Interview: Kim Wilde

The lady plays the vamp, the lovely blonde one styles herself to blonde poison. But Kim Wilde acts like a star with a wink of the eye. Behind the mundane façade is a conservative girl of 23 years old, who likes to build on traditional values: she doesn’t orient on her competitors of today, but rather on the classics like Dusty Springfield and Julie London. Before her first German tour she met ME/Sounds in Hamburg.

With your latest single ‘Love blonde’ it seemed that your image was changing – away from the naive blonde, changing into a cool vamp. Was it a conscious decision?
Not conscious. We tried perform this song a little exaggerated. The swing music, the costume and everything, but it’s just for the one song.

Have you ever worked consciously on your image before?
Not really. When I started with my career, I had ideal conditions: my father and my brother form a team of professionals. And that’s exactly what I wanted: to sing and work with professionals. Everything else came automatically. A lot of my so-called image has got a lot to do with what photographers wanted to see.

So no career planning?
The success of ‘Kids in America’ and ‘Chequered love’ came so fast and sudden, that I wasn’t really ready for it. Then came ‘Select’, the second album, and slowly I had a little more rest to think about it. We have built a professional management in the mean time – with my mother as the boss. What I want to say: the control we have over the whole thing, grows ever more; we work according to our own preferences.

After a classic pop album you have made an atmospheric, melancholy album, ‘Catch as catch can’…
Yes, and this development will continue; I make music full of feeling. But throughout the album we have also placed powerful songs, not just melancholy ones. And a lot of unusual influences, like the jazz and swing on the single. Before everything there’s a preference for the dramatic, the opera-like, Ricky is crazy about songs like that. We have one title, ‘Dream sequence’, that is the most heart-tearing thing I’ve ever heard. I like tracks that remind you of big tragic movies from the 1940’s with Humphrey Bogart for instance.

Do you have favourite movies from that era?
Not really, I simply like all movies.

But you probably have a video recorder at home and like to watch a certain tape over and over again.
Yes, for relaxation. Old English and American television series. You probably don’t know them here. It’s ideal when you’ve worked hard and come home. Do you know ‘Sergeant Bilko’? When I’ve worked hard there’s nothing better.

How much influence do you have on the songs that your father and brother write?
As long as they are writing, not at all. When we are in the studio, then I do, and everything that has got to do with the realisation of the tracks.
Of course Ricky has the last word as a producer. I have declined songs. When he wants to push me into a corner I don’t like – or when I know we can still make it better.

Lately the teamwork in the Wilde family hasn’t worked out so well though: the previous single ‘Child come away’ was a flop – and ‘Love blonde’ wasn’t as successful as previous hits. How did you, and how did your family react to this?
‘Child come away’ was a real washout, and my father and Ricky really started to wonder what they might have done wrong. It was a hard nut for them to crack, but finally they came to the conviction that it was important to follow your own instincts – whether it would be a hit or not. Oh well, sometimes they still doubt that.
As for me: I was in the press all through that time. Not because I did a lot for it, but simply because people don’t forget me when I have no hit for a while.

What kind of music do you listen to when you’re at home?
I like what they call technopop. I like Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres, I like the Eurythmics, Yazoo. But that isn’t nearly all. It goes from Hollywood soundtracks to Reggae.

And in the morning hen you get up?
The Donna Summer album ‘She works hard for the money’. I think it’s about me. Haha, No, I think she is a great singer; I sing along to all her songs, to improve my own technique.

What exciting things happened to you during the last 12 months?
I have become fitter. I go to gymnastics almost every day and I do Aerobics. Not because I want to become Jane Fonda, but because I want to feel good during my next tour. And already during the first few shows that I’ve done I have noticed how exhausting a live performance can be.
I have stopped smoking.
Then it was really important that I moved out, to my own apartment. It has changed my life. I have spent a lot of time to decorate the interior and to paint it.

What colour?

When you sit at home and think about your life: how important is your career as a pop star then?
Extremely important. My career is the most important thing – and that might only change as I get older. But the Stones for instance could have stopped a long time ago but they still sign a contract that keeps them in music for a long time. Or take my father, who still gets a kick out of every gig he plays after 20 years in the business. He still has a lot of fun with it.

Can you imagine that a surprising event could change your career?
Not really. Of course I have thought about it already, to try it as an actress, I have had many offers already. But it’s not always a success when popstars start acting. Maybe someday I get a real great script someday.

And when something happens that hasn’t got anything to do with showbusiness? Politics, religion, marriage?
Well, Donna Summer for instance has become religious – and that hasn’t changed her path at all; she is still good like before.

And in your private life? When you fall in love?
Ah, I know which way the wind blows, haha. I know this question all too well, but I’m not saying anything. When I talk about sex, which I don’t normally do, I always have to laugh. ‘Why talk about my sexlife? That girl on the other end of the street probably has a more exciting one!’ And when I say something like that during an interview, the papers will write ‘Kim Wilde’s sex life is more boring than the girl nextdoor’s’.
A lot of what I do has an ironic meaning. ‘Love blonde’ is making fun of the cliches of the blonde that excite men. It’s liberating for me to sing that. The teenage magazines don’t pay attention to that. they think that their readers are only interested in sultry love stories.

What would your proferssion have been if you hadn’t become a popstar?
Hard to say, maybe a professional skiing person. But father skis excellently – and children of skiers turn professional. I can’t really answer the question.

But you were on Art college?
Yes, a fantastic place. A place where they really respect people who want to work creatively. Where they recognise talent. In school they only laughed about us, about the ‘creative ones’, who wanted to study theatre and art. But despite that: I would never have become a true artist.

Why not?
If I would have become an artist, then I would have been a commercial one. I have become a popsinger and not an opera singer, after all. To be a commercial artist you need certain abilities I don’t have.

How important do you think popsongs are?
They are the most important thing for me, but seen from a superordinate view they are probably totally unimportant; they don’t change the world at all. There’s always hunger and war – and a popsong doesn’t change that at all.

What do you think when you read deep-digging, intellectual interpretations of your music?
I think it’s okay. I’m not saying: my God, what intellectual things is that guy writing!’ I’ve got nothing against such reviews.
But I don’t read articles about me anymore. Somewhere, it was in Australia, I read a clipping that really hit me below the belt. At that time I realised that there was no sense to become frustrated about that. You can’t learn anything from a malicious clipping.
It’s like you’re going out with girlfriends and meet a handsome guys and fall head over heels in love. If you’d stayed with your girlfriends, you’d never have heard of the guy, and everything would be allright. I prefer to ignore the reviews about me – even the positive ones.

Is there something you’re afraid of?
Mmmhm, I believe, the only thing I’m really afraid of are people. People can do so much harm. People leave you when you need them most. Besides that I have no fear, I am very grounded and realistic – whether it’s airplane accidents or giving blood, I’m alwas very reasonable. But when it’s about people, I’m not so sure anymore. People can hurt you so much that it will hurt you for years and years. But this feeling of fear of people is of course not continually there.

What do you do in your free time?
Usually I spend time with friends, or I do gymnastics; it’s the most fun for me to do right now. I don’t really go out, I don’t feel well in clubs. Just a concert, but that’s very rarely too.

Are you afraid of being harrassed when you’re in public?
No, that’s not the reason. In London the people have gotten used to seeing famous people on the street. I also wear a hat, a scarf and dark glasses – and then I can’t be recognised. People usually recognise me by my hair, but it’s easy to hide that.

How much do the press photos give away about you, how much influences do you have on them?
I try to have as much influence as I can, because I think modelling is a kind of art. And I am almost never satisfied with myself. Just when I have great ideas and am enthusiastic about photographs, I always spot something that is wrong, which we could have done better. The photos I like most are usually the snapshots I didn’t influence yet.

Do you have a wish, an ambition that is burning within you?
Yes, I would like to write a song for Dusty Springfield.

Hahaha. Why Dusty Springfield exactly?
That’s not something to laugh about. Sh ehas a super-voice, but at the same time – in my humble opinion – such lousy material lately. And wouldn’t it be fun if I, who has never written a song, would write my first song for someone else, a star who really needs it.

Have you ever felt the desire to sing with someone who is not from your own family?
Before Mari Wilson recorded ‘Cry me a river’, I wanted to make a few Julie London coverversions. It doesn’t happen anymore, now that Julie London is so wellknown in England agin. It’s a shame, I’m really a big fan of hers. On the other hand, now her old albums are being played again.

Do you like the version by Mari Wilson?
No, I like the one by Julie London, haha.

What are you looking forward to on a day like today?
I can’t say that I am looking forward to one concrete thing. I take things as they come. In addition to that, what I am doing is not exactly hard labour – when compared to what I did an hour ago it’s very luxurious.

What happened an hour ago?
I won’t say. Miss Diplomacy is sitting here, has won all the prizes for diplomacy. I am scarily diplomatic, it drives people crazy. People say to me: ‘Damn, why don’t you just go out and say it, what you think, why are you so damned diplomatic?’ And I answer: ‘I say what I think, but I think diplomatically.’

You will probably not say what party you elected, will you?

Did you recently read the election questionnaire in New Musical Express?
Yes, they have all said the same, about 80% is voting for the Labour Party. But all the same. The things tha tmove me, are a million miles away from those that move Margaret Thatcher. And your vote during election doesn’t mean much anyway. You should only get the feeling to be part of the elections.

What do you think of Margaret Thatcher as a politician and a woman, then?
A strong woman and a determined leader. Whether I like it or not – she is a personality.

How did you experience the Falkland war?
In the beginning as a big joke. It didn’t happen for real, it was irrealistic. And then mutilated soldiers returned and young women cried for their husbands, I understund that it must have happened for real. But I have no real conception of it even now, it seems like an illusion. It’s so scary that young people have to die because such a show had to be put up. I was in Australia at the time, which just made the show element even bigger.

What are you doing tonight?
I might go into the studio or to the gymnastics room. And when I go into the studio I might go to the gym room afterwards. Exciting life isn’t it?

What is the horse lighter in your jacket?
Someone gave it to me yesterday. And I was so diplomatic, I hate horses but I still took it. Maybe I’ll give it to my sister.

When you looked at old pictures before, you said: ‘I looked like a nut, but my grandmother was satisfied with me.’ Who is your grandmother?
That was a joke of course. I am always making jokes about my grandmother, it always sound like she was a filthy old Vettel. In reality she is a very neat old lady, with whom I get along great. But I am always bad at telling jokes. I tell them so dryly that people have to ask me whether I am serious or not. At the radio interview earlier a woman aked me: ‘Your latest single is called ‘Love blonde’. Are you this love blonde? I answered: ‘Only on Saturday nights’ – and she was totally confused and asked me what I meant.

Do you think you are a very serious person?
Ask my manager, she is together with me all the time. (Question is repeated to the manager.)
Manager: “Yes, she is very serious. Much more than other persons her age.”

How would you characterise Kim in one word?
I can’t answer than question. Can you characterise yourself in one word?