On Aug. 29, 2001, Nik Kershaw had a heart to heart with his fans. On his Web site, he explained his decision to stop promoting his album, “To Be Frank,” that he was frustrated with being offered only 1980s-related gigs and festivals and that he had decided to “get out with at least some of my dignity and self-respect intact.”
He was ready to move on.
“To Be Frank” was finally issued stateside on April 23 via Eagle/Koch. Though the British singer-songwriter clearly is still disappointed with the commercial indifference to the album, he’s willing to talk it up, discuss his state of mind today and what lies ahead for him.
Pause & Play – First off, “To Be Frank” rates up there with your 1999 comeback album, “15 Minutes.” What was your manifesto for the LP, a goal you wanted to achieve?
Kershaw – “There was no great masterplan. Just get a bunch of songs together and record them. I guess I approached it differently from the last album. ’15 Minutes’ was recorded in a total vacuum – no deal, no management – but at least this one I knew would be released and somebody somewhere would get to hear it. As
a rule, I try not to make plans for an album. I like to leave myself open to anything. What did I want to achieve? I just wanted to make an honest-sounding record. That and world domination.”
P&P – What’s your frame of mind now? Have you had a change of heart?
Kershaw – “Several people have visited the site and commented on the ‘depressing’ tone of my messages. It was never meant to sound that way. I thought I was making a positive decision, not a negative one. Time to move on, try something
different. There’s nothing worse than being in a rut and that’s exactly where I felt I was.
“Of course, it would be a lot more convincing if I could say what it was I did
want to do. I’m still not in a position to say. I’m taking a sabbatical at the moment, at least I think that’s what it is. Having never taken one, I’m a bit confused as to how you go about it, but I’m enjoying my kids, my tractor mower, and my golf swing is coming on a treat.”
P&P – What kind of reaction did you get from the fans?
Kershaw – “Mostly very positive. People were upset but very supportive. They thanked me for the past and wished me well for the future. I was genuinely touched and, on occasions, humbled by the thoughts expressed to me. There were some who called me a quitter and accused me of wallowing in self-pity and even one who offered medication for my, apparent, clinical depression. I politely declined.”
P&P – What exactly prompted that message to fans? Was it mediocre sales, lack of airplay, etc.?
Kershaw – “I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t disappointed with the response to the last two albums, but that wasn’t the reason. Eagle Records was just about to release the second single off ‘To Be Frank,’ a track called ‘Die Laughing.’ It was shaping up to be a pretty half-assed release; no video and very little advance promo. I figured if you’re not going to do it properly, why do it at all? Promotion is something I’ve never been comfortable with. I’m basically very shy and retiring, not celebrity material at all. When you’re selling records, you can put up with the indignity of daytime TV and ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ press. But I wasn’t and I didn’t see any reason to put myself through that again.”
P&P – On behalf of your fans, don’t quit. What would change your mind?
Kershaw – “I don’t ever remember saying the words ‘I quit’ anywhere, but I guess that’s the way it must look. Sometimes a song will come into my head that demands to be written. If that happens 12 times, I’ll make another album.”
P&P – Will you be touring the states for this album?
Kershaw – “If a promoter comes up with a sensible plan, I guess it would be dumb not to consider it, but, in all honesty, that scenario is highly unlikely.”
P&P – What plans do you have? Writing, producing for others?
Kershaw – “Whether I quit or not, there’s always likely to be the odd project that lights my fire. I don’t see the point in sitting at home churning out generic R&B/pop. We’ve got enough of that already, and there are plenty of people out there who do it a lot better than I ever could, but if the right thing comes
P&P – There are a few multiartist ’80s revival tours going on in the states through the summer. What do you think of those sort of tours?
Kershaw – “There are only two reasons for doing those tours. One is because you need the money and the other is to have a bit of fun. Personally, I don’t need the money and I think fun is highly overrated. I’m being flippant, of course. It’s much more complicated than that, but I do think those artists who are doing it so they can say ‘Here’s a couple of songs from my new album’ are really kidding themselves. Nobody who goes to those shows wants to hear anything but the old hits. Half the audience wants to be 16 again for a couple of hours and the other half just want to see how much hair you’ve got left. Not for me, thanks.”
ON THE WEB: www.nikkershaw.net.
BWF (before we forget): The Nik Kershaw album discography – “Human Racing” (MCA, 1984); “The Riddle” (1984); “Radio Musicola” (1986); “The Works” (1989); “15 Minutes” (Pyramid/WEA, 1999); “To Be Frank” (Eagle/Koch, 2002).