do I get paid for it? I’ll do it!”.

I have to make a living out of something, so I get to do TV programs which is a nice sideline for us. My bread and butter these days is DJing, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been doing that since the 1990s.

I used to play all music I liked when I DJ’d, but nobody wants it – everyone expects you to play either indie music or house music so I’ve given up trying to bloody go off on a track where I want to go. I’m a social pariah normally so I get a drink in one hand and chat to people while I’m there and it’s lovely how kind people are to me, and happy to see me. It’s always a surprise.


On what he’s listening to at home:

I’ve been listening to a lot of metal, my girlfriend is in a metal band and after a few drinks she bloody takes over all the decks in the house and she’s kind of the boss of the music choice.


On touring:

I can’t wait to get on the road. I love meeting new people, also it’s a chance to hang out with Rowetta [HM vocalist], who’s one of the most crazy women I’ve ever met in my life.


On standing for parliament as a candidate for the Salford and Eccles constituency in the 2015 UK General Election:

I’d moved into this permacultural lifestyle and one day I got a phone call asking me to go down to Barton Moss, three miles outside Manchester city centre, to help bring attention to the fracking issue. And at the time I’d never heard of fracking so I looked into it and the consequences of it all and went down there to show my support. It was unbelievable what was going on, the police violence towards peaceful protesters, the determination of this group of people to try and halt fracking, the whole process. So I got involved then. I stood as an anarchist and I was upsetting everybody, I was upsetting the left, the socialists, I was upsetting the far right, getting death threats from them. My main policy was to end money and the banking system… and people didn’t get what I was talking about, so politically I didn’t do that well because it was a bit extreme and people would say “why don’t you join the green party?”… well cos you fookin’ lot work with the bankers… robbing bastards and bunch of commie cunts, y’know what I mean?

I won’t do it again because what I learned was to get anyone to agree to anything was nearly impossible because I only had a small party… so we had people toeing the line. So it was a mad experience, but I’m glad I did it.

This is why I live the life I do now, for me I’ve created my own reality. Living the life you want to live and taking time to enjoy it, cos life’s for living… create your own awareness through experience and hopefully your life reflects that back to you.


On carrying maracas on flights:

I don’t know if they’ll show up on x-rays. What I do is I always get some artwork on my maracas so every gig I throw away a free piece of art on a maraca into the audience. It’s a nice gift for somebody. So I’m bringing eight sets of maracas with me, I’ve had to get an extra big suitcase to carry them all, so I don’t know what they’re gonna think about it when they open the x-ray machine… it’ll bring extra attention to myself, yeah. I’ll just shake them at the “customers”.


Yeah you’d be very inconspicuous otherwise at the airport… !

Yeah apart from that big rattling noise coming from me suitcase.


Happy Mondays are playing their landmark 1990 album ‘Pills ’n’ Thrills and Bellyaches’ in full at The Powerstation in Auckland on Wednesday 27th and Thursday 28th February.

Links
facebook.com/HappyMondaysOnline/
facebook.com/BezOfficial/

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