Interview from REMEMBERTHE80S website Dec 2006.
YOU HAVE RELEASED YOUR NEW ALBUM 'YOU'VE
GOT TO LAUGH' COMPLETELY INDEPENDENTLY HAVEN'T YOU? HOW HAS IT BEEN
NOT HAVING A LABEL BEHIND YOU?
The only real problem with me is that I do need someone to give me a
kick up the arse every now and again... I'm not one of life's most motivated
people and I do need the occasional kick! When you're with a record
company and you've got schedules in place - promotion dates and marketing
and all those things - then you have to get on with it, you're part
of that machine but when you're doing it yourself you're running the
machine so it goes at the speed you do, which is not always very fast!
SO IF YOU HAD BEEN ON A MAJOR LABEL FOR
THIS ALBUM WOULD IT HAVE COME OUT A LOT EARLIER?
It would have been out... well, five years ago - that's how long I've
been making it!
IS THERE A EVER A PROBLEM WITH DOING
IT YOURSELF IN THAT YOU CAN'T QUITE BRING YOURSELF TO CALL IT FINISHED?
Yeah, that's always a problem, particularly when you're producing your
own record which I've done on this one - and which I've done pretty
much since 'Radio Musicola'. You're kind of done when you haven't got
any new tracks left, but even that theory doesn't really work because
you can just make more tracks, so you have to sort of sit back and think
'does this stand on its own or does it really need some extra wobble-board'?
EVEN WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED IT MUST STILL
BE TEMPTING TO JUST GO BACK AND PUT IN A BIT OF EXTRA WOBBLE-BOARD HERE
The thing is that it can always be different, there's so many different
ways of skinning the cat. You commit to one way of doing something when
you start recording a track and you can get to the end of it and look
back and go 'instead of turning left back there I should have turned
right', so it is tempting to sort of dismantle it sometimes, and fix
bits and pieces... which I do, I must admit! But what I try to do is
to try and recognise when I'm at that stage - of picking things to pieces
- then I just forget about it and go and sit on a mountain or whatever
for two weeks and then come back and have another listen, and it's like
listening to someone else somehow and quite often that does the trick.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR EXPECTATIONS
FOR THIS ALBUM?
No I don't... I really don't... it's just kind of out there now and
it's available, kind of because there's no reason for it not to be.
It really is as simple as that. I've made the record - that's what I
do - and there it is, so if someone wants to listen to it that's great.
I'm not expecting anything. It would be nice to make it a financially
viable thing to do but I'm in a very fortunate position in that my back
catalogue - writing-wise, not recording-wise - is very, very healthy
and I have the luxury of being able to do this.
SO MANY OF THE ARTISTS I TALK TO ARE
IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS NOW
AND IT'S REALLY REFRESHING BECAUSE IT'S
ALMOST LIKE EVERYONE HAS BEEN UNBURDENED AND IS IN A POSITION WHERE
THEY CAN ACTUALLY MAKE THE MUSIC THEY WANT TO MAKE...
Yeah it's great. There are still people out there that even after all
these years still want to be seen at all the right parties and still
want to be in that space up there. The way that they feel about themselves
is so determined by it that they can't let that part of it go, but I
think a lot of us can let it go - we're not on the telly all the time
but it doesn't matter, and it doesn't matter that we don't get attention
all the time and that is a huge liberation, it really is.
NO-ONE LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER AND
ASKING WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO WRITE THE KILLER SINGLE, THE RADIO RECORD?
Yes absolutely... 'I can't hear a single'... well, that's because I
didn't make one!
I'M GUESSING THAT YOUR LAST CONTACT WITH
THE MAJOR LABEL INDUSTRY WAS LAST YEAR WHEN YOU RELEASED THE 'THEN AND
NOW' COMPILATION WHICH INCLUDED NEW SONGS ALONGSIDE THE OLDER STUFF?
Yeah, and that's another reason why this album took so long because
those four new tracks were from this album, so when we released them
on the compilation I had to replace those tracks!
WAS THAT WHOLE EXPERIENCE INSTRUMENTAL
IN MAKING THE DECISION TO TAKE THE INDEPENDENT ROUTE THIS TIME AROUND?
To an extent yeah, the problem with all major corporations is that they're
businesses - let's be fair about it - they're not there for your benefit
they just want to make money, and they don't just want to make a bit
of money they want to make lots of money. They don't want to make a
little bit of money and get by, that's not of the slightest interest
to them at all. But once you've accepted that it's not such a bitter
pill to swallow... I wasn't surprised at what happened and it just sort
of reconfirmed my theory that it's better to just disregard them altogether
and do it yourself.
YOU WERE PRETTY INVOLVED TOO WEREN'T
YOU? I REMEMBER YOU DID SOME SHOWS AND SOME RADIO SESSIONS AND STUFF
AND YOU WERE PRETTY MUCH BACK ON THE TREADMILL?
Well there's no point in not having a go at it. I was offered - I should
say 'promised' - gazillions of pounds of TV advertising around the release
so it would have been a bit churlish of me to sit back and say 'that's
fine but I'm just going to sit here on my arse while you do it'. You
have to have a go at it... I just wish they had had a go at it as well!
SHORTLY BEFORE THE 'THEN AND NOW' RELEASE
THERE WAS THE 'HERE & NOW' TOUR... WAS YOUR DECISION TO DO THAT
BASED IN ANY WAY ON UNIVERSAL'S DECISION TO REVISIT AND REWORK YOUR
CATALOGUE AND INTRODUCE YOU AS A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST?
I don't think that at any stage were Universal interested in me as a
contemporary artist, I think they just wanted to flog a load of back
catalogue, but that in turn would have been good for me as a contemporary
artist and that was the intention. But the tour and the compilation
didn't really run in tandem, we were talking to Universal when the 'Here
& Now' thing came about but it was obvious that they weren't really
going to get their arses into gear and do anything about it, so no...
the paths didn't really cross.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO DO 'HERE &
NOW'? I MEAN UP TO THAT POINT IT HAD BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME SINCE YOU'D
TOURED HADN'T IT?
Yeah, I was dragged kicking and screaming! It kind of got to the stage
that I'd turned it down so many times - and turned down equivalent things
so many times - that in the end I just kind of ran out reasons not to
do it you know? The final reason - apart from the fact that the money
was bloody good - was that it turned out to be a good laugh! Sometimes
that's all you need, to have a good laugh, and I needed one!
I INTERVIEWED MIDGE URE AROUND AROUND
Yeah? And he wasn't too sure about doing it either was he? Meeting him
at the press conference to announce the tour we both looked at each
other and he said 'I'm only doing this because they said you were doing
it' and I said 'Well I'm only doing it because they said you were doing
it'! But it was a good laugh. It was a pretty eclectic line-up but it
was good, even just sitting in the bar with everyone afterwards... 'Do
you remember the time when so-and-so did such-and-such?'...
WAS IT GRATIFYING TO GET OUT AND PLAY
THOSE SONGS TO SUCH BIG AUDIENCES?
Yeah it was, it was great to hear the old guitar bashing back off the
back-wall and to play places that size again, because you don't get
the same experience in working men's clubs or wherever... so that was
a bit of a treat and for twenty-minutes you could actually pretend they
were there to see you!
DO YOU THINK THAT HISTORY HAS BEEN KIND TO THE NIK KERSHAW STORY?
(laughs) Ummmm... to give you an answer to that would indicate that
I care! But I guess I do care... I don't care as much as I used to;
I used to feel that I was hugely misrepresented and hugely misunderstood,
which funnily enough is what everyone says! Part of it was my
own fault because I didn't really pay attention to how I was perceived
so I take the blame for some of that but in the end it doesn't matter
you know? All that really matters is whether you were good to your mates
and are your kids still talking to you...
YOU TOUCHED ON YOUR OWN PERCEPTION OF
YOURSELF, BUT - UNUSUALLY I THINK - YOU ARE ALSO VERY MUCH AN ARTIST
WHO IS HIGHLY RESPECTED BY OTHER ARTISTS, AS AN ARTIST AND AS A SONGWRITER...
Well that's nice to hear... it is nice to know because it doesn't seem
to be considered very important, especially as far as most of the press
is concerned where it's almost irrelevant what you're doing - all that
matters is who you are and who you're shagging. It's a comforting thought
that your work is probably going to be remembered longer than you are
so that's really the legacy to think about...
WELL YOU CERTAINLY HAVE A GREAT BODY
OF WORK, AND IN ADDITION TO YOUR SOLO STUFF THERE'S A PHENOMENAL LIST
OF OTHER ARTISTS YOU HAVE WORKED WITH...
Um, yeah... although you always think it could be more! But I have been
very lucky and I've been asked to do some great things.
WHEN YOU WRITE FOR OTHER PEOPLE DO YOU
WRITE WITH THEM IN MIND? USING THEIR VOICES ALMOST?
Well I haven't really done any writing for anyone else since I started
making my own records again but I think most writers will tell you that
it's usually pretty pointless just sitting down in front of a keyboard
or a guitar or a computer, writing a song, getting it demoed and then
expecting someone to just pick it up and record it... that very rarely
happens. Usually when a writer is writing a song there's a project in
mind, or they've been asked to do something specific with someone, the
co-write is the normal way of getting a song on a record nowadays, the
co-writer usually being the artiste who doesn't know how to write a
ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR THINGS THAT
STAND OUT FOR YOU, THINGS THAT YOU'D LIKE TO BE AMONG THOSE THAT PEOPLE
REMEMBER YOU FOR?
You know, that's why I keep going... because I haven't done it yet!
I keep thinking that I have to carry on with this because I still haven't
got it quite right, so you just keep on going... I suppose the next
question is if there's anything I wish I hadn't done?
ACTUALLY IT WASN'T, BUT SEEING
AS YOU BROUGHT IT UP...
Well I think that donning certain items of clothing... I don't really
want that on my tombstone, I think it would be a bit of shame if my
whole life was summed up by that!
GOING BACK TO THE WORK YOU'LL BE REMEMBERED
BY, AND THE DRIVE TO DO MORE THINGS TO TRY AND REACH THAT PEAK... DO
YOU THINK IT'S EVER ACTUALLY POSSIBLE TO REACH THAT POINT?
I don't know... I saw that 'classic albums' series that was on the telly
recently and one of the albums was 'Graceland' by Paul Simon, and I
sat there and watched Paul Simon at the mixing desk pushing up the faders
on one of the track - I think it was 'Call Me Al' - and he pushed the
fader up and looked at the bloke next to him with a real sad look in
his eye and said 'that's as good as it gets', and I thought 'shit, I
hope that never happens to me'...
THERE WAS A PERIOD FROM THE EARLY NINETIES
FOR ABOUT TEN YEARS WHEN YOU WERE WORKING WITH OTHER PEOPLE WHEN YOU
PRETTY MUCH STEPPED RIGHT OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT, SO WHAT WAS IT THAT
MADE YOU COME BACK AND START WORKING UNDER YOUR OWN NAME AGAIN?
Frustration I think, more than anything else... it was becoming increasingly
difficult to get heard. I was writing with loads of people, I was doing
a lot of work 99% of which never got heard, and I began to start projects
almost with that fatalistic resignation and just kind of going through
the motions because no-one was going to hear it. For various reasons,
politics whatever, artists you've worked a year with get dumped before
the record comes out, things like that... plus when you're writing for
other people you're never really following it through, you're never
really totally expressing yourself. You sort of half write a song and
give it to someone else and just kind of wave goodbye to it, and that
was frustrating. Plus there were certain things in my head, certain
songs that just no-one else could sing, they weren't commercial and
they were very specific in what they were - so I thought either I ignore
these songs or I record them, so I recorded them and once you've done
that what do you do with them? My former-manager persuaded me that I
should sign with Eagle Records and make an album with them which is
what I did.
AND AT THAT POINT, ALTHOUGH COMMERCIALLY
THE MATERIAL DIDN'T PERFORM AS WELL AS SOME OF YOUR EARLIER WORK, CRITICALLY
THOSE RECORDS WERE INCREDIBLY WELL RECEIVED...
They were, I've still got the 4-star Q reviews on the wall! But all
that kind of thing is so luck of the draw, it depends who gets to review
your record and whether they're on your side or not...
NOW THE NEW ALBUM IS OUT AND AVAILABLE
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT? WILL THERE BE ANY GIGS OR ANYTHING?
Probably not... I don't think so. You know, I like to do things properly
and I don't think I could do a gig at a a level that I think would satisfy
me. I'm not just talking about physically how many people would be watching
but really just how much money I would have to spend to make it look
and sounds like I want it to look and sound. The alternative to that
is to do what Midge Ure does and pick up a guitar and just drive up
and down the M1 which I admire him immensely for doing, but for me I
just can't get my head around doing that. So no there are no plans but
I can never say never. I can never say for certain it won't happen.
I've never been great at making plans or following them...
ANYTHING ELSE PLANNED?
I'm just seeing how this goes, I don't have a lot of choice about whether
I'm going to carry on writing or making records, that just takes care
of itself. If a song turns up it just demands to be written or recorded
and if I don't record a song it just bugs me and I won't sleep properly
until I put it down and exorcise it. So I think that will always happen
- I will always write and make records - but what I do with them and
who I do it with is another matter...