Interview: Rick Witter, Shed Seven singer

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NO doubt there was a collective sigh from the sceptics when tonight’s Shed Seven gig at the HMV Picture House was announced. A Britpop band attempting a comeback?

Frontman Rick Witter doesn’t seem to care, though.

When it comes to taking his band into a new phase of their 21-year career, he’s pretty confident he knows what he’s doing.

He’s back on tour, doing what he loves best, and appears more than aware of the risks of trying to carve out a platform in 2011 for an indie group that was rarely off our screens and airwaves when Britpop rolled into town in the 1990s.

“People like our old stuff,” he says. “The worst possible situation would be me on stage, people enjoying the old tunes, and then I say, ‘Now here is a new song’ and they b***** off for a wee. We could ruin our legacy.”

So tonight the Edinburgh leg of his band’s 20-date Maximum Hits And Maximum Highs Tour will do exactly what it says on the tin. Expect no new tunes, just the familiar sounds – the likes of Going For Gold, Chasing Rainbows and Bully Boy – for which the York-based band were loved.

For some fans – the real “hardcore” as Witter calls them – the tour is an early Christmas present, with dates at Glasgow’s Barrowland, London’s O2, the Manchester Academy and York’s Barbican sold out.

They are not taking any chances the band will be back – not even Witter can answer that. After all, Shed Seven did call it a day in 2003, the musicians going their separate ways, including Witter who formed a new group Rick Witter and the Dukes. But here they are, a greatest hits tour in 2007 under their belt, and now back on another one.

Not only that, but last month they made a return to the studio to re-record new versions of some of their classic hits for a limited edition EP – of which only 777 were made, selling out within hours – to celebrate the 15th anniversary of their hit album A Maximum High.

“When we recorded the tracks, we didn’t really know what to do with them at first,” says Witter. “They can be downloaded, but we decided to make a limited number of hard copies, just to keep them special, something a bit different.

“Being back in the studio was very relaxed, a bit of a laugh.”

Relaxed seems to be the name of the game for Shed Seven at the moment, with Witter admitting there is no firm plan for their future.

“We’re just taking things as they come. I’m not ruling out writing something new, but it’s not on the agenda for the moment,” he says. “We may do some festivals, but there isn’t a plan. I suppose we don’t want to ruin a good thing.

“We’re not on a record deal at the moment, so we are just doing this for ourselves, which is actually more fun. We can make all the decisions and if we stuff up, well, then it’s our fault.”

Witter has seen the varied success fellow Britpop bands have had with comebacks and it’s clear he doesn’t want to prove his sceptics right.

But with no record deal, or carved out plans, Shed Seven are working at a snail’s pace in comparison to their heyday when they jetted across the globe enjoying years of chart success.

“I still feel like the same guy though,” laughs Witter. “Things were a bit crazy back then – we went all over the world and were on shows like Top of the Pops. Things have certainly changed, but I am glad we had those days then and now I can relax.

“When you are doing it you are so caught up in it that you don’t think. It’s just your job, a great job.”

And for Witter, it’s always been about the live show.

“Performing live is why when I was 12 I wanted to play an instrument – the idea of being in front of others,” he says. “We’ve always enjoyed playing in Scotland as well, and we’ve only had one bad experience here.

“That was on our first tour in 1993 when we played King Tut’s in Glasgow as a support to Compulsion.

“They were very heavy and had different fans to us. We were the first band on, we’d done one song and there was a small applause. Then I heard someone in the crowd say, ‘F*** me, I wish I had a gun . . .’

“Scotland has always been very nice to us apart from that and we’ll just take it as it comes in Edinburgh. I feel good that people have taken time, and spent money, to come to see little old us.”

Shed Seven, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, tonight, 7pm, £18.50, 0844-847 1740