INTERVIEW: Kim Wilde’s Enthralling & Enduring Brand of Pop Don’t Stop

“Kids in America,” “Chequered Love,” “Cambodia,” “The Second Time (Go for It),” “You Keep Me Hanging On,” “You Came”—they’re all part of a larger whole that is arguably one of the greatest pop canons hiding in plain sight. Though Kim Wilde has enjoyed the bulk of her popularity in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, her music has, at some point, reached every corner of the globe over the course of three decades, across 14 studio recordings.

Wilde’s newest project Here Come The Aliens has been an album on everyone’s lips this year. The collection has been greeted warmly on the critical and commercial fronts, giving Wilde much reason to celebrate. Despite her busy schedule, the vocalist and songsmith—as well as her collaborator Sean J Vincent—was gracious enough to sit down with me recently to discuss various subjects, including the making of Here Come The Aliens, highlights of her discography to date, the possibility of an American tour, and her favorite albums of all time.

Congratulations on the release of your new album, Here Come The Aliens! This is your first album of original material since Come Out and Play (2010). Sonically speaking, can you talk about the differences and similarities, if any, between them?
Let me ask Sean J Vincent, Here Come The Aliens’ engineer, to answer this one.
Sean J Vincent: We wanted to really focus on getting the sound of the band on this album. This meant recording all the drums with Jonathan Atkinson live at London’s RAK Studios, then working with Ricky, Neil and Coops on getting the guitars and bass recorded, and then adding Stevie Power’s piano or Ricky’s keyboard playing to that. Obviously, it’s not a Kim Wilde record without strong synth and sequencer parts—so Ricky was in his element working on those parts and as usual, everyone delivered incredible performances and sounds that really fit the overall vision.
We also wanted to make this album have a unique identity, which meant keeping the guitars pretty high in the mix, but also we decided that Ricky’s vocals should be more prominent. So not only does he duet on “Pop Don’t Stop,” but his backing vocals are much more of a feature, alongside Scarlett Wilde’s vocals too—just like in the live shows. 
Come Out and Play was similar in that we went for a very rock/pop sound, but we approached it differently in the way it was recorded. We knew Here Come The Aliens had to represent our live sound, so using the band was the obvious way to do it. We also used a lot of analogue technology. I recorded the drums on an old API desk from the 1970s and mixed the album on a 1980s SSL E-Series mixing desk with a lot of analogue outboard. Even the ones we tweaked “in the box” were all sent through a final analogue stage to get that warm sound we all love. The final piece to the puzzle was getting Tim Young at Metropolis in London to master the album. His work is always stunning.

You’ve had an enduring creative relationship with your brother, Rick Wilde. Describe your connection with him and how has it grown on Here Come the Aliens?
My little brother Ricky and I were born at the beginning of the 1960s, sharing 12 days when we were exactly the same age; we have always been extremely close. The ‘60s were an incredible decade for pop music and the beginning of Top of the Pops, which started in 1964, and our family always watched. As small children we loved The Beatles, The Supremes, The Beach Boys and Elvis. Our Rock & Roll Dad Marty had music playing all the time when he wasn’t strumming his guitar and singing and writing songs.
As we became teenagers throughout the ‘70s, our love for music grew and we both loved the Glam Rock artists especially T. Rex, Queen, Bowie and Roxy Music. At the same time, my Dad continued to do a lot of gigs, and we got to see firsthand the power a performer has over an audience, and we saw that it was VERY good!
Over the years, working with Ricky has seemed like the most natural way to make music. I became his muse, and to me he was and still is the most talented person I have ever had the honor to work with. We speak a private and instinctive musical language that only we understand, almost psychic I would say. We write songs with urgency and passion, never deliberating too long on details, pouring all our hearts and soul into whatever we’re creating.
Our vast appreciation of so many music genres comes into play especially on our latest album, with musical references from Billy Idol to the Carpenters, Elton John to Duran Duran, Marc Bolan to Gary Numan and many more. Our passion for ALL that is “Pop” has never wavered in all these years—as illustrated by the song “Pop Don’t Stop”—and with Here Come The Aliens, we feel we may have made our finest album yet. Until next time. [Laughs]

Can you elaborate on the core themes on Here Come The Aliens and why you think they’re resonating with audiences?
I believe that anything created with passion always translates, and after reading so many fabulous reviews I can clearly see that the joy, passion and love of life itself has manifest in our craft and touched the hearts and minds of those who have listened to Here Come The Aliens. The album evokes musical memories with Ricky’s masterful production and musicianship, whilst at the same time sounding very contemporary and fresh.
The Alien theme came from an authentic place after witnessing an astonishing event in the skies above our home in 2009, which I can only describe as a U.F.O., and so I wrote “1969.” The relatively recent arrival of the World Wide Web has connected the world in an unprecedented way, but with it has bought endless problems, which we discuss in “Cyber.Nation.War.” “Solstice” talks of the devastating loss of young life to those suffering with mental health issues, which gladly seems at last to be a subject no longer brushed under the carpet.
These weightier subjects contrast with a whole bunch of uplifting pop anthems to remind us all to live each day to the fullest, like each day is your birthday! I think these songs resonate as a collection because they explore different sides of life, the good and bad, the sad and happy, the reflective and the hopeful—feelings we all share.

“Pop Don’t Stop” and “Kandy Krush” have already received a warm reception. What other songs would you like see to get lifted as official singles from the new project?
We are getting very good reactions to all the tracks, especially the Blondie inspired “Birthday,” as well as “Solstice” and ‘”Cyber.Nation.War.” I’m happy with any of the tracks to be lifted, as they all stand up on their own as well as collectively.

You’ve always had a prevailing rock element in your work, but you’ve never been afraid to branch out stylistically. Across your 14 albums you’ve touched on many genres. In particular, your R&B work has its own niche following within your fan base, as it relates to portions of Another Step (1986) and through your discography to Now & Forever (1995). What was it about soul music that spoke to you and allowed you to tap into it?
There has always been a soul girl infused with my inner rock chick! I loved Motown since I was a child, especially Diana Ross who is my all-time favorite female singer. I listened a lot to Stevie Wonder albums as a young teenager, and now watch our own daughter Rose fall in love with Songs in the Key of Life, surely the best album ever recorded? At the time I recorded Now & Forever, I was listening a lot to Zhané, SWV, Aaliyah and Mary J. Blige. Inspired by their unique and incredible sounds, I found myself making an album that Kim Wilde fans weren’t ready for!

In your eyes, what album stands as the most underappreciated within your body of work?
Probably Now & Forever, although Come Out and Play is certainly the little sister to Here Come The Aliens.

You took about a decade away from music to focus on your family and an alternative career in landscaping design. How do you balance your personal life and your second career since your formal return to music in 2006 with Never Say Never?
I have a strong marriage to an inspired and inspiring man, and a family life I treasure. We share a love of nature and the garden, our children Harry and Rose, and our adorable dogs. We balance life on the whole, but as with all people sometimes the balance is upset, and then we always have each other to hold onto until the storm is past.

You’re going to be touring the UK and Europe in support of Here Come The Aliens. What can audiences look forward to experiencing at your live shows?
I have an amazing band who I have worked with for many years, plus two new members, one additional drummer and our new bass player All eight of us LOVE playing live together, we trust each other implicitly and work hard and play hard. We also laugh A LOT together. We know how lucky we are to perform on stage for the public, and consider each gig as our sacred rock & roll duty! [Laughs]

You’ve got a massive cult following stateside. Is there any chance that you may bring your tour abroad to your US fans?
I think that is highly likely and we can’t wait!

OK, last question. In the spirit of Albumism, what are your FIVE favorite albums of all time?
Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Todd Rundgren’s A Cappella, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack and Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns.