Basingstoke Gazette 2nd November 2006
He's only human after all

Joanne Mace

THE last time that The Human League came to Basingstoke, I was gobsmacked at how good the show was.
Having been that bit too young to see them in their prime, it was great to see how well Phil, Joanne and Susanne looked considering that the band's heyday began what will be 25 years ago this year.

Most of the music had more than stood the test of time and it was one of the most polished, professional and nostalgic shows I had ever been to.

Now, they're coming back to The Anvil on Saturday, December 2, at 8pm, and it'll be sure to be another stomping success.

But, as singer Phil Oakey confesses to me over the phone, he's still not completely comfortable in the glare of the spotlight.

"I so admire people who will get up on a stage and go you might not like this but I'm going to do it anyway', and then they stand there for 35 minutes and take it. I really admire that. The less people there are, the more guts it takes - that's why I've always been in a band. I can always go and hide behind someone.

"I was a shy person. The band has probably stopped me being shy now, although I think I have got that social phobia that they talk about these days. That thing of walking into a room where you don't know most of the people in it, I still find that really hard.

"If we're playing in London, people organise things in the back room and often I just can't do it. I can't walk through the door. I'm too scared and I'm afraid that they'll see I'm a fraud or something. It can be quite easy to get thrown on stage and if the gear goes wrong, I don't have an act. I'm not really a frontman, I'm just a singer. I wish I could tell some jokes or something."

I think he's being a bit harsh on himself here, and I suspect the Oakey fans who take up the first few rows of any concert would disagree too. Phil is

somewhat of a 1980s legend, who was famous for his voice, his on-stage manner and his asymmetrical haircut, long on one side and cropped short on the other. The latter cut was always updated in ways that would have fans flocking to imitate the League's style.

Phil laughs. "Hair? I remember that. I'm not complaining. I've got a lovely girlfriend and I'm certainly not looking for anyone else but I'm not getting the approaches or anything. I must be an old git.

"I don't think I do look all that good. I definitely look my age now and, to make up for that, I'm just trying to get the clothes right. I've always had this thing that I don't want to look like everyone else, but everyone is so casual now that you can just go and do the suit thing. Normally, I'm the smartest person wherever I am. But if everyone else was wearing suits, I'd just dress like a tramp.

"I notice that when I go out with the lads on a Thursday, I don't get the looks from the girls that my mates do. They're just saying, oh what's that old guy doing in this bar?'. Maybe the other guys I go out with are too good looking."

The group, thanks to their hits Don't You Want Me, Heart Like A Wheel, Mirror Man, Tell Me When and Human, have managed to ride the wave of nostalgia very successfully. Does Phil ascribe this to the lack of anything else music-wise that people can get excited about?

"There's a load of good music, but it's really hard to find. It's an indication of a society which is a little tiny bit fearful of the new. And I think it's because we've been doing so well economically.

"I feel frustrated that we The Human League haven't kept up doing new stuff because we make a lot more money from operating live. It's very time-consuming but it's not a good enough excuse to keep from doing good stuff "We did start out as a pretty arty band. We were never all that clever but we did believe in the concept of art before we believed in the concept of money