They may not be a household name yet but if the determination of Wigan band Witness eventually matches their success they will soon be shifting millions of records. 

The group recently released their debut album after years spent rehearsing and gigging in the town's pubs. Guitarist Ray Chan from Winstanley, back home after spending a few days in Canada filming a video for Hijacker, their forthcoming single, has been in bands since his late teens and singer Gerard began the rounds at 16. 

Ray, who used to work at the Virgin Cinema on Robin Park, said he was still amazed how far Witness had come in the last 12 months. 

They signed a six-album deal with a major label island records, appeared on Later with Jools Holland alongside the likes of Suede and Garbage and have received rave reviews from every music magazine under the sun.

 "It's still hard to believe" said Ray "you spend years being in a band around Wigan, playing in front of your mates and suddenly you get more than 100 people at your gigs. On Jools Holland we were really nervous. we were sat in between Suede and Garbage and we were thinking how did we get up here?"

 Witness' big break came 2 years ago when they went down to London to watch Oasis. Ray a friend of Nick McCabe's since studying Art at Wigan Tech. college began talking to someone who did press for the Verve. He passed on a demo tape and week later they were signed to Island. 

Ray, as down to earth pop star as you would ever hope to meet said "We never thought we would ever get signed. at the most we were hoping for a small indie label to sign us. All of a sudden we were thinking what's going on here? We just sat back with big grins on our faces" The band released a limited edition single Quarantine on an indie label last November and followed it up in 1999 with the 2 singles Scars and Audition, and the release of their album, Before the Calm, which got 9/10 in Nme. Witness' brand of melancholy lo-fi rock is yet to grab the record buying public, the album failing to make the top 40 - but Ray says he isn't concerned. "We are happy doing what we do. We'll see after the album whether the record company are happy as well. We don't think we've got to write a pop tune. All you hope to do is write the tracks and record them the way you want."

Ray, 28 a former Rose bridge high school pupil thinks the secret of their success is the fact they took time to endlessly rehearse. The band still rehearse in Higher Ince and will be releasing their new single in the autumn and playing Reading.

Taken from, the Wigan Evening Post.