The frontman of Happy Mondays, has taken it upon himself to draw attention to the challenges faced by those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“I’ve known all my life that something wasn’t quite right,” he explains down the phone from his home in Salford.
“It’s what led me into drinking as a kid, taking drugs as a kid, getting in trouble as a kid. I didn’t learn the alphabet until I was 28 and could only learn that when someone told me to sing it.”
The singer – now famed as much for his TV appearances on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and Gogglebox as for his extensive back catalogue – was diagnosed last year after two of his daughters, aged 12 and 30, received similar diagnoses (ADHD tends to run in families).
“Learning is remembering. My brain gets about 10 things going on at once and the wires don’t connect,” the 58-year-old says. “They all go, ‘It’s the drugs’, and it’s not. I have been like this all my life.”
It’s no secret that Ryder indulged themselves during their late 80s and early 90s heyday, as dance music hit the UK and they released timely anthems such as Kinky Afro and Step On.
It could even be said that Ryder and Bez, his maraca-wielding bandmate, courted controversy and made it part of the Happy Mondays brand. But, looking back, Ryder sees his drug use, which culminated in an addiction to heroin, as a result of his condition and lack of support.
“When I was at school you never heard the word ‘ADHD’,” he recalls. “We didn’t even hear ‘dyslexic’ at school. There was really nothing on offer. It wasn’t on the planet as far as we were concerned. I was in set four, which was basically a class for crowd control. It was like the dummy set.”
Ryder is calling for ADHD to be afforded the same serious treatment in the UK as in America.
Struggling in school, by the age of 13 he was skipping class and dabbling in petty crime. “The problem stems from the ADHD,” he reflects. “You have got all this energy going and you can’t focus on anything.”
The singer, who is now clean, admits he hasn’t always been a present father but is now embracing domestic life with wife Joanne after getting married in 2010. He says the drugs made him feel “normal” but now he has other coping mechanisms to keep him focused. “When you have a lifetime of that and you take some drugs and feel normal, that’s managing your condition. It’s just that you don’t know what you are managing. You just know there is something not right.”
Ryder is also back with a new solo album, his first in 18 years. Visits From Future Technology is actually an old album, recorded in 2010, shortly before he went on I’m A Celebrity.
The album was shelved but the pandemic offered him a chance to knuckle down and make music. He worked on tracks with the likes of Robbie Williams, Noel Gallagher and revered Jamaican record producer Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Ryder is excited to get back to touring. He has live dates with Happy Mondays, funk-rockers Black Grape, and is bringing his ‘an evening with’ event to Huddersfield in the autumn.
And he hopes some of those listening to his music on sites like Spotify will come and see him. “You get a million people listening to the tunes and then, hopefully, they will come and watch your shows.”
Pre-order Visits From Future Technology by Shaun Ryder at shaunryder.tmstor.es
An Evening with Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays), at The Parish, Huddersfield. on Oct 23.