If you know Nik Kershaw, then you appreciate good music. Plain and simple. However, Kershaw puts it best, that “My kids only know I’m famous because their friend’s parents tell them.” It’s understandable Ð a younger generation may be ignorant to all that this artist has accomplished. Seems to me that we’re due for a lesson:
- His January 1984 hit, “Wouldn’t it be Good,” landed at No.4 on the UK charts for five weeks.
- Later that year, Nik achieved platinum sales in several territories.
- He followed this up with four more hit singles and another platinum album, “The Riddle.”
- In 1985, Kershaw scored three more hit singles, and even played his own world tour.
More recently, in 2001 Kershaw released “To Be Frank.” He has now followed that critically acclaimed album up with his latest release “You’ve Got to Laugh,” a record that is sure to stand out among a stellar collection. Unlike other Kershaw albums, this record was released independently with “absolutely no commercial pressure or influence,” truly allowing Nik to express his wonderful capability.
If you get have the opportunity to see Nik Kershaw live, take it. I love how he describes the live experience, “The worst part is the feeling of being out of control; the sense that, any second now, it could all go horribly and catastrophically wrong. The best thing is the feeling of being out of control; the sense that, any second now, it could all go horribly and catastrophically wrong.” Can it be said any better? Read on for more from XXQ’s.
XXQs: Nik Kershaw
PEV: How and when did you first get involved in music?
Nik Kershaw (NK): I didn’t actually start until I was 14. I had a mate who had just bought a guitar and amp. We used to spend every Sunday afternoon going through T Rex and Bowie covers.
PEV: What were the earlier days like for your music? When you were just starting out and getting into the music business.
NK: My first professional experience came when I joined a local functions band. We used to earn a living playing anything from Cole Porter to “The Birdie song”. We used to keep ourselves sane by playing Jazz-fusion gigs.
PEV: No stranger to recording studios, what was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music?
NK: I was like a kid in a candy store. It was exiting but, at the same time, I felt incredibly comfortable and at home. It was Marcus Studios in London. We were recording tracks with the “functions band” I mentioned earlier. The keyboard player, Reg Webb, had his own management deal and we were recording his songs. I remember Gary Numan was there at the same time. He was number one with “Our friends Electric”. That should date it for you.
PEV: Tell us about your first live performance on stage. What was going through your head? NK: Why are all these young girls screaming at me?
PEV: What can people expect from your latest release, “You’ve Got To Laugh”?
NK: If people are familiar with the last two albums, there won’t be too many surprises. If they’re not, it will be almost unrecognizable from my 80s output.
PEV: How is “You’ve Got To Laugh” different from your 2001’s critically acclaimed “To Be Frank”?
NK: Being my first totally independent release, there was absolutely no commercial pressure or influence on “You’ve Got To Laugh”. The result of this is a distinct absence of radio friendliness and rather more guitar solos than usual.
PEV: From your first start in music, how has your music/sound changed over the years?
NK: I don’t think the music itself has changed much at all. There are still words, melodies, harmony and counterpoint. Technology and the business have changed out of all recognition. I don’t even consider myself part of the business anymore.
PEV: Is there someone you haven’t worked/collaborated with that you would like to?
NK: What you’re actually asking me for is a wish list. None of these collaborations would be likely to happen. All my choices would be selfish ones. I would just like to be in the same room as these people to learn from them. The list would be endless, but to give you some idea…Rufus Wainright, Neil finn, Paul SimonÉ
PEV: What were some of the early artists that inspired you and help to shape your sound?
NK: I think the first things you’re exposed to as a kid stick with you. For me it was Bowie (Ziggy and Aladdin Sane) and Mark Bolan. When I actually started playing music, it was Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Then there was my Jazz-fusion period when the likes of Weather Report and Steely Dan got into my head.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?
NK: I think it would’ve been at school. I knew what I wanted to do and was determined to do it. I quit school halfway through my A levels (exams when you’re 18) because I didn’t think I was learning anything that would ever be of use to me. In retrospect, it was a pretty stupid and naive thing to do but I was I had all the arrogance of youth behind me.
PEV: Is there another artist/band on the scene right now that you think is “on the rise” and we should all be looking out for?
NK: I’m shamefully out of touch when it comes to what’s going on at the moment. If I give you a name, you’ll probably tell me they’ve been around for years.
PEV: What can people expect from a live Nik Kershaw performance?
NK: They can expect water skiing giraffes and naked cheese tasting. What they’ll actually get is a different matterÉProbably me playing the guitar a bit and singing some songs.
PEV: What is the best and worst part about playing live? Why?
NK: The worst part is the feeling of being out of control; the sense that, any second now, it could all go horribly and catastrophically wrong. The best thing is the feeling of being out of control; the sense that, any second now, it could all go horribly and catastrophically wrong.
PEV: It seems that you have traveled everywhere, how has life on the road been for you?
NK: I’m reminded of a great quote from Charlie Watts: “I’ve been in this business 25 years and I’ve spent 20 of them hangin’ about”. He was talking about touring. Hanging about in hotels, hanging about in airports, hanging about on tour busses, hanging about in TV studios, hanging about backstage. What most people don’t seem to realize is that, most of the time, it’s mind numbingly boring. Apart from the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, that is.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Nik Kershaw?
NK: I cheat at Scrabble.
PEV: When you get to relax or have some down time, what can we find you doing?
NK: Apart from Scrabble? I play a bit of Golf (badly).
PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?
NK: It was very weird at first. I lost quite a few friends because they thought success had changed me whereas, I believe that my success changed the way they behaved towards me. Some friends you just grow apart from for the simple reason that you’re never around. My parents thought it was great, although they did have to change their telephone number a few times. My kids only know I’m famous because their friend’s parents tell them.
PEV: In all your travels (US or International), which city has been your favorite to play? Why?
NK: Tokyo was amazing because it was the first time I’d been exposed to such a different culture. As far as the gigs go, Dublin Stadium in 1984 was pretty unforgettable. Those guys were nuts.
PEV: When you write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?
NK: I’m very easily distracted so, if I’m writing on my own, I have to have complete quite and solitude. If I’m co-writing, it’s a different matter. Sometimes you can’t choose where you are. If you get an idea while you’re driving a car or walking down a busy street, you just have to let it happen.
PEV: So, what is next for Nik Kershaw?
NK: Who knows? I’m not one of life’s great planners. I just wander about aimlessly bumping into things. There’ll be another album at some point. I do know that much.