A date with Kim Wilde: the ‘Never say never’ interview (transcript)

What can people expect from the new album “Never say never”?
It’s very identifiably Kim Wilde ’81, but it’s sort of bigger and better, so it’s not as if we’ve turned our back on the past and try to do something completely new, but it’s very fresh, but it’s the best bits from the past and it kindof – the best parts – it’s the best aspects of what was great about the records were made from the past but drags it into the 21st century, shakes it up a bit and kindof redelivers it.
So it’s identifiable, it’s recognisable even, except there’s something different about it and that’s a magical combination of production, obviously, the songs themselves and my singing.

What the message behind the album title?
There were a few times in my career, a few times in my life really when I was
saying ‘I’ll never do that, I’ll never go back into the industry, I’ll never do an eighties retro thing, I’ll never have a comeback’. These were thoughts that passed through my mind. Directly I left the business, got married and had children. But after doing the eighties tours and really loving it, enjoying it and being quite good at it really, I though actually saying never is really dull, and you should never say never, because life has a way of surprising you sometimes. And of course my life took an amazingly different course once I did get married I got into college, become a horticulturalist, becoming a journalist and an author, a medal winner and all kinds of things. If someone told me that I would say that would never happen. So now I’m sort of like, anything can happen. So I guess ‘Never say never’ for me is a rather exciting statement. The possibility of absolutely anything happening. And I have had amazing things happen in my life. So… That’s why! Goodness knows really what’s coming in now, but I know they’ll all be good. I have absolutely every confidence in that, whatever it is.

How did you choose the songs for your album?
When I initially met Uwe, after I spoke with him for a while I realised that he had a genuine passion to do the project and he had a great appreciation of what was really good about me back in the day. Probably more so than I did myself you know it’s very hard to look at yourself objectively and see sometimes any good in it. And for a long time I didn’t. I didn’t want to hear ‘Kids in America’, let alone sing it, let alone re-record it! And put it on an album! I mean, these are things I thought that never gonna happen. And he convinced me in one short afternoon about the whole project and so I thought ‘you know Uwe, you’re the person who can choose this stuff, you know what you like, you know what you can do with it, you’re the one who’s gonna be twiddling the knobs and do your magic, I trust you. And I gave Uwe my baby and said ‘there you are, you look after it’.

How did the cooperation with Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen (the producer) come about?
I first met Uwe and Nena back in the eighties, doing TV’s with them, and then at one time they actually came over to England, to our studio and I met them then, and I suppose Uwe for Nena was what Ricki was for me, the musical maestro, the one without whom it could never have happened, and obviously watching Nena’s amazing re-emergence, along with Uwe’s fantastic production and writing and the way he’s worked with her… But actually it was after meeting him that I knew he was the right guy for this project. I was fairly sceptical about the project at all for a long time before we started doing it, and it was really only when I met Uwe and I looked in the whites of his eyes and he told me why he wanted to do the record and the ideas he had for it I just knew it was in safe hands and that in fact he was the only person who could actually do it. So it was a very fortuitous meeting and the moment that turned the whole thing around for me. So he’s been pivotal to it. And in the process I’ve had a great time getting to know him, he’s very funny and makes me laugh a lot. I love being around him and he’s full of – an amazing amount of energy. But you don’t really want to get in the car with him.

He drives like a crazy guy (laughs). But you know I’m a tortoise… but yeah, he’s Speedy Gonzalez. But we did quite a lot of work in the car, because he got to drive me from Hamburg to Jeo’s studio at Jeo Park, for several days, several memorable days for many reasons, not least of all his driving and we did quite a lot of work in the car, I was playing him stuff I was listening to, getting to know eachother, and also I mean he speaks very good English, I don’t speak any German, but sometimes language might let us down, I might not be able to express what I wanted to say or how I felt or anything, and he had the same with me but we got to a point where it didn’t really matter anymore. When we were in the studio there was a very pure stream of communication that felt like it didn’t need any words, so that was very exciting, and extremely creative and I think the album is a testimony to that.

How big was the influence of your brother Ricky in the songwriting?
Well, he’s written loads of the songs really, not just the old ones but quite a few of the new ones as well. It was great writing with him again and recording with him again. So I’m really chuffed Ricky’s all over it. I remember my initial meeting with Uwe and he said ‘You know, we want to capture the best of what was great about Kim Wilde and one of the greatest things about Kim Wilde was Ricky Wilde. And I thought ‘Thank God he said that’, ’cause that for me is absolutely essential. Without him I wouldn’t be here. Simple. So yeah, so Ricky’s all over it so that’s good news for me and very good news for everyone else.
He’s written some of the best songs he’s written in years and he worked really well with Uwe which was very exciting and together with Uwe, Ricky and myself we wrote a few songs together and they came out great.

How did the cooperation with your sister Roxanne come about?
Well, my sister’s been recording for some years now. She’s formed a band called the Dimestars and now she’s signed to Wall of Sound and she’s doing
lots of writing projects. She’s just come back from Sweden doing a massive amount of writing there. She’s on the radar anyway. It was the song itself I think ‘Forgive me’ required – the part that she sang was the voice of a planet. So how do you find the voice for a planet? I would say there’s an innocence to her voice, a naivety but a strength as well. I felt she had the perfect voice for the part that talked back to humanity. She has all the innocence and what is beautiful about our planet but she’s got a lot of strength as well. She spoke for our planet (laughs). She sings for our planet. She does it beautifully. I don’t think anyone else could have sung it.

Why did you choose “You came” as the first single?
Well, it sounded great and “You came” has always been my favourite hit from the past anyway, so I was really chuffed. There was this sort of, you know, big decision made by several people. Of course I was consulted. But I was really chuffed when they told me they were gonna put out “You came” again. And it does sound great, really. They did a great job.

Why didn’t you pick “Kids in America” or “Cambodia” to kick off your comeback?
Well, I think, you know, when you listen to the album there are a lot of strong songs there and we were a bit spoilt for choice really with singles. It’s a very nice situation to find yourself in. And something has to emerge as a leader. And “You came” has just emerged as that. You can’t really put your finger on what it is. But it just felt right to put that one out. I think it was a much loved song when it first came out, it was very popular and people really loved it. So it will be good to bring it back into the 21st century, to give it a new lease of life.

“You came” is more rocky than it was in 1988…
It’s got more of a rock edge. When I had a chat with Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen about producing the album he said he wanted to kindof take it back to the roots of Kim Wilde, the rocky edge, the rough edge as well as obviously the pop edge, and bring it, haul it into the 21st century and give it a new lease of life. And some of the elements of when we were first recording, pretty basic really, basic drum, guitar and bass, then of course lots of synthesizers and keyboard stuff too. Sortof a good combination of the two. So we’ve done the same with this album, except obviously it doesn’t sound like it was recorded in 1980. It’s got a very contemporary feel to it. But it’s got all the edge and all the energy that was existing in the very first records that I’ve made. So I think Uwe’s done an incredible job really in breathing life into the old songs as well as helping to present the new ones.

Your brother Ricky and your husband Hal are involved in the new “You came” video…
Well, it’s always really good fun working with Ricky. Of course he’s the guy that started the whole thing, him and my father Marty, although Marty is not involved in this album but Ricky’s very involved. So we’ve done lots of live concerts together, Ricky and I, in the last few years doing eighties concerts, and of course his involvement with this album is quite large. So it was lovely just to have him back on board again, visibly as well as musically.
And working with my husband… I think they say never work with animals, children and husbands (laughs). So actually it was a really fun experience and I couldn’t have kissed anybody else like that. Well, I wouldn’t have wanted to, maybe I could… So it was kinda lovely. And he’s got a beautiful face and I wanted to show him off really.

How often did you have to shoot the final scene with Hal?
Well we had to do it a lot of times of course… Just to get it right… But, yeah I mean bless him he hung around all day, it was a long day, a long hot day. They asked him to get there many hours before he was needed, he was very patient, so he was very well behaved.

What about the red scarf in the video?
Yeah, when I was in the Michael Jackson tour in 1988 it was my way of claiming the stage prior to him coming on. So although I was opening for Michael Jackson it was just my way of coming on stage and I used to get my red scarf and tie it to the microphone. Just to say ‘It’s me, now. So if you don’t like it: tough, I’m staying for the next half an hour. Get your heads around it.’ And it was a really amazing tour for me, of course. I learned a lot about stagecraft and had a bloody good time.

What about working in the studio again after a 10 year break?
It was interesting actually. It was as if I had just walked out of a studio the day before. So it was really like riding a bike. As soon as I got in, it was like ‘Yeah!’. Very comfortable, very easy. Easier than it has ever been.

Where and when did you record the album?
Well we wrote some of the songs a couple of years ago. It’s been quite a long time in the making, this album. We started recording I think probably at Jeo Park in Hamburg, where I recorded ‘Born to be wild’, and did some recording in London at my old recording studio, when I was signed to Mickie Most’s RAK Records. So that was an interesting experience, going back to the studio where it all began. It was kindof odd actually. But I was really glad it was there. That seemed to be a really good thing to do. To go back where everything started made sense. Even when Mickie wasn’t there. But I felt he was around, watching.

In what way has your voice changed compared to the 80s?
My husband informs me that voices mature around the age of 35. Which was roundabout the age I stopped singing. And when I started singing again with the eighties tours I kindof realised that I had this new instrument. It felt like it did what I asked it to do, it was much better behaved than it had ever been before. And because I met Hal during a year of theatre I had learnt a different technique of getting a lot more voice out of me anyway. So although pop singing is different to theatre singing which is a whole other thing which is – I find quite hilarious at times, because my husband is a theatre singer, when he tries to sing pop songs I laugh and when I try to sing theatre songs he laughs. It’s a different thing but to have all that extra energy is like having a whole big powerpack and I never experienced that before so I like singing a lot more now and it’s much easier. I think my voice is a lot stronger.

What is the difference between Kim Wilde in the 80s and 2006?
What can I say, where do you start really? I think my life is in a much better place ’cause I guess in the eighties I was always looking ’round corners to see what was round the corner and then I’d get to the corner and I’d get to look around and then I’d be looking for another corner to look round. So I don’t tend to do that anymore and that’s a much nicer way to live life. So it’s about taking in what’s in front of you not something that’s round the corner. So as you get older as I’ve got older, I’ve learned to really live in the moment and take stock of what I’ve got and value it. So that’s a different person, a different person to the person who’s looking around corners. That’s a happier person, a more confident person because of it but that’s a lot to do with being married obviously to my husband, Hal, and our children and our dog (laughs). So I’ve got a… I’m really happy, I think is what I’m trying to say and it’s a very precious place to be. And I recognise it.

You are a mother, gardener, author and singer and are still looking like a 20 year old, what is your secret?
Well… (laughs) I work with great makeup artists, and, well, your lighting is very nice. I’m quite healthy, I eat healthy food, take care of my diet, exercise regularly but I’m not a paragon of virtue at all, you know… But I do the best I can to keep it together. And then one day, you never know, I might have a facelift or something. You see, never say never (laughs). I’ll get it all sucked up, lovely… botox here (points out forehead), collagen here (points out lips), it’ll be fabulous.

Do you feel any pressure?
I don’t feel any pressure, no, no, that’s why I’m enjoying it so much. The pressure’s off. I’ve done… I’ve lived… I’ve had a career that was full of pressure. This doesn’t feel like it this time. I’ve made a choice to do this, I don’t have to do this and so I’ve come into it from a completely different perspective and from a totally different point in my life. If anything I think there’s a potential to enjoy it more this time around than the last time. I think I value the good parts of it more than I used to value it, perhaps I took some of it for granted. So, yeah I think, whatever happens now I’ll appreciate a lot more than I used to. Either way I know we’ve made a fine album and that’s great for my kids.

Why did you leave the pop business?
I don’t know, when I got out of the pop business, which was roundabout 1995, I’d become really disillusioned with the music industry. I just felt it was flat and I didn’t like the music I was listening to and I didn’t like how the industry was going. It seemed to be more industry than music, it had become more business than music, and I just thought ‘I don’t belong here anymore’. And anyway I thought I’d outgrown it and I had outgrown it and I think the public had outgrown me and there was another wave of music to come. I don’t hate the Spice Girls that much, in fact I really liked some of their records, but at the time I thought ‘No, I don’t belong here anymore, I feel I should get out of this club and see if there’s somewhere else that I belong’.

Since you already are an author are there any plans for an autobiography in the future?
You know what, I think it’s a great idea but I’m not sure if I can remember most of it. I’ve got a terrible memory. I would like to write a book, maybe not so much autobiographical, but maybe telling stories that kind of express some of the things that have happened to me. I guess making it fiction… So it wouldn’t be like ‘Oh and then I kissed Adam Ant’, ’cause I did (laughs). But no, I wouldn’t be telling you about that. But you know, I have lots of things I’d like to say about my life and what’s going on and what happened and putting it into some kind of context. Yeah I wanna find a way to do that but I’m sure that will become obvious as time goes by. Because I love writing.

Are there any other artists you would like to cooperate with?
I’d love to work with Rufus Wainwright. I think he’s gorgeous. And I think he’s one of the most exciting songwriters I’ve heard for a while. I’ve got a very open mind about working with people. On the album I got to work with Charlotte Hatherley, which was fantastic. She used to play with Ash and now she has her own solo deal and she is someone who I really have a high regard for. I think she’s tomorrow’s future bright star. And I’m very pleased that she came to do ‘Kids in America’ with me. In fact we asked her to do guitar and she turned up in the studio and I, at the time, was having a bit of a problem with ‘Kids in America’ because I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that I was doing it again after all these years and although I loved how Uwe produced it I was still having a problem having a direct relationship with it again and just find a good reason to put it on an album. I wasn’t quite convinced. Charlotte was due in to play guitar that day and I thought ‘You know what, ‘Kids in America’ would make sense for me if she sings it too. So when she turned up I said ‘Would you sing ‘Kids in America’?’ She said ‘Sure, I’ll do backing vocals’ and I said ‘No, no… not backing vocals I want you to sing it’. So she kindof was a bit… ‘Oh God, you know, I would love to but you are gonna have to go shopping because I’m not gonna do it with you in the studio.’ So I went shopping that afternoon, instead of being there and let her get on with it. When I got back and heard what she’d done I was so chuffed and it brought ‘Kids in America’ back to life for me again as a new recording. It’s very different singing it live, that’s different. I’ve been doing a lot of eighties concerts singing ‘Kids in America’ and that’s the most natural thing in the world in a retro sense. But presenting it again as a new song I was having a lot of problems with it until Charlotte’s involvement. And when she finished I thought ‘That’s great and I want it on my album’. And that was great.

Will you be touring with this record?
There definitely will be, yeah. I’ve really loved doing the eighties tours I’ve done in the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed them. I’d love to put a tour together, I’d absolutely love it. I think certainly one of the first things will be talking about putting it together, yeah.

Would you like to add anything?
No, I think I’ve said far too much already (laughs).