Temptations of Synth Pop

Martyn Ware
Martyn Ware

Legendary Sheffield musician Martyn Ware is revelling in nostalgia as he backs a new compilation and plans a new album.

The 58-year-old was a founder member of The Human League, before leaving to start Heaven 17, who went on to enjoy success with songs such as Temptation and Come Live With Me.

And Temptation features on a new compilation, Synth Pop, celebrating all that is good about the synth pop genre, which dominated the charts in the 1980s.

“It’s fantastic,” says Martyn, who still performs in Heaven 17.

“I can’t argue with anything on there and it makes you realise what a rich genre it was.

“I don’t get much chance to escape that time really.

“Funnily enough, I was looking at the artists on there and decided I’d underline the names of people I’d worked with, produced or appeared live with and, out of 52 artists, there were 37 I’d worked with in some way. I think that’s amazing.”

And Martin believes the influence of synth pop – which features the synthesiser as the dominant musical instrument – remains strong in modern music.

“The sound of synths and the 80s has become something of a sonic meme,” he says. “In the same way people in the 70s were interested in early rock’n’roll, now 80s synths are part of the palette of something that symbolises the future. I think that’s really quite interesting.

“Most of the records made now are electronic in some form, but it’s only when people choose certain sounds that it becomes nostalgic for the 80s, but you hear it all the time.”

Nostalgia is big business these days – and Heaven 17 are embracing it with plans for a new album.

“People like to look back to a time when they think everything was better,” says Martyn.

“I have a theory that most people think they are 20 to 25 years younger than they actually are.

“There’s something about the time agnosticism of music now, related to the way we consume music with iPods and streaming and things.

“I have a 17-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter and they’ve always had access to my iTunes library, which has loads of music in it, and they like some of it, but it doesn’t have anything to do with when it was made or where it was from.

“Digital music is immortal, it never ages, and people now have access to everything which does interesting things to what they listen to.”

However, despite Martyn personally embracing the digital age, Heaven 17 are firm fans of the traditional vinyl record.

Martyn says: “At the end of last year, we put out two tracks as a double-sided 12in vinyl, and we’re trying to keep everything we do out of the digital domain. There’s no value in it for us; we’re not trying to sell to a mass market, we want people to treasure the music we make as we do, and the only way to do that is to sell it from our website, directly.

“We can’t afford to share the money with anyone else, so we’re releasing the album as a series of double-sided 12ins, which fans will be able to collect. That’ll hopefully be out by the new year.

“It’s sounding very good, and it’s as good as anything we’ve ever done.”