The Belfast Telegraph 18th November 2001

Still in a league of their own

Andrea McVeigh

DURABLE, strong, long-lasting - 80s icons, the Human League have all the qualities of Sheffield steel.

But the band, who play the Waterfront Hall next month, aren't resting on a reputation, which saw them notch up 11 Top 40 hits during that decade.

Members Joanne Catherall, Susanne Sulley and Phil Oakey, are back on the road to promote their eighth, critically-lauded, album, Secrets.

But, it hasn't always been easy for the group, who have had almost as many knocks as that other Sheffield export, Prince Naseem.

"There was a period from around 1987 until 1995, when everyone thought we were the worst load of rubbish in history," laughs lead singer, Phil.

"Then, in 1995, we did an LP called Octopus, had three more Top 40 hits, and suddenly everything came back together again.

"I think we'd been in people's mind long enough for them to accept we were a band, rather than a novelty."

They rounded off the 90s supporting fellow-80s stars, Culture Club, on tour -

and, many reckon, put on a better show than the headline act.

With Phil's distinctive hair-do, once described as a 'Veronica Lake', and the girls' street style, they shaped the fashion and sound of the 80s.

But, these days, you're more likely to find Phil listening to cutting-edge dance music, than any 'greatest hits of the 80s' compilations.

"I listen to trance and hard house, which is very repetitive and European, but that was sort of what we wanted to do at the beginning anyway."

And, today's big music stars feel the same way about the band, which is now credited for starting the electronica movement, back in 1977.

Moby and DJ, Armand van Helden, have both admitted to being fans.

"I suppose you could say we were about 20 years ahead of our time, but the difference is, we always made pop records, and still do," says Phil.

Which leaves the Human League in the curious, and enviable, position of being the only group hailed as both the past and future of pop!