Wed 26 May 2021

Interview with… Shed Seven

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Photo credit Tom Oxley

Find out what happened when we caught up with the acclaimed York five piece to find out about their plans for touring in 2021, and much more!

What’s happening in Shed 7 world now restrictions are starting to ease?

We’re starting to rehearse next Wednesday. That’s a big thing being in the same room as the rest of the guys, we haven’t really seen each other. We’ve done a lot of emailing and Zoom meetings. That’s totally different to being in the same company as people. It’s like riding a bike. Once I get back on the Chopper we’ll be sorted.

How has it been waiting to get the go-ahead from the government to crack on with your rescheduled tour and seeing the recent Liverpool test gig on the news?

I did see quite a lot of videos on Twitter of that Liverpool gig. It did look great; like none of this had ever happened. Inside that big top the crowd looked like they were loving it. Other testing events that have been going on as well. I’m a big fan of snooker so it was great seeing a live crowd watching snooker in the room. It reminds you what life used to be like. We’ve got these gigs booked in – have announced this big tour at the end of the year, which is good for us because we do that bi-annually anyway. We wouldn’t have done this last December anyway so don’t feel like we missed out on the Shedcember side of things. We’ve just missed a few festivals. Keeping our fingers crossed that no new horrible variants rear their ugly head.

You still have to earn a living, particularly if as a band your main source of income is usually touring.

The only way we earn money is by playing live. We don’t make a lot of money off recordings especially in this day and age. With Spotify and stuff, you have to be streamed millions of times to get anything out of it. Our livelihood is going out on the road and performing. We’re a very lucky band in a sense that we can still after all these years play in quite big venues to packed houses and everyone sings along. It’s great, really. What I’ve discovered over the past few years is we can still go out and play On Standby, Getting Better, Chasing Rainbows, Going For Gold and Disco Down and the love for it is still as strong, if not more strong than it ever has been. It’s really weird. It’s like these songs seem to have connected with people and don’t seem to age. We’re very lucky it means we can continue to do that. We did release a new album a few years ago and people took that to their hearts as well. It’s nice that we can mix the setlist up slightly. We’re the type of band where if we didn’t play all those nineties hits, we’d get lynched.

You appear to always have the same enthusiasm for those classic hits, whereas some bands say they get fed up playing their classics. 

I don’t understand anyone if you’re stood on a stage playing a song, which everyone is singing every word back at you and looking like they’re having the time of their lives… We love performing anyway. It’s like tennis. We bat it out there and they bat it back at us and before you know it it’s a huge tennis lovefest. I don’t think I’d ever get bored of playing Chasing Rainbows. That particular song now we always play last because everyone loves singing the end for ages after we’ve even left the stage. You can hear people leaving the venue still singing it. I would never tire of that. I feel we are a very lucky band. Obviously, we wrote it and put the time and effort into doing it but to have those songs mean too much to people and have that last legacy it’s brilliant. I would never get bored of playing it. We are lucky as well we have lots of different songs so we can always mix it up and jazz it up whenever we want.

What’s it like when you’re on the road together? All on one bus?

As a rule, yes. There might be occasion where one of us will drive if it’s local but if we’re on a big tour we’re on a tour bus with the crew. We spend hours in each other’s company, which can get tiring at times. But we’re a lot older. The more you age, the more you understand and can step back from things a bit if things aren’t going quite how you’d imagine they would be. I think it’s an important part of the job. We’re a band. We’re a unit. With us, it’s different. We were all friends at school. I’ve known Paul and Tom since I was 11. We were in the same year at school. That’s kind of an unbreakable bond in that respect.

How do you prepare your body and voice for going on tour?

We will ramp up rehearsals and that gets us match fit in the performing side of things. I do like to do a lot of moving on stage, but I don’t walk round my house first thing in the morning doing this. That’s why it’s important to do a few little warm-up gigs to get used to playing in front of people again. For me personally I can’t help but not get into the rhythm. It doesn’t take me long to get a bit looser. It’s more important the older I get to make sure I’ve warmed up properly before a gig vocally and steering clear of things. Frustratingly, a lot of the things I really like are bad for you if you’re able to go on stage and sing. I really like drinking milk and that’s a no-go, and certain foods. What I find myself doing is getting bottles of water, chopping up lemon and honey and swigging that all day.

Has that ever happened?

It has actually. I remember playing O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2007 or 2009. I got bronchitis and a chest infection. We were playing in Portsmouth a couple of days before and I ended up being badly poorly in Portsmouth. We were doing Shepherd’s Bush in London and I walked out a bit of a mess and said: ‘Bronchitis. Chest infection. You’ll have to do it’. Luckily, I stood there and tried my hardest but the whole crowd sang every song. I would treat Shed 7 fans as my friends because they really helped me out. That particular venue there’s a chap that sits in the wings and is responsible for turning the lights down before the band come on. We played the same venue two years later and it was the same chap sitting on the stool in the wings. He looked at me and said: ‘Are you the bloke who played here a couple of years ago but couldn’t do it because you were so poorly? Fair play to you, not many people would walk on that stage’. It was good of him to remember that.

Most people would have cancelled.

I didn’t want to let anyone down. As I say, I think it worked because people probably felt sorry for me because I couldn’t physically do it. I did look quite poorly. It was great. I held the microphone out to the crowd. In a weird way that made it a different gig. People we’re expecting that, but they rose to the occasion. It is a story to remember. You look back on these things. We went on hiatus for three or four years then reformed to do these big tours in 2007. That means we’ve been going longer now as a reformed band than we originally were in the nineties, which is quite strange. That goes to show how old we really are.

What do you think about new bands coming through? Do you worry about the next generation coming through?

Yeah, there is concerns. On the other hand of that I do keep my ear to the ground. I have my own radio show so I’m always looking for new talent. I like to play unsigned acts on my show. I understand the relevance of that – your first ever radio play – because we’ve been there. I do think in the few years or so there is going to be a big resurgence of indie guitar bands coming back. I’m hearing a lot of it now. I can feel that ground swell coming. There’s a lot of good, interesting guys and girls doing their thing. I don’t think it’ll ever be as intense at the Britpop time in the nineties because of the nature of the music business. Hearing bands like The Lathums, they’re writing anthemic music. Music is cyclical anyway. It comes and goes in waves. My son is 20 and, in a band, called The Serotones. They’re making good ground. Some smaller venues might go but others will start. There’s always going to be somewhere to play. People need to think outside the box a bit. Maybe what’s happened is a kick up the backside to get people to think outside the box and do things slightly differently. Maybe in two or three years’ time hopefully we’ll see more guitar-driven or alternative acts in the charts again doing well for themselves.

With your son being in a band, what sort of advice do you give him?

I do give him advice but only if he asks. I’m not going to push anything on him. My children when they were growing up, I didn’t push my taste in music on them. I’m a big believer in letting people find what they like. Fortunately, they all seem to have found what I consider to be cool, good music. A chip off the old block in that respect. I’m perfectly placed to give him advice if he wants it. And he is happy to hear it. I can’t tell him what to do. I wouldn’t want that. Giving him titbits of advice on how to behave. My dad always used to say to me: ‘If you treat people good on the way up, they’ll remember you on the way down’. Rather than barge in and expect everything at once. I keep telling him it’s an important thing to have swagger – which he’s certainly got a lot of – but be polite with it. They’re writing some great music. I’m impressed with what I hear, and I wish them all the best. He keeps saying to me: ‘We’re going to sell more records than you’. That’s his swagger side coming out. 15 Top 40’s son.

Why is there such an appetite for nostalgia – seeing bands from your youth?

You remember where you first heard that song or first person you kissed to that song. A lot of our fans are our age group, so they’ve grown up with us. Like I said earlier about our songs meaning things for people. The more we play nowadays the more I’m noticing people of our age, or slightly older, are taking their now teenage children with them to the gigs. It’s not like they’re being dragged there under sufferance. I’m seeing these young kids singing every word, so it’s obviously on at home and they’re seeping it in from the parents. If you’re our kind of age group, it’s more of a mission. You’ve got to get the babysitter in, got to make sure we don’t get too drunk because we’re at work in the morning. It becomes a proper night out reliving their youth. I’m still reliving mine by doing it. Not that I can remember much about it.

How long will Shed 7 continue for? Rocking into your seventies?

If people still buy tickets to see us, we’ll put the gigs on and do it. The stopping point and tell-tell signs would be if we put on shows and nobody bought tickets. We would understand perhaps our time was over. We’ve just put tickets on for this tour at the end of the year and it’s selling incredibly quickly so there is obviously still a need, people still want us to go out and do it. I’ll continue doing it until I’m 100 – come out on a Zimmer frame.

Any new music in the offering?

There is always talk about writing new stuff. We don’t do as much as we perhaps should.

Why?

We’re all busy doing other things. Three or four of the other band members have their own companies and are flying with that. It’s difficult finding the time. We’d have to be 100% into it. There’s no point in doing it just for the sake of it. Why would you want to ruin your back catalogue writing any old rubbish just do it? That’s why the Instant Pleasures album we had in 2017, there was a bit of a concern with the fans. They’d been wanting us to write new stuff for so long. It had been 16 years between record releases for us between that and the last one. People would say: ‘When are you going to write anything new?’. We would never dream of releasing anything we didn’t think was brilliant. It was really satisfying when it came out and people started to hear it to see the positive nature of people loving it. We secretly knew. If we ever go down that route again it would have to be up there with that last album. Never say never. If it takes 28 years, it takes 28 years.

Are there any cities in particular which you have fond memories of?

There always is. There’s certain areas we should go back to that we haven’t played as much as we should have. We haven’t played down in Devon or the southwest for a long time, which is a bit daft, so we need to put that right. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t quite work with the routing. Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, London, they’re all incredible gigs for us. I’ve worked out that maybe because we put tickets on sale so early in the year for something that’s not happening for another eight months. People do buy the tickets straight away in April then they’re not coming to see us until December. Though the year they’re looking at the ticket on the mantlepiece going: ‘Yeah, that’s going to be good’. By the time eight months has gone by they’re so worked up that coming to see us the atmosphere is incredible in the venues. That could be a Saturday night in London or a Monday night in drizzly Blackburn, it doesn’t really matter. It’s always that same kind of buzzing atmosphere. There’s nothing like the lights going out and we walk out to a huge appreciative roar and kick on. We released a live album at the end of last year and there was a lot of photographs on the cover and inside. There was a picture of a lad being lifted in his wheelchair on to people’s shoulders. That was a Monday night in Blackburn so that says it all really, doesn’t it?

How does your rider compare now to back in the day?

We’ve never been that fussy about riders. We’ve never wanted 12 white kittens or anything like that. We just get some spirits, some lager and if we’ve got catering that’s all we need.

You could stick ridiculous things on the rider and see which venue delivers perhaps?

I’ve never really thought about it but as I’m into snooker I should ask for a full-size snooker table somewhere. Even if the dressing room is like a broom cupboard size, I should insist on having a snooker table in there.

What about any preshow rituals?

I do suffer a little bit from the old OCD. I would never dream of telling you the type of things I get up to because if I put that out there the rest of the band will be constantly looking to see what I’m doing next. I hide the little things that I do so no-one knows. The only reason I do that is because I really want it to be a good gig. I got to the point where I thought if I do that the gig will be good. I found myself now doing three or four ridiculous little things pre-gig, just for my own piece of mind. Every now and again you’ll do a gig that you didn’t think was up to scratch. This has happened a few times that I’ll come off stage afterwards thinking: ‘I’m not going to do all that again because it didn’t work. Then you cut to the next day and you’re doing it all again. I’ve got to keep the pattern. It’s fuzzy logic. You do it because you want the gig to be good. Then every now and again, even if the gig’s been great, you can come off thinking: ’That wasn’t as good as I thought it would be or could have been’.

How long have you done that for?

Quite a few years. I’ve always got really nervous before doing a gig. I think that’s good because it means I care about it. We do like to put on a good show. I would get distraught if it wasn’t as good as perhaps, we could make it. We’re getting on a bit now. It’s a good one hour and 45-minute workout for me. But there’s nothing like the thrill of seeing people leaving and looking like they’ve had a great time. I don’t really get bands who walk out and look like they can’t be bothered that they’re even there, maybe being a bit too cool for school. I think that’s important to give people what they want and give them value for money. People go out and work hard and earn money. If they’re going to spend a little bit of it on us, then they deserve to get a good time for it.

Particularly after the last year and a half we’ve had – everyone is gagging for a good night out, so the tour is going to go off!

Again, that puts an added edge to it. Regardless of the fact that we’re able to play, the fact that people are going to be together in the same room again waiting for it, it’s going to kick off. It’s going to be great. Also, we’ve got Mark Morriss out of The Bluetones, Nigel Clark out of Dodgy and Chris Helme, ex-Seahorses as support act this time. They’re all performing together under the name MCH. I believe they’re going to perform with their acoustic or electric guitars. They’re going to harmonise each other’s songs, a couple of their own songs and a couple of cover versions. But they’re all going to sing together. Get down for doors opening for that.

 

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