'80s - Nik Kershaw (2013)
'Rock Of Ages - Nik Kershaw Cranks It To Ei8ht!'
Nik Kershaw was born in Bristol in 1958. His formative years were spent in Ipswich where he discovered his love for music.
In 1978, after three years working as a civil servant, he turned professional, serving his apprenticeship playing guitar in jazz fusion and functions bands.
He signed with MCA Records in 1983 and released his debut album Human Racing in 1984. It achieved multi platinum sales and launched Nik's career worldwide. The equally successful The Riddle followed and, in July 1985, he took the Wembley stage to perform at Live Aid.
In 1990, after four MCA albums and sales of over 8 million, Nik left the spotlight to concentrate on song writing and producing. The following years saw him working with Elton John, Chesney Hawkes, Cliff Richard, Bonnie Tyler, Lulu, Ronan Keating, Jason Donovan, Tony Banks, Michael W Smith, Conner Reeves, Nick Carter, The Hollies, Colin Blunstone, Imogen Heap, Gary Barlow and Let Loose.
He rekindled his recording career in 1998 with the critically acclaimed album 15 Minutes and has subsequently released five more albums: To Be Frank (2001), You've Got To Laugh (2006), the acoustic sets No Frills (2009) and Akoustnik (2011), and the just-released, and aptly entitled Ei8ht (2012).
News just in: As of 12 August 2013, Universal (UK) announced that there will be a re-mastered version of The Riddle in stores!
Having been a fan of Nik's since day one (back in the UK) and having interviewed him on and off throughout the years, I recently had the chance again to sit down with the man to talk about all things Kershaw.
It's been said that your new album Ei8ht contains 11 original "real life" songs - does that mean each story sung is a true one that relates to you personally? "Yes. It's the laziest form of songwriting. No research necessary!"
Understandable. OK, so with that being the case please explain the real life origins behind these four (4) new songs:
1) 'Runaway' - "Doesn't everybody feel like running away from themselves at some point in their lives? Wouldn't it be brilliant if you could just dump all your baggage and become someone else, at least for a few weeks? It would save fortunes in therapy. It's not by any means an original idea for a song. There was a country song called 'If You Leave Me Can I Come To' in he seventies and Mental As Anything had a hit with the same title in the eighties."
2) 'Shoot Me' - "When I was in my teens, I remember looking at anyone over 30 years-old and wondered why they even bothered getting out of bed each morning. What was the point? What a sad existence they must lead. They are not down with the kids, they don't know what's going on, who's in, who's out. What makes their lives worth living? And, as for anyone in their 50s, well shoot me if I ever get like that!"
"But now that I'm 55 I see teenagers looking at me in exactly the same way! Actually, I'm very happy and not at all bothered by the fact I don't know what's going on most of the time. What matters to them just doesn't matter to me. So please don't shoot me."
3) 'Enjoy The Ride' - "Nothing particularly original about this one. It's the journey, not the destination, etc. etc. I'm not trying to preach to anyone, just giving myself a gentle reminder."
4) 'The Bell' - "This is just about recognising and savouring special moments as and when they occur. It's the life you want to see flashing before your eyes just before you pop your clogs!"
Complete with, as ever, intelligent lyrics, the styles and influences do seem to be scattered on Ei8ht. Genre hopping from rock to folk to pop, etc., what were you yourself aiming for thematically? "There was never a plan, as such. There never is nowadays! I just mess about in the studio until I've got a body of work that might be considered worthy of the description "Album." I've never been tied to any particular genre and there are no commercial considerations any more. So the only important thing is whether I like it or not."
Being that this is indeed your eighth album, why simply name it Ei8ht? Did you have an actual title to call it before you finally settled on Ei8ht, perhaps? "It was partly laziness, but none of the track titles leapt out as contenders for the album title. That would've made the album about that particular song and I didn't want that."
Even after all these years your voice is so distinctive. That must make playing these '80s Festivals in the UK such a pleasure - given that you've not lost the one thing that everybody loved "I'm extremely lucky. I haven't done anything special to look after it over the years. It's just as well because I certainly don't look anything like I did back then! So there's this bemused expression on people's faces when I walk on stage that disappears as soon as I open my mouth!"
And with regard these '80s Festivals and such in the UK, will you ever come to the US and grace us with a Nik Kershaw greatest hits tour, perhaps? "A greatest hits tour of the U.S. would be a short one, indeed! I am well aware of the faithful few but the U.S. was one of the countries I never enjoyed chart sucess. No promoter in his right mind would be able or willing to guarantee me the ticket sales necessary to fund such a venture. A big shame though. I really loved my limited gigging experiences over there in the 80s."
Is there already a follow-up to Ei8ht in the works, perhaps? "I'm writing songs but I've no idea whey I'm writing them! They may end up on an album (maybe not mine?) or they may end up on the shelf or as part of a side project. I'm sure there will be another album but I'm looking for an angle, a way into a new, different project."
OK then, so being that we chat like this every two years or so, what's something new, something different, something exciting you can reveal that you ordinarily wouldn't in a regular interview?! "I'm thinking of forming a prog rock band. There, I've said it out loud!"
Talking of touring, you've also been doing solo tours in support of the entire Human Racing re-released 2-CD album. I hear you've been singing the entire album from track one onwards, the way you would listen to it on your stereo! How much fun has that been to revisit such a career-defining album after all these years? "It was great revisiting some of those songs. Obviously, I've continued to play the singles over the years but I hadn't performed some of the album tracks since 1985. The best thing was that pretty much everyone in the crowd bought the album back in 1984 and knew every word."
And, with regard that album, HR is a perfect counterbalance of techno drums, synths, heavy guitars and wonderful literacy, all bound together by some of the catchiest melodies pop has ever known! It must be your personal album favorite - or maybe not? "It was my first and most successful album, It changed everything for me. It's very special to me but that's not to say it's my favourite musically. I've learned a lot since then."
To this day, from those ten tracks, which one is your personal fav to still play live? "I still love launching into the first few chords of 'Wouldn't It Be Good.' I've tinkered with most of the other tracks over the years, just trying to keep them interesting. But 'W.I.B.G.' has stayed pretty much the same. It just works."
You seem to be a HUGE Tweeter these days! Has this modern age media outlet become a big addiction for you, perhaps? "On the contary, Sarah keeps having to threaten to stop buying me wine if I don't Tweet! I'm not too bad if there's actually something going on that I think people might be interested in but I struggle if not. Most people's lives are at least 80% mundanity. Mine is no exception. Social media is designed to make everybody think that everybody else is having more fun than they are! I'm buggered if I'm going to start Tweeting pictures of my lunch just because I can't think of anything intelligent to say!"
On Twitter you mentioned the great gig in Shepherds Bush, London and suggested it might have a DVD released of it - is that true, and if so, when can we expect to see it in the stores? "Having never done it before, I hadn't quite realised how much work filming, editing, mixing, post producing and authoring a live DVD involved! Especially when you're doing it with your own bijou record company! Safe to say it will make a lovely Christmas present for the one you love ths Christmas (if not earlier)."
Finally, Elton John once said that you were "one of the best songwriters of a generation." Knowing you still strive today for musical excellence, and that you have never let your fans down with the effort you put into your albums, what would he say about you today? "I wish I had Elton's creative energy. He never stops. I've no idea what he'd say now. Maybe we could get our boys together for a playdate?!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Ei8ht CD Purchase Link
So, if you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Nik Kershaw's new CD, Ei8ht, or even the 2-CD UK-only Human Racing: Deluxe Edition, and you think you know all there is to know about the man himself, just answer this easy question: In support of Nik Kershaw's second album The Riddle, he toured extensively with his backing band. Featuring Keith Airey, Tim Moore, Mark Price and Dennis Smith, what were they lovingly known as?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful new AUTOGRAPHED CDs (it will be our choice as to whether it will be Ei8ht or Human Racing! Just send us an e:mail here before October 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: NIK KERSHAW AUTOGRAPHED CDs to: email@example.com