August 2010

Interview by Niels Kolling


The Dare album send The Human League to super stardom in 1981/82 as it conquered the world. The band and producer Martin Rushent ran with the plaudits but a key figure in the making of the album, as well as the Love And Dancing album, was engineer and programmer Dave Allen. So I caught up with him to learn more about his role in the making of this iconic album, as well as getting to know more about his own career.


First a little background. How did you become involved in the music business? Was it always in the cards that you would end up behind the mixing desk as a producer/engineer or did the world miss out on a swaggering rock star?

Yes it did. I was in a band called Pinpoint but I wasnít very talented. Although I say the words "I speak in fortran" on our first single in 1978.


On the Pinpoint album Third State from 1980 M R Rushent are credited for playing synthesizer and Cecil B De Rushent are credited for producing. THE Martin Rushent and his alter ego or a relative?


Yes. Alter ego, yes. Just our funny way of saying he was good at big production.



What was your knowledge of The Human Leagues history and back catalogue before you started working with them? Would you label yourself a fan or more a casual listener?

Loved them. Saw them at the Nashville when Bowie came down. (November 1978)

Were you on board from day one as the band started their fruitful work with producer Martin Rushent?


The Sound Of The Crowd was the first track that Martin did with the band, I was involved in all the other songs though.

The first release you worked on as engineer and programmer was the single Love Action (I Believe In Love) and the b-side Non-Stop. Any recollection of making this gem?

Hmmm, yes I really enjoyed the whole thing, especially the rap bit. Remember Phil being very doubtful about about saying ďthis is Phil talkingĒ which we (me and Martin) thought was ace.


Could you hear from this record that the band was on the verge of striking pure gold?


As for the outside world, who could tell? All the smart money was on Heaven 17.

You are credited as assistent engineer and programmer on the Dare album sleeve notes,
so can you elaborate on what you role was in the making of this classic?

Well, making tea, cooking the band meals, programming, did most of Seconds on my own. Me and Phil had Casio VL Tones and to be honest loads, but I canít touch type or remember, lol. Itís a pity I don't have my polaroid of Phil singing in the ladies toilet, because that was funny. Phil has the photo, I gave it to him as it was a fuckiní cheeky thing to do.


Iím pleased that you did most of Seconds, since that, despite all the hit singles, actually is my favourite track of the Dare album. So any memories of making this dark and menacing classic?


Pulling the sync lead out of the Linn drum at the end so that it went all wobbly.



You were pushing the latest technology when making the album, especially with Martin introducing the Linn Drum machine, so any synths or electronics that you have particular fond memories of or some that would cause you grief?

Well, in my dumbass way I worked out how to sync the Linn drum to the Microcomposer using an oscillator and trying to make one code look like the other, ridiculous. So maybe itís all down to me.
Bloody Jimmy Rushent turning the electricity off and losing two days work, he was 4 or something. Bless ...when I see him next!

Were there some songs that were more difficult to get right, either with the structure, electronics or sound?


The most difficult song was Heavy Metal On 45 by the Terrible Lizard, which me and Jo (Callis) did at nights as guitars were banned. That was fun. I really wanna see Jo again. Bob Last liked him, learnt a lot from his tea making. Not joking either, he always made a rake of tea before he left the studio.

Which song from the album were you most satisfied with the way it turned out?


Love Action (I Believe In Love) is still my favourite, but Donít You Want Me was Jo (Callis), Martin and me for a weekend while the rest went back to Sheffield.

Did you sense you were on to something special as the work on the album

Always hard to asses with hindsight. I loved what we were doing, not really though I was green, though I sang in my chains like the sea.

The album was supported by a very successful tour that took them round the world in 1981/82. Did you attend the Dare
Tour and what did you think of it?

Went to Paris, all the gear went wrong and it was awful, timecode slipped etc. Was also funny, especially the gay club that the record company chose for the aftershow, probably on the grounds that they all wore makeup.


Martin charged me for the hotel room, so I had to invoice him for using my synth. Funny it came to exactly the same amount.


You also worked on the groundbreaking Love And Dancing album, where you must have had a key role in the making as it was basically you and Rushent messing around in the studio? So did you chip in with musical ideas or was your work more of technical nature?

I think me and Martin did the Love and Dancing album in a couple of days on our own. Martin was/is a genius though, I was merely Sancho Panza, hmmm



Was the album entirely the making of yourself and Martin or did anyone from the band at any point stop by the studio to add ideas or input to the mixing?


No. Well, Martin and Pete Shelly saw Grandmaster Flash in New York, and Martin said I can do that with tape scrubbing. Went from there. Oh and thereís a lot of 120 bpm.

The follow up to Dare was causing the band problems and ended their fruitful
relationship with Rushent. They did manage to release the excellent Fascination EP in 1983 which contains some of the best tracks in their back catalogue. So any memories of making those 5 tracks?

Er, had nothing to do with it. The Roland MC-4 Microcomposer came out I was redundant ha ha hah.

Martin had to cut me out, was jealous or threatened or something. He double booked himself with his own signing, group called the Members, made me produce them at night. Broke the team in my opinion.


Spent a month on the vocals for (Keep Feeling) Fascination, they had all gone mad with fame so I was probably best out of it. And I got my first proper production credit.

An album finally emerged in 1984 as Hysteria was released by Virgin. Martin Rushent is credited in the sleevenotes with drum
programming on 3 tracks on the album before he left, so Iím guessing you had a hand in that too?


Nope. Well, Martin forgot things (like junior walker) or his ego got in the way or something, nothings easy. Liked Chris Thomas job though, he is a hero. Hugh Padgham, ugh! Loved Louise, still do. And I've never met her, ha hah.


You, along with drummer Jim Russell, also did the excellent 12Ē mix of the second single from the album; Life On Your Own. What were your ambitions with the mix? Who came up with the slightly odd ending with added samples?

Me. Vocal samples over the track, me. Ahead of its time and impossible to do as everyone soon got hip to the money that could be made but as far as I know no one complained or sued. Prefered the mix I did of Iím Coming Back that had prisoner samples on it. I will not be pushed, stamped, filed, listed or numbered.



Do you ever dig out the albums and listen to them?



How do you feel they have stood the test of time?


Donít know. Still sounds phat whenever I hear it out and about. As I said Martin was/is a genius.

The band is currently locked away in their Sheffield studio working on a new
album release. Could you see yourself producing their next album?

Hmmm, have no idea.


How would you want them to sound?


Think that most "vision" things about sound is rubbish. The sound is made by the humans being true to themselves. Would probably be trying banjos.


They have just signed a multi-album deal with the Wall Of Sound label. Looks like a perfect match?

Yes it does.


Since you worked on The Things That Dreams Are Made Of, how many of these can you tick off?


Take a cruise to China


No, but have had a desire to drive London to Vladivostok as fast as possible.


A train to Spain


3 times


Take a lift to the top of the Empire State


2 times and twice the World Trade Centre. The first time you were still allowed out on the roof that was funny watching planes and choppers circling around below you.


Take a drive across the Golden Gate




March across Red Square




Out of the bands vast back catalogue, can you name your favourite Human League album, single and song?  

Reproduction/Empire State Human/ I Am The Law. The cover (Heavy Metal On 45) ha ha, speeds up, liked Judge Dread



Did you attend the excellent Dare tour they did back in 2007 where they played the full album in correct running order ?


No I didnít. Was probably in Sicily or Milan working with Gianna Nannini.


The Human League has some very loyal and dedicated fans that try to get to as many shows as possible on a tour. Have you had the same passion for a particular band? You know, following them around the country, sleeping on train stations as you wait for the first train home?


Interpol, The Stranglers, nothing else seeing as I saw many dawns in the field of goth.


The unbelieveable evolution of technology has in some ways made it easier to make music, but is it more fun? With The Human League you were pioneering electronic music and pushing boundries in the early days, which must have been exciting?


Itís not easier. Yes, it was exciting but not early days. Roedelus is still gigging (saw him him and Rother in Shoreditch some months ago, fuckiní genius) and he goes back to 1965 or something and Stockhausen and Musique Concrete etc etc oh and Kraftwerk, Neu, Can and Cluster and etc etc, fun humf! None of its fun (well, Heavy Metal on 45 was because we were just pissing ourselves laughing, doing Smoke On The Water over a Linn drum). Inspiring, uplifting, depressing, difficult, challenging, worthwhile.


But now that music has no financial value (or art or film or literature/limewire torrentspy etc) we must look on it as a 20th century phenomenon. And the 21st looks like being a retro time going backwards century, culturally it will all go on line and there is so much stuff thatís old and good that it will take the stuffing out of new stuff. People like Jack White, old guitars, old tape, old mikes....yawn. Prefer Sam Dysons approach, although I can talk as I bought Conny Planks desk what is made of wood gold and germanium crystals. Someone had to save it from the bloody skip.

Iím also a big Depeche Mode fan, so I have to ask about the work you did the mid-80s. How did it come about you ended up engineering Itís Called A Heart single and did the brilliant Casualty Mix of Route 66? Did they do things differently in the studio compared to The Human League?


Well, Martin Gore apologised to me about 15 years later about the rubbish song, took fuckiní weeks. Me and Daniel Miller had a long 2 day discussion about live music, which was interesting. He is a fuckiní genius too, but not on this occasion.


Really liked Dave G but completely disagreed with the rules that they imposed on themselves. Oh and it took weeks and weeks. Although I liked doing Fly On The Windscreen that was the b side and I think they re-recorded it. And I really like "Wrong" and Master And Servant is one of my all time favourites. Oh and whether itís a coincidence or not but Dan started to sign bands like erm, the Bad Seeds



You played the odd drums for Delta 5 and worked as a sound man for the Mekons, which tells me you must have some musical talent. So have you ever made music for yourself or as a band?


My pop/rock/punk contributions are pretty much covered above Ė however, I actually studied music at York University and used to write weird and wonderful avant-garde classical music and play pretty decent jazz keyboards. Whilst at Uni, I wrote a piece for bass-guitar and Orchestra called ďTortĒ hoping to interest Bootsy Collins but never got performed ! A few years ago, I rearranged this for Ornette Colemanís electric bass player Jamaaladeen Tacuma Ė who performed it at the Salford Sonic Fusion Festival as captured on YouTube at :-


As you left the music business you never looked back as you've made yourself quite a name in the field of biotech. But do you ever get the itch to get back working with music which in all aspects has changed beyond recognition compared to when you were part of it?


Every few years I get the urge to produce or promote a musical event and the next one is brewing Ė a performance of Morton Feldmanís legendary String Quartet #2 which lasts nearly 6-hours and for which Iíve obtained permission from his estate to ďnarrowcastĒ out of every major University building in Edinburgh as an ďambient giftĒ to my home-town Ė coming in either Spring 2019 or 2020 Ė watch this space and listen if youíre interested at :-


Youíve come a long way since your engineer days and are now a well respected producer. So did you take any pointers from Martin Rushent when working on one of the most successful albums of all time that you can use in your work now?

Being in the presence of greatness rubs off and gives you a bench mark for future work. I owe Martin and Alan Winstanley and Clive Langer a debt ...of ....hmmm, gratitude for the training, and the break. Thanks Mart (in the end)


You seem like a very busy man, so what are the future plans for Dave Allen?

Nothing Yet. Lol, there are flies on the windscreen.


You can learn more about Daves impressive career by checking out this link:


And you can follow what he's up to on his facebook profile