An Interview with Rick Witter from Shed Seven
Shed Seven are back on the road this month, as their Shedcember 2019 tour gets under way. Steve Crabtree caught up with Rick Witter during a break from rehearsals, prior to their gig in Leeds at First Direct Arena on Saturday 7th December…
We last came to see you at Holmfirth in November last year, the night before your gig at the Shine Weekender at Butlins. What have Shed Seven been up to since?
Well, it went a little bit quiet. With Shed Seven we’re in a little bit of a pattern really. We tend to do a big tour every other Christmas and on the year we don’t do that, we do several festivals over the summer. So the Shine On gig last year was the last thing we did as a band. We always knew we’d be putting on a set of tour dates at the end of 2019, so we tend to go a little bit quiet really just so we don’t give anyone too much overkill. That’s one of the reasons we only do Shedcember every other year – I think if we did it every year there’s always that chance that people who do come might think “right, we did it last year so we’ll give it a miss this year.” Then before you know it you’re playing to smaller crowds in smaller venues.
“We’ve made a happy problem for ourselves”
And how’s the set list looking for Shedcember 2019?
We’ve given ourselves about two months to get ourselves match fit for the tour, so rehearsals are under way. And we’ve kind of always classed this tour as a Greatest Hits tour, but I think the fact that we did a new album a couple of years ago has opened up slight avenues for us. We’ll be playing new songs off that album that we’ve not actually played live yet. So we’re excited about that – that’s something we’re looking forward to doing. We didn’t want to piss anybody off too much on the last tour when the album had just come out and play too many songs people weren’t yet familiar with, but at the same time we had new songs. So this time around there will be more Instant Pleasures songs – we’ve made a happy problem for ourselves by writing more songs, and it’s always a difficult thing to decide what to leave out.
You find a balance?
Yes that’s exactly what we do. And it’s great because – and we’re finding this happening more over the years – the atmosphere at our gigs is like one big party. Everyone know what they’re going to get. They’re going to get a good bunch of songs, and especially on a weekend night where they let loose a bit and it’s always great to do it in December. Christmas is approaching, everyone’s winding down from work so it’s always a good time to go out and play.
So when did you realise Shedcember was a thing. When did you decide you were going to do this every couple of years?
Well, it was all just a natural process to be honest with you. When we first did it in 2007 we’d had about four years off and we put those gigs on sale just because we missed playing together. We missed that buzz of being live on stage, playing our music. So we had no idea which way it was going to go but as it turned out we had to add venues, and we had to upgrade venues because of the number of people who wanted to come and see us. It was a really satisfying feeling, because it kind of told us that what we did in the 90s actually meant something to people. It was nice to know Shed Seven songs stood the test of time. From there we thought we’d leave it a year and did it again in 2009 and then it just became a little bit of a thing and it snowballed. It wasn’t anyone in the band who came up with the hashtag thing either, that was a monster that was created by someone else but it’s great that it’s got it’s own natural social media brand there.
“The love for the band is quite strong at the moment”
You usually include York and Sheffield in your tour dates, but Shed Seven’s only Yorkshire gig is in Leeds this year. Why’s that?
We were offered the chance to do First Direct Arena by the promoters. We’ve played loads of arenas but we’ve never headlined. So we were offered this possibility and we sat down and thought about it and decided “why not?”. After having a top ten album and the love for the band is quite strong at the moment, we thought that this could be our only opportunity to headline this place. And because we’ve been doing this for such a long time it’d be a treat for not only us, but for the fans to come out and see us. And I totally get the fact that there might be fans in Sheffield and Hull who are disappointed because we’re not going there. But we put tickets on sale early so that, if they are willing to, they could book trains and hotels early and hopefully get the cheaper prices. So we just want to get everyone under one roof and give them a really special show. And the fact it’s on a Saturday night, mid December.. it’ll mean that it’s just a great party time. We’ve just put more tickets on sale for the show too.
When you announced the tour, you did a cup draw which was novel! Who’s idea was that?
Funnily enough I think that was Paul’s idea and he’s not in to sport whatsoever! So it was quite clever of him really. He had the idea of having some sort of FA Cup style draw. I’m quite good friends with Guy Mowbray, so when he mentioned that to me I thought well, if we’re going to go down that route let’s see if we can do it properly. So I got in touch with Guy and he was well up for it. But it was just something a bit different and a bit more fun that just saying “here are the dates”.
We’ve just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Change Giver, but you guys have been going for 30 years now. When you started out, did you ever think you’d have this much mileage in you?
I don’t think we ever thought about it to be honest. I mean me and Paul formed our first band when we were 12. And obviously then we weren’t even writing songs. I was the singer, he played guitar and we were just designing record sleeves for the songs we were yet to write. Down to even drawing the barcodes! So we were always in to that kind of thing, and right through school in school bands, to playing in pubs when we were clearly far too under-age to be doing that. It was always just something I was passionate and serious about, but it was just good fun doing it. And it was around 1990 when we started Shed Seven, just after the Stone Roses’ first album had come out and we were all thinking that’s an album and we started taking things a bit more seriously. We were about 18, so it was about the right time to start making sure the hair was alright, and the clothes were alright. And things just naturally progressed. An awful lot of work was put in to it though, it wasn’t a case of just getting signed. We had to travel to London once a week and play to nobody, back up to York through the night and there was a lot of wondering if anything would actually happen. But we believed in ourselves and knew what we were doing was good. And then all of a sudden we were playing all over the world and releasing records. We never pre-planned anything.
Could you see Shed Seven going for the next 30 years? The Stones are doing it, Jagger’s in his mid-70s…
[Pause] To be honest with you… if there’s still interest then why not? It’s funny you say that about Mick Jagger but there are interviews with him in 1963 or ’64 where he’s saying there’s probably about 18 months left in this and then I’m going to have to look at doing something else. And look at them now. So yeah, they’re the benchmark. And I’m not precious about anything we’ve done in the past. And I’m kind of hopeful that more new material will come out in the future. But at the end of the day, if we put a gig on sale and nobody bought a ticket, or nobody bought a record then so be it. Hopefully we’ll never be in that situation, but I’m not going to flog a dead horse. While we’re here and we’re enjoying it then great… everything’s great. And we’ve got such a great set of fans, that I think they’ll just keep coming. Unless we do something so ridiculously daft to put them off!
You’ve re-relased the greatest hits album Going For Gold which has proved pretty popular…
Yes, well it was never released on vinyl. So we’ve brought it out on gold vinyl this time which is a bit different. A bit sexy. There’s a certain number available but if it’s popular enough I’m sure they’ll make even more. That’s been out since October and it was nice to get that re-released.
Right. Away from Shed Seven. If music didn’t exist at all, what would Rick Witter be doing?
Wow. When I was growing up I was quite in to gardening you know. I was quite in to landscape gardening. So maybe I’d be out there designing people’s back gardens for them. Who knows?
We’ve recently had the Elton John blockbuster Rocketman, and Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody making waves. But when the next big hit ‘Chasing Rainbows’ is released on the big screen, who’s going to play Rick Witter?
[Laughs] Ooh. Well. Do you know what, people who know their motorcycle racing will have heard of a guy called Valentino Rossi. I keep being told that he looks like me. Now, I don’t know what his acting credentials are, but off the top of my head I think we’d have to cast him in the role of me. I used to have a moped when I was about 15, so there’s a link!
And lastly… I’m out in York with a few mates on Saturday for a few beers. Where are the best places for us to go?
Well, I would probably go to the White Swan on Goodland Gate first, which is a kind of standard York-Olde-Worlde pub. And then I’d go to the Golden Fleece which is supposed to be the most haunted pub in the city. And then I’d probably end up in 1331 which is a bar that we usually end up in. And that’s a place that you’d usually end up in a 2am speaking a load of… tosh!
The Shedcember 2019 tour begins in Stoke on 21st November, and reached Leeds First Direct Arena on 7th December. Tickets can be found by visiting the Shed Seven website.