'80s - Nik Kershaw (2006)
'No Longer A Riddle!'
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, Connah 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 two albums.
He has received accolades from such legends as Eric Clapton and Miles Davis and has been nominated for four Brit Awards.
Chatting one-on-one with the great man himself, and with regard his new album 'You've Got To Laugh,' I noticed that some of the tracks lyrically stood out more than others. None more so than 'I Hope You're Happy Now' which boasts of being up for a fight! So, I first asked Nik what had brought about this song and, in general if he was a lover or a fighter? [Nik Kershaw] "In real life I’m a complete coward. If you’re 5’4”, you don’t get to the age of 50 without learning how to avoid a fight. Everyone has their breaking point and this guy pushed me to mine but, instead of getting myself beaten up, I went home and wrote a song about him. It’s a win, win conclusion: I get a good song out of it whilst retaining the use of all my limbs."
Another lyrically poignant track is 'Born Yesterday.' An observant track that relates the pleasures of naked innocence and such, if you could change anything that has been and gone re: your career choices/paths undertaken, what would it/they be? "Generally speaking, I wish I’d enjoyed the good stuff more and stressed about the bad stuff less. I think it can be quite destructive and pointless regretting specific events. The song is just saying “wouldn’t it be great if someone could wave a magic wand and all your baggage disappeared”. Of course, you can find out what this would actually be like by flying British Airways."
I love the flow of the song 'Loud, Proud, Confident and Wrong,' but midway thru it seems to point directly at the man in question being the President of the United States, George W. Bush! True or false?! "True. Strangely, I’ve only received one piece of negative mail from a US citizen over this (I was expecting much more). The chap in question seemed to think I (a brit) had no right criticising his president. What he failed to realise is that I (a brit), along with everyone else on this planet, has been directly affected by his foreign policy."
"Every time I get on the London Underground, pass through an airport or put petrol in my car, Mr Bush’s handy work is apparent. Because of this, I think I’m entitled to an opinion. That’s not to say there weren’t British politicians complicit in the whole thing. I’m currently writing a song about Blair called “Smoke & Mirrors”."
With such an album title as this it truly begs the question of 'What makes Nik Kershaw laugh'? Are there certain comedians or TV shows that just crack you up, perhaps? "I love a lot of US sitcoms (just trying to head off the hate mail). Becker, Frazier et al. The writing is consistently good. King of all is The Simpsons of course. My friends make me laugh. Most of them have the same warped sense of humour. Ricky Gervais is a genius."
I was chatting with Curt Smith (Tears For Fears) recently and he mentioned that you and he have something in common - that you both have written and worked with 'the one and only' Chesney Hawkes! What was it about the guy that had successful singer/songwriters working with him on a regular basis back then? "Apart from anything else, he’s a great bloke and remains one of my closest friends. Ches got a bad rap as a recording artist. He was unfortunate enough to have a massive hit with someone else’s song (mine) which was always going to be difficult to follow. He’s a very talented guy and has one of the most extraordinary voices ever worked with."
Do you ever reflect back on what Half Pint Hogg could have been had you all stayed together?! "Nope!"
It was with help from Nine Below Zero's manager, Micky Modern that you signed to MCA Records in the early '80s. Being that they are one of my fav bands ever have you managed to stay in touch with Mickey after all these years? "Me and Mickey parted company in 1990 when I stopped recording. I didn’t feel I needed management any more. We teamed up again in 1998 when I started recording again but we’ve since gone our separate ways."
In truth, I guess the biggest question about your past that I can ask you is this: Back in 1990, and after four successful albums, multiple money-earning tours and sales of over 8 million, why did you suddenly leave the spotlight ... and (as it turned out) for so many years? What happened back in 1990 to you that made you want to step back so badly from all that success never to step back into such a white hot spotlight again? "I was half pushed and I half jumped. I was supporting Elton John on a European tour at the time, promoting “The works” album. I’d disappeared to the states to record that album and came back to find everybody I knew at MCA records had either been fired or had left of their own accord. I didn’t know anyone there and there was no one championing my cause."
"It was obvious when I was on tour that the album wasn’t selling and I wasn’t surprised that, when I came back to London, I was told that my services were no longer required. This coincided with me becoming particularly disillusioned with the whole “record/tour/record/tour” cycle. I’d just become a dad and wanted to be around to watch him grow up so I decided not to go looking for a new deal and to concentrate on writing and production instead."
To this day which of your hits can you easily listen to on the radio when in comes on ... and which do you have to turn off immediately ... and why the latter?! "I’ve no problem listening to “Wouldn’t It Be Good”, but “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” makes my toes curl. When I originally wrote the sun it was a very understated, folky protest song. During the course of recording, we managed to turn it into a cheesy pop anthem. There was an A&R man breathing down our neck saying “ the vocals in the chorus need to be louder” so we made them louder . . . . much louder."
OK, once and for all ... is it true that 'The Riddle' was a song you rushed lyrically to meet a deadline, actually then liked what you had produced, named it that due to its gibberish for lyrics, and sent it to MCA thereafter?! "Once and for all (again), it’s all true. The Riddle was the last song I wrote for that album and we were due in the studio so I wrote a nonsense lyric. When we recorded it, I put a guide vocal down with this lyric, fully intending to replace it later. When it came to rerecording it, we were so use to the nonsense that it just didn’t sound right so we ended up keeping it. I can’t remember whose idea it was to call it 'The Riddle'."
Also, is it true you have an alter ego within yourself named Frank?! And if so, did Frank write any of your hit songs without you knowing at the time, perhaps?! "I do indeed have an alter ego called Frank. He sits on my shoulder telling me I’m shit. Contrary to him writing any of my songs, he’s probably responsible for me not writing quite a lot. Fortunately, he’s not around much these days."
I'm sure you've been asked to join these Bands From The '80s Tours that have hit both the UK and our US shores recently, so why have you turned them all down thus far? Trust me, the US of A would love to have you over here playing live soon "I fought them off for quite a lot of years because I had the bizarre notion that I had some credibility to protect. Eventually, I ran out of reasons to say no and I’ve done a few gigs for the “Hear & Now” franchise. They’re a lot of harmless fun."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'You've Got To Laugh' CD Purchase Link