THE Human League were and
still are the superstars of synth pop. One of the biggest bands of the
80s, notably due to their groundbreaking album Dare and international
smash hit single, Don't You Want Me, their success has continued to this
day. On Monday their current UK tour comes to Ipswich. Entertainment
editor JO MACDONALD caught up with Susanne Sulley.
DURING the 1980s era of synth pop one band reigned.
That band were The Human League.
Their groundbreaking album Dare was eponymous with the cultural climate of
a generation while the international chart-topper it spawned, Don't You
Want Me?, emerged as a classic of its time.
For years they were untouchable purveyors of a sound that distinguished a
decade - and their reign did not end there.
Reborn in the 1990s, The Human League again returned to the top of the
And even today, more than 20 years since their breakthrough, when it comes
to music bursting with electronics and synthesisers few can match the
ingenuity and finesse of Phil Oakey, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall.
Surprisingly through it all the trio have managed to avoid the trappings
of fame and the notoriety that invariably accompanies it to remain down to
earth artists in the business for no more than the music.
"We made some great songs but more importantly we made some really great
songs that people liked and people still like, songs that have stood the
test of time. They haven't date; they still sound modern," said Susanne,
from her Sheffield home where she was relaxing before the start of The
Human League's current UK tour.
"People have taken us to
their hearts and I think they have always known that we're not in this
just for the fame. They were never going to see us in celebrity magazines.
We're in this for the music.
"And when we're not working we go away and hide in Sheffield. We're quite
ordinary. We're not like popstars. I'm like you and you're like me."
The importance of The Human League in the history of music has recently
regained a degree of prevalence.
Their tracks have been sampled on a number of contemporary hits, perhaps
most famously by Richard X who included the track Being Boiled on Liberty
X's smash Being Nobody. Bands including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and
Depeche Mode have given them name check. And more recently their
achievements were recognised with an accolade at this year's Q Awards,
only their second gong in a career spanning three decades.
"We got a Brit in 1982 - for what I can't remember - but we lost it. We
got a bit drunk and left it by the side of a chair and have never had it
back," Susanne recalled.
"Apart from that the Q award was our first. It was very flattering and
possibly the best award they could have given us.
"It was the Innovation In Sound award and that's what we do. It's all
about the sound with us."
The award carries all the more importance when it is acknowledged that The
Human League are being recognised by a music business vastly different to
that which they knew in the eighties.
Today's industry is a much changed beast and Susanne is the first to admit
that if she, Joanne and Phil were starting out in it today, they would not
stand a chance.
"Today the music industry is about the quick buck. It's about making money
fast and throwing away those who don't cut it," she scorned.
"When we started we signed for seven albums. Today record companies
usually have the option of what to do with an artist after one album or
single but they couldn't ever drop us. They didn't have that choice.
Unless they bought us out they were stuck with us, even if we didn't sell
"I still think it should still work like that now. It gives groups a
mature. Instead today we
have an industry in which if a single doesn't go top