Kim Wilde’s new album Here Come the Aliens is in part a tribute to the pop music she grew up with. Duncan Seaman reports.
Gearing up for her first UK album release in more than 20 years, Kim Wilde seems thoroughly in her element.
She is, she says, “really looking forward” to the UK headline tour that will accompany Here Comes The Aliens and delighted that radio stations have taken to its fizzy lead single, Pop Don’t Stop.
“I’m really excited and can’t believe it’s happening. It’s like living in a parallel world,” she says.
The album is bookended by two space-themed songs. The first, 1969, refers both to the Apollo 11 moon landing that year and the quizzical media response when she mentioned that she had spotted a UFO near her home in Hertfordshire nine years ago.
Wilde wrote the song with her brother Ricky around 2014. “I kind of linked it from being full of wonder at eight years old seeing man land on the moon which seemed like an unbelievable event to an eight-year-old and then skipping into 2009 and having another unbelievable event unfold in the sky above my back garden,” she says.
“I know it sounds a bit ridiculous but actually it made a huge impact on me and the people who saw it with me, and also on the local community. It made the local newspaper and a lot of people round here also saw something extraordinary in the sky that night. So yeah, I’m a firm believer that they’re here, that they’re visiting, they’re around, they’re not sure whether to give us some more time her to mess things up or maybe they’ll just come and take matters into their own hands.”
The album closes with a ballad to Rosetta, the space probe which brought us new understanding of comets. It seems both Wilde siblings are deeply fascinated by the whole idea of space. “My brother’s just as crazy about the subject as I am,” says the singer, 57. “We’re kind of borderline obsessed with the whole thing.”
Here Come The Aliens was largely made at RAK Studios in Regent’s Park, where Wilde recorded her first single, Kids in America, with Mickie Most back in 1980. “It’s a place where my career began,” she says. “It’s the building I walked into when I first met Mickie Most who spotted me and wanted to make me into an international pop star, so that building holds a lot of special memories for me.
“Of course we recorded all our early hits there.”
I do think that social networking and the internet has been like handing over a hand grenade to a baby.Kim Wilde
Wilde admits to being a little unnerved finding herself back in the vocal booth at RAK.
“I found the emotions of being there [at RAK] a little bit overwhelming from time to time. We recorded most of the tracks with my band there but we ended up doing a lot of the vocals in the Doghouse Studio, which is Ricky’s studio, in a more intimate setting. But nonetheless I was there when the tracks were going down. It’s one of the best studios in the UK – or in the world – and we got an amazing sound. That’s why the album sounds as amazing as it does, because it was recorded at RAK.”
Pop Don’t Stop, Wilde’s first duet with her brother, is their “open letter to the whole genre of pop music”.
“We grew up in the Sixties, the birth of pop music, really. Rock ’n’ roll started in the late Fifties but pop music really made its mark in the Sixties as we were growing up and listening to all of it.”
Wilde’s father, Marty, one of Britain’s first rock ’n’ roll stars, was “hungry” to hear the new generation of pop bands springing up in his wake. “When we were in the car we had the radio on; when we were at home the radio or the record player was on and Dad was constantly buying records or singing the songs that he was writing, so there was music everywhere.
“Then being teenagers in the Seventies, with glam rock and punk. So it’s an open love letter to the music that shaped our lives and continues to shape our lives.”
Having Pop Don’t Stop and her new single Kandy Krush playlisted by BBC Radio 2 was important to Wilde. “I’m switching round radio stations all the time hoping to hear my songs,” Wilde says. “If I don’t hear it on Radio 2 then I’m going through all the local radio stations, anyone who I think might play it.
“Obviously I avoid the heavy rock stations,” she laughs.
Another song, Cyber.Nation War, addresses the contemporary phenomenon of internet trolls. Wilde says it was not an issue she ever had to deal with when she first became one of Britain’s biggest pop stars in the Eighties but as the mother of two teenage children she’d been alarmed to hear about their experiences and those of those friends.
“You just have to pick up the newspaper and you read some tragic stories about the impact of social media, the haters and the trolls, there have been some terrible stories. I do think that social networking and the internet has been like handing over a hand grenade to a baby or giving a baby a packet of razor blades and putting them on the motorway and expecting them to survive it.
“It hasn’t been thought through properly. I believe there’s more education and more awareness now in schools but nonetheless it’s all quite late in the day, and I’m amazed that our children were exposed to this so blithely.”
A new addition to Wilde’s writing team is her niece, Scarlett, who also designed the album’s striking pulp fiction-style artwork. “She’s been my backing vocalist for about ten years now but she’s only developed into an artist in the last handful of years. She’s been studying in Australia and she’s been acquiring another skill.
“She’s an amazing singer, she’s an instinctive songwriter and she’s a great performer so it’s another great presence on the stage. It takes a little bit of work from me, which is always helpful. All my band are like that, they’re all great musicians and performers.
“I was never that happy about there being too much focus on me so I’m very happy that I can go out with my gang. We’re going to have two drummers on this tour so it’s going to be pretty crowded on stage. A lot of energy and a lot of noise and we’re going to celebrate by playing lots of my oldest hits and sandwiching them in between half a dozen of the tracks from the new album.”
All this activity might leave Wilde with little time at the moment for her other love – gardening – which at one stage she successfully pursued as an alternative career, but she sounds sanguine.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” she says. “For me, gardening is still a big passion and there’s nothing better than getting out there at this time of year and clearing out all the dead stuff and watching new life re-emerge. It’s a gorgeous time of year, I love it.
“As soon as the tour’s finished at the end of April I’ll be straight back out in the garden.”
Here Come The Aliens is out now. Kim Wilde plays at Plug in Sheffield on April 13, York Barbican on April 15 and Halifax Victoria Theatre on April 19. www.kimwilde.com
SUPPORTING TWO SUPERSTARS
In 1988 Kim Wilde supported Michael Jackson on the European leg of his phenomenally successful Bad Tour. It included a concert at Roundhay Park, Leeds.
Wilde admits the tour is “a bit of a blur all these years later” but remembers the UK shows being “phenomenal”. She says: “It was really overwhelmed by how amazing the audience reaction to me was when they were clearly standing there waiting for Michael Jackson.”
Two years later she supported David Bowie. Being raised on Bowie’s music – “The album that I loved the most was Hunky Dory, that was my Dad’s album, he played it a lot” – Wilde was thrilled. “The tour that I was on, Sound and Vision, was his greatest hits tour so I was in heaven.” Her meetings with Bowie were fleeting – but with reason. “He would pop his head in and wish me luck for the gigs, but I know he was falling in love with Iman at the time and shortly after the tour finished he got married to her, so I think he was a little bit preoccupied,” she recalls, laughing.