Today’s lockdown tracks are picked by Shed Seven founder and lead singer, Rick Witter.
Reading up on you ahead of this, music is a big part of your family life.
Yes, music has always been everywhere. My Dad was a drummer in a band in the Stockport area and was always listening to music or playing it in the house. He bought a Yamaha organ and taught himself to play all sorts of tracks on it. He always played it really loud and so, later, when I was bashing out The Smiths in my bedroom he couldn’t really argue over the volume. The house went from him playing Klaus Wunderlich on vinyl to trying to be Klaus Wunderlich! He loved any and all music. I remember any car trip would be accompanied by a recording of the charts from the previous Sunday. He only gave up playing in the band when my brother was born and he had to get a proper job. I think that frustration is one of the reasons why he was always so happy listening to us and encouraging us to play music.
Did your older brother impact your musical tastes?
Yes, but not that I followed them. I actually rebelled against his choices. He was a big fan of Gary Newman, OMD, Blancmange. All very synth based. I went for guitars almost straight away.
Yes. When I was really young, the first record I ever bought was Showaddywaddy, Under the Moon of Love. And I also really liked Howard Jones but then, in secondary school it was all about the Indie bands. The Smiths, and I loved the Soup Dragons. They had an album called This is Our Art which I listened to constantly. I had a denim jacket that I always wore to school and I copied their logo on to the back of it. Happy memories. I loved buying all sorts of vinyl back then. There was a shop in York and even the smell of the shop I can remember, the smell and look of all the vinyl, flicking through it. I loved it. I used to have part time jobs right through from about 12 or 13 so I could buy music.
And I bet you’ve still got it.
I have. You can’t get rid of it. It’s part of my life. Some it wasn’t great actually, I sometimes picked an album because I liked the album cover without knowing the band. But I don’t regret any of them. Some fantastic memories of listening to those albums and sitting looking at the covers. I remember buying Led Zeppelin III because it had a cool album cover and then falling in love with the music but I’d never heard of them at that point. Yes, that’s a great album. It has Since I’ve Been Loving You doesn’t it? I remember I went through a phase of listening to that while working in Sainsbury’s. I had to be there really early and I’d cycle in listening to that album. Weirdly I now associate Led Zeppelin with being cold and wet because of that!
Music has that ability to take you back to places like that doesn’t it?
Yes. It’s the greatness of music. The way it comes flooding back. You might not have listened to a track for years and then straight away it’s back in your head and you’re transported. And, when you write songs, they’ll be there long after you’re dead and gone. That’s what our first song was about, Mark. It’s not about a bloke called Mark. It’s about leaving your mark. We knew that, even if we did nothing else, we’d have left a mark with that song.
Which bands were you fans of when you started Shed Seven?
We were a school band and weren’t necessarily trying as hard as we should. It was 1989 and The Stone Roses released their debut album. That changed everything. It was a massive turning point. It made us decide it was what we wanted to do and that we needed to step it up and take it more seriously.
Did you ever play with them?
Yes, it was a sad time for them actually, 1996 and they were breaking down. We did a festival in Spain with them called Benicassim. We chatted backstage and what have you but, it was in the run up to them doing the famous Reading Festival gig and, as I say, not their best time.
Do you enjoy festivals generally?
It’s a hard one to answer because it depends on what’s going on, how you feel, the weather, everything. Sometimes they’ve a great vibe and sometimes you just want to get out of there. The worst thing about a festival compared to your own gig is that, other than your own hardcore fans, people might mill around and not really be into what you’re doing. The biggest buzz though is when they stop milling and start watching and get into the gig. We did a festival in Denmark once and the venue was about 30 minute’s drive from anywhere. They put on coaches for the acts to get them back to the hotels in town. Our bus was at 11pm and, because I’d had a couple of drinks, I got lost and missed the bus. When I finally found where I was meant to be, they said there was only one more bus and it was for the last act. So there I was sat in a field in Denmark waiting for the Prodigy to finish their set so I could get to bed. They didn’t finish until 4am so I sat there with a Danish bus driver minding his own business and me sitting in the front seat. Then, on they get, pumped up from a great gig and Keith, God rest him, takes the tour guide microphone and starts shouting in my face about something or other. If I hear them on the radio now, I’m back there. It’s the least rock and roll moment of my rock and roll life.
So, if we could let you out of lockdown for a day, I’m guessing you’re not heading to Denmark?
It’d be Australia. We went once for 4 or 5 gigs and I was really looking forward to it and we were there for exactly seven days. I saw nothing of the place or the people. I’d go to Australia, stop and have a look around.
Is it weird playing Northern England Indie sounds on the other side of the world?
Yes, very. But then I remember in Melbourne, there are loads of ex-pats and one of them shouted out that I had to say hi to my brother when I saw him so that brings you back down. Japan is one of the oddest experiences. I think they’re the same with all western bands but, you fly in and they follow you from the airport and camp outside your hotel room. I went shopping one day and people followed me to look at jeans. It’s mad. But they love seeing the bands live.
What about you? Do you get to many gigs?
Not as many as I’d like to. I saw an amazing performance by a band called The Soundtrack of our Lives. They had an album called Behind the Music. Their singer is a big guy and had the audience in the palm of his hand from the word go. Awesome. And I saw Band of Horses in Leeds a few years back, again a really special mood that night. My first gig actually was The Stone Roses, Alexandra Palace. That’s another I remember very clearly.
And now you get to see your son playing live.
Yes, he’s in a band called Serotones. They had a few gigs booked for around this time and, obviously they’ve had to be postponed, but I’m sure they’ll be back on it as soon as things kick back in.
You must be proud watching him following in your footsteps.
Very proud. Especially that he’s taking it really seriously. When we started out you know you’ve got to work really hard. We’d do gigs in North London to almost no one and then drive back in a minivan, get home at 5am and then go to work at 7am. It was hard but you’ve got to do it. Duke seems to get that. They’re working really hard, putting the hours in.
And, final question, what’s the best start to a concert?
Well, I’ve got this far without really talking about Shed Seven so, I think I’m going to go with Room In My House. When we wrote it, we had the riff and a few lyrics but then, when we hit on the introduction and the ‘whoa’ vocal, it felt right and we hoped that, live, people would join in. First gig we played after it was released and we started the intro and people got straight on it. We were looking at each other and thinking ‘yeah, this is it.’
Brilliant choice. Thanks for chatting. And keep well.