Listen, listen, don't fret. We'll get to the madness. We'll get to life in and out of the Happy Mondays and Black Grape, we'll get to Bez and the days of being "young and daft" as Shaun Ryder calls them.

But now, right now, we’re here to talk about words.

Because for all the reasons we know Ryder – for the drug stories, of course, for the Madchester stories from back in the day, and for his appearance in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here – the only reason we know him at all is because of his role as lyric-writing frontman of, first, Happy Mondays and then Black Grape.

In the beginning was the word, if you like. Faber has just published a book of Ryder's lyrics. Editor Luke Bainbridge has gathered together the lyrics of Loose Fit, 24 Hour Party People, Kinky Afro and 27 other melon-twisting slices of wordplay that are a reminder, even stripped of the murky, oily funk of the Mondays music, that there was always more to Ryder than the cartoon image that he has always attracted (and, to be fair, played up to).

Set aside the tabloid headlines and the UFO-chasing documentaries, and Ryder deserves to be remembered for his wordplay on songs that soundtracked the end of the 1980s and the decade that followed.

Almost from the beginning Ryder had an ear for acid-laced nursery rhymes, street humour and Scally surrealism.

But his lyrics were also a twisted take on the twisted life Ryder was living then his mate Bez, the Mondays’ freaky dancer. But, more than that, they were about the world he was living in too; a world of urban deprivation, the Aids virus, ultra-religious police chiefs, bad drugs, better drugs, racism, the Iraq war and the whole what-have-you-got of life in Britain in the last years of the last century and the first years of this.

"It's everyday life and whatever was on the news," Ryder tells me when we speak. "If you look at one of my songs it's probably about three or four different things.

“I'll get these different subjects, different one-liners or sayings that I've got. I might get something off Bez, or the news gives me a line to work with, and I'll put it all down and then find a way of putting that together and making it into a story.

"My songs are sent out to be visual. I want people to get pictures in their head."

When we speak Ryder is at home making coffee (decaff) and happy enough with life. "I'm all right, Teddy. I'm not pushing up daisies. Apart from me f****** body hair falling out and I've got to have a f****** hip replacement op, I'm absolutely f****** fantastic."

That's a typically Ryderesque answer, full of expletives (in every subsequent answer just assume there are more), and an openness and honesty that's both funny and breathtaking.

When the idea of the book was first mooted Ryder needed persuading. But that’s typical, it seems.

"All that sort of stuff ... People twist my arm. Like going into the jungle. Didn't want to do that. Management, record company, wife, kids did, so I went and did that, and it turned out to be fantastic."

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The book is a lot of fun, by the way. A lot of that has to do with the liner notes Ryder has written to accompany the lyrics. They give a glimpse of the chaotic life he used to lead.

His notes for the song like Moving In With, about life in Ryder's "gaff" in Salford in the late 1980s, makes it sound, I tell him, like the wildest place on Earth.

"Oh, it was. It was a second-storey flat. We basically had no windows there. Every time we lost our keys we'd climb up a drainpipe, shimmy up and smash a window and get in.

"We had record covers and masking tape on the windows. And it was a drug house. Everybody knew you could get drugs, so we had lots of people there, people who had just been released from Prestwich mental asylum who would be paying visits to score.

"For a short time, it would go normal because I'd move a bird in. And then she'd make it homey and then we'd split up and I'd be back with all the lads in.

"And, of course, living with Bez ... You'd need f****** medals for that."

Did Bez pitch in with the washing up? "We did the washing up in the bath. If you weren't first up, Bez'd have your clothes. You were having to look through the dirty washing. And then when you got back there would be big joint burns in them."

And yet you stayed friends? "He's like your favourite pet dog. You can't be mad at him for long."

The neighbours must have loved you, I say. "Ah well," he says. "It was just neighbours and us being f****** young and daft.”

At the time it felt like normal, he says. "It's not ’til years later as an adult, a proper adult and you've calmed down you start getting post-traumatic stress thinking about all the stress that you've done."

One of the other liner notes in the book reveals that when Ecstasy arrived on the scene he once ended up in bed with Bez's "missus”. What, I have to ask, was the conversation the morning after?

"Well, me and Bez are me and Bez. The thing is Bez has ended up in bed with everybody's missus."

All of this, umm, life experience, fed into the work. He didn't have a notebook, he says. "I write on anything. I write on my arm, my leg, beermats. There was a certain time in my life when everything I wrote was on a beermat and I'd end up in rehearsals with all these f****** beermats. I ended up putting number one on the back, number two, number three and put them all together to get the song."

He'd record them on tape too. "I had to start recording the melody that I had in my head. I'd get a melody in my head and the words wouldn't work without that melody and if I forgot the melody in my head my songs seemed to go tits up."

When he joined Black Grape he suddenly had a partner in Kermit to write the lyrics with. "It's more fun with Black Grape because I've got Kermit. Me and Kermit were smack buddies. That's how we got together. Usually when the drugs end there's no relationship because you have nothing in common. But me and him did and it's great. We sit there like Alas Smith and Jones, bouncing ideas off each other."

All of this now seems a long way from the post-Jungle Shaun Ryder. The guy who turns up on Celebrity Mastermind and Celebrity Pointless, the guy who gets called a "national treasure" by Phil Schofield on This Morning.

“It's better than being called a drunken old scrote. I'll take that one," he says, laughing.

I want to go back to that idea of being an adult, Shaun. When do you think you grew up? "Ooh, well, when I hit 40. I was still pretty much living like an 18-year-old and doing the things I'd done at 18. I just thought, 'this is time to change'. Obviously, I was a full-blown heroin addict and everything. It took me three full years to get it out of my system and I've never looked back really."

What prompted that change though. "Because I was 40 and I thought I should be grown up and not living like this. I had lost everything. My house in Ireland, my money, everything. I was under receivership. I wasn't allowed to keep any of the money. I was allowed to earn it, but not keep it. And that went on for 12 years."

What does he think of his younger self now?

"Look, f****** hell, I've never done anything really, really, really bad. I've upset a few people. What can you do? It's what goes to make you who you are now. I mean ..." he breaks off and puts on an affected posh voice, "I've had lots of therapy."

Are you lucky to be here Shaun? "Yeah, if I hadn't been for getting into music I don't think I would be here. I don't think most of the band ... Bez might be because you can throw that c*** out of an aeroplane at 50,000ft and he'd land on a comfy mattress somehow.

"All the pals I grew up with who didn't have the luxury and the luck of being in a band and having a music career, well, they're all dead."

Ryder is anything but. He's touring with both the Mondays and Black Grape in turn, the writer's block that blighted him for years at the start of this century has lifted, he's making new music and being a dad. He has two young daughters who are getting the attention his other grown-up kids never received.

"Because I was building a career and I was off my face I was never around for the other kids. I was still a kid having kids. This time I'm actually a grown-up. I spend every minute when I'm not doing anything with the kids.

"I've been a bit pissed off the last nine months with this leg. I can't cycle. I can't exercise. I can't go running with the girls and climbing trees. But I'm getting my operation, so it should all be sorted out this year."

Life for Shaun Ryder is better than ever, he says, "because I'm happy with me. I'm happy with who I am. I've got a great life. I am busier than ever, but you seem to fit it all in.”

if only he’d realised this before, perhaps. "You take drugs so you can cope with it,” he says, “and it just makes it f****** worse. It's quite simple."

Some life lessons take a lifetime to learn. The good news is that Shaun Ryder is still around to learn them.

Wrote for Luck, Selected Lyrics, by Shaun Ryder is published by Faber, priced £14.99. Black Grape play Glasgow and Edinburgh in April. The Happy Mondays tour Scotland in the autumn.