Born to be Wilde

Or should that be re-born to be Wilde? Following a meteoric rise to prominence three years ago Kim suddenly seemed to nosedive into obscurity. Now, after a lengthy period of silence she’s back with new confidence in herself as an artist and strong opinions on the star machine.

Three years ago Kim Wilde came from nowhere to zoom into the charts and hearts of millions with “Kids in America”, “Chequered Love”, “Cambodia” and “View From A Bridge”. Boosted by the writing abilities of her father, 50’s star Marty and brother Ricky, and the hit machine star-processor renown of RAK records, she became a hit in every ome in England in Europe.

But the honeymoon didn’t last very long. The star machine – once so well oiled and precision-made – ground down to a rusty halt, due to pressure from RAK for another hit (and another…) For the Wilde writing team quantity overtook quality, and the resultant lack of skill and thought showed in the chart placings.

The ensuing period of silence has undoubtedly done Kim Wilde the world of good. In the past couple of years she has built her own recording studios, started writing her own songs and departed RAK for MCA. No longer a petite ingenue covering in front of producers and advisors, 23 year old Kim now appears composed and confident. Astute to the point of being razor sharp, she slashes and deflates theories about herself like a regular pop surgeon. While, personally, opinions concerning her musical output remain steadfast (inoffensive pop music played competantly, and therefore leaving me cold), thoughts on her as a pop character have been radically changed. Prepare to have your preconceptions reversed too.

In retrospect, are you pleased that you shot to fame so quickly?
I don’t know… In some ways, it prevents me from doing some other things that I’d like to have been involved in soon. Things like songwriting, which I’ve only been doing this last year. But then in a way, it enabled me to be in the position where I am now, where I don’t have to worry too much. I’m in the enviable position of being able to pay the bills and write as well. And to do anything else that I may want to do.
I don’t have sitting down sessions where I think ‘Oh if only I hadn’t had a hit record’. Really, a hit record is quite the most wonderful thing to have. I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time. I’m glad that I was young enough to feel like that. I’d much rather I had a hit when I was 20, instead of 30. The time to have hit records and to get involved in that whole thing, is when you’re young. ‘Cos that’s the time when you’re naive enough to enjoy it. Ha, ha… As you get older, pop music becomes not engh. You want more things out of life. Especially music…

Have you reached the stage where you yourself have lost the naivete to enjoy pop music?
I think I verge on it occasionally. Only because in the past I’ve seen it as a barrier to me doing things that I’ve wanted to do, like songwriting. I was on the merry-go-round of promotion – the same thing I’m doing now – but in this case it’s different, because I have my time allocated, and I’ve made a point of saying I’d like a certain amount of time writing. People at the record company respect that.
It took me a long time to figure out what I really wanted to do, and how to go about it. And it took me a long time to gain confidence to go against things that were said by people that I thought would know better. It took me a long time to start having faith in what I wanted to do – my feelings and judgements.

Do you have that confidence now?
I’m getting there. (laughs) I’m only 23; so I’m making progress. To me, the most important step that I’ve made in the last year has been to get my song-writing underway, and to get some songs of mine on the new album. And although there are only three – one of which is co-written – it’s a start for me, and it’s something that I intend to work hard on next year.

Do you enjoy being a pop star?
Well… It’s mostly enjoyable. It’s wonderful… y’know… I mean, life is never routine. You get payed well. Lots of different things happen to you. You grow up fast, because you have to deal with things within weeks that a lot of people have to deal with in years. You tend to form your opinions faster.
I like being a pop-star because it’s very paradoxical. At one extreme it’s not important at all. It doesn’t change the world. No song has ever changed a nation’s thought to the point that it’s actually had an effect on their lives. Yet at the same time, it’s treated with such preciousness, and such seriousness, and such criticism. And so it should be as well… I think it should always be under the critical eye, and sometimes it should be dissected. I like the paradox in that. The way people can get so angry about it, and yet at times it doesn’t seem to be worth getting angry about. Why not get angry about something that deserves the emotion? People write pages and pages about, say, Lloyd Cole, and then there’s a little paragraph at the back saying “By the way, there are millions of people starving in Ethiopia”. That’s an extree, but then I don’t think that’s particularly relevant in pop music.”

Do you concern yourself much with what’s going on in the world?
Well, it matters to me, but I’m not very worldwise. I’m not world weary, either. I’m not terribly up on what’s happening around the world. I don’t think the majority of people are. They live very much in their own lives, within their own boundaries, their own expectations, their wives, lovers, children, mortgage, car. And that’s where life is. No one is saying that everyone should be a world advisor.
Unfortunately, when you’re making pop records, and in the public eye, you’re expected to be that way. But I’m afraid I’m not. I’ve few opinions on the political situation in England and other countries. I live very much within my own boundaries, but it’s not that I’m not looking out. I always look out, but I never seem to be able to make much sense of what I see. I don’t feel it has any relevance to me making pop records.

What are the advantages of being Marty Wilde’s daughter?
I think the advantages have been out-weighed by the disadvantages. Completely. The advantages that people would think of are, that having a famous father with pop music connections, got me to No 2 in the charts with “Kids in America”. A lot of people would think that my success is linked with him, which is a fallacy. It’s not true that success breeds success. So, I have to live in some people’s minds in my father’s shadow, although I don’t believe I’m doing that. And neither does he.
The advantages on a purely personal level hae got everything to do with the person that he is, and not him as a famous personality. He’s a talented, forward-thinking, liberated, intelligent, sensitive, humourous, musical person. He’s great to have around, and I’m not the only one to think that.

Initially, what was the aspect of pop stardom you feared most?
I was never scared of any aspect about it. I was totally confident, ambitious, and optimistic about the whole project. I went into it thinking ‘Yeah, I’m going to make it work’. I was just really glad things were happening for me musically. That I was going to be involved in it… Even when I was having my photograph taken or doing interviews, in my mind it was encouraging and helpful to my career as a music person. And I think it has helped, ‘cos nothing I’ve done in the past three years has stopped me from doing anything I wanted. But you can’t have everything, and I regard myself as being very lucky to even be in this position.
I really do realise how lucky I am, because I’ve just gone through a long period recently of having lost that – temporarily. Even then, I wasn’t tearing my hair out. I just got on with it, building my own recording studio, working, writing, making a new album. I just thought, by hook or by crook, I’m going to be involved in music. I’d be happy writing film scores and music for other people, away from cameras and tape-recorders. But that’s just the way it’s turned out for me. In a way, I could adapt to both, ‘cos there’s a part of me that really likes performing as well… Exhibitionism, being looked at, being admired, being liked.
Pop stardom is not something that means an awful lot to me, but I do enjoy it. So I think if I enjoy it and do it well, then it’s valid. For the people that don’t enjoy it, it’s not very exciting.

Apart from songwriting, what has your fame prevented you from doing?
It’s stopped me from travelling (laughs). Which sounds odd… I’m very well up on the airport lounges, and I know where the British Airways desk is. I know where to go to get the duty-free, and I know where the nearest ladies loo is as soon as I walk through the sliding doors.
When I travel, I don’t see a country, I see a business within a world that I’ll never know. And I find that really sad. I get so frustrated walking in and out of countries, and coming away with nothing more than a… Oh, I don’t know… I’ll probably walk away from Dublin with a bunch of clover. That’s as much as I’ll know of Ireland…
At the time of my huge success, I really let the record company (RAK) use me. I was at their beck and call, basically. Mostly because I enjoyed it, but also because I thought it was my duty to be as available as possible. Now I’m a bit older, I’m becoming a bit more difficult to work with. I’m living far more on my own terms, now. In fact, last year i did get away. I spent a week in New York not doing any work at all.  I thought I must spend a week in New York before I get famous there. It might be the last chance I’ll get to walk up to the top of the World Trade Centre without being bugged.
I really enjoyde it, y’know? When I was at the top, I looked out over New York, and thought, ‘Oh, this is heaven’. Just being in a place where no one was bugging you, or talking to you.

Does that aspect of being a public figure disturb you?
I think it disturbs most people. Privacy is the thing that disturbs most public people. It’s true… and if you don’t realise it’s true, then it’s sad, because you have to realise how important privacy is. If you don’t respect it enough to feel sad that you’ve lost it, then that is sad also. So my privacy is very important. That’s why no-one knows anything about me apart from at a certain level. Which is sad in a way, but then, I’d just as soon have it that way.

Your immense popularity has declined over the last 18 months. How did public disinterest towards your music affect you?
It made total sense to me. I realised the records weren’t good enough, and I realised we weren’t doing the best we could. I knew that Rick and Dad had been under constant pressure since “Kids in America”, virtually 24 hours a day, just thinking about when their next hit record was coming out. Plus there was this atmosphere about RAK records that was infamous – and famous – and we got caught up in it for 3 years. We had a lot of success with them, but in the end it took its toll on Ricky and Marty. And I was the one that suffered.
But I was prepared to do that, ‘cos I love working with them, and I wanted to continue working with them. I knew they could come up with better material, but I also knew they were in bad circumstances. Eventually we left RAK records, got a recording studio, and since then, their writing is pouring out instead of being squeezed out. And me too. It’s wonderful.

Some people would say that your music – and perhaps you as a pop star – has no great depth. Would you agree with that?
No great depth… (laughs). I don’t really know that pop music has to have depth. I think sometimes when it does, it’s very moving. Something like “Shipbuilding”… But I think I’m equally moved by Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.
We’re making music. We work hard at it and we’re proud of it. We always think that what we do could be much better… We’re not professing to be the great pop people of the ’80’s. We just do something we really enjoy, and we think we do it well. I’m not saying everything we’ve done is great. There’s some of it which I don’t think is good at all. But that’s part of being public. You ve to make your mistakes in front of everybody. Most people have the privilege of making mistakes behind other people’s backs.

What’s your attitude to pop music trivia?
I think you have to love it like when you did when you were 14 or 16. I fell in love with pop music at a very early age, and I’m still in love with pop records; talking about them, criticizing them, getting really het up about them.
That’s the fun about music: it should wind people up a bit. I mean, “Kids in America” really wound people up. It was such an infectious song that people really hated liking it. It was sung by an English girl whose father had written the lyrics and whose brother had produced it. And it was on RAK records to boot. “From New York to East California…” Where the hell’s that? I still don’t know! And everyone loved it.
At the time, I was quite a serious girl. I still am, but I’ve had to modify my outlook. As I grew up, I was a very serious, introspective girl. I listened to Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and I had a very serious outlook on life. Everything to me was very… serious, and to be contemplated. Once I started making records I really had to climb down off my horse; I really had to open up to a world that wasn’t quite so humdrum and quite as meaningful. I had to find pleasure in simpler things, and be less complicated about issues. Experience things more at a gut level than at a thinking level. I had to start living. I just had to expand my view on life. I used to carry the world’s problems on my shoulders. I am still very similar, but at least I can see that it was a rather pointless way to be.

Where do your ambitions lie?
I don’t know… Sometimes I think, well hell, y’know? To feel fulfilled is obviously an ambition. I think to feel unfulfilled and to feel frustrated, must be the worst thing that anyone can feel. So I would strive to not ever end up feeling like that in any situation, whether it’s long or short term.
My ambitions at a more practical level are all musical. You know, I don’t really have any great ambition to remain in the hearts of people for years and years. I haven’t got those egotistical ambitions. My ambitions are far more selfish, and to do with the way I’ll end up feeling when I peg it. At least I can lie on my bed and say (affects elderly accent) ‘I wrote that song’.

How doubtful are you about what you do?
All the time. I think sometimes it’s really negative and destructive, and it stops you from really coming across in the way you should.
I’m always critical of what I do. I’m never complacent about tings, although I do need kicking occasionally. I kick myself quite a lot…
I need someone to pat me on the back, really. (laughs)