This month we get the low down from the man who played a very integral part in The Human League’s breakthrough to the big time. Martin Rushents groundbreaking contribution in the making of the Dare and Love And Dancing albums cannot be applauded enough and he was very kind to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his work with the band.
Interview by Niels Kolling, picture by Martin Rushent.
As I understand, it was Simon Draper that brought you and The Human League together. Did you have any prior knowledge of the band and their first 2 albums and that there was a pop potential to develope?
I was aware of the band prior to Simon talking to me. I had heard Being Boiled and seen them live.
I was a little unsure of whether there would be a project. I knew the band had just split and had no idea what Simon would play me.
He was adament that the band in its new form had great potential, he said the demos he had been sent were really good. He emphasised one of the great strengths of the band was Phil’s remarkably distinctive voice.
He played me a demo of THE SOUND OF THE CROWD and I was sold. Simon was concerned that the drum and bass sounds were not as good as they should be. He had heard HOMOSAPIEN by Pete Shelley and wanted the League to have a similar drum sound
According to Philip Oakey, they just couldn’t get The Sound Of The Crowd to work and then you came in with your magic wand and they had their first hit. Can you enlighten us to what exactly you did with the track?
As I mentioned earlier I had been doing electronic based tracks with Pete Shelley and had developed a technique which was increasingly coming up with the goods.
The basis was a Roland system 700 synth - a big beast coupled with a microcomposer. I was able to program very sophisticated (for the time) musical parts and drum beats and sounds.
The band thought I was going to continue working on their version of the song, but I had already decided we were gonna dump it and start again. Seems to have been the right call.
Did any of the other songs from the album take a drastic change from the original demos when you started working on them with your groundbreaking techniques?
Yep, all of them.
Some of the tunes were just a riff and a bass line when we started and got mainly written and arranged in the studio - Love Action (I Believe In Love) for example. Don’t You Want Me - was radically different from the way Phil had planned it.
When you were recording the album, were there some songs that were more difficult to get right, either with the structure, electronic equipment or sound? And which song was you most satisfied with the way it turned out?
No not really, once we got started, the project seemed to take on a life of its own.
The programming took hours and hours and we were constantly battling the primitive and unreliable technology. But each time we released a tune it was a massive hit so we were bouyed up by our success and just had loads of fun no matter what.
I spent 28 hours straight writing and programming the brass parts for Hard Times and another 24 hours recording them. Didn’t mind a bit, had a wonderful time.
The Love and Dancing album was groundbreaking and many DJ’s, remixers, producers and artists hail it as a masterpiece to this day and one of the main reasons they ended up in the music industry. How do you feel about that album now and how much fun was it to make?
It was great fun to do cause I was left alone to do it, just me and the machines and my mad ideas.
There was no certainty it would be released. When Phil heard it he said he thought it sounded better than DARE but was concerned the public would view it a rip off so asked it be sold cheap, which it was. Needless to say its full price now !!
It is for others to judge its importance in the musical firmament. I am very proud of it and hear the effects and tricks copied a myriad times. So it clearly had/has influence.
Any of the electronics and synths used on the album you have particular fond memories of and still use today? Or is it all virtual synths for you now?
I don't use any of the old stuff I had.
I have a few old analog synths, a Minimoog, Roland SH101 and I use them from time to time. Fondest memories have to be the LINN DRUM - greatest drum machine ever made.
I now have a studio in my home, its pretty much virtual. A digital analog hybrid. You can check it out if you want on my MYSPACE site there is a video tour.
For the nerds; I run a twin Quad-core Xeon with 4 gig ram - Tyan motherboard and a battery of SATA 1 terra drives and a Blu-ray burner - Windows XP 32 bit with sx 4 linked to 48 MOTU I/0's and 24 Hammerfall lightpipe I/O's. Its big and powerful.
My current studio cost over the last few years about 20,000 sterling and is hugely more powerful than GENETIC which cost 1.5 million
You parted ways when you were trying to record a follow up to Dare, but still managed to produce some of the finest tracks in their catalogue with the Fascination! EP. Were there other songs you were working on at that time for a full album?
I can’t recall any other songs, only those that were released
You made a brief return to produce the excellent single Heart Like A Wheel in 1990. How was it working again with the band after such a long time apart? Were there plans for you to work on more tracks, since the Romantic? album was produced by 6 different producers?
It was a one off. Whilst the track came out good, it was not like the old days of Dare.
During the Dare period, all the chemistry was right. Everybody’s needs and passions melded together to form a potent and cohesive creative force. This force created Dare & Love & Dancing.
After the gargantuan success, the force dissipated. For everyone’s needs, passions and desires radically changed, as did our lives. It was a moment in time, never to be repeated, sadly.
The Romantic? album suffered in the charts, while the Octopus album in 1995 faired far better. But they hit a low with the Secrets album in 2001. Hailed as their best work since Dare!, it sank without a trace, since the record company went bust shortly after it’s release. How do you view these 3 albums?
I like them.
The band is currently working on a new album which hopefully should be released this year. Could you see yourself producing another Human League album?
Incredibly many very young people are big fans. Hence with the right record the League could regain a premier position. Am I the man to help them do it?? Dunno, we shall see. Someone should check my availability. Haha
Do you ever dig out the Dare album and listen to it? How do you feel it has stood the test of time?
Yes and remarkably yes.
How do you view their position in todays market, since things have changed drastically in the whole music business since you started out with Dare?
They are a seminal electro pop band and will always be so. I have been amazed by the resilience of Dare/Love & Dancing to changing times, styles and fads.
You’ve recently started up Genetic Records again and celebrated it by putting out a first release with Things That Dreams Are Made Of in a wide range of excellent new remixes on 7” and 12”. Any thoughts to why you picked this track?
I picked this one cause I have always felt it should have been a single.
And because the Love & Dancing remix has become firmly established as a global current club floor filler and it lent itself to a Moroder style mix which I have wanted to do for several years.
What are your ambitions for the re-established label? Will you be signing other artists?
Just wanna release good stuff.
I am making my own album right now, hopefully it will be finished in a few months time, and will be released on Genetic.
Rumours has been flying around for the last few years that you were working on both a Love And Dancing Part 2 and also on some songs that were left over from the Dare sessions. Can you confirm the rumours and give us more details?
I can confirm all the rumours.
However I am doing it in my own time and my own pace, it will get released and the new mix of Things That Dreams Are Made Of is the first.
No more will be released until the project is complete.
You can learn more about what Martin is up to by checking out the links below. The new release of The Things That Dreams Are Made Of can also be bought from the Genetic Recordings site.