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BBC RADIO SUFFOLK By Stephen Foster - August 2005

Many thanks to Paul Double for this interview.

This month Stephen Poster talks to eighties pop star Nik Kershaw. Universal Music recently issued new Kershaw compilation called "Then And Now" which Includes some new songs as well as all his hits. Essex-based Nik has fond memories of his days on the Ipswich music scene as Foz found out when he popped into BBC Radio Suffolk studios for a chat.

Stephen: Before we talk about the new album, take us back to the local music scene and where it all started for you.
Nik: I got together with a mate of mine Russell Chesterman who had an electric guitar and I sang a bit then learnt the guitar. The first band we had was called Thor and our first gig was at Rushmere Village Hall. We played some Bowie and T-Rex songs. I must have been about 15 or 16 at the time.
Stephen: I remember seeing you on a Sunday night at what was then The Mulberry Tree with the jazz-rock band Fusion.
Nik: Yeah, that would have been a few years later. I left school halfway through my A levels. Why I don't know. I think I was going to join a rock band and tour the world, as you do, and ended up working in an unemployment benefit office for three years then joined Fusion. I would have been around 20 at the time.
nik and stephen
Stephen: I remember you as the quiet one with the guitar, quite shy on stage in fact.
Nik: I used to stand at the back, and as long as I had somewhere to put my pint that was all I needed. What a lot of people didn't know was that Fusion earned it's money not at those gigs but as a function band playing anything from Boney M to Cole Porter. That paid the rent enabling us to play Weather Report, Steely Dan and ali that stuff on a Sunday night. We did that for about 3 years.
Stephen: Reg Webb was in Fusion with you and played on some of your solo stuff later as well.
Nik: Yes. Reg played on Human Racing. In fact he played just about everything on that track. I still keep in touch with Reg. He lives in Colchester now.
Stephen: Was he an important figure for you at the time?
Nik: He was yeah. He was almost like a champion of mine. When I first joined Fusion he was very patient with me as I had never been anywhere near a jazz chord in my life and rarely ventured up the dusty end of the guitar! He taught me a hell of a lot about jazz and music in general. I learned a great deal in those three years.
Stephen: Half Pint Hog was another local group you played with.
Nik: Yeah, Half Pint Hog. That carne after Thor but again it was a similar kind of repertoire - a bit prog, and a bit heavy metal and a bit David Bowie and a bit of everything really. But we did start writing songs at that point and I started writing bits and pieces. Then there was the abbreviated version Hog. We used to rehearse at the cement works at Claydon.
Stephen: How did the deal with MCA come about, because that would have taken a few people by surprise locally I should think?
Nik: Well Fusion split up in '82 because we just ran out of work. I was on the dole for about a year during which lime I really seriously got into writing and I tried all the usual channels, sending tapes to publishers, tapes to record companies and got all the usual rejection slips that I still have filed away somewhere. Out of desperation I put an advert in Melody Maker for management and along came this geezer called Micky Modern who managed Mine Below Zero and within about two months he got me the deal with MCA at which time I had moved away from Ipswich.
Stephen: Were any of the hit singles written while you were in Ipswich?
NikNo they were mainly written in a rented bungalow that seemed to be made out old cardboard and polystyrene because it was the coldest house I have ever lived in. It was owned by a farmer in Little Yeldham near Sudbury. Most of them were written there on a Portastudio. In fact they all were. All the songs on that album were written there.
Stephen: Having those hit singles some 20 years ago now must have changed your life. There was no looking back after that I take it.
Nik: No, you don't have a lot of choice. It's a runaway train. There's nothing you can do about it, once it's rolling you don't have an option to stop it. It will stop of its own accord eventually but you don't know that at the time.
Stephen: I know you have had your frustrations with the music business in recent years but here you are back with a new album of sorts. It's a compilation with some new tracks on there and it's on a major label.
Nik: Yeah, I was making records again from about '98 with a small label called Eagle Records and I was in the process of making another album when Universal called me up and said look we have all this back catalogue from MCA do you fancy promoting a TV advertised 'best of with new tracks? It seemed rude to say no really.
Stephen: And the industry has changed a great deal since the 80's, the way records are sold and the different formats, now has it been for you with the publicity a second time around?
Nik: It seems like you have do to ten times as much to reach half as many people with so many satellite channels. You used to be able to do one national TV and you got to a hell of a lot of people. You can't really do that anymore. That's one thing. Then there's downloads, the internet, and there's now all sorts of ways of getting music to people which is a good thing if you haven't got a major record deal because you can still get to people. So it's changed but I don't think the idea has changed much in that you have people who want to express themselves through music and they are still being able to do it even if it's in spite of the music business sometimes.
Stephen: You are still writing new songs. Did you ever stop writing?
Nik: No, I had a few sort of barren periods, I think that's inevitable what with different things going on in your life. When I stopped recording in '89 I spent the next 7 or 8 years writing and producing for other people. You don't get much of a choice when songs come into your head and if you don't write them down the ideas will torment you for the rest of your life. It's almost like exorcising the ideas. You just don't sleep. It's like a curse really (laughing). I'II always be writing and if I'm not it's because I have no ideas which is fine.
Stephen: With all your success over the years, do you still hanker after another hit?
Nik: No, and I really mean that although people don't believe me, but I know the upheaval it would bring especially with me and having a family. You kind of grow to love obscurity and love the simple things like shopping in Tescos or sitting having a meal in peace and they really are precious things. Not that I am moaning about what I have had over the years as I have got a hell of a lot out of my success and people buying my records and that's great. It would be nice to know that you were appreciated but a hit single. No I'm not fussed about that at all.
Stephen: Well the charts have changed so much in recent years, they're hardly the same set-up anymore.
Nik: The chart, especially the singles chart, is so aimed at a demographic of up to the age of 25 anyway so I'm not bothered about being in there.
Stephen: What did you make of the programme 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' because a number of your fellow 80's stars took pati in that?
Nik: I was asked. In fact I don't know anybody who wasn't!, My problem with it was I looked at it and thought, it's Saturday night, on ITV, just before Celebrity Wrestling. I was just imagining what it would look like. With those shows you have to tow the line and I just thought of having to appear at the back of the stage with a puff of smoke announcing Tonight Mathew I am going to be Howard Jones'. Well I thought there wasn't any way for me to come out of that without looking desperate and I'm not desperate. I know a lot of people on that show and the are not desperate either but that's how it carne across.
Stephen: Hmm. What for the future then Nik? Are you planning to go out on tour to promote this compilation?
Nik: No plans really, not at the moment I'm just seeing how it goes. I have been doing a few little acoustic gigs which is a new thing for me and a lot of fun. I might do some more of those. l'd love to be able to get the band together and go and make some noise somewhere sure. It's chicken and egg really, if there's an audience there we'll do it.
Stephen: We must mention the new songs on the album as it's not just the hits. There's new material too. Are they recent songs?
Nik: Well three of them were from the album I was making last year anyway that got shelved and one of them is just out of nappies, it's about a month old.
Stephen: Thanks for coming in to BBC Radio Suffolk to talk to us.

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