Newcastle Evening Chronicle 9th December 2005

League of their own

The Human League return to Newcastle next week. Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr catches up with lead singer Phil Oakey.

 

It's become something of an annual fixture - the Human League in Toon in the run-up to Christmas.

 

And this year is no exception, with the 80s pop icons back in Newcastle on Wednesday.

 

They've played the City Hall and the Arena in the past, but this year it is the turn of the recently-opened Carling Academy.

 

"It's exciting for Newcastle," says lead singer Phil Oakey. "The Academies around the country are great venues, you really get that connection with the audience. We're looking forward to our debut there."

 

The group will be delving into their extensive back catalogue in an evening of music from a career that has spanned almost three decades.

 

The Human League, comprising Phil, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall, have become synonymous with great music, from their classic Don't You Want Me?, taken from the cult album Dare, to the 90s smash Tell Me When.

 

"We could never have imagined back in 1980 when we started out in Sheffield that we would still be around now," admits Phil.

 

Although there are no new albums in the offing, it doesn't mean the League simply hit the road at the back end of each year to keep the bank balance healthy.

 

"We work almost constantly. We don't have to do it artificially. We seem now to always go back on tour at the end of the year, but to keep the band going

 

 

we have to work through the summer too, and there are always things happening," says Phil.

 

"We've been to places we never thought we would go to - like Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Istanbul, Brazil.

 

"The whole business has changed so much over the years. Kate Bush has just released her first album in more than a decade. I hope she realises she won't make money from CDs and records now - those days are gone. The real way to make money these days is by having your music in adverts, in films. Look at the likes of Fat Boy Slim and Moby.

 

"Entertainment really has diversified. Every new bit of media requires music to go with it. And we've never been able to make any album in less than a year. With working all the time, it takes away from playing live.

 

"And we take our albums very seriously. It is a monumental effort - I hate badly produced albums. ABBA never made a badly produced album, that's why they have stood the test of time.

 

"And dance has got to come back at some stage. It has been in limbo since the end of the superclubs. People stay in bars now."

 

In the bar is where you are likely to find Phil after he has strutted his stuff on the stage - but minus Susanne and Jo.

 

"In a strange way we don't interfere with each other's lives so much any more. Jo is married, Suzanne has been married. We go out with our other halves, really.

 

"I'm actually closer to the lads in the band now because we all go out together at night, to the bar."