September 2016


Interview by Niels Kolling


21st March 2011 saw the release of first new Human League material in almost 10 years as the Credo album was released. It got great reviews amongs fans and most of the press and besides being packed with cracking tunes it was also lauded for it's sonical pleasures not at least because of I Monsters awesome production. So I caught up with know twiddler supreme Dean Honer that was part of the production team behind the unique sound to learn more about the proces of making the album.


First a little background. How did you become involved in the music business in the first place to end up as ä sought after producer and musician?

I have been in bands since school days. Formed my first electronic band with schoolfriends in about 1982. Bought my first synth then, a Moog Prodigy.I moved to Sheffield from London in about 1986, with my then girlfriend who was from Sheffield. The electronic/new wave music scene was very exciting in Sheffield in the early eighties , The League, Cabaret Voltaire, Heaven 17, Hula, Clock DVA and later oddball bands like Dig Vis Drill and Pulp.


I studied film at Psalter Lane Art College and set up a small, 8 track recording studio not too far from where the Leagues place is now. I played in a series of bands too, mainly synths.Into the 90's Sheffield became the UK home of techno with the massive success of WARP Records, this became a big influence on me. Great records by bands like LFO, The Forgemasters, Sweet Exorcist and later stuff like Aphex Twin.


I began making techno and bleepy music with Jarrod and also with Parrot from Sweet Exorcist. The project with Jarrod became I Monster and the project with Parrot became The All Seeing I. At the same time I got to do a number of production and remix jobs including a few albums for Mute band Add N to X, some mixes for Moby, a track for Britney Spears!


I met Philip through working with the All Seeing I. He sang on a couple of tunes for us. I also produced a track called Rock and Roll Is Dead for Kings Have Long Arms which featured Philips vocals. Around 2000 I set up a record label called Cercle Records with Barry 7 from Add N to X, we released 7 inch singles by I Monster (Daydream In Blue) and another Sheffield electronic band Fat Truckers.

Since you’re Sheffield based and titled a track “The Circus Of Deaf” on your last album “A Dense Sense Of Ancient Stars” I’m guessing you’re well into the bands vast history and back catalogue?

Yep, the title was a nod to the League.


Would you label yourself a fan or more a casual listener?


I am a fan of the band. I love the first two albums and of course Dare. I also think Love and Dancing is an amazing piece of work.

How did it come about that you, as part of I Monster, were picked out to produce the album?
It came about because of a chance meeting in Sheffield's Endcliffe Park. I bumped into Philip while he was walking his dog and I was out playing football with my kids. He mentioned that he was working on some new material, which sounded interesting, so I offered to do a mix for him. Luckily he gave me the opportunity to do it. A few days later he dropped off the parts for a few of the tracks and Jarrod and I began work on them.

What was Philip Oakeys vision regarding the overall sound of the album?


I don't exactly know what Philips vision was for the album, we just did our best and the band seemed to like what we came up with.

How would you describe the demos they send you to work on?

Some demos were very rough and raw while others had obviously had more time spent on them. On most if not all of the tracks the vocals were just Philip and Rob. Susan and Jo were added after we had done some work on the songs.


It then became more obvious as to which songs suited which vocals. I think the band did a lot of the demos on Ableton and Logic Audio. We use Cubase so they would just prepere us separate audio stems for each track.


Could your trained ears already spot some hit potential?

There were certain tracks that jumped out immediately. The chorus hook of Sky was great and, Egomaniac and Get Together sounded very strong.


Since this is the first new material in almost 10 years I was hoping we could pamper the patient fans by going into production details about some key tracks off the album, like the 3 singles?

From demo to final version
We received the files of the demo in February. At this time it already had the fast gnarly bassline in place, the main Night People repeated vocal and also the crazy verse vocals, which were originally Philip only but with a different bass line underneath. The girls Gentle Lighting part was also in place but was more of a drop down middle 8 section.

After trying out some ideas on the track we stripped down the rhythm and tried to hang the track around the great bass line. We put a new bass line under the verse vocals and a more uplifting bass and synth part under the girls middle 8. We also threw in a new synth riff at the end over which Philip then wrote the "Get Away" section.

It was a case of us doing a bit of fiddling at our studio then sending it to the band to either say "thats rubbish"or "thats great", then they would do a bit more fiddling and send it back to us and so on...... Night People probably involved the most fiddling and sending back and forth out of all the tracks on the album.

Gear comments

Not sure which synths the band used on all the sounds on this track but I know they used a Studio Electronics SE-1 for the main bass line. I think we put it through a distortion pedal. We did try to use all analogue synths in the production of the album but sometimes we would use a few plug-ins, mainly GMedia stuff like the Odditty and Minimonsta.


On Night People the intro noise is my EMS Synthi AKS. The SE1 bass line is doubled up with a Minimoog sub bass. There are some quiet MS20 parts on the verses and a Minimoog lead line. Some fruity Pro One sweeps on the drop down. The fat end section Bassline is a Pro One doubled with a Minimoog. The end rave chords are actually a Korg MS20 plug in. Drums are a mixture of our own samples, Linn LM1 samples and Philips Pearl Syncussion drum pads.

From demo to final version
The demo was pretty different from the finished track. It only had the one verse which was repeated. All the vocals on the demo were by Philip and Rob, Jo and Susan were not on the track. Most of the vocal melodies remained pretty much as they were from demo to finish. The arrangement got cut and pasted about in the development process.


I think most of the music from the original demo got discarded along the way, in fact I dont know if any of the recorded demo parts appear on the finished track! Maybe some of the "OOoh! backing vocals from Philip and Rob?


After Jarrod had done his polishing and production process and produced a reworked version, we gave this new version to the band, they liked it (phew!) and then they decided to get Susan and Jo to sing the whole song together rather than it being a Philip lead vocal.


They then recorded the new vocals at their studio and sent them to us. The last stage of the production was fitting the new vocals into the arrangement and spicing up some of the sounds. We thought it sounded good with Susan singing the verses and Jo on the bridges then both of them together on the choruses.


Gear comments
We used Pitch and Warp in Cubase to change some of the melodies slightly and to give the"tuned" vocal effect. They are not "Auto-Tuned". Its all done manually word by word, syllable by syllable. Using the tuned effect seemed to make the lyric harder and colder which we quite liked.


We also replaced a lot of the plug in synths that Jarrod had used for his demo, with real analogue synths. The verse bassline was made using my Oakley modular synth, fantastic, British built machine. Bridge bass is Minimoog. Chorus synths are Oberheim 2 Voice, Minimoog and a bit of twinkly Oscar.


The stabby chords are a mixture of Minimonsta plug in and Roland JX8P a very 80's sounding machine. There is also quite a lot of MS20 noises and whooshes on there. Drum sounds are a mixture, a lot of Fairlight 2 percussion sounds, a classic Human League "Dare" era Linn LM1 Snare, one of our own kick samples.

From demo to final version

Sky demo sounded good already. The vocal structure was pretty much complete. Verses, bridges and choruses same as on album. A few lyric changes. New 2nd verse added later I think. Just Philip singing. We worked a lot on the rhythm and bass line on this track, we were kind of influenced by Dare era sounds I think. Kind of a Don't You Want Me style bass line and Linn drums.


Gear comments

The songs intro is Philips original Jupiter 6 melody plus some Mellotron strings that we added. the song. The bass is my Minimoog Model D. The drums are a mixture of Linn LM1 samples and some of our own sounds.


The strings on the bridge are from my Godwin String Concert string machine. The Popcorn style sounds on the verses are from my Roland Promars. There are also some Sequential Pro One FX running through. I think that's about it!


The signing of The Human League to the Wall Of Sound label looks like a perfect match?
I hope so. Mark Jones is also a huge fan of the band. He's doing it for all the right reasons.


Being part of the Sheffield music scene for many years, have you experienced many Human League gigs?
I never saw the original pre girls band play, but I've seen them play a few times in Sheffield since working with Philip.


The Human League has a vast collection of vintage synths and electronics stacked away in their Sheffield studio. Which ones were the most fun to fiddle with the knobs? Anyone you are thinking of getting yourself?

We borrowed a few bits. I really liked the Oberheim SEM module. So I looked for one and now have a beautiful Oberheim TVS1 Two Voice. I'm also a bit of an analogue collector so I like trying to outdo Philip on synth geek knowledge. I think I'm beating him at the moment! :-)


I Monster also do remixes, so if you could choose any Human League track, which one would you like the most to remix?
Circus of Death (maybe??)

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

This is difficult - - - - today it is - - -


Travelogue - a great collection of off the wall songs and quite raw and dirty sounding.


Sound of the Crowd - At the time, to me, it sounded like it had come from the future. I remember dancing to it. A great pop song.


The Black Hit Of Space - because its a great record to DJ with and its very noisy and very bonkers. My kids like it too.


You’ve actually crossed path with Oakey several times in the past, first of all as you were part of All Seeing I that released the brilliant single First Man In Space with Oakey on guest vocals. So any memories of making the track that gave you a Top 30 hit in the UK?

If I remember correctly we recorded it in a little house we were renting and the vocal room was the toilet. So that was quite amusing for us! Maybe not for Philip. I remember the video was rubbish, the label wouldn’t let us use Dawn Shadforth, who did Beat Goes On, so Philip ended up on a tennis court...


I remember doing a TV performance of it, we were all dressed in full space suits and were not able to breathe properly. The helmet glass steamed up and we were all bumping into eachother. Philip in his cool attire carried on as if we weren’t there.


The TV performance Dean mentions can be viewed here:

You also produced and co-wrote the Kings Have Longs Arms single Rock And Roll Is Dead with Oakey on vocals. So how was it working with Oakey again a few years after 1st Man In Space?

Time flies. It was fun and a very quick job recording that track.


Is Adrian Flanagan as mad is he appears? ;)


Adrian Flanagan is only half mad, his other half is quite sane. He has a great new project too called The Chanteuse and the Crippled Claw that I am helping out with.

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?

I was never that dedicated to any band or anything. I used to go and see the great Fad Gadget quite a lot.


I Monster is not only a production team, but also a band in itself, so can you tell us a bit more about what you want to achieve under this moniker?

It's still an ongoing project. Would like to get another album made before I'm 50. Just looking for a concept or a muse at the moment.


The technology has evolved at an unbelievable rate in the music business in the last decade. So how is it working in a studio today, compared to when you started out?

I'm still using the same synths, so that has not changed. We record onto computer rather than tape now although I would like to do another album on tape, I like the restrictions it imposes. Stops endless tweaking. You have to get the take right rather than piddle about with it at a later time. Computers offer infinite sonic choices and infinite is a big number to choose from.


You seem like a very busy man, so what are the future plans for Dean Honer?
Will be gigging a new project called Skywatchers this year, to promote an album called The Skywatchers Handbook. That is Jarrod, myself and an Essex folkster called Kevin Pearce. Also helping out with the Chanteuse and the Crippled Claw, the album should be available this year or early next year. Some new I Monster material next year plus other bits and pieces yet to be announced!


Check out these links to learn more about Deans back catalogue and future projects;!/IMONSTERBAND