Q&A: Rowetta the “Queen of Manchester”
The legendary Happy Mondays singer, 55, on Manchester, Madchester and digging the city’s new breed of talent (Andy Burnham included).
Taken from the new print issue of THE FACE. Order your copy here.
How’s it going and where are you, Rowetta?
Really good, thank you. I’m at home in Manchester. I just got rid of the dogs for the afternoon so I can speak to you quietly.
How have you found lockdown?
I haven’t found it too bad. I’ve been able to work with producers who would usually be on tour, so I’ll have loads of tunes to put out once it’s over. A good tune lasts.
Like your 1989 rave anthem, Reach Out… phwoar.
It’s still being sampled now!
My favourite bit is when you go, “Do you feeeeel good…”
[sings] Do you feeeeel the way you should! That bit doesn’t get sampled as much.
Did you sing in school?
No, I didn’t want to be a singer. I always got told to be quiet when I was younger. Then I sang in a talent competition, aged 12 or 13, and people were crying!
Have you listened to Aitch? He’s from Manchester as well.
I haven’t, actually. I don’t really listen to the charts because I’m always writing. But now you’ve mentioned it, I’m going to have a proper listen.
I heard you were a right punk when you were a kid.
Yeah, I was into proper hardcore punk. It’s the attitude I love.
It’s about individuality and rebelling. I’m not an anarchist, but it’s better to be individual and stick up for things that are important. That’s what punk is, telling the truth and being real instead of falling into place like everybody else.
A bit like the Happy Mondays, then.
Exactly. They didn’t really fit in, and when that happens it brings you closer – we’re like a family. They are a punk band,
I don’t think you can get more punk than that. Back in the day, they were always treated like they were away from everybody else. At Glastonbury [in 2000] they put us far away from David Bowie. Probably because they knew most of our friends were dealers…
Didn’t Bez fancy you back in the day?
Before I’d joined the Mondays, Bez fancied me. I was singing at The Ritz in Manchester and Bez was standing right in the front [of the stage] staring at my shorts. He thought my pubes were hanging out, but it was frayed white denim. It was putting me off the singing. Still to this day he swears they were my pubes. They were white!
Did he ever try it on?
All the time! Always following me around off his face in The Haçienda, eyes popping out of his head. I’d never seen anything like it! He was giving me the creeps so I told him I’d tell his girlfriend, then he left me alone.
Is it true you sign yourself into hotels as “Rowetta Manchester”?
Yeah! I’m a very proud Mancunian.
You’ve been called the Queen of Manchester, after all.
I used to hate [that term], but there aren’t many girls that do so well coming out of Manchester. All the household names are lads. There is so much talent, but to be known as a girl is harder. So I think it’s important to promote Manchester wherever I go.
The gays love you too, don’t they?
When I finished The X Factor [Rowetta reached the quarter-finals in 2004], which I don’t really like talking about because it’s a bit embarrassing, all of a sudden I had this huge gay following! It’s amazing. The gay community are so fantastic to me. They have no idea the confidence they gave me!
It seems Madchester’s having a resurgence in some ways…
The music has lasted – it was really, really good. A lot of the Madchester lot now have kids, so they’re passing on the legacy. But also the fashion has come back, hasn’t it! I must say the Mondays always wore the coolest Adidas and the latest Stone Island. You can always tell when Liam [Gallagher] is listening to the Mondays ’cause he’ll be tweeting the lyrics.
What do you make of Andy Burnham, Manchester’s shakermaker mayor?
I like him very much. I sang at his birthday, [in the style of] Marilyn Monroe. Sacha Lord, Manchester’s Night Time Economy Advisor and co-creator of Park Life [festival] and The Warehouse Project, rang me and said he’d love for me to surprise Andy by singing happy birthday. I’ve always got along with Andy from the beginning. He supports Everton, but I’ll let him off.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021, Rowetta?
Being back on stage. That’s my high!