Welcome to the Official Nik Kershaw FAQ
Below you'll find a list of the most frequently asked questions of Nik, and his responses to each and every one. If you have a questions you would like answered, email it through to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll update this site with the answers!
It was a matter of jumping before I was pushed. I was on a European tour with Elton John and was exhausted and demoralised. "The Works" Album sales were disappointing and going on stage every night as a support band to a luke warm reception was doing my head in. The deal with MCA was just about to finish and I knew they weren't going to renew it. So I thought "why am I bothering"? Plus, I just wasn't enjoying it any more.
Also we were just about to have our second kid and I wanted to be around to see them both grow up. I wanted to be a proper dad. So, I decided not to go looking for another deal but to stay at home and write and produce songs for other Artists.
There were lots of reasons. I did the writing / producing thing for about seven or eight years, pretty successfully at first but, to be honest, it turned out to be a lot more difficult than I'd anticipated. Writing for other people is a very specific craft and one I had to learn almost from scratch. And, once you've written (what you believe to be) the perfect pop song, you got to get it to someone to record it. I quickly learned that the most successful songwriters are not neccessarily the best songwriters. They're the ones who can craft a decent song but know how to sell it. That's the important thing, selling it. Something I've never been any good at.
Also, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with not having my own voice. The lyrics I thought I was required to write were generic pop lyrics. Trying to find a new way of saying "I love you" or "My baby left me and I'm not too happy about it". I got fed up with not being able to express myself, not being able to say anything.
After a while I found myself getting ideas for songs I knew no one else would record. I can't ignore ideas. I have to get them down on tape to get them out of my head. Otherwise they drive me nuts. So, that's what I did. Then I started messing about with these rough demos, tweaking them here and there, adding the odd overdub and eventually it dawned on me that I was making a record. That became the last Album, 15 Minutes.
There's a track on the Album called "Die Laughing". It's about one of my alter egos. He's the part of me who hates everything, spoils everything. He's the party pooper. He doesn't want to go anywhere, doesn't want to do anything. Wants to be on his own, sat in front of the telly with a box of Pringles and a vodka and tonic. Not someone you'd want to spend a night with. In short, a miserable old git, a pain in the arse.
The end of the song is set in a bar with me ready for a great night and the miserable git ready to go home. I start ranting at him and the first word to come out my mouth is Frank. So that's what he's called, Frank.
This is sometimes used in psychotherapy. You give your Demons names and get to know them. It's supposed to make them easier to deal with.
So, "to be Frank": trying to get inside Frank's head. Or "to be frank": an honest exchange of views. Take your pick.
I started the Album in the October of 99 and basically finished it a year later. That wasn't 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. That was working on it when the muse took me and in between some projects. During that period there was the obligatory "dry patch" with me either lying on my back staring at the ceiling or disappearing down the golf range to wack a few balls.
Because I didn't know from one day to the next what I'd be working on, I couldn't afford the luxury of a producer and engineer sitting around waiting for me to get my act together. Also, the writing process and the recording process were quite often one of the same thing and I don't feel comfortable writing with anybody else around. Consequently, I ended up recording the bulk of the album at home alone. The positive side of that is being able to take your time trying different things and getting them right. Great for the control freak in me. On the other hand, there's no one there to bounce ideas off so I spent a lot of time talking to the wall.
The first time I got anyone else involved was when it was time to put bass and drums on the track. A friend of mine has a studio out at Real World so we all piled down there for a few days. By this time I was going stir crazy so it was great to be working with real people again.
After that it was back to Shorthouse studios to put everything together. Then there were a few days in London to record strings and horns. I've never used strings on my own stuff before so that was quite a thrill. Leo, my live guitarist, studied composition at The Royal Academy, so he helped me arranged them and wrote all the parts out. We used a young quartet from the Academy. And I mean young, when they walked in I thought the school orchestra had arrived. Luckily, they didn't sound like it. Then it was back to my place to mix.
The two Albums were recorded under very different circumstances. "15 Minutes" was made in a complete vacuum. I didn't have a deal or management. I didn't even know if anyone would ever hear it. It was more of a therapeautic exercise. Whereas "to be Frank" was made with the knowledge that there were people out there waiting for it. It's amazing how much difference that makes, knowing you've got an audience.
"Frank" is less intense than "15 Minutes". With "15 Minutes" I had 8 years of stuff to vent on the world. With this Album, I lightened up a quite a bit. I've always had a sense of humour but have found it difficult getting it across in my songs. My dead pan voice hasn't helped. Sometimes I sound like I'm delivering some great truth when I'm actually being ironic or taking the piss. I've learned to laugh at my self over the years and I think it shows on this record.
Wounded is the first single. As soon as I started writing it, the Latin vibe was apparent. At first I tried to disguise it but, no matter what I did, the spirit of Edmundo Ross would appear. So I thought "what the hell" and really camped it up. If it was going to be Latin, it might as well be really Latin.
It's supposed to be a celebration. We're all wounded physically or mentally. We're all damaged goods so why not celebrate the fact instead of being ashamed of it. That's a real Latin philosophy: "Life is shit and it's probably not going to get any better …. Fuck it, let's have a party!"
I've only got one hope: that people get a chance to hear it. That's why artists make records, they want to be heard. If everybody hates it, that's fine as long as it gets a chance. I don't want to be bigger than Elvis anymore, that disappeared with my youth. If I'm still here in a couple of years time talking bollocks about the next album, that would be enough for me.
The old songs are a bit like an elderly relative. You love them dearly but they can be a bit of an embarrassment. They represent a part of me that doesn't exist any more. I can still enjoy them as songs but I've done a lot of growing up since then and I find it difficult to connect with where my head was at the time. And I never listen to my old records. I don't even listen to the Album I've just finished. If I did, I'd probably want to change everything. And the old stuff just sounds so old. Recording technology has come so far in recent years and, to me, very little from the 80s stands up today.
It amazes me that people are still asking me this question. I spilled the beans a few years ago now so this isn't exactly news.
My producer (Peter Collins) came over to my house just before we commenced recording on the second album to hear how I was getting on with the writing. He went away saying he thought it sounded great but didn't think I had the first single. Incensed by this, I went straight up to the spare room and got the chords and melody together for the Riddle. This must've taken all of twenty minutes. Knowing time was short before we started recording I jotted down some jibberish with the intention of writing the real lyric as we were recording it.
About a week later we started recording and I threw a rough guide vocal down using the jibberish lyrics. As the album progressed, I tried various different lyric ideas but nothing seemed to fit as well as the guide lyric. So we decided to stick with what we had. "Let's call it the Riddle", I thought. Then people would think it was actually about something.
I had completely underestimated the fuss this would cause and, to make matters worse, the marketing and promotions people at MCA decided to make a competition out of it (without telling me). The response was unbelievable. We got sack loads of mail with elaborate and detailed analysis of the song. Line by line, word by word. Some were the size of small novels. Some even made sense!! People stopped me in the street to give me their thoughts and theories. On one occasion I arrived to do a live Radio 1 interview with a certain DJ only to find he'd told the great British public that I would be "revealing all" on his show. He was most put out when I wouldn't (couldn't) co-operate.
It all got a bit out of hand and, very quickly, passed the point at which I could come clean without pissing off a lot of people.
In short, "The Riddle" is nonsense, rubbish, bollocks, the confused ramblings of an 80's popstar.
Please forgive me. I knew not what I did.
My hair and I parted company a few months ago due to artistic differences.