An Interview with Rowetta of Happy Mondays

I’ve always been a huge fan of UK based music and I am not only talking about the mid to late 60s British invasion. No, in the late 80s, an entire wave of fantastic music washed over a scene that was in dire need of a shakeup. Bands like the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, James, 808 State and the Happy Mondays would define would become known as the “Madchester scene,” which saw bands merging Alternative Rock with Rave Music, Acid House and Psychedelia to astounding results. While the scene only lasted for a few short years, the influence lives on. Many bands were informed and influenced by the bands of the “Madchester scene.” Without it, we probably don’t see bands such as The Verve, Blur and Oasis come to be, or at least not in the same way.

Today, we have a very important member of the “Madchester scene” with us! Rowetta of the Happy Mondays joins us here at Vinyl Writer for my latest “sit down.” Rowetta’s soulful and powerful vocals can be heard across many Happy Mondays tracks and without them, the songs we have come to know and love would be lacking the depth and dimension that has come to define Madchester music. If you’re interested in learning more about the Happy Mondays and Rowetta’s truly seminal vocals, then head over to Rowetta’s Instagram here. And so, it is my pleasure to present to you my latest interview with the one and only, Rowetta. I hope you enjoy getting know her a bit as much as I did.

Rowetta (Happy Mondays) Joins LoveBN1Fest Line Up – Fabuloso, Pride in the  park

Andrew:
Rowetta, thank you for joining us! How are you? It’s been a bit of a weird year. What have you been doing to pass the time?

Rowetta:
I’m good. I’ve been busy writing and recording with some amazing producers from all around the world. It’s been a great opportunity to work with people who would usually be away touring.

Andrew:
How did you get into music? What are your musical origins so to speak?

Rowetta:
I was a punk growing up and discovered my voice by accident, entering a talent competition for a laugh when I was around 11 or 12. I was then persuaded by a pub landlady to get up on stage at her pub, and the response from the audience was unbelievable. The biggest buzz ever. I was hooked.

Andrew:
You’ve got such a soulful and powerful voice. It’s a real throwback and yet, unique and all your own. As a singer, who are some of your biggest influences? Did you find it challenging to develop your own unique and voice and persona, or did it come naturally to you?

Rowetta:
I don’t really get inspired vocally by other singers. I admire loads, but I’ve never tried to copy anyone or had any lessons. I just think about the lyrics and sing from the heart as I believe my voice is a gift, as none of my family before me were singers. My favourite singer is Marvin Gaye. I love the tone of his voice and I always believe in what he’s singing. So real and beautiful.

Andrew:
Happy Mondays dates back to the early 80’s and you’ve been with the band on and off since 1990. How did you get started with the Happy Mondays?

Rowetta:
I saw them on TV and then went to a gig and made it my mission to join them. It took about 6 months of following them around and getting to know a lot of the people that worked with them, but it worked. I thought I would add the extra dimension that Gloria added to T-Rex.

Andrew:
The late 80s and early 90s were such an incredible time for music in Manchester and the Happy Mondays were a huge part of that. What do you remember about the scene around that time? What was it like coming up in the “Madchester scene?”

Rowetta:
I was in a bad marriage in the late 80s, so had to start fresh as I left my old life behind, but I loved the Madchester scene in ’89 as it was growing and then when I joined the Mondays in early 1990, the scene became massive very quickly, and I was really proud to be part of it. It was wild, it was messy and it was wonderful.

Andrew:
Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches is a landmark album and easily one of the greatest albums of the genre as well as the decade. Tell us about the recording of that album?

Rowetta:
It was recorded at Eden Studios in Chiswick. We lived in a house across the road from the studio, while we recorded it and had the most amazing time with Steve Osbourne and Paul Oakenfold producing. I also recorded a track with Guru Josh, while I was there, in the same studio. Loads of our mates came down and everyone knew it was going to a be a special album.

Andrew:
You’ve done some presenting with your own radio show for BBC Radio Manchester. What influenced your decision to move into radio? Has it always been a passion of yours?

Rowetta:
I’ve always loved radio, as I find that usually people are much more honest and less guarded when not worrying about what they look like. I actually presented my own show on Gaydio for 5 years and I still pop up on BBC Radio Manchester regularly. Love the whole team there and I love my beautiful city.

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Andrew:
Circling back to the Happy Mondays again. You rejoined the band in 2012 and have remained ever since. What influenced your decision to come back?

Rowetta:
Well, it had ended so badly, I didn’t want that to be my lasting memory of the band and also I wanted the fans to see the real Happy Mondays as it was never the same with half the real original band members missing.

Andrew:
Happy Mondays are a truly excellent live band. What is it about playing live that you love the most? Any interesting stories to tell regarding live shows on tour or at festivals?

Rowetta:
I love the buzz of being on stage and love our audiences. They really come out to party and I’m really missing all of that so much right now. Plenty of stories, but I’ll save them for my book, if you haven’t heard them already.

Andrew:
Do you collect vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Rowetta:
I have loads in my store room and I have a juke box. So, loads of beautiful 7” vinyl, but now I am more digital for new music. I miss the feel, the sound and the artwork of real vinyl, so happy that it’s started to come back.

Andrew:
Once COVID-19 calms down (if it ever does), what’s next for the Happy Mondays? We know you can’t tour, but can we expect some new music soon? How about on the solo side of things? Any new Rowetta music coming in the future?

Rowetta:
No idea for new music with Happy Mondays. Plenty of gigs and festivals lined up for next year. I just hope they can go ahead. I have loads of new music coming out with Solardo, Yousef, K&K, Versus, Dillon Nathaniel, The Amorphous Androgynous feat Paul Weller and any more. You can look out for my new tunes at ‘Rowetta’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve been at it a long time and hopefully still have many more years to go! What are some of your fondest and proudest memories as a musician? Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Rowetta:
I’ve so many fond memories and have worked really hard to be where I am. I’m very focused now and I’m so proud to be writing and recording with some of the best producers and musicians in the world and signing deals with big labels, so very excited about the future and hope I really hope I can be back on stage performing live soon.

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Andrew has always loved writing, music, drumming and collecting music on CD, tape and vinyl. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing over 3,000 albums in under two years, he knew it was time to finally follow his dream of being a music journalist, and thus, Vinyl Writer was born.

Andrew’s not only the go-to friend for music trivia, but his intricate knowledge of the ins and outs of the music industry allows him to develop engaging questions that really tap into each artist and individual to deliver insightful and enjoyable interviews. He’s proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts.

Andrew lives on Long Island, NY, with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie and Kevin. Andrew’s collection of over 4,700 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of his passion for all that is music. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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