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Shaun Ryder: ‘I think I’ve had coronavirus – but I’m fine, I’ve been isolating for years’

Shaun Ryder has shared his top tips for surviving the national lockdown – saying he is going to repeat his favourite TV series and learn how to play chess.

Speaking to Sky News from his home in Manchester, the Happy Mondays and Black Grape star said he has been “basically self-isolating for the past 10 years, apart from work” so is fully equipped to deal with life indoors.

And he thinks both he and his wife, Joanne, may have already had COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, after falling ill at the beginning of the month.

Shaun Ryder with wife Joanne in 2014
Image: Ryder says he believes he and his wife Joanne, pictured in 2014, have both already had coronavirus

He is more than content spending the lockdown with Joanne and three of his children – Oliver, 26, Pearl, 12, and Lulu, 11, and dog Malcolm, a beagle – but says he would have found it a lot harder to cope had the crisis happened when he was younger, at the hedonistic heights of his fame.

“We’re all good here,” Ryder starts off. “We’re now all sort of rushing to take the dog for a walk. We have more volunteers for that now.”

Both he and Joanne were ill about three weeks ago, he says.

“I’m pretty sure we’ve had it. We had symptoms of it. I mean, nothing puts my missus in bed; no matter what, she’ll still get up even if she’s dying, but this floored her. She was in bed for over a week.

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“She had pretty much everything they said: couldn’t move, found it hard breathing. Then I went down with the old headaches and flu-type symptoms. I had no energy but nothing that I’d go to A&E with, I coped with it at home.

“So, you know, I think a lot of people have had it [but not been confirmed].”

(L-R): Bez and Shaun Ryder, from the Happy Mondays and Black Grape, on Channel 4's Gogglebox
Image: Ryder and his Happy Mondays bandmate Bez have found new fans thanks to Channel 4’s Gogglebox

Ryder takes regular medication for an underactive thyroid and also has allergies, so says if he has had coronavirus, it could have been a lot worse.

“Yeah, my immune system is pretty much shagged,” he says. “Once your thyroid’s gone, that’s it. My dust allergies are terrible as well. I get symptoms where I can’t swallow, I can’t breathe.

“I actually stop breathing, I think it’s 80 times a night, because I have sleep apnoea. I’ve had it since I was a kid.

“With my allergies and breathing I’d think I would have got it real bad, but, you know…”

Happy Mondays in the back of a van in 1987
Image: The star found fame with the Happy Mondays in the late ’80s

Along with musicians all over the world, Ryder has had to postpone gigs, with scheduled Q&A tours and shows with Black Grape and Happy Mondays delayed, plus appearances at festivals, including Glastonbury.

“All the work’s gone,” he says. “I’ve got a few voiceovers, adverts, to keep me busy.

“I miss work but I’m all right. I don’t mind it. You know, I basically started self-isolating about 10 years ago, apart from work.

“I’m quite happy sat in front of the telly watching everything on Sky, Netflix, Amazon Prime. And the one called Roku. I’ve got the lot. So I’m all right, but my wife’s going mental.”

Because Shaun is at home more?

“Well no, she’s always so busy, she likes to get out. So now she’s decided she’s going to do the garage, which we’ve got about 12 years of junk that she’s now moved into a big pile in the back garden.”

Shaun Ryder and his daughter Lulu during coronavirus lockdown
Image: The music star, pictured with his daughter Lulu, says he is happy being at home with his children

Isolation games in the Ryder household consist of cards – Pontoon, Gin Rummy and “Bastard Brag”, which “causes loads of arguments”.

But now is the time to learn a new skill, he says.

“Pearl is going to teach me chess, because I always I always end up turning it around and saying, no, let’s play draughts. But she can play chess, our Pearl. So now is the perfect time to learn chess.”

Ryder says if he was his son’s age, things might be a little different when it comes to coping with the lockdown.

“It must be f****** mental for them,” he says. “I’m sure if I was 21 or even 29 and this was happening, I don’t think I could stick to it.

“Although I just thought, I was addicted to heroin at that time so actually I could probably just sit in the chair and nod off all day.”

Alongside his Happy Mondays and Black Grape bandmate Bez, Ryder has found a host of new fans in recent years thanks to their partnership on the sofa for Celebrity Gogglebox. As someone tasked with watching TV for a living, what are his recommendations?

“I’m in the middle of watching that one… it’s all the nutcases with the animals. What’s it called? Tiger King. They are absolutely gone with the fairies, they’re all absolutely raving out of the box, the lot of them. All those people with animals like tigers, who’ve got their own zoos in America, and one guy’s got something like 2,000 tigers in his back garden. It’s absolutely mad.”

Apart from that, Ryder says he has “watched pretty much everything” so is revisiting old favourites.

“I’m going to have to go back on stuff. There’s one about the FBI and serial killers, a true story… Mindhunter. That was brilliant. I recommend that to anybody. And another one that’s a true story… Unbelievable. That was really good. Very well made.”

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Before coronavirus started to spread, Ryder had been on tour with his bands and also doing solo Q&A shows for fans. The plan is, he says, to maybe start setting up something similar online while the shows are called off.

Production on a film about his life, starring Jack O’Connell as Ryder, has also been delayed.

“The good thing is it all gets rescheduled,” he says. “It’ll be all right.”

However, Ryder says the situation is “terrible” for artists who are not so well-established.

“It’s difficult for musicians all round,” he says. “For record shops too, but at least they can still sell online. That’s a good thing now.”

Ryder says that while the Conservatives “aren’t my party”, he thinks the government has been “pretty good, on the whole” in its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

“I wouldn’t have voted [Boris Johnson] for prime minister but I think he’s done all right.”

Last week, the star posted his own “clap for carers” video on social media in support of the viral campaign encouraging people across the country to support health workers as they fight the virus on the frontline.

“I’ve got family that work in the NHS,” he says. “They’re all amazing people, they do a great job.”

As long as he has his TV and supplies – “I can’t live without Lurpak… and I’ve got fish in the freezer” – Ryder is keeping upbeat, and hopes others are too.

His message for getting through isolation?

“Well, take care. And remember, once a day for your exercises.

“You’ve got to be a bit optimistic. I know I have. If I put anything negative in me then it seems to amplify the situation. I have to think positive.

“I can’t think anything not positive, otherwise I’ll bring it into existence. Like, every time I think of somebody who I don’t want to see they end up knocking on your door. So think positive.”

Shaun Ryder has rescheduled gigs with Happy Mondays and Black Grape planned for later in 2020 and 2021, plus new dates for his Q&A shows from August 2020

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