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NIK KERSHAW INTERVIEW [2012]

HOW EASY WAS THE NEW ALBUM TO WRITE? WAS IT SOMETHING THAT WAS BURSTING TO COME OUT OR DID IT TAKE A LITTLE MORE EFFORT THAN THAT?

It took a little bit of cajoling, because when I sat down to start making the album I had one song. I wasn't even sure that that was going to go on the album, that one song being 'Red Strand' which was a song I wrote for my wedding. So I had nothing really, I just decided it was time to make another album and sat in a studio and stared at a wall for a couple of days until something started to appear…

I GUESS THAT'S ALL PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS, AND OBVIOUSLY THINGS DID APPEAR, WHICH ARE YOUR FAVOURITES?

I like the single, 'The Sky's The Limit', I think that's quite a well crafted song. I like 'Runaway', it's a very simple premise and it's a very simple song, but I just like the way it came out really. I like 'These Tears'... I kind of like all of them really, I wouldn't be presenting them to the general public if I didn't quite like all of them. But obviously it's not always the case that the germ of an idea you have in your head is totally successfully transferred into the public domain. That's quite a process and I don't always get that right.

IT SEEMS THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF DISCUSSION ONLINE ABOUT WHAT THE ALBUM TITLE 'EI8HT' MEANS…

Yeah, it's not that exciting to be honest, it really isn't that complicated, it's actually very boring. It's the eighth studio album as far as I'm concerned which is why it's called 'Ei8ht'. There seems to be a bit of discussion around whether it is the eighth album or not, because I had an acoustic album out about two years ago called 'No Frills', but that was 90 per cent old songs, it was just different acoustic versions of those old songs. I didn't really count that as a collection of original work, which is why this is the eighth album, not the ninth.

ON HEARING THAT I WAS GOING TO BE TALKING TO YOU, MY EIGHT YEAR OLD DAUGHTER SAID TO ME 'MUMMY, ASK HIM WHY HE DECIDED TO DO MUSIC'. SO MY QUESTION REALLY IS HOW MUCH CHOICE DID YOU HAVE IN THAT?

Music was always around when I was a child, because my father was a flautist and my mum was a singer, so there was always music, it was classical music or even church music because both my parents went to church quite frequently. But I didn't think I particularly wanted to be involved in it until I was about fourteen or fifteen. Up to that point I just wanted to be stuff that boys want to be, like racing drivers and things, and at one stage I wanted to be an actor. So I was fourteen or fifteen and a friend of mine had a guitar, a schoolmate, and I just got fascinated by this electric guitar making all this racket and we use to hang out at his place on a Sunday afternoon just pretending we were David Bowie or Marc Bolan, or whatever, and that's when I kinda got the bug. I wasn't absolutely sure that was what I was going to do, then, but I don't think you are absolutely sure what you're going to do when you're fifteen or sixteen. The big decision for me was when I quit school half way through A-levels, when I was seventeen, and I made a conscious decision and said 'Actually I'm going to give this a go'.

THAT'S QUITE A SCARY DECISION IN RETROSPECT, WAS IT AT THE TIME?

At seventeen you don't really understand the consequences do you? Which is part of what 'The Sky's The Limit' is about, kind of grabbing your opportunities. It was very naïve of me, I had a band and I thought we were going to take that band and get a van and go off and rule the world, you know? The reality of it was my bandmates didn't have the same idea and I ended up working in an unemployment benefit office for three years. That was the life changing moment when I stopped going to school, otherwise I probably would have gone to university to study art or something like that because I wasn't even taking music at school, music at school at that point was very based on theory and classical music and it just wasn't something I was interested in.

IT'S NOT ALWAYS PRESENTED THE WAY YOU SEE IN THE MEDIA IS IT, THE WAY YOU WANT TO GO, IF YOU HAVE THOSE INCLINATIONS AT SCHOOL?

No, but I think it's very different now. My son is going to university to study composition and there wasn't such a course in 1975!

YOU'RE GOING TO BE TOURING THIS YEAR AS WELL AREN'T YOU?

Yes. This will be the first time since 2001 with a band, although I have done a small acoustic tour. I've been playing with the band for festivals and bits and pieces, but yeah, this will be the first tour as such and we're going to be playing the entire 'Human Racing' album. Universal decided they were going to re-release it at the beginning of the year, we thought 'Well why not make it something other than just another Nik Kershaw gig'. So we'll be doing that in one half of the show and then the other half - or rather more than a half - will be bits and pieces from the new album and highlights from the years in between.

I'M VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING THAT. RETURNING TO 'HUMAN RACING', I USED TO BE WORD PERFECT ON EVERY SINGLE LYRIC...

Well, give us a wave from the audience and I might have to sort of look at you to be my auto-cue!

I CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING FROM 'HUMAN RACING' WITHOUT BEING BACK IN MY CHILDHOOD BEDROOM LISTENING TO IT ON ONE OF THOSE BOX RECORD PLAYERS WITH THE LIFT-UP LID, SO ANYTHING I HEAR FROM THAT ALBUM AND I'M INSTANTLY BACK IN THAT BEDROOM WITH MY LITTLE BLUE BOX RECORD PLAYER!

That's the same for me with the David Bowie album, 'Aladdin Sane', or 'Get it On' by T-Rex. It just paints a picture for me, you know?

DOES 'HUMAN RACING' DO THE SAME FOR YOU? WHEN YOU HEAR BITS OF IT NOW DOES IT TAKE YOU BACK TO THAT TIME, THOSE PLACES, OR IS IT MORE LIKE AN OLD FRIEND THAT YOU'RE SPENDING A BIT MORE TIME WITH?

It's kind of both I think. What I think of are the processes of recording it, and where we were when we were recording it, not necessarily playing the songs live or what was happening to me in my life, just… what knobs were being pressed and all that kinda stuff. That's quite clear to me, everything else is a bit of a haze!

EXCITING TIMES!

They were yeah, exciting and bewildering times...

AND YET THEY BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW.

Yeah. I can't knock it, absolutely not. People ask me if I'm fed up with the old songs and I can't be, those songs have been very, very good to me over the years, so you have a bit of respect for them. I can't get away from them and I really don't mind playing them live. I know a lot of artists that think it kind of defines them, the work they did thirty years ago, and they don't like playing the old stuff, they are sort of onwards and upwards instead. But it's a shared experience isn't it? It's going back in time together and just sharing a moment together really. The great thing is - and this is from a purely selfish point of view - they are great things to have when you're doing a live show because they are like little stepping stones you play throughout the set to wake people up with if they're just starting to nod off!

I'M SURE THAT WON'T BE THE CASE! YOU MENTIONED THAT IT'S GOING TO BE YOUR FIRST TOUR WITH A FULL BAND FOR A WHILE, DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE BETWEEN PLAYING WITH A BAND OR JUST YOU AND A GUITAR?

I think I prefer the band thing to be honest. On stage it's not that different because you're still singing and you're performing and you're playing a guitar and you're trying to put on a bit of a show. But the whole gigging process and touring process is a lot more fun when there's other people around. You can have a laugh and a joke.

I REMEMBER YOU BEING PRETTY ENERGETIC ON THE STAGE WITH LOTS OF RUNNING AROUND. SO ARE WE GOING TO EXPECT MORE OF THAT THIS TOUR OR ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE IT A LITTLE BIT SLOWER?

Yeah, well my knees creak when I go upstairs now, and that is probably because I was just jumping around like a maniac then! I'd sprain things and twist things… I don't know what came over me when I got on stage, most of the time I didn't have any breath left to actually sing… I wasn't exactly fit! So it might be a bit more of a sedate affair this time around but it depends how excited I get. Maybe playing some of the old tunes I haven't played since 1984 might rekindle a bit of that, you know, rejuvenate the old muscles!

GOING BACK TO THE RECORDING OF YOUR NEW ALBUM, OBVIOUSLY THINGS HAVE CHANGED HUGELY IN TERMS OF TECHNOLOGY AND THE WAY RECORDING IS DONE, AND PRETTY MUCH ANY SOUND CAN BE RECORDED ELECRONICALLY NOW, BUT YOU'VE CHOSEN TO USE REAL MUSICIANS TO PLAY STRINGS AND CELLO, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO THAT?

Well one reason is that I spend a lot of time doing a lot on my own, basically because of the kind of technology that is available the majority of an album involves me sitting in front of a computer with a guitar or a microphone or whatever and making a record. It's a pretty solitary experience and you don't really get any feedback from anybody else, so I think it's important that I do involve other people on a record, to get that input. Computers are great but there are certain things you still can't do, you know? You can't get a performance out of a computer. I don't play keyboards so I can't perform keyboards, I can type them and I can get the computer to do what I want it to do, but if you want a performance on a piano or whatever, then I'm going to have to get someone else to do it. And I'm not a drummer, so I get drums in. I've never been happy with fake drums on my tracks, I've used them, and I know other people use them very successfully, and some of my favourite records have got pretend drums on them, but I've just never felt that my tracks are finished until they've got someone real driving them along.

I WONDER WHETHER IT'S THE SAME DEBATE THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE VERY INTO THEIR BOOKS ARE HAVING ABOUT READING A PAPER BOOK AND THE KINDLE.

Yeah, absolutely, I'd like to have a physical book to read. It's like if I'm reading it off a computer of even off an iPhone then I don't feel like I'm actually reading a book, I don't feel engaged at all. You don't get the book smell and the sound of the papers fanning and all that. It's quite a visceral thing to do, to read a book.

OF ALL THE INSTRUMENTS YOU GET IN FOR VARIOUS TRACKS, IS THERE AN INSTRUMENT THAT YOU HAVEN'T YET HAD A GO AT, SOMETHING YOU'D REALLY LIKE TO LEARN?

I'd like to be able to play a keyboard, to be able to play the piano. I could get lessons and learn, I just haven't got the patience. Foreign language again. My brother lives in France and he's lived there for a good twenty-five years now, and he's absolutely fluent. I go over there I feel like a complete idiot and every time I come back I go 'I must learn to speak French' but the information just won't go into my brain and stay there anymore, it just won't do it. So learning a new instrument I think would be quite difficult, and I just haven't got the energy or time or patience to do it anymore. Especially when there are so many good people out there that I could get to do it for me!

THAT SORT OF TAKES YOU BACK TO THE LYRICS OF 'THE SKY'S THE LIMIT' WHERE YOU TALK ABOUT TRYING BEFORE TOO MANY THINGS HOLD YOU DOWN, TOO MANY THINGS FILL YOUR BRAIN TO LEARN NEW STUFF.

Yeah, right, it's like you're kind of an empty vessel when you're young, you get so many possibilities and there are so few things tying you down…

INTERVIEW BY BEVERLY EVANS

NIK KERSHAW - EI8HT

AUGUST 2012

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1 COMMENT
  1. ADDED BY 80sebasta on Aug 9th, 2012

    Hi Beverly and Richard
    thanks for this interesting interview and for the third question, it's nice to know more N.K. through his answers :)
    ciao
    Silvy from CH


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