Paul Banks co-founded his own film production company in 2007, after being the lead guitarist and songwriter for Shed Seven. In September 2017, the band’s brand new single has launched - their first in 16 years - and we absolutely love it! We caught up with Paul to discuss the new album, and what it’s like to juggle life as a creative director and member of a UK touring band, Shed Seven.
1. Since establishing Digifish Ltd in 2007, what inspired you to launch a new album with Shed Seven in 2017?
2007 was quite a year for me! Not only was it the year we established Digifish, but it was also the year Shed Seven got back together. It started out as a reunion tour to perform a few gigs over December time, but it caught us all a little bit by surprise! I remember the tickets going on sale for our planned six gigs and within minutes they had all sold out and we suddenly had to upgrade the tour to twenty five gigs! It was a real success, so we decided to turn it into a bi-annual Christmas tradition, and we’ve since performed every year since 2007, while in the opposite years doing festivals.
We’ve always gone out as more of a nostalgia act, and people have responded really well to it. The shows and the tours have just kept getting bigger, so much that the last tour we did in 2015 was the biggest tour that we have done to date. I remember in rehearsals for our 2015 show, we started playing around with some new ideas and it just kind of happened completely out of the blue. We thought: shall we take this seriously and start focusing on song writing again? So we did it, and the magic just seemed to come back. Here we are now, two years later, signed to BMG, a major record company, about to release our first album in sixteen years. I think the inspiration has come from the fact that people still seem to really love the band, and we hope people like the new album!
2. We love the new single! Have you had to change your style very much to produce a record in 2017?
Not at all. Even back when we were writing in the 90’s, our approach has always been to write whatever comes naturally. We’ve never set out to write a specific song in a particular style. But that said, your own personal taste in music does have an influence on the music that you’re writing. Of course, the music Rick and I are listening to in 2017 are different to what we listened to twenty years ago, and that has bound to have an influence on the songs we are writing. But we have had really positive feedback from people in the industry who have heard the new songs, saying it sounds like Shed Seven but really fresh and current, so I think that is just happening very naturally and I hope the Shed Seven fans have a similar thought process when they hear it.
3. How long does it take to write a new song?
There is honestly no fixed answer to this. Some songs just seem to appear out of nowhere, and it’s often those that can be the better songs! Our biggest song to date is called “Chasing Rainbows”, which we wrote on a tour bus sat outside a gig in Germany back in 1996. The song was literally written in ten minutes and I think we even played it that night! Likewise, there is a single on this new album called “Better Days”, which is one of the biggest songs off the record and again, it just appeared sat down at the piano one evening.
Whereas other songs turn into a bit of a labour of love. You might write a verse or a chorus and then you park it for several months before you revisit it. It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle and you don’t realise you are putting it altogether. Its only two to three years later after the album is finished that you look back and think ‘gosh that’s a real body of work!’. It’s amazing how we have put it altogether.
4. Where are you most excited to perform on your tour this year?
That’s a very difficult one to answer. In all honesty, I am just excited to perform on the tour in general. Let’s be honest, I never thought I would still be doing this in 2017! We’ve sold over 50,000 tickets, which is just incredible numbers. Thirty shows, six weeks, going out there with my mates and performing to bigger and bigger crowds - that’s what most excites me.
5. Who inspired you to get into music and filmmaking along the way?
I take my inspiration from everywhere, but there have certainly been a few milestones along the way. But chronically, since I was eight years old, guitarist Andy Taylor from Duran Duran made me want to pick up the guitar. It was then Charlie Burchill from Simple Minds when I was age twelve that made me start focusing on it, and when I was a teenager, I started getting into The Smiths, Johnny Marr and Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin - it was those guys that really turned the heat up. They’re still an inspiration for me today.
I’ve always loved making films. It’s interesting really, because I once said to my career’s advisor at school: ‘I want to be a rock star.’ He said: ‘Don’t be stupid’. So I said, ‘I’ll be a cameraman for the BBC then’. But it was actually my dad who inspired me; he had a Super 8 Cine camera when I was growing up, that I always enjoyed using - but it only came out in the summer holidays. That was back when we were shooting on film and there would be that thrill of filming something and waiting a few weeks to get it developed. My dad would then get out the screen and projector and we’d sit and watch the films. I loved that is was so creative.
6. How do you manage to juggle being a creative director of a film production company, along with being a member of Shed Seven?
It’s tough. But I do think there is a lot of synergy between both roles. Both of them allow me to be creative, whether I’m writing a song or we’re putting a film together, it’s still following a creative vision that you’ve got for something. So in terms of juggling the two, it’s not too much of a stretch. However in terms of time management, I am just really fortunate now that in ten years we’ve managed to build Digifish up to the size and the scale that it is and I’ve just surrounded myself by a hugely talented team of creative people. It’s all about sharing a vision that you’ve got for films and allowing other people to input into that. It’s tough, but actually I feel one feeds the other.
7. Was it difficult having your team at Digifish work on your own music video for Shed Seven?
No not at all. I think it’s worked absolutely beautifully.
There was only ever one thought process: that it was going to be the team at Digifish that worked on the music video. What we were able to do, working within an incredibly tight budget, was in all honesty about calling in a lot of favours that we’ve done over the years to people. Most of the actors that were in the film were people we have worked with before, and all of the crew that worked on the video were people that we’ve worked with time and time again. During the pre-production and on the filming day itself, it felt like everything that we’ve learnt as a team over the last ten years we put into that one project. It didn’t just feel like we were there to make the best video for Shed Seven, but it felt like all the guys that were working on it were pulling out all of the stops to make it the best thing that we’ve ever done. I have massive respect to everyone that was involved.
8. Were you involved in the editing process for the new music video?
Yes, I was. I absolutely love editing - that’s been my speciality for years. I know the music and it just seemed to make a lot of sense that I should take on that role.
9. Aside from creating music and directing your own company, name a hobby that none of us would have known about before now.
Well I’m incredibly fortunate that both my hobbies are what I do for my job!
But if I had to pick something else… Cooking. I like cooking. There you go - is that a hobby? If it’s not a hobby, it is now. I like cooking.
10. What are your long term goals with Shed Seven and Digifish?
I’ve always set out with everything I do to just take it as far as I possibly can. That’s a shared vision for both Digifish and Shed Seven. I’m never just satisfied, I want to see if we can push things to the next level. With Digifish, I want to keep growing the company, investing in people, investing in technology, and pushing the boundaries of what types of films we can make and to keep delivering great films for our clients. With Shed Seven, I want to see if we can try and achieve more than we did back in the day. I want to make sure the album sells more than the last one, I want to do bigger shows, and I want more people to hear what we’re doing. It’s that thought process that drives me, and I still have masses of passion for both Digifish and Shed Seven.