Eighties pop icons still want it after all these years

Caption: Seven days, Dec 1. The Human League''The Human League
Caption: Seven days, Dec 1. The Human League''The Human League

They have millions of record sales under their belt, a wealth of accolades and a string of hit singles but the Human League refuses to sit back, as Rachael Clegg discovers.

MORE than 30 years have passed since the Human League sang about a waitress in a cocktail bar and they’re still creating new characters, gritty night scenes and catchy beats.

And this week the band plays in Sheffield as part of their packed UK tour. The tour, entitled XXXV, is aptly entitled –this year marks the band’s 35th.

The tour also follows last year’s release of Credo, the band’s most recent album, which was produced by Sheffield electronic duo I Monster.

Credo is a contemporary collection of dance floor classics, and it’s arguably part of that particular pop lineage that includes David Bowie, Roxy Music, Kraftwerk, Donna Summer, Chic and Michael Jackson.

Impetus for the clubby album came from Phil Oakey, who was seeking to give those who kept citing the League as an influence – from Client to La Roux – something fresh to think about.

“People kept asking me to sing on records that I hadn’t written on. I thought ‘that’s not really what I am, I’m not even that good a singer’. My job is to part write and get things recorded, but people wanted me to go along to be a voice on their record.

“We’re not an ’80s flash in the pan, we’re just people that make records with technology and we have to prove it is an ongoing thing.”

One of those who heard that missive was Mark Jones, boss of the Wall Of Sound label.

“When we started writing I was going to release 12 inches and find out what was happening,” says Phil, acknowledging the music business has changed since Secrets.

“It’s mainly people banging on the windows of the shopping centre trying to do what they used to do and they can’t understand it’s not happening any more.

“So you do it yourself, I just wanted to make the best bits of music that we could, put them out and slowly build into something else. But we got 14 or 15 tunes together and Mark, an old mate who always wanted to sign us, heard them and said ‘let’s do a League album.”

The Human League could, quite easily, sit back and rest their laurels. After all, this is the pioneering electro act that created Don’t You Want Me, had four Top 10 albums and eight Top 10 singles in the UK, as well as two US Number 1 singles, not to mention the 20 million record sales.

But still, Oakey remains a restless artist, pumping the same progressive, edgy spirit into the Human League that he did more than 30 years ago.

The Human League play at Sheffield City Hall on Tuesday.