Interview With Rick Witter From Shed Seven
photo credit Tom Oxley
York band Shed Seven had their first taste of success in the mid 90’s as part of the BritPop scene. Regulars on Top of the Pops and the charts the Yorkshire act appear to have had a second coming with their last album Instant Pleasures, their first in 16 years, debuting in the Top 10 in 2017.
The group head out on Another Night, Another Town - the Greatest Hits tour this autumn. With many of the gigs already sold out it appears that Shed Seven are as popular as ever.
I spoke to lead singer Rick Witter about the forthcoming tour including his connections with the north.
What was it like playing Leeds Arena?
It was great, it is a big venue but we are the type of band where people like to come and see us in smaller venues, that is why we have decided on this tour to go back to the o2 Academy in Leeds and do two nights. There is something special about those type of venues as you can connect more with the crowd whereas these big arenas gigs they are huge halls.
You always have a carpet on stage that you stand on, what’s that all about?
It’s my magic carpet! The rest of the band have their amps and their guitars, I’ve only got a microphone and a microphone stand. In a weird way it’s almost like a home from home for me, you know I might even get a settee and a telly and a nice potted plant to make it a real home from home.
The support act on the tour is MCH, how did that come about?
That’s right, the group are Mark Morriss from The Bluetones, Nigel Clark from Dodgy and Chris Helme from Seahorses. We have known those guys for a long time from the band that they were in and over the last few years they have found themselves doing acoustic gigs and on the same bill often playing separately so they thought why don’t we perform together? They got in touch with us about playing on the tour, so we thought why not? At the end of the day you have three big names from the 90’s and we are a big name from the 90’s so not only is it great value for a ticket price, it is all from a similar era, so fans will be in for a big treat hearing Bluetones songs, Dodgy songs and Seahorses songs all performed by the three of them together with harmonies and stuff.
With the tour not happening for a good few months by the time the tour does happen it is going to be like one big BritPop festival.
Do you still live in York?
I still do. York has a lot of pubs, you get to know the landlords and the pub you choose becomes your drinking den of choice but then times move on and you find somewhere else.
Living here you tend to take it for granted. If you live here you have to stop yourself every now and again to appreciate where you live, you can walk past the Minster and not give it the time of day but every now and again I stop to have a proper look to think what an impressive piece of architecture that is.
A lot of small venues in York have closed down, why do you think that is?
It’s such a sad time, I have heard that there might be a new version of Fibbers opening up but I think that every city or town needs a grassroots venue for up and coming bands to play. If success happens to these bands then they have done the groundwork, so fingers crossed that we can get things sorted out and new venues opening.
How do you spend your spare time?
I try to do as little as possible to be honest with you! I am a big fan of snooker so I go and play that every now and again and have a drink too, not at the same time of course!
Is there going to be another Shed Seven album?
The album that came out in 2017 was a bit of a happy accident. We didn’t have any set plans to do another album. We kept getting asked by the fans to do a new album and we always said maybe we would. We were rehearsing for a gig, we don’t spend a lot of time together when we are not performing as a band so we ended up accidentally writing a song which ended up being on the Instant Pleasures album. So then we write another song, before we knew it we had half of a new album. We thought this is too good to be put on the shelf, it needs to be heard by people.
I tend to say never say never. We would love to do another album and hope that we will, not in roads, so to speak, have been made yet. If it takes another five years, then so be it. We do not want to write any old rubbish just to release an album. If we do another album it has got to be as good as or even better than the last album.
We knew on the last album we had written songs that we could hold our heads up to and say this is us, sixteen years on from the last album. Considering it was sixteen years on it still sounded like Shed Seven but sounded fresh and current at the same time too.
If we can come up with the goods again we will definitely release another album.
In 1994 did you ever think you would still be doing this nearly 30 years on?
I always had the hope. We are in a lucky situation that we are still doing it and people still appreciate what we do. We can go and do these tours and play songs from 1994 and the fans still love it as much as they did then or even more, maybe for nostalgia reasons. People can remember what they were doing when the songs were originally out and the memories that they made. It took us as a band years later to realise the songs that we released in the 90’s connected, we were so caught up in the 90’s doing it that we didn’t realise what we were doing. In a way it was a moment of pride it meant that what we had done connected with people and it is still happening to this day, so we are not going anywhere soon.
Did you appreciate the success at the time?
Maybe but probably not as much as we should have, we were young lads then and thought that the world belonged to us anyway, we were very self assured. Looking back now it all seems ridiculous because life is a funny old thing and anything can happen at any time. When you have this cloak around you that says we are invincible but after that sudden rush of success you want to keep hold of it so you have to keep at it.
Have you ever had any injuries on tour?
I’ve broken a rib once when playing a gig, fallen over so many times, people have thrown things at me when on stage. There was one gig where we played 2 gigs at Leeds University, probably 2013 in the same venue on a Saturday and Sunday night. Saturday night was the raucous one. I think Leeds United had played that day and won so everyone was in high spirits and throwing their pints in the air.
On the Sunday night it was a bit of a more subdued crowd, most people are going to work the next day, the venue was still full, so we are five songs into the set and I’m singing a song of ours called Ocean Pie. I’ve got my eyes closed and suddenly this pint hits me on the head, I carried on singing and I’m starting to think “why would you do that?”
At the end of the song I asked the audience who threw the pint, there must have been 4,000 people in the room then suddenly this lad puts his hand up, so I got the security to bring him to the front so I could have a chat with him, I’m stood on the stage and he is stood in the pit/
“Why did you do that?” I asked him so he answers back “ I dunno” so I asked him what he did for a living and he said he worked in an office so I said to him would he liked it if I came into his office tomorrow morning and threw a pint over his head because I’m doing a job here singing on this stage, so he confirmed that no, he would not like it.
The only way I could appease the situation was to get my pint and throw it all over him which got the biggest cheer of the night.
If people are going to throw things make sure it’s money but not coins!
Do you still listen out for new bands?
I actually do my own radio show on a Sunday night on Jorvik Radio in York, but in this day and age you can listen to it everywhere, so I'm always on the look out to play new stuff. When you asked earlier what I do in my downtime, I do a lot of time browsing on music channels which might take you somewhere else similar to what you are listening to.
There is nothing better than discovering a band that’s been around for a while, you like them then find out that they have got a back catalogue - music is brilliant.
Were you going to be a landscape gardener at one time before the band took off?
Never officially though I’ve grown up with being outside and I used to help my dad in the garden a lot. I have a good eye for design so it is maybe something I would have stepped into. I think though that the older I get I would get someone else to actually do the physical work, I would just design it.
How do you keep in shape?
I don’t have to do much, I’m quite lucky, I’m late 40’s now so I have to be a little bit careful, but as a rule I just eat what I want but I suppose to some people it is quite annoying. Going on these month long tours any excess weight pours off.
The shows up North are:
Monday 29 November - 02 Academy Newcastle
Tue 30 Nov 2021 - Sheffield O2 Academy
Wed 01 Dec 2021 - Hull City Hall
Fri 03 Dec 2021 - Liverpool O2 Academy
Sat 11 Dec 2021 - Manchester Academy - SOLD OUT
Mon 20 Dec 2021 - Leeds O2 Academy
Tue 21 Dec 2021 - Leeds O2 Academy
Wed 22 Dec 2021 - Manchester Academy