www.chartattack.com 22nd October 2002

Human League Are Like Batman

Jenny Yuen

The Human League are still alive.


Best-known for their 1981 Single "Don’t You Want Me," the U.K. band say it’s been a tough road, but they’re still around and making music.


The current roster, featuring Phillip Oakey, Susan Anne Gayle and Joanne Catherall, recently played the Black and Blue festival in Montreal, a six-day electronica event designed to raise money to battle AIDS. The Black and Blue festival revolved around the gay community, something Gayle says they’ve never been afraid of being associated with.


"We’ve always had a huge gay following and we’ve always been very proud of it," says Gayle. "My best friend is a 43-year-old transvestite."


Gayle says the Human League’s fanbase is very diverse and that their live shows have a lot to do with it.


"I don’t think it’s one set of people or the other," she says. "We’ve always been into outrageous ways of dressing and makeup. I think the outrageousness appeals to the crowd."


The group formed in the late '70s and went through some rough times when they were in debt to their record company and synthesized music had a small following. Eventually, two of the original members split from the group and formed another synth rock band, Heaven 17.


The current members, however, say that it’s been a challenge to survive in the music industry, especially when they’re played on radio stations whose listeners don’t buy records.


"It makes it very difficult for us to fit in anywhere in radio," Catherall says. "Because of our ages and because everyone is so young now in the business, they say that they can’t play the Human League because we’re too old to fit into their demographic."


To win new fans, the Human League tours and plays shows in order to gain a

following. It's something they've been doing for the last five years.


"The only way we get new fans now is if they see us at shows," said Gayle.


"I think that people have got to know, that if they come and see us, it will be $50 well-spent," Catherall said. "It’s not going to be a half-hour show. We’ve got a seven-piece band and we do costume changes. It’s not the same as you’re going to get with anyone else."


Furthermore, Oakey says that today’s newer bands can't keep the attention of listeners.


"The Top 20 and what people call pop now is not music," says Oakey. "They don’t connect to the music and are unlikely to have a long life. The bands on TV in Britain are not musicians. They’re actors, singers and models. They sing what they’re told."


However, he notes that the electroclash scene is thriving now and will likely continue to in the future.


"I think everyone’s excited by it and they’re enjoying the sound, but like when Soft Cell came out with ‘Tainted Love’ and the public went mad, I think someone today has to come along and do that," Oakey says. "Electroclash is really big across Europe in an underground way. With bands like Felix Da Housecat, Adult and Fischerspooner,a lot of those people are using and remixing our stuff."


Although the Human League are often considered pioneers in the synth-pop genre, can they also be today’s innovators? Oakey says they will continue to survive in the music industry no matter where it goes.


"I think we’re the last page of the original Dark Knight comic, where Batman is in an underground cavern with his followers and he’s not wearing his costume anymore," he says. "He looks like he’s been beaten, but he’s fighting back. That’s where I think we are at the moment."