“I was there in the Eighties, but I still remember”

February 2, 2018, Berlin. Kim Wilde is sitting on the sofa of her hotel room and peruses the vinyl box of her new albums she has just found. The cover in retro look is taken from 1950’s comics, the 57 year old singer is happy to see the vivid colours – as well as being happy that the album exists. She was still looking for the perfect pop record. In the Eighties the British woman was a superstar, she happily tells about the decade, but also about a tipsy train ride with consequences and a UFO sighting in her own garden.

Mrs. Wilde, here in Berlin there are still flowers in front of the house where David Bowie has lived once. You have toured with him in 1990 – you as a pop star, him as a rock icon. An unusual combination, wasn’t it?
It fitted better than you’d think because he was doing a Greatest Hits Tour at the time. For me personally it was an unbelievable experience. I was always a big Bowie fan, listened to his album ‘Hunky Dory’ a lot, as well as the songs that were on the radio.

What impression did you get of him during the tour together?
I have seen a very accessible and down to earth person. He left flowers for me in the dressing room, wished me well before the performance. Very charming. But of course he was a megastar, not someone who was always available. During this time he also fell in love with his future wife Iman, so he was kindof busy.

After you sold around 30 million records worldwide, you retreated from the music business in the mid-Nineties. You founded a family, and devoted yourself to gardening: you were even an expert on television and won awards at garden shows. Are these days in the garden over now?
No, gardening will always be an important part of my life. My husband and I spend a lot of time gardening, but the music has come back to the front again. And excitingly so. I feel like it’s my time. I am again looking for that Holy Grail of pop music, together with my brother Ricky. Our search for that perfect moment goes on, something that unites a lot of artists from the Eighties, that are still there. ABC and OMD have released fantastic new albums, and also the Simple Minds.

Are you in contact with the other Eighties acts?
Yes, I am in contact with them. There’s a lot of goodwill and support. Nik Kershaw for instance, who was so shy back then, is now one of my closest friends.

Your breakthrough happened with the hit ‘Kids in America’. You were only 20 years old. What did you know about the kids in the USA?
Not a lot (laughs). The lyrics were written by my father. My brother wrote the melody and recorded a demo, and as my father heard this great track, he got the idea of the theme ‘Kids in America’. I asked him: “What should it be about, Dad?”. He said: “I have read an article about the youth in the USA, and they came across as being so disillusioned, so hard and cynical.” What I told him: “That’s everywhere, when you’re in your early twenties.” The song is in fact universal, it’s about being young, as my father saw it. It could have been called “Kids in Hertfordshire”, but it doesn’t sound like a hit. “Kids in America” was also easier to sing.

You have never toured through the USA.
Well, the single didn’t set the USA on fire when it was released there.

You reached number 25 in the charts. Only years later you had a number one hit in the USA with your cover of ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’. That doesn’t happen to a lot of British acts.
Which made the Americans try to Americanize me, trying to take control over me. Other producers, other management, the focus was really on the USA all of a sudden – which became a problem when you are as rooted in England as I am. I have worked closely with my family, and I didn’t want to throw that away under any circumstance. Especially since there were reasonable arguments against turning my back on England. British artists don’t have an easy time in America. We have looked at the statistics of British acts that tried their luck in America. Only a few have succeeded – and exactly the ones that spent a lot of time in the States. I wasn’t particularly ambitious about my career in the USA. It was obvious to me that I should live there to conquer that market. And I didn’t want to live there.

Falco has once said: “Whoever can remember the Eighties, they were not there.” How did you observe that decade?
I had fun in the Eighties, I was at parties and in clubs – and I met a lot of fascinating people. The fascinating thing for me was that I met my heroes, and also the people whose albums I’d bought: Sting, Elvis Costello, Michael Jackson. And then there was the audition before Pete Townsend from The Who, who gave me the role in the musical ‘Tommy’. Perhaps I should sit down to remember it all and write it all down. Falco wasn’t right: I was there in the Eighties, but I still remember.

Because drugs didn’t play a big role?
There are a few things about that time, that I am very proud of – one of them being that I haven’t taken one single line of cocaine. I was among people who did this of course, and who are still doing it now perhaps, but I avoid them.

How did you manage to not get weak at the time?
Honestly? I often simply didn’t know what was going on at the time. I didn’t know that these people talked a lot because they were on cocaine. I thought they simply had a lot to say (laughs). Only after some time I realised that they really didn’t have a lot to say. But I have to say that I did have a good relationship with champagne, that I really did enjoy, often also a bit too much. But happily these things never got out of control. And I don’t drink a single drop of alcohol anymore these days.

There is a movie on the internet from the year 2012: after a Christmas party you are wearing a reindeer horns and sing ‘Kids in America’ with your brother in a train – and quite unsteady.
I did register that a woman filmed me, but I was too drunk to care. You see, I sing for my pleasure. I love the physical process and the feeling that singing gives me.

Now the clip on YouTube has had almost 2,4 million views…
In fact this woman contacted us and asked whether she could post the video. I thought ‘Why not?’ At least then no pressure is created by this thing. And then I sat at home and hoped that the whole thing wouldn’t become a disaster for me. Well, I didn’t offend anyone. Whenever I ride the train now I sit very still and hope that no-one recognises me under my hat.

Was pop more mysterious without the internet?
I think so. These days you can see a star like Beyonce while she is brushing her teeth. It has removed some of the mystery.

These days you sit in the train with your hat – and can assume that no-one recognises you. It was different in the Eighties. Did you enjoy that?
The time during which I was really famous, I associate with a lot of obtrusiveness. Paparazzi were waiting outside my home, helicopers were flying above my garden, they waited before the hospital when I came out with my baby. This time as a star was pitiless and discouraging. I was the Twentysomething who was going through everything someone of my age was going through, only I had to go through it in the public eye. My career went up and down. An album could be a hit, sometimes it wasn’t. At first the career in the USA didn’t take off, then everyone wanted me to be there. These highs and lows were enormous and challenging. Now I am much less relevant as a celebrity, and I have a much better time now.

Your dughter and your son are both making music. Are you giving them advice along the way?
My son plays in a band named Keid, who are releasing their first album soon, but he isn’t interested in the slightest about what I have to say about the music industry (laughs). My daughter listens to me more, she is a songwriter and studies music at the university. Both love music, but they are not interested in celebrity. The truth is, they are the opposite of me.

Because you always wanted the publicity?
More because I always want to make the perfect pop record. It has to become a hit then – and of course one is then a public person. For me it was always the side product, my highest priority was searching for the perfect pop moment, that drives me, since I was four years old.

You have already become interested in pop back then?
Yes. It is now possible to find the UK charts from the old days. For instance the charts from 1964, I was four years old – and I know every single song. The Searchers, Herman’s Hermits, Manfred Mann, of course the Beatles and the Stones. Their hits became part of me as a person back then, and when you love pop music like me, you also want to be part of it. It isn’t about the fame, but to make pop yourself. My new song ‘Pop Don’t Stop’ is about that. It is an unbelievably good feeling, when you’re at the centre of what good pop is.

You didn’t always stand there.
I was out of it for a long time, because I didn’t release any albums anymore. I have also made records that no-one wanted to hear. I also know how it feels to stand outside. In fact I was only in the centre for a short time, it was in the early Eighties. But the energy you find there, is absolutely unusual. One wants to have more of that!

Where do you stand now?
At the moment I feel like I am moving back towards that centre. And my voice is much stronger than before. It’s because of my genes, my father is now 78 years old and still has a powerful voice. My children are wonderful singers, my niece, who has worked on the album with me, also – and my sister works with Kylie Minogue.

What is being sung when the whole family comes together?
We don’t always sing, many of us do that professionally and it’s like the bus driver who doesn’t want to go on holiday in a bus. We usually spend time chatting away. But it does happen that my father takes up his guitar. Then we sing – we harmonise. My parents love the Beach Boys records, Crosby Stills & Nash or Simon & Garfunkel. As children we were taught to harmonise. My father always sang the second or third voice when he heard music on the radio.

Your new album is called ‘Here Come The Aliens’. You say you have seen a UFO in your garden in 2009. Tell us about it!
What I have seen, was impressive lights above the clouds. It was an amazing view, and I still think about it every day. Of course I know that some people now think: ‘Eighties icon sees UFOs’s in her own garden – sure!’ So I handle this theme with a little irony and self mockery. But I know what I saw. It has felt like it has come from another planet. The experience has changed my entire outlook on life.

Do you spend time on forums talking about this?
When the time allows, I look at messages about other sightings. It is not an easy theme , and the internet is a very unreliable place for this kind of information. But testimonials, especially from pilots and astronauts, are very interesting. They also talk about this special feeling.

Perhaps this feeling is all about the bad conscience of people.
That could be, yes. There’s a song on my album called ‘Rosetta’, it’s about the satellite that started in 2004 and was on its way to the comet Tschurjumow-Gerassimenko for ten years. Its mission was to find out more about the origin of mankind. In the song it’s about not having to go so far to find out that information. The answers about mankind are to be found here, on earth. Our character is shown through the way we handle our planet. And when we are really observed by aliens – and I do have that feeling – then they will be shocked.

Do you believe in a higher instance? A God?
I am convinced, that after death we do go on. I have faith in eternity – however it is shaped. But it is a spiritual belief, not a religious one. I like the idea of living eternally, to float around, without having to care about pain or exterior. I have no fear of getting older. It doesn’t concern me at all. Contrary to people who drown in prosecco at 60, my attitude is: bring it on! As in: life – not the prosecco. I don’t drink alcohol anymore.