Shed Seven shot to fame in the 90s with their indie rock and roll swagger, now, 25 years since the release of their debut album, they’re set for the biggest tour of their career. We caught up with frontman, Rick Witter, to find out what it was like being part of the Britpop movement and if we can expect new material anytime soon.
2019 has been a big year for you, you’ve got the 25th anniversary of your debut album, the re-release of Going For Gold and your biggest ever headline UK tour! How does it feel that, after 30 years together, you’re still achieving so much?
It’s funny, isn’t it? It’s a weird old thing really. We appear to be more popular – if that’s the right word – than we were way back in the day when we were actually, physically a working band. It’s a strange one, because obviously, yes, we’re still going, we’re still working, but we don’t do it as a full-time thing anymore.
It’s nice to be able to do this and make it fun at the same time. Some people might think that’s a weird thing to say, because there’s a lot of young kids that aspire to be in a successful selling band, which is what we always wanted, but then you achieve it and suddenly it does become very job-like. There’s somebody telling you that you have to complete things and somebody else telling you where you have to perform, it was almost a bit of a treadmill scenario, which, as much fun as it was, it was work.
Now, we find ourselves in a position where we can book tours and do it when we say so, there’s nobody to answer to. We do love doing these reformed tours, I mean, we did have a brand-new record out a couple of years ago, so that made it seem like we’re a bit more relevant again, rather than just playing our old hits. With anniversaries, well, that’s just the nature of getting old, isn’t it?
Looking back at your debut album, what’s your favourite memory of that record’s journey?
I think it was just all the build up to it. It’s a commonly said thing this, but with your debut album you’ve got years of honing it and writing it and completing it, then obviously, if things go well for you, you’re suddenly put in a position where your next album, you’ve got a year to do what you had five years to do with your first one. I just remember having never really been to London before and going there to record it, spending a month there living in a hotel and just doing all of the growing up aspect of things I guess. It was exciting, it was new, it was a happy time. Funnily enough I think the studio we recorded in burnt down… I don’t know what that says about our debut album
If you could tell your then-self anything that you know now, what would it be?
Don’t grow up.
Yep, fair response! You rose to fame in the 90s with the whole Britpop and indie-rock scene, what was it like being a part of that movement?
Looking back on all of that, I feel quite proud of the fact that we were in it, because the current state of the music industry and how you can access music, it’s all massively changed. You still had to write to bands in 1994, whereas now you can tweet somebody and get an instant response, which is actually why we called our last album Instant Pleasures. Everything’s just there on a plate for you.
I can’t ever foresee a time in the future where excitement levels for that style of music can be so immense. In the 90s there were 10 o’clock news readers wondering which of these two indie bands were going to be at number one in the charts, and I can’t ever foresee a time when that will happen again. You don’t even have to buy albums anymore, you can just pick and select what you want and there’s so many different charts for so many different types of music, it’s almost watered down a little bit. It was great to be caught up in that last big musical movement, it was a great time… difficult to remember a lot of it, but a great time by all accounts.
Instant Pleasures was your first album in quite a long time, other than the distribution of it, did you find that when you were writing it and recording it there were a lot of differences in how you put it together, compared with your older records?
There are lots of different ways of doing stuff now, you can almost DIY it. We didn’t do that with Instant Pleasures, but there’s choices these days, you don’t have to be on a record label anymore.
I think, certainly for us and the process of doing it, I like to call it a happy accident really. After we’d stopped playing for a while, we reformed just to play our old hits and we got into a bit of a rut of just touring every other year and playing the old stuff. I mean, it was working, people were coming and we were selling venues out and people were singing their hearts out to the songs we released in the 90s, so we were quite happy with that, but our hardcore fans started to ask if we’d ever do anything new. For a long time, there wasn’t any inclination really, we were just happy doing what we were doing and band members aren’t just in Shed Seven anymore, we’ve got other lives, so there was never really any time. Then, we accidentally wrote a couple of songs when we were rehearsing, it just happened and our ears pricked up, which spurred us on to, over a couple of years, without really telling anybody, to write about 20 songs, all of which we thought were worthy of showing people.
We just kinda stumbled upon it really, but it was great because it felt like we were a new band, it felt like our debut album again because it had been so long. There was nobody looking over our shoulder, we were doing it solely because we were having fun doing it and I think that does come across on the record. You can hear joy in it.
Do you think there will be a follow-up in the near future? Or are you comfortable with where you’re at right now?
I think we’re all quite comfortable for the time being. We were badgered and pestered, quite rightly so, by our fans for new material for so long, so I think they should just be happy with what they’ve got for a while haha. I’d never rule out writing anything new and there’s always ideas flying around, but we have to be in the right frame of mind to do it. It took us 16 years to make Instant Pleasures, so if it takes us another 15 years to do another one, then so be it. It might happen in two years, but it might not happen for another five or seven.
So, it’s a case of, it’ll happen when it’s meant to happen?
Exactly. I for one would never see the point in rushing a new album out, just because it’s a bit of momentum. I wouldn’t want to ruin our legacy. Anything that we release, we have to be perfectly happy with and if that takes a few years to get right, then that’s what it is.
Makes sense! With the remastering of Going For Gold, you went to Abbey Road Studios to do it, what was it like being there?
It was great! It’s obviously such a massive place with so much history in there, it’s like the walls are almost seeping music, so it’s great to have heard our stuff pumping out through those big speakers. It’s 20 years since we released this album and the funny thing is, we weren’t that keen on having it out in 1999, we had a bit of a fall out with the record label at the time, because we felt it was too early in our career to be releasing a Greatest Hits. The saving grace of it was, there were a lot of hits on it, nearly all of them were Top 40 hits, so it’s quite bizarre now that we’re re-releasing it, but the timing is perfect because we’ll be playing a lot of the songs live when we go on tour. It all ties in very nicely.
It does, it’s a nice little package! What makes the newer versions of the songs special for you? Why should the fans go out and pick it up?
Well, they’re exactly the same songs but just remastered, so I guess it’s like they’ve been put through a car wash and cleaned up. It’s out on vinyl and it was never released on vinyl originally, I don’t really know why, but this one comes out on a gold coloured vinyl, so for vinyl enthusiasts and for Shed Seven enthusiasts, it’s an opportunity for them to complete the collection. Plus, it looks great. Nice gatefold sleeve, there’s an extra bonus disc of some sessions that we did way back in ’98, which were unheard, so for a true fan it’s like another little bit of the jigsaw.
Looking ahead to the tour then, do you find it hard to choose your setlist?
We do! I call it our happy problem, because we are in the fortunate position of having a lot of hits and a lot of good songs, but we can’t possibly fit them all in. We do sit there and scratch our heads and debate what to leave off the setlist, rather than what to put on it, which is a great problem to have. We’ve managed to argue over the summer and got it down to a set that we’re all happy with, which is predominantly hits, but quite a lot of Instant Pleasures too. It does fit very well together, so I think anyone that just wants to come and hear the old stuff won’t be disappointed, and I think anyone that wants to hear songs that we’ve never performed off Instant Pleasures, they’re going to be happy too. Plus, it’s nearly Christmas so everyone will be happy!
Everyone’s going to be in a very good mood! These are some of the biggest shows you’ve ever done, are you planning anything special?
Well, people know what they’re going to get when they come to see Shed Seven. We do put on a bit of a show and it’s important that people leave discussing it and saying, “Do you remember when that happened?” It’s an intense hour and a half anyway and there’s a few little things up our sleeves, but it’s for the night…
No teasers then?
Nope! But I think people who come a lot, know what they’re going to get. I suppose for anyone that’s never been, I would say that it’s an hour and a half of rock and roll.
That’s a nice way to sum it up! Finally, although you’ve said you’re not writing at the moment, what plans are in the future for Shed Seven?
There are irons in the fire, so to speak. We’re always discussing if we should do a live album and there is an opportunity to record at some of these gigs, so that we’ve got that in our back pocket to perhaps release a live album at some point. There’s lots of ideas floating around, but nothing set in stone. We will be doing some festivals next year, which will be good and then I guess, what we should do, is crack on with writing some new stuff.
So, there’s definitely things to look forward to?
Yep! Definitely things to look forward to if you’re a Shed Seven fan… and if you’re in Shed Seven.
Want to see what surprises Shed Seven have got in store? Grab a ticket to their headline shows now:
O2 Academy Birmingham: Friday 22 November* Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Birmingham: Friday 22 November (Afterparty) Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Glasgow: Friday 29 November* Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Glasgow: Saturday 30 November Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Liverpool: Thursday 5 December* Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Newcastle: Wednesday 11 December Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Brixton: Friday 13 December* Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Brixton: Saturday 14 December Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Bournemouth: Tuesday 17 December Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Bristol: Wednesday 18 December Buy Tickets
O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester: Friday 20 December* Buy Tickets
O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester: Saturday 21 December Buy Tickets
*This show is sold out but re-sale tickets may be available through our official ticketing partner, Ticketmaster.
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