June 29, 2018 Interview – Kajagoogoo’s Limahl
Everyone has dreams and aspirations, but only a select few are fortunate enough to play them out. Growing up a young boy with a love for American R&B, Soul, and all things Motown related, Limahl would go on to leave his own impression on the Pop music world. Famously known as the voice behind Kajagoogoo’s success with their 1983 album, White Feathers, Limahl’s name is recognized by even the most casual listener thanks to hit singles “Too Shy” and his solo cut, “The NeverEnding Story.” Now, decades after rising to fame, the English Pop star continues to perform, explore new creative avenues, and is preparing to embark on his first US tour ever as a part of the Retro Futura Tour. Life is good for Limahl, and he was gracious enough to sit down and reminisce on his journey in music, his excitement about coming to America, future plans, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music for nearly 4 decades now, having attained a good deal of success during the 1980s with Kajagoogoo as well as a solo artist. Briefly tell us, what has your journey in entertainment been like?
Limahl – It’s been good. It’s been up and down, I could talk for an hour just about that. When you are young, you just dream of being a rockstar, popstar, or a movie star, and I am the kid from a small town who had a dream. I bought my first records, which were mainly Motown, and I became obsessed with music. I figured, “I wanted to get involved in this process. If this makes people feel this good, I want to be involved in how you do it.” That is really where it all started for me. By 11-13 years old, I just thought I had to get involved in music. Initially I thought I would be a DJ, because at the local youth club, when I was about 14, I was the guy who kind of controlled the record player. (Laughs) We had a couple of party nights and I played all the records – we didn’t have that many, we probably played the same 20 records, it’s quite funny looking back.
When I left home, I was quite young, because my father was an alcoholic who was abusive – physically and mentality. I just ran, I had to get away. I then thought, I have to get a job, get into the real world, and I kind of forgot about the music for a while. Somehow I found my way to London, and I remember one night I went into this pub where there was this pianist who said to a very small audience of only about 5 people, “Does anyone want to sing?” I got up and sang “Yesterday” by The Beatles, it went very well and I got a standing ovation from the 5 people. (Laughs) All the way home I said, “I know I can sing, I have always wanted to sing and be involved in music, but I didn’t think I could.”
From there it was really fun – piano lessons, guitar lessons, recording demos, etc. I was involved with 3-4 bands that got nowhere, then I met Kajagoogoo and that is really where the serious fun began. It’s not without its sting in the tail, because it was very short lived – I think most people know we only did one album together. In a way that makes it kind of even more valuable, I think. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – That is quite an interesting story. As you said, you were involved in several bands early on and joined up with Kajagoogoo, helping the band attain a mass of success with the 1983 album White Feathers. Do you have fond memories of the good times with the band?
Limahl – Totally and absolutely 100%! Of course, I am still working as a singer/performer around the world, because of that one album with Kajagoogoo. I also had 1 big solo hit particularly with “The NeverEnding Story,” a year later in 1984. Those two songs, “Too Shy” and “The NeverEnding Story,” are why the phone keeps ringing, or emails keep dropping.
In 2016, I did 6 shows at Billboard Live in Japan, which was great! Then I toured Australia with Men Without Hats, Berlin, Katrina from Katrina and The Waves, and various others. It’s wonderful, because my voice is still working thankfully, but like a leather jacket, it’s gotten better with age. (Laughs) Of course, like any antique, because the songs are in a way antiques, they have become more valuable. I have more value as I have gotten older, it’s almost the bonus of getting older, especially as someone who has been in the public eye. I love that! (Laughs) That’s been such a surprise.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and you have sustained a long career as a performer because of it. Following Kajagoogoo, you would have a wave of success thanks to your hit song “The NeverEnding Story.” A signature part of the 1984 feature film, how did you become involved in the film and ultimately record the song?
Limahl – Very simple, Giorgio Moroder was based in Germany – all those early Donna Summer hits he recorded in Munich. He was born on the Italian/German border and he went to Munich to work, that’s very well-documented. In Germany, Kajagoogoo was huge, we were huge teen idols. It was sort of like Duran Duran, early Beatles, early Wham! It was just lots of screaming girls… and a few guys. (Laughs)
Giorgio was in Germany working on a soundtrack for what was essentially the best selling children’s book of all-time, The NeverEnding Story – the German title is Die unendliche Geschichte. He was working on that, and he was thinking about an artist for the title song, and he saw we were on the front cover of every teen magazine. I guess he pitched the idea to the marketing people, and next thing I knew, I got a call to go to Munich. The terminology they used was to “tryout my vocal on the song.” It was really like a screen test, except it was an audio test. (Laughs) The next day the call came that he liked the vocal and they were going to use it. That is how it came about.
CrypticRock.com – The rest is history as they say. It is a beloved and magical tune. You have continued to perform and record music through the years, but have not released a studio album since 1992’s Love is Blind. That in mind, can we expect some new music from you in the near future?
Limahl – I say, never say never. I kind of think, no. You never stop being creative, it’s like learning to ride a bicycle, you never forget. Once you’ve been through that process of taking an idea literally from your head, a dream, or something you read, and go into a room, and an hour later you have something, it’s so exciting! It’s almost like creating a baby, it’s just phenomenal. You never lose that excitement, but the demand for me to record something new has not been there – it’s always about the live show and the old hits.
On the Retro Futura Tour, people are basically coming to relive their past. They have songs associated with fond memories – the first record they bought, a first dance at a wedding, a first kiss, or whatever. The worst thing you could say to that audience is, “here’s something new,” that’s my feeling. People of a certain again want to hear the stuff they grew up with. For live shows, it’s about the history.
For new recordings, I don’t feel there is a demand for it. It’s not because I’ve dried up creativity. You become aware of time, time is a precious thing, and as I approach 60 this year, you have other things in your life that you want to do. I have done a lot of recordings. I know I sound like I am trying to justify why I am not releasing anything new at the moment, but the short answer is, never say never. I do have some great songs, I just haven’t decided what to do with them yet.
CrypticRock.com – Understandable. It would be exciting to see it happen if it does, you never say never! You mentioned the Retro Futura Tour this summer in the USA. How excited are you to be performing in America?
Limahl – I am very excited because it’s my first time performing live in America in 35 years! I have never performed live in America. I have been over to do promotion – I was on MTV, I did American Bandstand with Dick Clark, I did a show called Entertainment Tonight when we were promoting The NeverEnding Story. I have been to New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, but I have never performed live in America. It’s nice to go to a country where you speak the same language, even though you have a totally different accent. (Laughs) We get so many American shows over here, I am going to get a lot of practice learning my American accent. (Laughs)
It’s great touring with people who have been around as long as I have, we have all had different journeys and experiences. You get to spend a lot of time together, have good, old banter, a few drinks, and talk about stuff. Of course, the thing we sort of have the right to do as we get older, is complain. (Laughs) It’s great!
CrypticRock.com – It really is a wonderful tour that has sustained itself in America for many years now.
Limahl – Yes, I have worked with ABC and Belinda Carlisle before, it will be great to catch up with them. I also love their songs. As I said, there is a real kind of value, we are all antiques really who gain more value with time, and that’s nice. It is really the unexpected bonus.
CrypticRock.com – It will be exciting to see the show once the tour starts. Beyond music, you also have a love for films, had you ever considered, or are you still considering, acting?
Limahl – I’m at the moment training, I have been for 2 years. That was an accident and totally unexpected. I moved around 17 miles out of London 3 years ago and I was reading a local website that said, “Free acting on Tuesday night.” I thought, “Well, I’m doing nothing on Tuesday night, so I will go along to that, it sounds fun.” I went along and signed up for a course of 10 Tuesdays, then I did a second and third one. I then went on to a different school and another school.
I am still in the process of doing it – I still don’t have an agent, I have not done any auditions yet. I have done so many workshops, master classes, and training. It’s really great to have the possibility of another creative outlet. I think maybe that might lead to more new music if I start working on acting and someone says, “We need some music for this.” They can work in alignment and if they don’t it doesn’t matter because I do find something inside me for acting.
I think because I’ve been in the theater of life, I feel like I can connect with some of the characters I play very easily, I was very surprised. Let’s see where that leads. It’s incredible to get to 60 years old and find something new to do. I have such a spring in my step at the moment.
CrypticRock.com – It will be fun to see where that goes. Maybe a soundtrack associated with some acting, you never know. Seeing your past projects, you have worked in Pop, Rock, and Punk music. Out of curiosity, what are some of your musical influences?
Limahl – Motown, Motown, Motown! (Laughs) When I was 14 years old, I won a singing competition at a famous Northern Soul venue in my hometown of Wigan. The venue was called the Wigan Casino, it was a very cool dance club with a genre of music called Northern Soul. I sang a song made famous by The Rolling Stones, “Under My Thumb,” but at the time it was sung by Wayne Gibson. I sang the song at the competition and they said I won 10 albums of my choice. I was a kid who couldn’t even afford a single, let alone an album. I remember going to the record store and I think 6 of the albums I picked were Motown’s greatest hits. I loved the artwork and pictures of all the artists. Motown was a big influence for me.
CrypticRock.com – It seems as if many artists from the England territory are highly influenced by American R&B and Soul music.
Limahl – Yes! It comes down to those great writers, Holland–Dozier–Holland, amongst others. The Retro Futura Tour finishes near Detroit. I am very excited because on my bucket list I am going to go to the Motown museum before I fly back home. I will be looking forward to that for the whole of the tour. I just think going to where this amazing history of this record label took place will be very exciting.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is really an amazing style of music and that should be fantastic to go to the place where many of the songs we know and love were recorded. Last question. CrypticRock also covers Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of either genre, what are some of your favorites and why?
Limahl – That’s a very easy question to answer. In 1979, I went to the cinema and I remember seeing a picture of a green egg and the world Alien, and it just looked scary. I was around 21, went to see it on my own, and when I left the cinema I was so scared, I couldn’t even ride my motorbike straight. My whole life I have been a huge fan of the Alien films. Of course, like most Alien aficionados, I was quite upset when it felt like the corporates had got a hold of it and ruined it when we had Alien vs. Predator (2004). Then, there was an excitement when Prometheus (2012) was being talked about. I took my nephew to see that at the IMAX in Waterloo in Central London. It was so great that the value in the whole Alien idea had been revitalized. Of course Alien: Covenant (2017) was good as well.
As an actor, I have read interviews that Sigourney Weaver was told after leaving drama school that she really should not pursue acting. (Laughs) She was such an important part of the brand of Alien. So yea, Alien, without a doubt is my favorite Sci-Fi/Horror film of all-time. I was also a Star Wars fan, the original 3 films. I was just a doofy kid totally hooked on Star Wars.
July 11 – Atlanta, GA – Chastain Park
July 12 – Hyannis, MA – Cape Cod Melody Tent
July 13 – Westbury, NY – Westbury Music Theater
July 14 – Englewood, NJ – Bergen Performing Arts Center
July 15 – Lynn, MA – Lynn Auditorium
July 18 – Branson, MO – Welk Resort
July 20 – Salt Lake City, UT – Red Butte Amphitheater
July 21 – Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay
July 22 – Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery
July 26 – Costa Mesa, CA – Orange County Fair
July 28 – Los Angeles, CA – Wiltern Theatre***
July 29 – Tucson, AZ – Anselmo Valencia Tore Amphitheater
August 1 – Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theatre
August 3 – Northfield, OH – Hard Rock Live
August 4 – St. Ignace, MI – Kewadin Casino Resort
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