Interview: Bez

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Back in the 80s, Manchester’s music scene was witnessing the birth of rave. At the centre were the Happy Mondays – a ragtag bunch of hooligans who happened to be musical Messiahs as well. And if frontman Shaun Ryder was their poet-lead singer, then Mark “Bez” Berry would be the band’s freaky dancing, maracas-shaking hypeman. As crucial as any member of the band, you can’t get bigger than Bez in terms of spirit and freaky-sexiness. JUICE burns a fat one with the Celebrity Big Brother winner who was down in town recently.

How do you feel about 24 Hour Party People?
I’ve never actually watched that film. I purposely chose not to watch it so I’d never have to talk about it. I had a big argument with the directors and I kinda fell out with the people making the film. But one day curiousity might get the best of me.

You’ve got a new band now called Dominoes Bones…
Yeah, we’re doing very well at the moment. My girlfriend’s the singer and she’s got an amazing voice. We’re playing a lot of gigs back home. But we’ve got no recordings. I did have all the recordings we did, but my flat got burgled. They took all my computers and CDs, like 7 years worth of writing and music. So I have to start again. Yeah… They’re bastards!

The grimy c*nts! Well, at least you still have your loved ones with you. How’s it like dating your lead singer?
It’s great because I’m with a woman whom I can share my life with. We have children, we make music together and we have a very close relationship. It’s good that we can both evolve doing this together. I like it.

You were the son of a police Detective-Inspector. Was he a good cop or a bad cop to you?
Well, I became a little bit rebellious as a child because he was an authoritarian. He laid down the fist and went, “Ye shall not!”

Do you remember your first act of rebellion?
I think I know what started it. It might not have been the first act but it got the ball rolling. I had some dinner money from my parents because we had some days off from school. So I took my sister to the cornershop and we bought loads of sweets with the money. Then at dinner, we couldn’t eat. And when my dad asked why, my sister goes “Well, Mark bought us loads of sweets from the shop.” So my dad had a big investigation and I ended up telling him about the dinner money. And he didn’t believe me even when I told the truth and that’s when the rebelling started.

How’s it being neighbours with your former bandmate Shaun Ryder now?
Well, he moved across my back garden, which also leads to his back garden. So now we walk through each other gardens to get to each other’s houses to get the sugar and milk. I’m a good neighbour, sometimes.

Do you ever get sick of seeing him?
He’s sometimes like my wife. He gets on my nerves but I love him.

At the height of the Happy Mondays’ success, you guys recorded a disastrous album on the island of Barbados. It’s rumoured that you guys had such a good time that you sold off the recording equipment to buy more drugs?

Yeah it was a good time! But there was also an undercurrent going on because the band was falling out with each other. It was a funny time. No one has got any regrets. It was a learning curve. We spent a lot of money but we didn’t sell the equipment. That’s an urban myth. We did give some furniture away and crashed about 9 cars in total. In the end the car rental company just gave us old cars to drive.

You once said in an interview that you did drugs because it was your job. Care to elaborate?
It always sounds better when you’re listening to music in an altered state of mind, for me not for everyone. But I’m older now and I’ve grown out of it.

So what do you get off on nowadays?
Meeting like-minded people who enjoy the same things in life like a good drink or a chat.

The label that discovered The Happy Mondays, Factory Records closed because they had dreams that surpassed their capabilities. Do you think it’s important to dream big?
Of course! I always say, “The bigger the dream, the better the time!”

You’re an icon to many, a real lived-through-it-all rockstar. If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I have been very fortunate in life to get to do the things that I love doing. I don’t know what I’d be doing if it weren’t for this. It’s a burden just thinking about it!

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