Happy Mondays’ Bez Talks To Northern Chorus Ahead Of Y Not Festival 2018

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Y Not Festival is back with a bang in 2018. With a remarkable response to last year’s event, which was cancelled on the final day due to adverse weather conditions, the Derbyshire festival has bounced back with its best line-up to date.

The Libertines, Catfish and the Bottlemen & Jamiroquai top the bill this year, with other bands playing across the weekend including Manic Street Preachers, Kaiser Chiefs, The Wombats and Razorlight. However, one man catching the eyes of many on the line-up in 2018 is the one and only – BEZ.

Mark Berry, best known as the charismatic dancing component of the Happy Mondays will be performing a DJ set at the highly-anticipated event. The Mondays were scheduled to play at Y Not on the Sunday of last year, so he will surely be champing at the bit to get another chance in July.

We caught up with Bez to discuss Y Not Festival and his lone DJ ventures away from the Happy Mondays. We also chatted about life outside of music for the Madchester icon, as well as potential new releases from the Mondays and his outlook on the industry today.

You’ve been DJing for a long time now; what can we expect from your set in July and how will the size of the crowd compare to where you have played previously?

“Well I’ve been doing it ever since the (Happy) Mondays split up back in the 90s – I play everything from Acid House to Classic Indie. I can be in a tiny club one week and a massive venue the next, so in terms of size I’ve played to all sorts of crowds.

“To be honest I usually never know where I’m going to be playing until I actually turn up. My girlfriend deals with my bookings so I just take it one gig at a time – turn up and play my set.”

Are you keen on incorporating any modern artists into your set? And most importantly, can we expect to see the famous Bez dancing?

“I always say do what you do best. I’ve been dancing for over 30 years now so you can certainly expect a few moves at the festival. In terms of modern artists I tend to play a bit of Cabbage and the up and coming Manchester bands. It always depends on the crowd – if the new stuff goes down well and keeps the dancefloor moving then I’ll play it.

“DJing is all about playing it by ear because you never know what crowd you’ll get. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s become a part of my life. I get to do it alongside my eldest son too which is nice.”

Happy Mondays were actually scheduled to play at Y Not Festival last year. It must be nice to get another chance, albeit on your own this time?

“Yes the weather saw us off last year, unfortunately. It’ll be great to get to see Y Not this year because I love getting to all of the smaller festivals. I can’t believe how many there actually are these days, but this will be my first time at Y Not and I can’t wait.

“I’m always happy to go anywhere and try anything new. I’ll be at Bestival for an Acid House set too this year – as long as they keep getting booked in for me I will turn up and do my thing.”

The Happy Mondays came along at quite a unique, iconic time for British music. Will we ever see anything like that again?

“I’d like to say I hope so because it would be a shame if it never happened again. But the way the record industry is these days in comparison to when we came through, it makes things pretty difficult. We were a part of the last old independent record label movement. Since then, the digital era came in and changed the game.

“One day I would like to think that another scene like Factory Records and the Hacienda would come around again. There’s definitely a desire for it and it’s a shame that the young people of today never had the chance to experience it.

“Like I said though, the way the industry is at the minute means that many artists aren’t getting the support that we used to get as a band. We’re all becoming victims of the digital age – it has its positives for sure, but negatives in this regard.”

And speaking of the Happy Mondays, will we be hearing any new material anytime soon?

“There is talk about going into the studio and making new music. We know people want to hear some new tunes and it’d be great to get something out there, but who’s going to record it for us? That’s the question. The record industry is on its arse.

“We’re a bunch of old boys now but we’ve definitely got some more in the locker, so we’ll have to see. Shaun (Ryder) released some new Black Grape stuff not so long ago and that was well received – so fingers crossed. Alan McGee is our manager now too so hopefully things will be moving along nicely soon.”

You’ve done a lot of work outside of music too, in terms of politics and charity work. Is this still a big part of your life?

“Yes I’m still a patron of the Coffe4Craig homeless charity, so I do bits of work for them. I was in a pantomime this year too which raised money for a homeless charity. When people ask me to help out I always do what I can.

“In terms of politics, I don’t think I’ll be doing that again anytime soon. The only reason being, we’ve got (Jeremy) Corbyn getting the social side of things moving. I’m not a socialist myself; my political views have always been more on the anarchist side of things – with freedom from state and corporation. The term ‘anarchist’ can often be misunderstood.

“I understand the game they play with a two party policy. For me, the socialist ideal is better than what Theresa May is offering. I’d rather have a Corbyn than a May any day of the week.

“Theresa May and the oil & gas industry are causing the single biggest issue we face as a country to escalate – fracking. They talk about a supposed chemical attack by the regime, yet they are putting the same thing on us – it’s double standards. Chemicals caused by fracking are damaging in the long term.

“It’s a chemical attack on their people, yet they go out bombing foreign countries whilst drilling our country into more and more debt. Every missile they drop costs a fortune and I believe it should be spent on other areas of the UK which are more important. I really think it’s becoming a joke.”

You can catch the man himself at Y Not Festival 2018 from 26th-29th July. Tickets are available here: https://ynotfestival.com/tickets/

Sean Marsh

Sean Marsh

Founding Editor of Northern Chorus

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