Magic in the Air: Leee John

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Follow your emotions anywhere - is it really magic in the air? So goes the refrain of Imagination’s 1982 classic hit, ‘Just an Illusion’. Their sound was uniquely theirs, expanding the boundaries of soul, funk and post-disco.

A certain nonchalant magic is in the air as I sit down with vocalist Leee John prior to Imagination’s set at Rewind this year. With their sensual, esoteric performances, Imagination are a crowd-pleasing favourite.

 “I’ve played at Rewind from the very early days of its inception. So it’s been maybe over ten years now, I think. I’m one of the pioneers of Rewind, I would say.

I’ve always had a unique idea about audiences. I find that every audience is very different. So the Rewind audiences, even if you play it next year, or the year after…they’re always different. They’ve got one thing in common which is the music.

The situation of the music of the 80s is something that was very innovative. Everyone was very individual, and different. And I think that’s what draws people to Rewind.” As for any particular fan favourites?

“Everyone wants to hear ‘Just an Illusion’ and ’Body Talk’ and ‘Flashback’, you know it’s always interesting to know what requests we get. Recently I had a number one reggae record called Police and Thieves and at every interview I’ve been doing for Rewind, they’ve all requested it. So we are going to do that for Rewind, today.

It’s an old song and it’s very relevant lyrically to what’s been happening in the political climate. Especially when it comes to the EU. Especially in Scotland, they say to me – oh this is one of my first records I’ve bought. So we’re going to do it for them.

"The situation of the music of the 80s is something that was very innovative. Everyone was very individual, and different."

I’m at that point in my life where I have to take a stand, because I think that before I used to talk about love and peace - which I still am - and we have records like ‘Body Talk’ and stuff. But now I’ve written songs that mean something even more-so: I think you have to make people aware. If you don’t we will lose that opportunity and that freedom of expression, and I can see it going backwards as opposed to going forwards”.

We go onto discuss present and future projects: “In the early 21st century I did a jazz album which was widely received, it got rave reviews…it was different to my Imagination sound. I went to France to record it and it became very popular there, and in America. People have different thoughts to jazz music, so that pushed me into a completely different level.

I produced a documentary about the making of it, which got me into filming documentaries. So I’m on my sixth one now.

It took me to another stage of my life, personally and more into other people’s lives: what they’re into. As opposed to being on stage and being the front-person, being behind the scenes and actually observing individuals”. An interesting change of pace then.

“Music has taken me to another level where I can give something back. It’s not all about you anymore. Only when it’s time to go on stage, then it’s about me! But after that, I don’t need to worry about it”.

[Interview edited and condensed for clarity]

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