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LIMAHL (KAJAGOOGOO) INTERVIEW [2006]

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING BUT YOU ARE ABOUT TO RELEASE A NEW SINGLE, 'TELL ME WHY' WHICH IS OUT WHEN?

The 26th of May...

AND IT'S NOT RELEASED EVERYWHERE AT ONCE IS IT?

No... the single came about because I did a TV reality show in Germany - I've always had a very strong link with Germany which I think goes back to 'Never Ending Story' which was a big hit there - the book is their best-selling book of all time, the film was shot in Bavaria and was made pretty much with German money - but that whole thing made this link with Germany and so twenty-years later we have reality TV, this global phenomenon which was taking Germany by storm just like everywhere else and I got the invitation to appear on this show in Germany with the very original title of 'Comeback'!

I saw who was on the show, and it was Coolio and Chris Norman the singer from Smokie, a girl from Sweden who I think is called Emilia... she had a hit with that song (sings) 'I'm a big big girl in a big big world...'! I thought what the hell, and let's be realistic there was a big fee involved and I'd be in Germany for six weeks which is a lot of fun, so I did that and got a lot of exposure on national TV and then this record deal came along. Basically I met a manager and the recordings were done and he took the tapes around... it wasn't easy, but then again is it ever!?

WAS IT A CASE WHERE THE PROFILE MEANT YOU COULD TAKE THE MUSIC AROUND THE LABELS OR WAS IT MORE A CASE OF PEOPLE COMING TO YOU AND SAYNG LET'S DO SOMETHING HERE...

There was supposed to be a direct link with the TV programme but that didn't happen and so we're a year later and my manager just said let's go round and see some people, which felt like the right thing to do. I think that in music that unless you're very much in the public eye then it's very difficult to get a deal. I've not been calling record companies in the UK or America or anywhere because it's so difficult... unless you're maybe featured on a record, as in the case of Leo Sayer recently and the record is so bloody hot they want an album. But this deal is all about Limahl and I've got a deal with ZXY Records who are a big independent label. I've been over to meet them and to be honest it's nice being a big fish in a small sea. My manager has got another act on Universal and if he emails Universal he's lucky to get a reply within four days whereas when he calls my record company they are straight back...

'Tell Me why' is a case of the meeting of four creative minds, myself and three Germans... Thorsten Brotzmann, Alex Geringas and Ivo Moring, and what happened was that we were at a big pop festival in Germany last year and my manager arranged this speculative song-writing session in Hamburg the next day, no pressure and very much a let's see what happens thing. So what evolved from that session is a pop-dance recording rather than the other way round, dance-pop, because of the song's shape and structure. I mean it's not a DJ background and it comes very much from an old school of song-writing, although having said that I do think that production makes it sound quite modern...

IT'S VERY MUCH A SUMMERTIME RECORD ISN'T IT? A REAL FEEL-GOOD SORT OF SONG...

OK... that sounds positive! Personally I'm a sucker for a great melody. Growing up I was a huge fan of Motown, The Carpenters, Barry White... all very melodic stuff and I don't think 'Tell Me Why' disappoints in the melody department. I'm also passionate about lyrics... a good song really has to work lyrically for me and this is a sad song about my brother's divorce and the break-up of his eighteen-year marriage. It was a messy affair with children involved and it caused lots of telephone conversations between members of my family. When I sat down in London to write the lyrics I had literally just had one of those conversations with my mum and that's really the story of the song.

I think what is interesting is the idea of writing with four people which doesn't happen a lot, usually it's the artist or the artist with one other person, or a more established duo like Lennon And McCartney, Bacharach and David... but juggling four artistic temperaments in the same room is a skill in itself - of course I've been there before! But it is about bouncing ideas around and so it's not a completely unknown territory but I do think that a lot of the credit has to go to the producer because he's done such a great job.

THERE'S SOME GREAT REMIXES HERE TOO... I REALLY LIKE THE D.O.N.S REMIX...

Let's hope the DJs feel the same! My favourite is the other one, but having said that it's not quite got enough of the song and so it's a little bit more obscure but I do like that. For me it's really got to be the radio version, it's a purer version and uses the core idea if you like...

AND YOU'VE MADE A VIDEO FOR IT HAVEN'T YOU?

I have yes... and if you go to www.limahl.com there's a link to it. The concept was really to make it in keeping with the story you know? Without being too corny and having big wedding scenes!

We really liked the director's idea of focussing on this guy who's looking at all these old pictures and then throwing them away in various locations around London, and he's chucking away the years... I really had to try not to think of my brother too much... but it was really playing a role you know? I'm playing a married guy throwing his memories away and trying to do it in a kind of visually creative way and I have been told that people think it comes across as quite sad, which is good... funnily enough I think that everyone in the band I have at the moment ended up being in a divorce so it is all very real - if it hasn't happened to you then you almost certainly know people it has happened to.

WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS SINGLE?

Very realistic. I always thought that where I survive really is as a performer and I thought that if I have a new record out then I'm a little bit more current and not so much of a retro artist, and that will possibly open avenues for live work... I mean what do you do when you get to forty something and you've been a musician all your life? You can't suddenly go and work in a bank...

I THINK THAT'S TRUE OF ANYTHING. AT THIS STAGE OF LIFE YOU'VE DEFINED WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON AND A LOT OF THAT IS TO DO WITH WHAT YOU DO...

And I love what I do! I do love performing... I mean there's a lot of stuff in any job, a lot of stuff that's a pain in the neck but if you can get down to the real thing, up on stage looking out at an audience, smiling faces coming back at you... magic!

DO YOU THINK THIS SONG IS WHAT PEOPLE EXPECT FROM YOU?

(long pause) I hate that word, 'expect'! Musically I feel like I can do so many things, from a ballad to something very experimental, but let's be honest, I didn't sit down in Hamburg a year ago with the other three guys to write obscure album tracks. This was about writing something strong, something the record companies will see as a hit. Having said that it's such a difficult thing to do! The process of writing and recording a hit is not a bottled formula but when I arrived they a bit of a chord structure going on, and a beat... and I thought that if that was logical for them then I would go with it and I think I have been steered in a certain direction a little bit, but if that opens the door to get more 'hey this is the real me' then it's probably worth it although there's a danger in that... we've all seen so many artists who have crawled so far up their own arses they've just died. I think you do have to have the things that can get on the radio because then people might check out some of your other stuff.

I do think it sounds like me though... as soon as you get into that F, F-sharp, G area that's what people associate me with... 'Too Shy' was F-sharp and 'Never Ending Story' is a note higher and on this record you've got an F which is easier but it is that kind of region of my voice that people recognise.

AND I SUPPOSE THE REALLY BIG QUESTION IS WHETHER THERE WILL BE AN ALBUM?

There has been talk of an album! The label are kind of at the edge of the swimming pool with this and they're putting their toe in and going 'is it warm, is it cold' but they are close... my real fear is that they will say 'oh my god we need an album' and then need it immediately! But having said that you can take two years making an album and it's awful!

IS THERE ANY TOURING OR ANYTHING PLANNED AROUND THE RELEASE? I KNOW THERE'S QUITE A LOT OF TV STUFF LINED UP...

Yes, I'm going to Germany for a month and... I don't believe this - how could I be releasing a record at the same time as the world cup! But there's all these arena events planned around the world cup and I'm playing one of those and the show for these sorts of things is me with my four dancers - two guys and two girls - doing 45-minutes and playing the single and doing some of the old stuff... and I'm also doing a signing-tour throughout that month, I'm going to be spending a lot of time on the autobahns! In-store signings combined with radio station visits...

SO WORKING IT VERY HARD! ARE RELEASES ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD DEPENDENT ON SUCCESS IN GERMANY?

I don't think so no - we get the rights to the record back if they don't pick up their options, but I'm lucky because it is a little bit easier than being a new act because people already know something about you, and now that twenty-three years have gone by there is a certain nostalgic value, but the goal really would be to be a recording artist in the current climate...

DO YOU THINK PEOPLE NOW THINK OF YOU MORE AS A SOLO ARTIST OR IS IT STILL MORE FROM KAJAGOOGOO?

I think it's a bit of both and it does vary from country to country. In America it would definitely be Kajagoogoo because 'Too Shy' was top five there but my solo stuff didn't do as well, but in a lot of European countries I can work as Limahl - they don't even need to put that 'formerly with Kajagoogoo' line on the posters!

AND TALKING OF KAJAGOOGOO! YOU DID THE VH-1 BANDS REUNITED SHOW WITH THEM A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO AND IT ALL LOOKED GREAT, EVERYONE SEEMED TO BE GETTING ON AND THEN NOTHING MORE CAME OF IT...

(long pause) Well... I've got a chance here to put the record straight because I know there's an interview on your site with Nick which I've not actually read that he said some things about me..

THERE IS AN INTERVIEW WITH NICK, BUT AS FAR AS I REMEMBER HE WAS QUITE DELICATE ON THE SUBJECT, HE TIP-TOED AROUND IT QUITE WELL!

The bottom line is that it is all down to money... the sordid topic of coin, but it's not just me, it's Jez the drummer as well. When I left the group - and I've never told anyone this but now I'm telling you just so everyone knows - when I left the band I was advised by my lawyer to take a reduced royalty... big mistake! But I did, and I was told that as a leaving member I would be benefitting from the group staying together, putting out records, touring and so on, and that all made sense.

But none of that happened, Kajagoogoo didn't tour, they didn't release much and it all fizzled out after a couple of years. I could have appealed against the reduced royalty because you have six years to do that but at the time it didn't seem that important to me, but seventeen or eighteen years later the value of the old catalogue is quite substantial and includes the all-important 'Too Shy'!

When we talked about getting back together Jez and I said that we should make everything equal because at the moment we're losing out a lot and if we get back together we'd like to get rid of that old clause... and that's all it is. They said that the value of the songs has gone up - you're telling me! - but my value has gone up too and if they need me to reform then OK let's just make it all equal, and it's not just me it's Jez too. It's not about wanting more, it's about just levelling it out... so that's the story. I don't have a problem with any of the guys, I've always said that creatively I think it would be very interesting to get back together with them and see what we could come up with...

WAS THE PROCESS OF MAKING THE VH-1 SHOW IN ANY WAY AN ENJOYABLE ONE?

It wasn't in the sense that I was absolutely terrified... there was so much water under the bridge...

WHEN HAD YOU SEEN THEM ALL BEFORE THAT?

Well we met briefly for about an hour in 1998 and talked about doing something but it was the same problem then... then when the VH-1 thing came along four years later I wanted to see if they'd changed their minds...

When I say I didn't enjoy it please don't take that out of context, I did enjoy doing the programme and I enjoyed the performance but what was hard for me was being around the guys - there was so much I wanted to say and wanted to talk about but I was never alone with them. It was kind of like meeting an ex... you can't go there! But there was always TV people around, producers, researchers, cameramen and so on so, we were never on our own to have that kind of moment where we could look at each other and just go 'so... let's talk...'.

But they have said this themselves, they fired the wrong guy because the manager, the one who recommended they fire me ended up ripping them off anyway.

What you've got to remember though is that I haven't seen them, and I've spent twenty years not knowing them - I was with them for just a couple of years so it's almost like I don't know them again... it's been a long time!

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?

Life's what happens when you're busy making other plans! I'm going to Germany for a month and then after that... well you can't plan too far ahead! I will continue to perform and travel and what I like about my job is that every year there seems to be some new destination... but what would be brilliant would be to do some new material and be a current recording artist again, that would be very exciting...

AND ARE YOU HAPPY? IS IT GOOD BEING LIMAHL THESE DAYS?

Oh I'm so happy I've bleached my hair again! It's weird because I really went through this period in the early to mid-nineties where my hair was brown, my natural colour, and I really liked that because it pushed that whole eighties thing away, but now it's come full circle! So the blonde hair is back and I'm really having fun with it - I really feel like the old Limahl again!

MAY 2006

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