Digging A Hole: Joanne Catherall (The Human League) interview:
Joanne Catherall from pop stalwarts The Human League looks back on Singer Philip Oakey's desire to move in a more commercial direction. This is Phil talking. I've just mischievously quoted the League leader Oakey back at himself – he once said that egged on by the cheers of his sidekicks Joanne Catherall and Susan Anne Gayle (née Sulley), The complications of inter-band relationships have proven fatal for many other groups: Abba. The band Human League - founder Phil Oakey alongside Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley – are more popular now than ever before.
However, bythe band had lost most of its members leaving only Oakey, Sulley and Catherall. InOakey persuaded Sheffield City Council to invest a business development loan for the building of Human League Studios in Sheffield, Oakey's dedicated studio for the band and a commercial venture. The album Romantic? This had a devastating effect on the band, causing Oakey to seek counselling for depression, and Sulley to have a breakdown. The emotional problems of the pair nearly caused the band to break up.
Thanks mainly to the efforts of Catherall, by Oakey and Sulley had recovered and the band was back on its feet. Secrets failed to sell because the record label went into receivership, curtailing promotion.
After the failure of a project he had put so much work and time into, Oakey lost faith in the record industry and changed the band's focus to more lucrative live work. Between and the present day, they have toured regularly either on their own or as guests at festivals. Though the album was commercially unsuccessful, the band continues to tour regularly. Solo and collaborative career[ edit ] Oakey has worked on his own, and also with other artists and producers.
His first collaboration was producing the Spanish released single "Amor Secreto" by Nick Fury in for which he also played synthesizer, together with Jo Callis. When later released as a single it would go on to become an international hit. The song went on to become a bigger hit than some of Oakey's Human League singles of the same period.
The song was written by Jarvis Cocker. In earlyOakey collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys on their tenth studio album Yessupplying vocals for the intended bonus disc song "This Used to Be the Future". Also inOakey collaborated with British female synthpop artist Little Boots on her first album, Handsrecording the duet track "Symmetry". His outrageous dress sense and original hairstyle would make him an iconic figure of the early s music scene.
He also often wore bike leathers and rode a classic Norton motorcycle around Sheffield. Ware, who sought commercial success, reasoned that half the battle was won "as Oakey already looked like a pop star". After spotting a girl on a Sheffield bus with a Veronica Lake hairstyle, Oakey was inspired to adopt a strange lopsided geometric hairstyle, shoulder length on one side and short on the other.
Between — with his unique hairstyle, he maintained a masculine dress style and at one time wore a full beard. Ininspired by the s glam rock style of Brian EnoOakey began wearing makeup; his style became increasingly more feminine including the use of bright red lipstick. Byafter the formation of the new Human League, Oakey's trademark style of the early s was complete. As well as full make up, Oakey had begun wearing androgynous clothing.
The addition of teenage school girls Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall as co-vocalists to the band in complemented his look. At times, all three would wear the same eyeliner and lipstick. Oakey and Catherall, who were to enter into a relationship with each other, often looked and dressed almost identically. Oakey pushed his unique style further and began wearing high heeled shoes. He already had both his ears pierced and wore dangling women's diamante earrings.
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Keen to shock, on one of the Human League's posters inOakey posed shirtless displaying pierced nipples linked together by a gold chain. Oakey says of his early s style: But I don't think I ever really looked like a woman. And I never wore very masculine clothes". For the Crash album ofOakey adopted a smoother style of designer clothes of the period and a very manicured look which he says was inspired by Sean Young 's character Rachael from the film Blade Runner.
Bythe Human League had begun to decline. The band went through dark times and the style was quickly abandoned. When the band returned in a comeback inthe mature then year-old Oakey reappeared with designer clothes and a suave short neat hair cut.
Now there's great stuff about, like Skrillex, but it's never going to be mass-market. I'm surprised people often put it as our peak.
I would say our peak is the Greatest Hits album really. Dare was fairly rough, alienated stuff with a couple of warmish singles. I would do anything to be famous again, I suppose.
But I'm of an age to know that it's absolutely worthless. There's seven billion people in the world and every one of them is as good as someone else. If they smile at you at the door of the Groucho Club, so what?
When Donna Summer died I suddenly realised she's my favourite artist. Those are still the albums I go back to. When I get the old synths out I will often go and try to emulate the stuff Giorgio did around that time. I've not really moved on. I don't think anyone is going to do it better than he did.
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We were never that impressed by the musical side of punk. We loved the rejection of authority but we knew straight away that the records were Eddie Cochran. It's just a place really. We have this strange relationship with home. People think of us as a Sheffield band, but the whole of Sheffield never thinks of us first. The local council decided they were going to be really up-to-date and put names in stars on a pavement near the town hall.
And in the second year they came and asked us. We said 'too late'. The only thing wrong with Sheffield is that it's sort of quiet. It's not cosmopolitan in any way but, now I'm a dog owner, I really appreciate the fact.
And if you want to work you can get on with it because there's hardly any distractions. I was almost coldly clinical about making sure I got on top of an image. I'd done that before I had a chance to be in a group. Maybe also because I was shy. I wasn't very good at speaking to people at parties and I needed something to make them come to me. For some reason people think Don't You Want Me is a love song, and it's not. It's a power song.
Mostly there wasn't a lot of love in our records. They tended to get a little bit mawkish if they got toward that. Our songs were about disputes. Love in the band? Romance in the workplace.
Human League’s Phil Oakey admits by rights he should be driving a taxi cab not fronting a pop band
I think we're lucky to have gone beyond it and still get on really well. I don't think either of us were particularly instrumental in splitting the group up. I think [record label boss] Bob Last sort of arranged that.
He thought if me and Martyn were in the group we'd spend more energy trying to top each other.