Shed Seven are the iconic 90’s indie rock band from York. They heavily contributed to the Britpop music scene that evolved during the 1990’s. Formed in 1990 with Rick Witter (vocals), Alan Leach (drums), Joe Johnson (guitar and keyboards, who was later replaced by Paul Banks), and Tom Gladwin (bass). At the height of their success, they had a number of top 40 singles and four top 20 albums in the UK. The band broke up in 2003, but announced their reformation for a greatest hits tour in 2007 and have since been working together and on various other projects outside the band. We caught up with Rick Witter for a quick chat…..
Tell me about Shed Seven, how did you get together?
Well, from a very early age really me Paul and Tom were all in the same year at school together, so were talking when we were 11 maybe 12, we decided we wanted to be in a band together. At that stage, we didn’t really know what we were doing and it was all just a bit pie in the sky. We liked to walk around telling people we were in a band but we weren’t actually doing anything about it, in fact, actually we spent a lot of time in each others bedrooms designing record sleeves to songs we were yet to write. Right down to the facts of we’d put songwriting credits at the bottom and what record label it was on and everything. There was an awful lot of that and then that progressed and we were in various bands together under different guises and like a school band and I remember doing gigs in pubs around York when we were underage, which was quite exciting. There’d be a lot of kids who were in our year at school who would come down and have a good time knowing they were underage, so we almost became a bit of a party band for that reason. I guess when the stone roses released their debut album in 89, we were all about maybe 18, when we first heard that I think we all decided to start taking things a little bit more seriously and the song craft started to emerge a bit more, that’s when we became shed seven and the rest is history.
Why do you think Shed Seven have stood the test of time?
Well I think were kind of an every man band, we had a good solid run of singles, we were a good singles band back in the 90’s. We didn’t necessarily play ball with the credible music press which I don’t think went done very well at the time. I think they tried everything in their power to stop us, but you know I think the fact that we did have such a good strong hardcore fan base it didn’t matter. I mean, yes granted, we’d go in the charts at number 14 and then maybe the next week it would go up again so you knew you had a good fan base. We just carried on, we were just relentless, it’s all we know what to do. You’ve just gotta get back in the saddle, it’s just one of those things, it’s just too in us to not do it.
The question hot on any interviewers lips! What is the possibility of new songs from Shed Seven?
This is asked an awful lot and I mean granted, I totally understand that because we split up in 2003 originally and we were only away for a few years maybe four years tops, and then we were back doing a reunion campaign kind of thing. We’ve almost been doing that as long as we were actually around in the first place. So there is a time where it’s understandable, where people are going to be going ‘When are you going to write something new?’ The moment has never been right and this is a genuine answer, up until maybe the last six months where we’ve all started to look at each other and think well maybe this should be a thing. I think it became the point, everybody, as always been so busy doing other things, that even though Shed Seven were back and we were touring and stuff it was always obviously playing the old songs so there’d be time to get together and relearn that and work out another album track to put in the set. Everybody was so busy that there was never an opportunity and I don’t think we should get together and write new songs unless everybody was going to be 100% behind it because there’d be no point otherwise. It’s one of these things where what’s the point in writing any old crap just to please everybody. We’ve got too much of a strong back catalogue to ruin just by doing that. I think the time is now were starting to get that itch to want to do it so that’s a positive step in the right direction regarding songwriting.
You played gigs with Ocean Colour Scene last summer how did that come about and how’s it been for you guys?
Well, the offer came through our agent and they were obviously booking these gigs because of there Moseley Shoals album that’s 20 years old this year. Funnily enough, probably our biggest album was 20 years old this year ‘A Maximum High’ So we could have gone down the route of doing something ourselves but we just thought, we like Ocean Colour Scene, they are a really nice set of people and with the era kind of thing with The Bluetones attached to it as well it’s just seemed to kind of suit. I think it was the right thing to do and the tickets just flew out and it was a great atmosphere.
There has been a big revival of bands from back in the 90’s, why do you think that is?
I think it’s massively different now to what it was back in the 90’s, I mean back in the 90’s if you wanted to get in touch with a band you’d probably have to join a fan club and the wait a month to get a reply. Whereas these days it’s just all so instant which is swings and roundabouts really, but to be honest, we’ve been reformed since 2007 and doing big Christmas tours so we’ve not really ever stopped. It’s a bit weird for us because we’re not really caught up in this 90’s revival as we’ve been doing it all along anyway. So it’s nice to see and we might benefit from that but it was inevitably going to happen because for the past maybe ten years, the 80’s the fashions in the high street shops and the music is very 80’s based so the natural progression of that is that the 90’s will be like that and that does seem to be happening. In a way I mean even in the 90’s when we were a part of this music scene, we were always kind of slightly out on our own anyway. I’m not distancing myself from it in any way but when were classed as Britpop I always say we were British and we played an element of pop music, so therefore, yeah we must be Britpop but were just as much indie and you know it’s just bloody music.
You run a stage at the Apollo Festival in York, how did that come about, and did you choose the bands that played?
Well, it came about because I know the owner of it, Stuart Kelly. I think he is quite keen to get Shed Seven to play it but the time has never been quite right for that to happen. I’ve got a radio show that I do on a Sunday evening and I have a demo of the week section. Every week I will play an unsigned band and even with that, I’ve got a massive queue of bands waiting. I invite bands to email my Minister FM email address and send a mp3 and a short bio of them and I do it fairly it’s not just first come first serve, I’m not going to differentiate and try and be god and say well I don’t like that so I won’t be playing that. You know it’s an unsigned act and it deserves every chance it gets to be heard. Just because I might not like it, doesn’t mean I won’t play it so I don’t particularly comment as such on the band but I’ll certainly spread the word out as much as I can. Because you know, I’ve certainly been in that situation myself. So the Apollo Unsigned Band Stage is like an extension of that really and I’ve had some great unsigned bands on. Not just from York as I think that’s important, I don’t like just to be based in my local area as the world’s a big place. Actually, on my radio show, I’ve even had bands from Russia and Poland.
What advice would you give to new bands and artists starting out?
Even though the times are different and there’s probably a way of going about things. I think the most fundamental and most important aspects are, is to work hard and believe. I mean we used to have a 8 hour round trip to London from York and we’d go and play in a pub in front of maybe two people and then travel back through the night and then get up and go to work. Because we believed in ourselves and we found it an element of fun, we were never like oh god nobody’s turned up. We pretended we were U2 at Wembley in front of those two people, you’ve just got to have self-belief and a good work ethic. If you’ve got that then hopefully a little bit of luck will fall your way and hey presto, there you go. The gig that got us a record deal, there was literally about six people in the room but one of those people was an A ‘n’ R man and again we went out there like we were U2 at Wembley and obviously it computed and came across. It’s about who is there, all of this, it’s not just about what you know. Although with the whole its who you know, there is an element of truth in it. You need an element of luck and momentum and there’s so many things that have to fall into place. I guess the spirits have to aline really without sounding like a big hippy.
Rick Witters/Top Five Tracks (Rick has stressed that this is subject to change as his mind changes on a daily basis!)
There Is A Light – The Smiths
There She Goes – The La’s
Tears Of A Clown – Smokey Robinson
Nevermore – The Soundtrack Of Our Lives
The Air That I Breathe – The Hollies