Shed Seven talk ahead of Shiiine On Festival in Birmingham
He’s at his daughter’s school sports day when we call. “Can we speak in half an hour,” says Rick Witter, who for this morning at least, is every inch the anti-rock‘n’roll star.
The lead singer in Shed Seven is happily enjoying domesticity; the debauchery of Britpop seems like light years away. The man who was chased down the street by groupies, who was occasionally too drunk to perform and who famously described his band as The Rolling Stones to Oasis’s Beatles is high on life – and nothing else.
“To be fair, schools sports day isn’t too unusual,” he says. “I’ve got a 20-year-old too, so I’ve been doing this for a long time. I like to be the rock‘n’roller from time to time then I like to be a responsible parent too.”
Rick will get a chance to rock out when Shed Seven line up at Shiiine, a one-day indie festival at Birmingham’s Genting Arena on September 8.
The all-day event will be headlined by dance pioneers Orbital who are set to mark their 30th year in music in style. Renowned for their headline slots at Glastonbury amongst others, they will perform their full festival show in Birmingham.
Resurrected indie heroes Shed Seven who are riding high on the success of their recent top 10 album Instant Pleasures, and Happy Mondays who after 30 years in the business remain one of the most important bands around also play the main stage.
Shaun Ryder will support himself with a Black Grape set earlier in the day while the main stage will also feature performances by two previous headliners of the Shiiine On Weekender: Embrace, who are celebrating a top five album with Love Is A Basic Need, and Cast.
Also playing the main stage is Glasvegas while on the Forum Live stage there will be a rare festival performance from Julian Cope. The epic supporting cast comes from The Wedding Present, Gang Of Four, A Certain Ratio, The Stairs, The Membranes, Psyence and Deja Vega.
Others on the bill include Reverend and The Makers, Dreadzone, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Jim Bob, Todd Terry, Marshall Jefferson, Jon Dasilva and a DJ set from Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock, who will be playing the best of his vast Northern Soul and Motown collection.
Rick is looking forward to catching up with old mates and playing to Britpop fans. “It’s a one-day festival in a big-arena with lots of different rooms and shops and casinos – the only problem is I have to play at it rather than just enjoy it.” He’s more switched on at gigs these days than he was during Shed Seven’s Britpop heyday. “I don’t drink too much before we go on. I learned my lesson way back in the early 1990s. I did a few gigs where I couldn’t stand up for a few of the songs. These days, it’s different. But we’ll turn up and get involved. Shiiine do a great job. We’ve done the cruises from Hull to Amsterdam as well. They look after people and it’s well run.”
Shiiine is, of course, an exercise in nostalgia for those who were coming of age during Britpop.
“The 90s was a great time for music. Britpop will be one of the last musical movements that was so big that newsreaders at 10 o’clock discussing who might get to number one.”
The Sheds are 11 years into their comeback, having stuck around from 1990 to 2003 during their first time around. At the height of their popularity between 1994 and 1999 they had 15 top 40 singles and four top 20 albums in the UK. That means they’re still able to play their own headline tours and in recent years they’ve ‘done a Madness’, playing regular Christmas tours and playing a slew of hits at each.
“In the 90s, our band had a rough time with the press but we kept a good solid fan base so we’re fortunate that we can do our own tours. We invite Cast to come with us or Chris Helme out of The Seahorses. We’re not at that point where we need to do a lot of the 90s festival shows. We just do the ones that prick our ears.”
And yet the band are about more than nostalgia. Last year, they released their first new studio album since 2001 – Instant Pleasures. It was worth the 16-year wait and scored them a top 10 hit.
“Instant pleasures just crept up on us. We got back together in 2007 because we missed playing live. At that point, we didn’t know if people would turn up. But we were doing it because we just missed being on the stage. Lots of people came and they had to upgrade the venues. It made us feel like what we did in the 90s meant something. Everyone was singing back every word. We’ve built that up over the last 10 years.
“If we put a gig on people want us to sing Going for Gold and all the hits. But we also needed to keep moving forward so we started writing. It had been an awfully long time since we’d released anything new but we came up with Instant Pleasures, which was both very now but also very Shed Seven.”
Witter has nothing but fondness for his days in Shed Seven. The Britpop era was the best of times.
“It was just so exciting and we were caught up in it. Everyone was free to express themselves. For me, the best part was the early-to-mid-90s when we were coming through. It was all about hearing our song being played on the radio for the first time or selling out favourite venues or doing first videos or going to France to play live. All of that was a big buzz. Then it became a machine and there was huge expectation. As vulgar as it sounds, it became like a job. But I don’t have any regrets. You never know where life will take you and I’m just grateful to still be around.”