Shed Seven

Next month the long awaited album "If The Truth Be Told" is released. Excluding the Greatest Hits collection its the fourth album release and the first on new label Artful Records. In an exclusive interview with Designer Magazine frontman Rick Witter talks about how they were signed by the quiet mysterious judge on Popstars, leaving Polydor and how the band found a new lease of life with old / new guitarist Joe. Its a tale of survival.

Q: The relationship was quite strained with Polydor towards the end. Would you like to elaborate?
A: They weren't our favourite people towards the end. The reason we signed to them in the first place was because we wanted to make them a cool label. That's what we had in mind because they'd had The Jam and The Who and when we signed to them there was nothing guitar based at all.

Our A&R man who has since been one of the judges on Popstars which if we'd known that at the time we wouldn't have bothered. But since he signed us he signed Cast, Gene and Ian Brown so he has got a bit of an indie ethic even if he has lost that recently.

Q: Was it always like this then?
At the beginning it was OK. We were having artistic freedom if you like but towards the end it was pretty horrific. We did that Greatest Hits which we didn't want to do at all but we were backed into a corner. I don't think any band who'd done 3 studio albums should do a greatest hits. The only saving grace is there was 12 or 13 top 40 hits on it. Then it got to the point where they wanted to change song titles just to sell a few more copies and that's not us - were not Hear'say.

We were quite unfortunate because at the time a lot of guitar bands were being dropped by the labels and we were bracketed into that. They said they'd keep us on, but for a lot less money than what we should have been getting and in actual fact we said no. So in a silly round about way we actually walked off the label which doesn't usually happen.

Q: So now you're signed to Artful records?
A: It could have been a big gamble. Walking off a major label and not knowing what was going to happen. It was something we had to do and we knew off our back catalogue that we'd get interest.

Q: There's this weird situation with your old guitarist is the new guitarist. Its very confusing isn't it?
A: Joe who is with us now was our original guitarist when we first formed. We were all about 17 or 18 and we'd done a few demo's but then he got offered a job in London and at that age he thought "were not going very far". Then about 6 months later these demo's started to get a lot of interest, so we got Paul in and did what we've done so far.

Then he left. The easiest way to describe it is musical differences, we weren't getting on. We weren't even wanting to be in the same room as each other and that's not what being in a band's about especially when there is kids out there who want the opportunity and there's old farts like us not even wanting to be doing it. I think if he'd have stayed we'd have written a really bad album and then split up. So him leaving was probably the best thing that could have happened.

Joe coming back did give us a massive kick up the arse. It gave us that hunger that we had originally and that we lost along the way. We chose to ask him first because a) we knew him as a person and b) he co wrote half the first album with us so we know that we can write together. It seemed come full circle, its quite bizarre.

Q: The new album "If The Truth Be Told" is quite a mature album for you guys?
A: Not intentionally. We'd never sit down and write or think about what were going to write. We just write so maybe it is just the new us like we are just getting older. The only way I'd describe it being different is its more laid back. Its almost as if we've realized we don't have anything to prove because we've been here long enough - its not as if were all guns blazing , new boys on the scene.

I think the biggest word to use is patience. People need to hear it 3 or 4 times before they start to dig it but I think that that's a sign of quality. I think if you hear something once and love it by the fifth time you're pulling your hair out. In that sense if people give it the time of day it will stand the test of time.

Q: Were you trying to be more personal this time?
A: No, exactly the same again. Its still got the same capacity in the fact that its never really a story that's set in stone. You could hear it and go "Yeah, I've had those feelings". Its for everyone and they can base their own opinions on them. I'll never start giving in-depth explanations to the lyrics unless I start writing about politics or stuff.

There are quite a few songs on the new album which are quite downbeat, but I think subconsciously that must have come from the time where we were having a load of shit. Because 1999 we lost a deal and a guitarist so that point when we started writing we were all quite low. Were coming back quite happy but singing about "Cry For Help".

Q: How do you think the single "Cry For Help" will fare commercially?
A: Well I'm a bit concerned because radio haven't picked up on it and that's the first time that's ever happened. Its supposed to be out a week tomorrow and no-one will be aware of it unless they are a big fan. It will do as it does and we will be here this year as long as it needs promoting. As soon that case finishes we will go away and write another album.

Alot of it is down to timing. Radio 1 at the moment are playing a load of crap. In that sense no one knows the band exists unless they are in the know. If we go in at number 39 i'll be happy. I'm really that honest about it.

Q: The Sheds have always existed outside any press scene's though?
We've been through every seen going according to the press, but we seem to be still be here whereas a lot of bands from those scene's have died away. I'm sure if we go in at number 39 now the press will have a field day saying this is the final chapter of Shed 7. But it won't be, we'll just go away and write more stuff and the timing might be better for the next album.

Q: Does modern music move you anymore because you've always had that same sort of sound?
A: That's perhaps why we still have that strong fan base because we haven't moved on. Usually band have to do this but nowadays they do it so diversely that they're not the same band anymore. We just write naturally so we don't have to think about sitting in with each new scene.

We are very much the underdog and I think you see that with our fans because they really cherish you. I was like that when I was growing up with bands like the Smiths and stuff. Obviously we want massive success with this album but it took U2 and REM to their 4th and 5th albums to be massive - so there's time for us yet.

Bands like Coldplay and Travis are nice!!! I wouldn't take that as a compliment if somebody said we were nice because its not causing a reaction. I'd rather be punched in the face and told I was shit rather than just be classed as nice. I'd rather be loved but its got to be either love or hate.

I understand the need for scenes. But usually you get one or two forerunners and then loads of shit that comes out with bands on the bandwagon. So with Manchester you had the Roses but then you had Northside. With this American stuff at the moment I can understand the need for Eminem but what the fucks Linkin Park and all this shit.