The Human League are originals from the 80s and this week have just released their first album of new material in over ten years, entitled Credo. We caught up with them in London to talk music, the ongoing 80s revival and whether or not they’re sick of playing Don’t You Want Me...
Tell me about the new album Credo – your first in a decade…
Susan Ann: “Well it’s what we always do – it’s an album using drum machines, synthesisers and voices. There are proper songs on it too because that’s what The Human League does.”
Philip: “All the machines we’re using now are older than we used in the 80s – everyone’s getting out the oldest, most horrible synths to make rubbish noises on and then using new machines to make them sound good.”
You must feel you have the upper hand though having done it once before…
Philip: “No, I just feel like a conman! People say to me ‘Oh, I like the Roland SH80’ and I say, ‘Oh I hated that one’. But then you get it out to check and you realise it’s really good…”
Joanne: “Our big advantage is that we’ve got a studio full of synthesisers – a museum’s worth!”
And how was recording together after such a long time?
Susan Ann: “We recorded our bit, then our producers threw it all in the bin and told us to do it again (laughs). But making an album isn’t necessarily fun – it’s hard work. For Joanne and I it was the easiest album we’ve done because we did all the vocals with Philip and he was quite forgiving.”
Philip: “I found it hard because we were touring at the same time. It got pretty heavy but we got it done.”
Tell me about your touring, which you’ve never stopped doing…
Susan Ann: “We’ve always done our own shows. We’ve also done the V Festival a few times, played in Australia and we headlined the Hollywood Bowl. We’re lucky, we’ve had an international career and number ones all over the world. This year, we’re only doing four shows in the UK – everything else is in America or Europe.”
Joanne: “We’ve gone through odd times of being really popular in places – I remember one year when we were in Belguim every other weekend.”
Philip: “And one year we were in Ireland all the time, I really enjoyed that. Then suddenly we weren’t going anymore…”
Joanne: “But we’re going again soon…”
What do you think of the current 80s revival?
Susan Ann: “I like the revival of the whole 80s sound – that people are accepting our way of doing things. Now records from Dr Dre to Rihanna are using synths and recording our way – you don’t get looked down on now for not having somone who can play guitar in your band.”
Philip: “The best whole package right now is La Roux – they have a great look and make records in a different way to everyone else. She looks so other-worldly too. I like that. ”
What memories does the classic album Dare conjure up for you?
Joanne: “We play songs from it at every show we do, so we don’t look at it from a nostalgia viewpoint. Plus we’re always trying to improve, so we might get a great idea for the front of Fascination and wobble some sounds about but the key song is still there because everyone wants to hear it – it’s just we might change it subtly.”
Philip: “The songs from Dare are part of our everyday lives. We’re rehearsing at the moment and the songs from the new album are hard to learn, but we don’t even have to try for songs from Dare. You never have to get the lyric sheet out.”
Susan Ann: “I don’t know – I got Don’t You Want Me wrong yesterday. I sang an extra chorus!”
You’ve never left Sheffield. If I was going for the day, what should I do?
Susan Ann: “Turn around and drive away?”
Joanne: “I’d tell you to go to Meadow Hall shopping centre and to our museums and art galleries.”
Philip: “And you have to go to Bakewell and see if you can find a tart.”
You’ve been together for over 30 years now – what’s the secret to not killing each other?
Joanne: “Not all doing the same job within the group. Philip does the songwriting which is the biggest bit, but having separate roles means we’ve been able to stay partners all these years.”
Susan Ann: “I don’t do very much – Joanne does all the money, Philip does the songwriting, I’m a bit rubbish really! (laughs) We’re used to each other too so we know how to treat each other. For instance, I know that you don’t talk to Joanne before she’s had something to eat in the morning…”
Are you still mates with any other bands from the 80s?
Susan Ann: “We never were in the 80s! It was always quite competitive, although we do talk to people now and we never used to. But we’ve always lived in Sheffield, never moved to London like everyone else so our friends are the ones we’ve had for years.”
Finally, if The Human League could be the love child of any two artists, who would you choose?
Philip: “Barry White and Donna Summer – no question!”
The Human League’s new album Credo is out now.