March 2020

Interviews by Niels Kolling

 

 

 

Ian Stanley (Producer); I started studio work in Sheffield with them and it seemed fairly straight forward once we got the  structure of who did what sorted out. As we know the League are fairly unique and one of their traits is although it can take time to be accepted, once they trust you, they are very loyal. I suppose I did make them work harder than they were used to, mainly as I had a lot of work in London at the same time, I think they responded well to the fact that if I was prepared to work hard and invest a lot of my time with them, it gave them self-worth which they were probably lacking in at that time. I remember it as one of the most enjoyable albums I made.

 

Protools was still in its infancy then but apart from a few crashes and usual hiccups, it was solid and vital given the amount of tracks we would use. A lot of credit should go to Andy Grey, who I brought in to program and to try and keep it all in some sort of sense. I always loved modulars, and I had a large selection as well as the band. I actually bought a Roland 700 series during the album and that is the most complete synth I ever played with. At times it got complex, more towards the end, but I quite like a  bit of chaos in the studio, you get more mistakes , which sometimes lead to more unusual roads. The band and especially Phil were very patient when it went wrong.

 

I canít really remember if the 100m was used more than others. We used a lot of Roland gear, from the 100m, and 700 series to the SH101s, Jupiters etc. I would say we had at least 30-40 synths and used most of them. I think 90% of the songs would have changed in either -key, structure ,tempo, arrangement etc. Whether they changed 'drastically' is hard to define, but I suspect to most people they did.

 

 

Andy Gray (Programmer); I remember part of the album was sampling the analog synths to create drum sounds (SampleCell was great, no little LCD and the Mac to save your patches) and to be able to recall able patches created on the wicked 100m. So I guess one job was house keeping.. Itís funny as getting it to sync was the key! I had worked with vintage synths since my first SH09 at the start of the 80s but I was only about 9 myself. But I must say midi had been a big part of my life and going back to CV and Gate was funky, but after a while you work out the best way and crack on.

 

For me at the time the Expander Jupiter 4 were up there, the system100m sounded great, as did the 700. Never really liked the Juno's, I did have a Jupiter 8 at the time and Phil bought a Jupiter 6 which sounded more edge and cutting.

 

Chris Hughes (programmer); My memory of the sessions I attended was that everything went pretty smoothly and according to the main plan. I don't recall any big deviations or any painfully difficult problems to overcome. All members present seemed very open to any ideas put forward as I recall. (Most fun was the) Matrix 12, Jupiter 8, Prophet 5, Lydian 3.

 

In retrospect It was crucial that the record got finished and released (otherwise things may have crumbled) and so to that effect it was successful. There was too much pressure in the air to allow it to be risky, or particularly dangerous, or different, but it WAS allowed to be Human League-ish. Which is what it is. I have listened to it over time and enjoy it but it hasn't entered the realms of "classic" for me (yet).

 

David Beevers (Engineer); I think we would have run up that amount (20) in demoís and through a process of elimination got down to an albums worth. My memories are still painful of that session. I think the group had signed to East/West about 5 months before and we hadnít moved very forward in finding a producer, then Ian Stanley (Tears For Fears) stepped in and said we had 3 months or so to record it all in.

 

For me personally it was tough as Ian had a different way of working. We had Andy Gray in a back room deconstructing our demos and programming and Ian in the control room programming too. After a few days elements from both sessions would be brought together and a track constructed. At this point we would be working on a track with most of the elements running live and very little on tape.

 

At one stage we had Andy in one room programming, Bob Kraushaar in our studio redoing vocals (but we used most of my original ones in the end) and Ian renting a studio next door (Axis) still programming. Every evening new sub mixes would be transferred from Axis to HL then in the morning I would drag the 24 track recorder to Axis and off load the previous days vocals into pro-tools, quite mad but we ended up with a great album.

 

 

Neil Sutton (band member); Ian produced it. He was serious about his synths, so the sounds were a top priority!! He had some very nice pieces himself, including a Prophet 10 and a Yamaha CS80!! He also bought a Roland System 700 whilst he was working on the album in The League's studio. He also brought along a device that consisted of 6 metal rods in a case, like guitar strings, that triggered MIDI notes. This allowed you to strum MIDI chords, giving the effect of strumming guitar chords!! It worked well!! Ian did have David synching everything to everything else, whether it was timecode DAT machines, CV + Gate synths or MIDI devices!! Then he would want to record it!!

 

Russell Dennett (band member); Octopus still sounds fresh, very good album. Ian Stanley is a brilliant producer, very hard working and really dedicated. I was away a lot but when I popped in it was a hive of activity. Dave Beevers worked hard too.

 

I used to watch Dave, Neil, Phillip and later Paul (Beckett) in awe because they were so good with the programming, Neill was good with multi function stuff, (and) a great keyboard player, still is, and was very pro active. Phillip was king of the analogue synths, Jupiter 8, Roland System 100m. We also liked Casio stuff. We didnít like sampled sounds, we were quite organic. I could just about get my head round a Roland JXP8 if it had a programmer. Dave was great at getting his head round anything in the studio. We had a table tennis too.

 

Dave Bascombe (Mixer); I'm afraid i can't remember much about the sessions to be honest. I remember they were really good to work with and it was fun, but I don't think the mixing process was anything particularly different from most things I do.

 

TRACK-BY-TRACK GUIDE

 

 

TELL ME WHEN

 

Ian Stanley; It may be obvious but 'Tell Me When' turned into, I think, a great League single, that stands up with their best work.

 

Dave Bascombe; I certainly thought Tell Me When was really strong but it's so difficult to guess these things, they'd been away for a while and it's hard to break back in.

 

Jez Willis (Remixer); We try and keep the essence of a song when we remix (The Utah Saints Remix), so we did try and keep it close in structure to the original. I had to buy copies of the single when it came out, that was just easier than chasing the record company (and helped chart positions!).

 

THESE ARE THE DAYS

 

Russell Dennett; I think Jo and Sue sang really well.

 

ONE MAN IN MY HEART

 

Neil Sutton; It was great having a Top 20 single. Radio 1 and 2 gave it a lot of plays as well as the commercial stations. Even though you have listened to the track a million times whilst it's being recorded and then again after it has been mixed and finally mastered, it was always exciting hearing it on the radio when driving in the car. The djs were very complimentary about it..... thank God.I must admit though, hearing it being played in the background on East Enders and Coronation Street (the 2 biggest soap operas on British TV ) was the biggest buzz!! Sad, but true!!

 

Oliver Davis (Roland collaborator); That pitch bending bassline and drum programming is just perfect - amazing song too!

 

 

WORDS

 

Andy Gray; Words is one of my favourites, I completely reworked that track, its almost 100% Oberhiem Expander. It was very different when I started with drums and a bass line. I changed it into a more spaced out ambient track, still really like the sound of it now. I just remember working on it for ages. Words changed the most, but they all had a lot of changes, arrangements and some killer new top line which Phil played on the 100M.

 

Russell Dennett; Changed a lot from when it was written. I was living in Spain when it was redone and itís much better version than the one I did. Phillip was a very fair man with the writing (credits), If the track had lyrcis it went on the album, but I wish I had been a little more creative.

 

FILLING UP WITH HEAVEN

 

Neil Sutton; Great pop song that are a bit different in it's approach and arrangement and perhaps my favourite from that album. The problem with those solos are that Philip wrote them by playing parts of it in, and then editing them with the software editor, moving notes around, which is responsible for it sounding so different!! Great pop song that are a bit different in their approach and their arrangements.

 

Andy Gray; One of my favourite 100M sounds was the trumpet on Filling Up With Heaven, classic. I remember Phil working on it, when he had it nailed we recorded it into Cubase Audio and I made a SampleCell patch as backup.

 

David Beevers; Great song and great sounds too, love those splashy hihats and Philips system 100 solo. During the recording there was the System 100m running live playing 2 sets of hihats which were being sent trough to the live room and put through a guitar amp then micíd up. System 700 running sequencers and several of these being split into various effects boxes. Samplers running via Cubase and also other synths being triggered via midi or CV & Gate. Philip sat in a corner programming and playing the synth solo on the system 100. A timecode DAT machine being synched to the computer with vocals on it and Pro-tools audio tracks playing off the computer, and me having to keep it all running and in tune, very, very scary.

 

 

HOUSEFULL OF NOTHING

 

Ian Stanley; Houseful Of Nothing' developed pretty well.

 

Russell Dennett; I love Houseful Of Nothing

 

JOHN CLEESE: IS HE FUNNY?

 

Andy Gray; I donít think I did hardly anything to (the track), apart from thinking the title was brilliant.

 

NEVER AGAIN

Ian Stanley; It was an old track that had been reworked (for the album).

 

Jo Callis (writer); I get credited for programming and/or synth playing.

 

CRUEL YOUNG LOVER

 

Ian Stanley; One of my favourites. I remember being very adamant that the vocal and thus the song was as hard as it could be, like trying to make a rock song, which as you point out, for the league was a new area. It was tough, but as ever Phil tried his hardest and delivered. The key was tricky to pin down and I think Phil had a cold at the time which helped the rough vocal.

 

Andy Gray; If I remember right the arpeggiator sound is the Xpander sampled with my SampleCell. I still have the patch, love that line, sounds a bit Orb-y.

 

Russel Dennett; I want to re work Cruel Young Lover as a country song.

 

KIMI NI MUNE KYUN (B-SIDE TO TELL ME WHEN)

 

Ray Hearn (Executive producer); Kimi Ni Mune Kyun maintains a very strange position in the YMO canon and the Human League seemed a perfect fit as well as an ideal contrast to the Orb versus YMO ep which I was also working on at the same time. I remember meeting Phil and the girls at their studio to discuss the project and everyone being really enthusiastic, but honestly donít remember if it was at the session or just talking about it. I seem to recall that Paul Beckett might have been involved in setting up the meeting with them though maybe it was Dave Taylor from Fon Studios.

 

It was part of a broad series of remix / reworks that Alfa Records engaged me to produce that also involved The Orb and Brian Eno. Yellow Magic Orchestra werenít part of the project so doubt that they had met. I didnít produce the collaboration and simply put the project together. Iím probably credited as executive producer on the cd as I put the serious of Yellow Magic Orchestra remixes together for Alfa Records and seem to recall that thatís what they were crediting me with at the time but had no musical input to speak of. Iíd been producing so many remix projects for Alfa Records at that time so it must have seemed like a good solution which inevitably it was.

 

 

THE BUS TO CROOKES (B-SIDE TO TELL ME WHEN)

 

Russell Dennett; The Bus To Crookes was a backing track that Phillip made in to an instrumental. I wasn't keen, ot could have made a good song. But hey ho.