Watching bands in Ipswich was my musical education says Regent bound 80s icon Nik Kershaw

Nik Kershaw, heading back to the Ipswich Regent this week

Nik Kershaw, heading back to the Ipswich Regent this week - Credit: Archant

Suffolk singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw tells entertainment writer Wayne Savage about learning his trade at the Ipswich Regent and his first concert there for three decades alongside Go West and T’Pau.

Kershaw will be joined by Carol Decker of T'Pau and Richard Drummie and Peter Cox of Go West

Kershaw will be joined by Carol Decker of T'Pau and Richard Drummie and Peter Cox of Go West - Credit: Archant

The Ipswich Regent, or Gaumont as it was known back in the day, is where a teenage Kershaw learnt to be a popstar.

“I saw my first gigs there, that’s where you went to see the top bands. I used to watch Rory Gallagher and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band; all these amazing acts that formed the musical landscape of my education,” he recalls.

“I would’ve been 15, 17, 18 when I was watching those first gigs and I’d probably already made up my mind that’s what I wanted to do. It was 1984, my first tour, when I played there. It would’ve been March-April time. It was amazing, there were a load of old mates there and everything. It was one of those gigs you remember...”

The former Northgate pupil - who quit school during his A-levels to work at an unemployment benefit office by day and sing in underground Ipswich bands by night - says theatres still have an important part to play.

Kershaw signs autographs for fans at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1984

Kershaw signs autographs for fans at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1984 - Credit: Archant

“There are a lot of smaller venues which are disappearing, without theatres you’d have this big hole between pubs and arenas - where do you get to play?”

Known for hits like Wouldn’t It Be Good, The Riddle and I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, it’s the first time he’s played the Regent since 1985.

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“We’ve played the Corn Exchange and I did a little gig at the New Wolsey at one point, it’s going to feel nostalgic.... I’m looking forward to the tour, to the surprises, because I don’t think any of us know what they are yet,” he laughed when I caught up with him a couple of weeks before rehearsals.

Kershaw will be joined on stage by Go West, celebrating their 30th anniversary, and special guest T’Pau. Together they’ve sold millions of records around the world, dominating the charts during the 1980s. It will see them work together on new interpretations of some of their hits with a few surprises along the way.

“I’m thrilled and excited to be joining my old mates Go West on tour. I’ve been a big fan of theirs ever since first hearing that awesome opening lick of We Close Our Eyes in the back of a cab on my way to Heathrow. I was off on a world tour and Go West (the album) ended up being the soundtrack to it,” he recalls.

“Thirty years on, I relish this opportunity to finally collaborate with Peter (Cox) and Richard (Drummie) and can’t wait to join them on stage to mash up some tunes together. Getting to hear Carol’s (Decker, of T’Pau) amazing voice every night will be the icing on the cake.”

It has the makings of a great night.

“I hope so. You never go into something thinking ‘I hope they hate this’,” laughed Kershaw, who’s known Cox, Drummie and Decker for decades.

“I’m sure during rehearsals it’ll come together. I’m very much looking forward to getting those first few shows out of the way and getting on with it. We’re going to have a lot of fun playing and hanging out together, doing theatres again – we’re either doing massive festivals or little clubs now, but the chance to do theatres is great.

“It’s a different vibe in theatres. I did a solo acoustic tour last year including The Apex in Bury St Edmunds. People are seated, the acoustics are usually a lot better...”

Drummie - who with Cox had many hits including King Of Wishful Thinking and Call Me - is equally excited.

“We’ve been fans of Nik since day one. I can still remember vividly one sunny summer’s day at my brother’s flat above a wine bar in Richmond playing Know How from The Riddle album at 11 on his new stereo. Blew me away.

“Our paths have crossed many times over the years and we’ve always had such a laugh, we thought it would be fun to get up on stage and squeeze out a few sparks. It’s a monster bonus having Carol on the tour.. She’s an old friend and we’ve played with her many times. She always sets the place alight”.

You can read more from him here.

Decker, known for songs like China In Your Hand and Heart And Soul, has great memories of the “big old bad days” of the 1980s. She’s a long-term admirer of both acts.

“It was a privilege to be Nik’s opening act back in 1987, a great start to my career. This will be a power house tour of some of the best songs and artists of one of the most creative musical decades,” she added.

I’m a child of the 1980s. For me, there’s never been a better decade for music. Kershaw doesn’t think music is better or worse now then it was then. Our attitude towards it and how that impacts on artists, particularly emerging ones, however...

“People don’t seem to want to own music anymore,” he sighs, discussing downloads and online subscriptions deals. Adding more and more TV and air time is taken up by fewer and fewer people instead of helping shine a light on the artists not getting noticed for the great things they’re doing.

“It’s great for the consumer but, ultimately, they don’t get as engaged with the music as we did back then. There’s more of it, it’s easier to get (but) there’s less value to it. That’s part of the problem; it’s much more difficult to make a living out of something people don’t value.

“I don’t blame the consumer, (if you can) pay £6 a month and have anything you want instantly why wouldn’t you think that’s a good thing.”

Music, he said, is still 12 notes, words and rhythm; but the business was much simpler in his day. You got a record deal, made a record, the record company fronted the money and you sold lots of records because that’s the only way people had to get that music, to own it.

Kershaw accepts the web is an important tool for aspiring artists.

“It’s within everybody’s reach to make a movie or an album, although albums are obsolete now make some music shall I say. That’s a great thing, that people have that vehicle to express themselves and be seen.

“On the other hand, millions and millions of more people are doing it and you’re less likely to get noticed. It’s still the major corporations which have got the dosh for the advertisements, the TV time, all that and get into your head - You still have to make the jump.”

Everybody’s looking for different ways to make a living out of music these days. It’s become much harder to do.

“It’s not the internet itself at blame... What has to be dealt with are the huge corporations making a lot of money out of other people’s work, the streaming companies. If if I’m a baked bean manufacturer and there’s a cost to me in making them and then somebody else sells those baked beans, makes some money and they don’t pay me how is that right?”

Go West and Nik Kershaw Together in Concert visits the Ipswich Regent November 11. You can read Kershaw and other Suffolk acts’ recollections of Live Aid here.

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