The Happy Mondays percussionist and dancer, Bez, has opened up about his experience hiding in a cave for weeks on end after shoplifting in Morocco. In a recent interview, he explained that he’d turned to theft as a means of survival when travelling the world in his late teens, just before he joined The Happy Mondays in 1985. At that time, he was homeless and sofa surfing. With no intention of turning to petty crime and landing another prison sentence, he decided to go globe-trotting.
Speaking to The Guardian, Bez said: “By the time I was about 19, I decided I didn’t want to get caught up in the sort of shit I was doing again, so thought the best thing I could do was to have a huge adventure and go travelling”.
He continued: “I lived in Morocco for a bit and was shoplifting just to survive; pinching bars of chocolate. I got chased out of town and had to hide in a cave for three weeks until the money I’d been waiting for arrived. You create your own reality, and travelling created one that completely changed my whole outlook on life”.
Later in the interview, Bez explained how his youthful taste for rebellion carried over to his career with Black Grape, who he joined in 1993: “The US immigration authorities had kicked Black Grape out for smoking weed before a gig,” he noted, pointing to a photograph of him posing in Cuba. “One minute we were sitting in Central Park taking in the smoke with a beautiful view of the twin towers – the next we were surrounded by police. I found the whole thing quite funny”.
Bez – real name Mark Berry – went on to say: “Cuba had just opened up to the west again – we were one of the first planes landing in the country – and it was like walking through a war zone. Everything was crumbling; it was a right old state. But families would cook you a meal in return for a bit of money”.
Despite the country’s condition, Cuba offered Bez and the rest of the band sanctuary: “In the end, we were banned from America, so the press had to come to Cuba to interview us. The journalists were all shitting themselves in fear of what might happen to them, but everyone in Cuba was so lovely to us. One of my favourite memories is sitting at the back of one of Hemingway’s favourite bars with mojitos and big fat cigars. It was unbelievable.”