“In this country I’m a retro 80s artist who likes gardening”

Date
Published in
Pinkpaper.com website (UK)
Written by
Darren Scott

She stole the show at last year’s Retrofest, so we’re glad that Kim Wilde is making a return trip to the nostalgic Scottish music festival this month. Here you can read the full extended version of the interview printed in our regular edition, exclusively at pinkpaper.com.

Hello?

Hello, is that Kim?
It is, sorry just one minute while I take my answer phone off (a resoundingly positive ‘cheers’ is heard as the message plays out and beeps)
Hello!

Hello! It’s Darren from the Pink Paper
Oh hi!

How are you?
I’ve very good thanks, I’m very good.

You’re about to go away on holiday, aren’t you?
I am yeah. Well, we’re going to France, we always go to France.

But you apparently nip away to do the odd gig while you’re in France...
Yeah, I have done. It kind of works out alright.

How are you finding gigging again in Europe?
I’ve been really loving every minute of it. I love interacting with my audience again after all this time. I like having fun with it. I’m glad I don’t have the pressure of having to be as super-fantastic and super-skinny as I used to have, so I’ll leave that to Madonna! [laughs] I just kind of bumble around a bit and have fun and jump around quite a lot in a way that most 47-year-olds don’t [laughs].

What’s brought you back to that?
Well initially it’s because I got dangled a big fish, which was to go on tour with Altered Images and the Human League and I’d always been huge fans of theirs and also the money was quite good, so I thought ‘well, that’s not bad, you get paid like that to do something that fantastic’.

Also it wasn’t so long after I’d had both my children, they were about four, maybe five and I’d sort of stepped out of the music business to concentrate on having them and bring them up. So I thought ‘now’s a good time to start getting madam back into shape’. I saw the tour as something to make strides to get myself back to, well as close to, my original shape as I could muster.

So physically it’s been very good for me and emotionally it’s been fantastic. I didn’t realise I’d have so much fun and love it, that was the big surprise. I thought I’d do it, take the money and run and then I realised it was just wonderful meeting my audience again, especially in the UK. I’d got used to being overly adored by our European friends but I never realised quite how much people in this country held me in their affections.

That was so apparent at Retrofest, the reception was fantastic – I don’t know if you thought that?
Yeah I did. I was amazed. To be liked like that by your own countrymen is quite amazing. I used to sell so many records in Germany and France and stuff and its always a great thrill to be appreciated by any audience, no matter what country they’re in but I’d always traditionally sold so many more records by square metre in the rest of the world, so I kind of got used to people getting quite excited, especially because of course I’m foreign to them.

Us Brits are kind of famous in a way for taking our own a little bit for granted, though I’m not sure that we do, but we’re sort of a bit famed for that aren’t we? We have a very down to earth, which I think is very good, approach to fame. Of course fame’s a big subject and everybody talks about wanting to be it but at the same time we don’t mind knocking people down a few pegs at the slightest whisper, so I think there’s a healthy scepticism about fame at the same time as a lot of people are wanting it.

I rather enjoyed that I don’t get treated that much differently from anybody else, whereas if you go to France or Germany sometimes you get treated like you’re superhuman and I’m not altogether sure that’s a very healthy experience [laughs] So I’m kinda used to a bit of healthy cynicism from us Brits but actually to stand in front of them and have such a warm, warm welcome is really something I won’t forget.

So how would you describe your whole Retrofest experience?
I loved the whole concept of the festival, that it was so inclusive for families and that there was so much fun on hand. I loved the idea that it’s a family idea. There was a great atmosphere there, people were clearly out to have as much fun as could be had. You could really feel it as soon as you walked on stage, everybody out in the crowd were being looked after properly. I think the promoter did an amazing job at keeping everyone happy and that’s a real skill.

Will that encourage you to do a tour ‘proper’? As you’ve done Here and Now tours, but not a solo one?
I’ve done lots of Here and Now tours in the past but lately I’ve been doing lots of one-off festivals all over Europe – just recently got back from Brussels and Berlin and I’ve even been in Turkey in the last month. So yes, there’s a lot of live work coming my way, and a lot of other peoples way. Live seems to be where it’s at these days, there’s a big return to a live theme and I feel very fortunate that I’m sort of caught up in that to a degree.

So what about a UK tour proper?
Well I don’t know. It’s different in Germany because I’ve got a record deal there and I had an album out there a couple of years ago on the back of a big hit that was only over there, Austria, Holland and a few other places. In those countries there’s a different concept of who I am, in this country I think it’s very much that I’m a retro 80s artist who likes gardening.

Over there they’re not so up to speed on the gardening side because they haven’t seen so much of it and they’re very aware that I had a hit a couple of years ago. For them I sort of have a bit more of a contemporary aura, but here I’m very much a retro phenomena.

I disagree, especially in light of your recent album – and actually the fact that I listen to your earlier albums quite a lot still.
That’s only my perception of it, it’s not all that easy often to get an idea of what the wider public are actually thinking generally about you unless you do some kind of survey [laughs]. Journalists talk to me about it that and they don’t see it your way at all, they see it very much that I’m a retro thing. I often get asked if I’m a bit embarrassed about getting up and singing old songs and stuff like that. I often get asked that from journalists.

Really?
Yeah. ‘Are you a bit embarrassed, you’re a 47-year-old mother and housewife from Hertfordshire and you’re singing songs you sung when you were 21. Don’t you think there’s something a bit pathetic about embracing the past so wholeheartedly without moving forwards’. I often get asked that by journalists and obviously I don’t feel that way or I wouldn’t do it, but there is a train of thought that sort of has that in mind, but it’s not one I concur with I have to say.

So why wasn’t Never Say Never released in the UK?
Well I don’t think… It was kind of released on the back of having had a massive hit over there with another artist called Nena. To be quite honest with you I don’t think there was too much motivation from the UK record company to stand full square behind it and promote it. I think it was also, you know, they were obviously thinking to themselves ‘well, where do we go with this? Is Kim Wilde back on the scene making new stuff? Is it a whole new career thing?’

I mean it could be. I’m very excited about starting writing again. I did quite a lot of writing for that album, as well as re-recording the old hits, which I’m really, really glad I did. I was a bit sceptical when the concept was mooted but having now done that I’m really glad that I did re-record Kids In America and got Charlotte Hatherley in and made it exciting again for myself. It was something that took me by surprise. When it was mentioned I just thought it was a very tired idea. How could you make something more relevant than the original of Kids in America? But I think we have done.

Cyndi Lauper’s done something similar recently, and when it works it works well.
Well yeah, Nena did it in Germany and I was so impressed by what she had done. She had done it with a chap called Uwe Peterson who was an original part of the Nena band, the writer and producer in the same way that Ricki has always been my writer and co-writer and producer, and I worked with him and it worked really, really well.

So that’s interesting about Cyndi Lauper. Did you say Cyndi Lauper?

Yeah.
Oh ok, that’s very interesting because I did a version of I Drove All Night at the Brussels festival the other night.

Really! I loved your Enjoy The Silence cover at Retrofest.
Oh thank you. Well maybe we’ll do I Drove All Night at Retrofest. Maybe we will.

That’d be good.
That’d be fun.

So yeah, Cyndi Lauper’s gone dance and is touring the UK later this year…
Oh wow! That’s very exciting.

But you said you were working on new material…
Well I’ve got a few song-writing projects that I’m really looking forward to, but when they’ll happen I’m not sure exactly. But it will happen, I feel very much back in the heart of music, it’s where I want to be. I have lots more songs in me and they need to come out. It’s just about finding the time and the vehicle and the circumstances, but you know you make those.

So is there anyone you’d like to work with?
Well there’s been quite a few people that I’ve been really excited about working with. I’ve been recently talking to Danny Clarke from Danny Wilson and I know he does a lot of work out in Los Angeles. I’ve been talking to him about maybe us doing some projects together – who knows? It’s all very early days really.

Now, some of your original material is quite hard to get hold of – and despite a slew of best of’s and greatest hits there’s been no definitive collection. Any plans for something like that, or a re-release in the digital age?
Well EMI did one quite a few years ago.

Yeah, but did that not miss off Say You Really Want Me?
Ooh I don’t know. You’re getting a bit nit-picky now aren’t you [roars with laughter]. You’re a bit nit-picky aren’t you?

Well it’s a brilliant song and should be out there.
I know that there has been more talk about putting together something very definitive; I wouldn’t completely discount that idea.

And I heard that you recorded an album in 1998 and then scrapped it, is that true or just a load of rubbish?
No, it is true. Sorry, which date did you say?

1998.
Oh 1998, yeah. It came at a time when I was considering getting out of the music business anyway. My career at that time felt like it was in freefall and I sort of had a sense that it was time to, as a musician and a singer – it was all I’d known since I was 20 the inclination is to just keep doing it, and lots of artists do and having finished it there was a resounding lack of will from my record company, not just here but abroad.

Also I think the biggest problem was my own lack of will, ultimately, to carry this project forward. I just got married and I wanted to have our children so the whole thing kind of melted in favour of a different life, which I don’t have any regrets about at all. Of course, those songs, particularly the ones that stand up may well re-surface. I know my brother has talked about reincarnating them in some of his projects.

Overall then, which song are you most proud of?
I love You Came. I think that’s a great song and I love the way people love it.

And its got such a sweet, pure message in a world that’s ever more complex and has complex ways of describing very simple things I think it got straight to the heart. It’s a very simple song about love that touched people’s emotions without trying to be clever, just being honest.

I think the melody that Ricky worked out for it was just spot on, and I love all the backing vocals, and I love the energy of it. I love the fact that it reminds me of an amazing time in my life, when I was touring with Michael Jackson.

And the video, of course, was made in Berlin just before the wall came down. It’s got lots of fantastic associations, that song, for me.

Going back to Retrofest being a family event, do your kids Rose and Harry like your music?
I think they both love Kids in America. I’ve never met a child that isn’t completely in love with that song.

She’s going to come to a concert with me next week actually, she’s only been to one. I was watching her sitting wide-eyed looking at me, and that was about three or four years ago now. Most of my concerts are abroad and they’re always at school so she hasn’t really been a part of that side of my life.

But now she’s starting to write songs herself and she’s only eight. She sings a lot, she’s learning Jack Johnson songs and Rufus Wainwright songs. I mean obviously we listen to lots of fantastic music here but she picks up on all of it. So I think a music life is certainly beckoning to Rose Fowler.

Are you putting your daughter on the stage Mrs Wilde?
I can see her doing that. I was speaking to Martin about this last night and we can see her kind of becoming a songwriter. She’s a very good artist. She’s picked up all our creative genes and she’s doing extremely well.

Harry too, he plays an amazing electric guitar. He’s got a band called The Reapers. They both completely love it. There’s posters of Sid Vicious and Metallica all over his walls. Of course I’ve not had a small part to play in that [laughs].