Best known for her smash-hit Kids In America, green-fingered Kim Wilde has cultivated an obsession with little green men on her latest album – Here Come The Aliens. The synth-pop sweetheart talks to Joe Nerssessian about a possible UFO sighting, touring with Michael Jackson and how a drunken impromptu sing-along on the train revived her career.
When Kim Wilde was filmed drunkenly singing one of her biggest hits, Kids In America, on a train in Christmas 2012, few would have expected it marked a comeback for the 80s pop star. But after more than two million viewed the footage online, the unlikeliest of renaissances began. The following December, Wilde capitalised on her viral success and released a Christmas album – her first UK release in almost 20 years – and now she's back again alongside some extraterrestrial friends with Here Come The Aliens.
It's more than three-and-a-half decades since the 57-year-old burst onto the music scene with the debut single she performed on that train. The daughter of 50s pop singer Marty Wilde, her synth-driven pop subscribed to the movement of the decade while also straddling the mainstream. There were 17 top-40 singles in the 80s, 30 million records sold and support slots on tour with David Bowie before the momentum fizzled out in the mid-90s.
She retreated into her childhood love of gardening which remarkably helped inspire Here Come The Aliens when she spotted unidentifiable lights in the sky from her garden in 2009. "I remember it was the day after Michael Jackson had died... I was playing his records all day. I got home about 10pm and these lights appeared. I was in my back garden standing on the grass looking up wondering what was going on. It did make a big impact on me, I still look up to the sky expecting or hoping to see something. I've not seen anything as unusual as that since."
Her obsession with little green men started before that, however. As an eight-year-old, she watched the first moon landing – an event referenced on the album's tacit tile track, 1969. "They're out there in the stars, maybe they come from Mars," she sings. Inspired by her own close encounter, the glam-rock stomp sees Wilde as a girl, gazing starry-eyed at black-and-white broadcasts of the landing, before turning her thoughts to distant galaxies.
Such pleasing allusions are scattered across the album where the highlight comes with Kandy Krush, the closest thing to Wilde's touchstone hit. She was actually writing the album prior to her Christmas episode but momentum was halted by the viral hit and her festive record took precedent.
Wilde was a little hesitant at the footage at first, she says, but revelled in the reaction once it came. "The antlers on the head, the slurring of the words, just mammothly cocking up in public. For a lot of people I think it was just a relief that someone famous didn't mind that happening. And it inspired me because the public were so sweet about the whole thing and had a really good laugh," she says. "People were phoning me up, I'd get in taxis, I'd be in a supermarket, I'd be in a crowded place on the street and people were coming up and going, 'That was such fun, it was great to see someone let their hair down'."
With the world seemingly engaged in a constant state of turmoil, from the US to Europe to Syria, some may argue the time is ripe for an alien invasion and Wilde enjoys imagining them observing, debating whether to intervene or not.
"What are they going to do? Are they going to help us become a better and more enlightened humanity or are they just going to fling us off the planet?" she ponders down the phone. "If they intervene, then that creates all kinds of chaos, maybe worse than if they just allow us to evolve into the more perfect version of ourselves that we really ought to. I know what I think I'll do if I was them," she adds, ambiguously, before adding: "In spite of all the evidence, I still have great faith in humanity."
As well as framing her alien-encounter, Michael Jackson also helped Wilde realise she never wanted to be a megastar when she supported him on his Bad tour in 1988. The circus of the charade as it arrived in different towns left a bad taste in her mouth and she can recall thinking, 'I don't think this is for me'.
"I really love my pocket-sized career," she says. "It's nowhere as big as Madonna's or Michael Jackson's but I love getting to sing, write songs, perform. It allows me to pay the bills. I get to travel the world, that's a huge privilege but I can still walk into Tesco and do the shopping, and I can still take the kids to school and we don't need bodyguards at home. I don't have to have my life crowded with strangers or people pretending to be my friend."
Yet there is still the motivation for more success. Wilde think there's a need for someone to break the mould in the current music scene and offer some showmanship and glamour. She wants to be that person.
"We need a Prince, and we need a Bowie, and a Freddie Mercury and we need all the ones that are gone," she says. "I think people are ready for a bit more of visual excitement. I grew up in the 60s and I remember the glam rock era and loved it. People always love to see someone who is larger than life, someone to show the way for a little while and put on some outrageous clothes and just be joyful and positive and sing an anthem that everyone can sing along to. And I want that person to be me right now."
Kim Wilde's Here Come The Aliens is out now. Her British tour starts today.