RICKY Wilson, lead singer with Kaiser Chiefs, is no fan of name-dropping, but can’t resist mentioning he’s “sort of” become mates with the one-time Formula One world champion Jenson Button.
“In 2015 I got the chance to sit next to him while he did the hill climb at the Goodwood racing circuit in a Honda NSX supercar,” he says. “I thought it was going to be scary, but he was such an amazing driver that it was like nipping down to the shops. The car went exactly where he wanted it to go. The best thing is, he did it in wellies.”
Wilson, 39, who was a judge on three series of the BBC talent show The Voice, loves cars but admits he’s a bit hazy on the technicalities. “I like to think I’ve got an everyman’s appreciation of cars. I know the difference between a Range Rover and a Jaguar, but I have no idea about horsepower or cam profiles.”
He drives a sporty Honda Civic Type R GT, which can go from standstill to 62mph in less than six seconds and boasts more than 300bhp. “Cars are meant to be fun,” Wilson enthuses. “That’s why I love the Civic. Van drivers always ask me to rev it at traffic lights. It does sound lovely.”
The Civic is the result of a “brand ambassador” deal with Honda, and the video to the Kaiser Chiefs’ latest single, Hole in My Soul, was filmed at the Knockhill race circuit in Fife with a bunch of Civic Type Rs and the aid of Gordon Shedden, the reigning British touring car champion.
“The car is about the only place I listen to music now. I like the sense of belonging you get from radio”
Wilson’s first car belonged to his mother. “It was a black Fiat Panda, and Pandas had this weird windscreen that could be popped out. There were a couple of nights when I pulled away thinking, ‘Something’s not right. Hang on: where’s the windscreen?’ Who the hell nicks Panda windscreens?”
Wilson was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, and formed the band while living in Leeds. Having blasted onto the music scene in 2005 with the five-times-platinum album Employment, which had produced the top 10 hit I Predict a Riot the previous year, Wilson might have been expected to splash out. Instead, true to the Yorkshire stereotype, he opted for a second-hand Mini Mayfair.
“It used to belong to our manager’s grandma,” he grins. “I got so emotionally attached to it, I couldn’t bring myself to sell it. I keep it at my house in Cornwall.”
His next car was a Range Rover, also second-hand. “That was like a lounge on wheels. The car is about the only place I listen to music now. I leave the same station on for the whole journey, even if there’s somebody phoning in about their gas bill. I like the sense of belonging you get from radio.”
A few years ago Wilson took his motorcycle test, and he now owns a Triumph Bonneville. “I don’t ride it much; it gets more use as a rack for drying tea towels.”
He has been in one serious accident. In 2006 he was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing in Leeds and thrown onto its windscreen while listening to Arctic Monkeys on his earphones.
“When the ambulance came, the guy said, ‘We don’t meet many people who’ve hit the windscreen. They’re normally dead.’ My injuries were extensive … well, extensive-ish. I broke my little toe. I still blame Arctic Monkeys.”
Ricky Wilson: my life in cars
- 1998 Fiat Panda
- 2005 Mini Mayfair
- 2007 Range Rover
- 2014 Triumph Bonneville Steve McQueen
- 2015 Honda Civic Type R (main picture)
- My dream car Jaguar XE
Kaiser Chiefs are on tour now. See kaiserchiefs.com for details