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 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?
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.
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.
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.
your trained ears already spot some hit potential?
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
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.
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.
demo to final version
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.
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.
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!
signing of The Human League to the Wall Of Sound label looks like a
part of the Sheffield music scene for many years, have you experienced
many Human League gigs?
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?
I Monster also do remixes,
so if you could choose any Human League track, which one would you like
the most to remix?
the bands vast back catalogue can you name your favourite Human League
album, single and song?
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?
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:
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 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?
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?
seem like a very busy man, so what are the future plans for Dean Honer?
Check out these links to learn more about Deans back catalogue and future projects;