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The One and Only Nik Kershaw

OX talks all things 80s with Nik Kershaw in preparation for Rewind Festival this year


"I’m not ashamed of them..."

Teen idol to most girls in the 80s, Nik Kershaw is part guitar hero, part song-writer and has an unbroken career in the music industry since his early days as a teenager in Suffolk.

OX chatted to him about all things 80s in preparation for his appearance at the Rewind Festival this year.

80s musicians tend to fall into two camps at the moment: The ones that are desperately trying to forget the 80s and focus on new material and the ones who are really embracing the revival. You probably fall into the latter camp, but what is it that’s brought you back to 80s music?

That’s a very good question. I did miss it for a long time and I did what could be considered as my first ‘revival’ tour in 2004, but I’ve been asked for years and years to do it [again].

I can understand not wanting to be defined by something you did 30 years ago because we’re all doing new stuff. I release an album every 4 or 5 years and I’m writing media music now, but where’s the harm? I kind of ran out of reasons for not doing these things because I have a genuine love for all things 80s and for those songs. People want to hear those songs and I’m quite happy to get up and play them, and I’m not ashamed of them. They’ve been very good to me.

Is it also nice to be surrounded by the musicians who you were probably hanging out with at Top of the Pops in the 80s? Is it a bit of a party atmosphere?

There is, and we didn’t really hang out that much back in the day because we were all so busy and all so wrapped up in our own little bubbles. Certainly not with me. I kind of came from outside any of the cliques or the club scene that was going on. I didn’t really do it then anyway, so I’ve actually made and developed a lot of friendships over the last 5 or 6 years that I didn’t have in the 80s. It’s great hanging out with these people because we’ve all been through the same thing.

Obviously you started off as a guitarist. At what point did you move into singing and songwriting as well? Do you still consider yourself to be a guitarist above everything else?

Well, I was more of a songwriter, composer and guitarist than a singer, and it was never really part of the overall plan to be a singer, but I kind of drifted into it.

The band that I played guitar in [Fusion] split up in 1982 and I was on the dole, so that’s when I started writing songs in earnest really.

First of all I tried to get to publishers and record companies, and just sort of drifted into making my own album really. I’m working on a charity gig that happened last year and is happening this year as well, for Kenney Jones’ prostate cancer charity. I get to be in the house band and its so much fun just playing guitar in a band rather than being out at the front.

A lot of people are saying that the 80s revival is a reaction to X-Factor-style acts. Your route to fame wasn’t an easy one to forge, so do you think people are appreciating the value of 80s music because of the way that fame is created these days?

Possibly, I mean one thing about the X-Factor thing is that there are very few people who take up an enormous amount of attention that very deserving artists could do with.

I think the other thing is that music had a different meaning to people back in the 80s and people listened to and consumed it differently. When we got to the 90s and music became something to dance to, it became a means to an end rather than an end itself.

Often enough, why people love the 80s is because people were more attached to and involved in the music back in the 80s than they are now.

You always had a strong female following back in the 80s, and you’re very much known as a heartthrob. When you’re on stage now, do you see the same faces but perhaps a little older, or are your audiences now more mixed?

They’re quite a mix. I mean, I still see some familiar faces out there but no, it’s a hell of a mix. It might have started with girls bringing their boyfriends along but its developed from there over the years and they’re equally as into it as their girlfriends! It’s changed a lot, and shows like Rewind are very “family” events anyway.

The most famous song you’ve ever penned is probably ‘The One and Only’ by Chesney Hawkes, would that be right?

I’m not sure if its my most famous one but its one that gets used and played a lot, yeah. Weirdly, there’s a Sennheiser [audio equipment] campaign at the moment that’s basically people covering The One and Only for a competition. I think it was used on the US X-Factor at one point. It gets wheeled out at boxing matches. It makes you smile, years later, when you see a track like that being used in a totally different way than you anticipated. It doesn’t belong to me anymore, and that’s what happens to songs really, they end up belonging to other people.

 

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