Interview by Kris Griffiths
It’s been almost half a year since Shed Seven released their fourth studio album TRUTH BE TOLD with the single CRY FOR HELP, but a lack of promotion prevented them from making any major assault on the British album and single charts, peaking at #42 and #31 respectively. Since then there have been two triumphant V2001 performances at Chelmsford, Essex and Staffordshire, and they are finally about to release a follow-up single, the stonking STEP INSIDE YOUR LOVE, to coincide with another nationwide tour in October. I had a long chat with frontman Rick Witter about what’s going on in the Sheds’ camp.
Let’s start off with V2001. Now I happened to be in the crowd at Chelmsford with my mates. We watched Coldplay on the main stage for a while but of course you clashed with them so we had to leg it over to the second stage halfway through their set to catch you lot.
(Laughs) To be honest I was quite surprised that over both legs we had as many people watching us as there were. I thought that Stafford was the best of the two but of course it pissed it down at Chelmsford didn’t it?
Yeah, tell me about it. When it did start pissing down just before you walked on, did you not think “oh bollocks!” like the rest of the crowd did?
I was more feeling sorry for the people who chose to stay and watch, considering that everyone was perfectly entitled to fuck off somewhere else and get under shelter. But it was good to see the few die-hards that stayed.
Well, the problem was that there wasn’t really anywhere to shelter in the whole park apart from the JJB arena.
And who was on at that time – anyone worth watching?
Let me see… it would have been The Avalanches.
Well that wouldn’t have been too bad would it? It rained a lot in Stafford but luckily it stopped when we were on, and we didn’t get any mud thrown at us either so we must’ve been doing something right.
What, there were people throwing mud at you in Chelmsford?
No, no, it’s just that I was expecting some when everything turned shit because it’s such an easy weapon to pick up isn’t it?
Well, for me the highlight of the whole weekend was Shed Seven, JJ72 and Muse all back to back. We didn’t really leave the second stage for most of the weekend, only to watch Coldplay.
You picked a good stage then didn’t you? Did you not go and see The Charlatans?
No, because they clashed with JJ72 and Muse and we’d have rather stuck around to watch them than leg it back over to the packed main stage. What do you think of those two bands, by the way?
Well, it’s all a bit strange really. I’ve bumped into them a few times and they’ve always been a bit stand-offish. We’ve said hello to each other a lot but never really got it on. As far as the music goes, I think my missus has got JJ72’s album but I haven’t gone out and bought anything by either of them. Its funny how we were put just before them in the line-up because there’s quite a big difference in the styles of music, so again for that reason I was pleased with the amount of people that came to see us. Obviously there were a lot of people at the front with Muse T-Shirts on who were getting in there early.
Yeah, but from what I can remember there were a lot of people who were there to see the Sheds – everyone’s favourite festival band.
(Laughs) We are whores for the festival! You know what we’re like – we’re an incredibly uncool band as far as a lot of people are concerned, but then a lot of people come out of the woodwork.
So you’d say that the Weston Park show was better?
I think out of the two it definitely was, yeah, but I don’t know why. Maybe it was just the lack of rain while we were playing. It was just the general atmosphere really. I’m not really the best festival goer in that sense – I never really look forward to it, but as soon as I’m there I always realise how good they really are. So in that sense when it’s a festival over two days, by the time you’ve done the first one and realised how great the atmosphere is then you’re kind of looking forward to the next leg. And always with us, its strange how this works but whether its Leeds/Reading or the V ones we always end up doing the southern leg first before going up north, which is nearer to home so there’s always a lot of mates coming along.
Would you say there was much of a difference between playing up north and down south?
When we go off and do our own tour then there’s not at all really. Well I don’t know, its a difficult one that. When we play up near where we live, then there’s gonna be a lot more people there who we know. As far as the atmosphere goes you always get a lot of Yorkshire people shouting “Yorkshire” quite a lot, but then I’m not actually from Yorkshire but I don’t tell them that. Generally as a rule, wherever we go and play in our own touring capacity it’s usually an ace party atmosphere anyway. There’s always more of an emphasis on the London gigs. I don’t know whether it’s just because it’s London but we always kind of build up to them a bit more. Shepherd’s Bush Empire is an ace venue but I can’t actually remember what the gig was like on our last tour.
No, neither can I. I was definitely there but I’d been on the Red Stripes all evening so it’s all a bit hazy.
Well, the London gigs are always good. We’re gonna be playing at Brixton Academy in October.
I’m actually gonna be on holiday for that one which is a shame. Been anywhere nice this year?
We haven’t really been away this year – I’ve been quite disappointed. I was hoping with the new album that we’d be kicking it around a bit but because we’ve signed for a smaller indie there hasn’t been that much of a push. It’s not being released around Europe until the end of October so were just touring England again and then it’s Christmas. So the best place I’ve been this year is probably my back yard.
STEP INSIDE YOUR LOVE is being released shortly and I’ve heard that Radio One have again refused to put it on their play-list.
What? You must be really with the news at the moment – nobody’s told me anything – but at the end of the day even if it doesn’t get radio we’ll still release it and if it doesn’t chart then we’ll just fuck off and write another album. We do seem to be out of favour again at the minute, which I don’t understand. The new one is a good catchy tune like all our other singles.
Of course it is – just like CRY FOR HELP. It doesn’t really make any sense to me why the singles aren’t getting the exposure they deserve.
Well that’s very kind of you to say mate and I couldn’t agree more. But with CRY FOR HELP, yeah Radio One didn’t pick up on it, the NME don’t give a fuck anymore, and we still managed to get to #31 in the charts, which proves that we’ve still got quite a good fan-base. There’s certainly no depression on our part because of it. I’ve always looked at us as hopefully following the careers of bands like REM and U2…
What, you’re gonna wait till your fifth album before getting massive?
Yeah, well that’s it, but with them it was at least the fifth album before they managed to properly cross over and we’re yet to do our fifth album, so there’s no point in being on a downer about it. My drug hell years are in front of me.
At this moment in time what would you say is your favourite track off TRUTH BE TOLD?
Probably LAUGHTER LINES…
Yeah that’s what Fraser said.
Yeah, I think we all felt really good about that one. It just shows – without sounding wanky – a more grown-up side to us. At the end of the day, we’re always gonna be stuck with that Shed Seven sound. I don’t think we could get away with doing a Radiohead and suddenly changing our sound; they’ve obviously got the credibility to it. We’re always gonna have my foghorn voice for starters.
What’s been playing on your stereo recently?
Well I’ve been listening to a lot of Bowie recently for some reason and I think we’re gonna do a cover of JEAN GENIE. I’ve been kind of listening to The Strokes but every time I put it on it pisses me off cos I realise that everybody likes them.
Well there was all that hype wasn’t there?
There was too much, which puts me off, and also cos they’re like such a cool and trendy band. I do kind of like a lot of the songs on the album though.
One good thing about the album I thought was the same with TRUTH BE TOLD – it clocks in at just over half an hour and the songs are short and snappy and don’t drag on for ages like a lot of other bands’ songs and albums do.
Yeah, definitely. There are a lot of cock-stroking musicians out there. I think our next album will probably be short and sweet as well. I like albums that fit on one side of a forty-five minute cassette.
What would you say has been your favourite album of this year so far?
Err… that’s a difficult one. Did REM’s album come out this year or last year? I think it’s a borderline one – time goes so fucking fast these days – so if it was last year then I haven’t got one this year.
What do you think of this year’s Mercury Music Prize nominees?
I don’t actually know who they are this year. I did hear about Damon Albarn saying he didn’t want the nomination and all that.
(After reeling of the list of nominees) What did you think about the Gorillaz business?
They’re not replacing them with anyone are they? Cos how would that feel… I don’t know how I’d react if I got a phone call off the Mercury people saying that the Gorillaz don’t wanna be on it so would you be on it – it obviously wouldn’t happen – but what would you do? You’d just tell them to fuck off wouldn’t you? Some people in the music business are right up their own arse. Out of all those bands you mentioned I think the Super Furry Animals or PJ Harvey would probably get my vote.
I’ve heard that you don’t really care much for the nu-metal movement. Have you ever been into any, well, ‘old’ metal?
I did go through a phase of loving Guns n’ Roses. Then there’s Rage Against the Machine but they don’t really count do they? These days, one minute I’ll be listening to Rage Against the Machine and getting rid of all my anger, and the next minute I’ll be listening to Barry Manilow and getting all loved up man.
Now I know you have a policy of refusing to answer interviewers who ask you where the name Shed Seven comes from, and I’ve heard that nowadays you just walk away whenever you hear that question. Have you ever actually done that?
There’s been one time where I have done that and once when I just hung up the phone on them. But you know, after ten years of us kicking around if they were that interested in wanting to know what it was then there’s plenty of places you can find out. That’s why nowadays we just give so many different wrong answers.
So if I were to ask you that now you’d slam the phone down on me?
Well I wouldn’t to you cos you sound alright. I’d just say, “let’s move on”.
Right, well let’s move on then. Are you any good at football? (soccer)
I used to be until I started heavily smoking. I am quite good, quite skilful, but after five minutes I need to lie down. Now and again, especially in the summer, we all go out and have a kick-about and a laugh but its all laid-back – if anyone really starts going for it then they just end up having a heart attack.
Do you support a football team?
I do but even that’s getting ridiculous these days…
It’s not York City is it?
Well, they’re probably my second choice but I’m actually from Manchester so I’m a United fan. But I was born there – I always have to emphasise that. Second choice would have to be York even though they’re diabolical. They’re always in the bottom half of division 3 and they got stuffed 4-0 on Saturday…
The rest of the interview descends into a long discussion about football. Shed Seven kick off a new nationwide tour at the beginning of October 2001 and release STEP INSIDE YOUR LOVE at the end of the month.