Interview by Niels Kolling, images by Miles Copeland
This months exclusive interview is with former manager Miles Copeland, who managed The Human League through some difficult times in the late eighties and early nineties. Miles is a very busy man, but I managed to squeeze a few thoughts out of him about the work he did with The Human League.
How did it all come about that you started managing The Human League?
The Human League made such classic music - timeless - so would always have a currency in the market which is why I got involved with them.
I liked the music and I liked them even though as a manager working within limits can be frustrating as I always like to reach the highest goal that I feel could be there if the band got on board.
Can you tell us a bit about your job description as manager for the band?
My main job was to get them organized to get back into the business in a professional way as they had floundered. The man I put in charge of the touring is still with them (current Human League manager Simon Watson) and is now the manager so the structure I created worked.
How do you look back on your time working as manager for The Human League?
The Human League were an interesting project for me as there were in-built rules that made it difficult to give absolute correct advise.
This is often the case when there are unequal talents involved and the main talent does not have the ego to want to be a solo artist.
The two ladies (vocalists Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall) were of lesser talent than one would have liked for the positon they were put in. The sound man actually made sure one of them was always on the fader that gave less volume - if you get what I mean.
The two ladies in question knew full well that they were actually two local gals that got lucky - basic housewife types - thrust into the music business - so they were not kidding themselves which was refreshing and quite endearing.
So as manager one was forced to work within the limits set by the band and anything that pushed the envelope would more likely scare them than inspire them.
The band is still going strong after 35 years in the business so how do you look on their position in todays music industry?
The Human League benefit in the fact that the "brand" works with great songs still played on the radio.
Few new "brands" are emerging these days from touring and traditional radio - Big TV shows are a major new sourse of acts and then only a few per year. There was a depth in music before, now it is a song or two which is not enough to make a brand. So bands from the era where albums were a big factor live on as there is less new coming to shunt them aside.
You've worked with so many different stars of the music industry, but if I had to pick out one, how was it managing Adam Ant?
Adam Ant was a pleasure until the day we were to release his album. Then he panicked: fired me and his long time associate manager who lived and breathed for him - so he could say the album failed because the of management or something - ANYTHING other than he was the cause of the failure.
He changed horses at the starting gate and the album stayed at the starting gate and a great big dud. Stupid and a shame as Adam actually was a lot more talented than he gave himself credit for.
The music business has changed so much both with distribution, record companies and live work in the last decade, so how do you look at the industry today as compared to when you started out?
The music business has changed to the point that talking about albums as opposed to songs means you are out of touch. None of my 3 sons has ever been to a record store - they know songs from I-tunes more than the names of the artist who made the song.
As far as I can tell you work now as a political commentator as well as managing the Bellydance Superstars, quite a departure from your old job or maybe not?
With the Bellydance Superstars I can decide what the show will be, the name of the show, who will be in it, the poster art, the t-shirt, what music is danced to - when the tour will happen, where it will go etc etc.
I can actually long term plan and set a strategy based on what I see, have learned, and know to work - instead of turn over decisions to people wrapped in insecurity, fear or worse, over confidence and lack of a sense of reality. If I make a mistake, it is my doing and I learnfor the next time.
As manager of rock bands if I helped make a success it was the artist who did it whereas if there was a mistake or failure it was always my fault.
Do you ever get the itch to get back in as manager in the rock and pop music business?
I dont miss rock and roll - most of all I donít miss managing someone elses' business when they call all the shots and only occassionally take advise
You can learn more about Miles career and future projects by checking out these links;