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HUMAN LEAGUE (SUSAN ANN SULLEY) INTERVIEW [2002]

IT'S BEEN QUITE A YEAR SO FAR FOR THE HUMAN LEAGUE HASN'T IT? WHAT WITH THE RELEASE OF THE VERY EARLY HUMAN LEAGUE AND THE FUTURE MATERIAL, THE REISSUE OF 'DARE', YOUR OWN SHOWS IN EUROPE, AND NOW HEADLINING THE HERE & NOW TOUR...

Well yes it has! We did a date in Belgium, a couple of dates in Amsterdam, went to Ibiza in the summer, and then went off and did ten days promotion in Canada, and all that stuff's been released, and Philip's really happy with The Future stuff, really pleased with all of that, and yes, like you say then there's this tour coming up at the end of the year...

FANTASTIC... LET'S GO BACK TO THE REISSUES FIRST; HOW MUCH CONTROL OVER THEM DID THE BAND ACTUALLY HAVE?

Absolutely none to be honest! I mean it's all been done by other people... The Future thing was done, and Dave in our studio has had a lot of input into that and found a lot of the old tapes, and I know that certainly Martyn Ware's had input into it as well. Neither Joanne nor I have had anything to do with it because it was from before we joined the group, so we have absolutely nothing to do with it.

With the 'Dare' thing, Virgin - the old record company - just said that they wanted to do it... they didn't need our permission but they've been really good about it. They've done a load of remixes to go to clubs and stuff just to get people vaguely interested... I'm not sure if they're going to be released, but they're just on white labels at the moment. But I think the sort of atmosphere has changed now, and you want to be more cooperative with people because that only does you goo. I think that when we first started out we could be quite awkward when we needed to be, and you end up working against your record company and things, and I think you learn that it just doesn't really work for you - you might as well just be cooperative because then it works for you in the long run!

WHEN YOU LOOK BACK NOW, DO YOU SEE TIMES WHERE YOU THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY?

I think we do, but you never know if it would have been the right thing to do at that stage... if you'd done something differently then you don't know if you'd have still got here now do you know what I mean?

THE 'DARE' RELEASE IS BEING CELEBRATED AS THE TWENTY-FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE ORIGINAL RELEASE... HOW TERRIFYING IS THAT?

It's scary to think that we've been doing it for this long to be truthful... it is a bit odd, but I suppose the fact that we're still here after all that time means something to people you know?

SURE, AND I THINK THAT THE HUMAN LEAGUE HAVE A VERY STRONG FANBASE...

Well, it's not huge... we're not like some of those groups who have absolutely huge fan bases, but we do alright, and we know there's people who still like the music which is the most important thing...

WHAT'S IMPORTANT FOR YOU NOW... IS IT MOVING FORWARD WITH NEW RELEASES AND EVERYTHING THAT BRINGS, OR IS IT MORE OF A CELEBRATION OF YOUR PAST ACHIEVEMENTS?

Well... the Here & Now thing came along at a time where we weren't thinking about doing like that, but they offer you a nice deal, a nice wad of money that makes it worth your while, and the thing is that we do love performing live, and as we've got older and we've continued in our career it's something we're quite good at... so it was a case of why turn it down when we can go out there and enjoy ourselves, and play to more people because we can play the big arenas which we probably couldn't fill on our own... I don't know about new material because I don't know if we've decided what we're going to do next...

IT WOULD BE SUCH A SHAME NOT TO DO MORE NEW MATERIAL, ESPECIALLY AFTER 'SECRETS' WHICH WAS SUCH A GREAT ALBUM...

I know, but it was such a strange time for us! The week the record came out the record company went bust, and also we got no radio play, and if people don't know you've got a record out then you can't expect them to buy it, and it's not really their fault... it's a real vicious circle!

GOING BACK TO DECEMBER'S HERE & NOW DATES, IT SOUNDS FROM WHAT YOU'VE BEEN SAYING ABOUT PLAYING LIVE, THAT IT'LL BE A LOT OF FUN FOR YOU...

Actually I'm not sure it'll be fun as such... I mean I'll enjoy the forty minutes we're onstage, but I've never really done anything like a production line which is what this is, and so I'm a bit apprehensive about how that's going to work. Joanne and I went to see the last tour at Sheffield Arena and I'm not sure how it's all going to work with seven bands or whatever, but I guess we'll just have to do it and see how it goes!

I know we'll be good, I'm not worried about that... it's just that there's going to be six other acts all over the place back stage and treating it like a bit of a social occasion and it's just not like that for us... it's work! I won't be sat in the bar every night getting pissed because I have to get up next morning and do my job and if I'm hung-over then I can't do a good job and that's just not fair when people are paying thirty quid a ticket. I just don't think it's fair to not give them your best and I look at it as work... I can do all the drinking and socialising at Christmas when I get home!

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE LAST TOUR? DID YOU ENJOY BEING IN THE AUDIENCE?

I did actually yeah, we had a good time.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER ACTS ON THE BILL ON THIS TOUR THAT YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO CHECKING OUT?

(pause) No... if you want the truth! I don' listen to that sort of music at all anymore, it's not the sort of thing that I'm really into... I mean I've probably got all of Five Star's albums, and the first Visage album as well, but that's probably all to be truthful, and I just do not listen to stuff like that anymore, it's not my bag really and I've moved on...

WHAT SORT OF THING DO YOU LISTEN TO FOR PLEASURE?

I'm listening to Nelly at the moment, and Alicia Keys and stuff like that, I like R&B and hip-hop and that sort of thing really...

OBVIOUSLY THE HERE & NOW TOUR DICTATES THAT YOU HAVE TO PRETTY MUCH PLAY A 'HITS' SET, BUT IF YOU DIDN'T HAVE THAT CONSTRAINT WHAT SORT OF SET WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY?

Well, we did a tour last Christmas to support 'Secrets' and what we do is we mix the old and the new... we have to do a lot of the old stuff because it would be silly not to! We could never do a Human League tour without doing 'Don't You Want Me' - we'd be kicking ourselves in the foot, and there's not much point in doing that! What we normally do is to mix the old and the new and try to find a nice balance so that people don't get bored with stuff they've not heard - there's some people who come to see us who only really come to hear 'Don't You Want Me' and we accept that and take it on board. But this time, because we've only got forty minutes we're just going to get out there and just give them hit after hit and go!

HAS THE SUCCESS OF 'DON'T YOU WANT ME' AND THE 'DARE' ALBUM IN GENERAL EVER BECOME AN ALBATROSS AROUND YOUR NECKS? I'M SURE IT'S A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD BECAUSE THE SUCCESS MUST HAVE TAKEN YOU TO PLACES YOU NEVER DREAMED OF, BUT DO YOU EVER RESENT IT?

The only time it becomes an albatross really is when we're doing TV and things and people always only want us to do 'Don't You Want Me' when we're there to promote new stuff. Actually it's not an albatross at all, because it's good for us... virtually everyone, wherever you go in the world people are going to know it and therefore they know us. The only time it becomes a problem is like I said, when you want to go on TV to promote something else and everyone just wants 'Don't You Want Me', and when we've got a new single to promote we're not going to do that!

To be very truthful, Virgin wanted to bring the re-release of 'Dare' out last year for the twentieth anniversary of 'Dare' and we stopped them from doing that - we did have enough control that we could delay them because we had anew album to promote and we knew that anything we did, people would be saying 'well you've also got 'Dare' out, so will you do 'Don't You Want Me'?' In fact... Last t night on Graham Norton, and this morning on GMTV are the first times we've performed 'Don't You Want Me' on TV since 1981!

DID THAT MAKE IT AN ODD EXPERIENCE FOR YOU... BEING BACK ON TV DOING IT AGAIN?

It wasn't odd because we insisted that we'd only do it if we sang live vocals because I'm not going to mime to a backing track that's twenty one years old! I don't sound like that anymore, and if I sang a bit out of tune then I really don't care because at least people know we're doing it live...

KEEPING IT REAL AS THEY SAY!

Well yeah, because there's so much unreality in this business - I very rarely come to London, but when we do, and when we do TV and stuff it astounds me the stories I hear about everything! I can't believe how up their own arses people can get just because they sing a bit and jig about on stage... we live in Sheffield so we don't get that!

AND YET SHEFFIELD MUST BE VERY PROUD OF YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU'VE ACHIEVED..

Do you know? I don't really think it cares... I just don't think it cares! In fact (laughs) I had a go at the local paper last year because they were doing this whole thing about Sheffield bands, and they did all these Sheffield bands - none of who live there anymore - and they never even mentioned us, and I was just furious! I actually phoned the journalist up and just said that it was outrageous to talk about Def Leppard, Heaven 17, ABC, Pulp and everything when the only group who still lives here and works here - our studio's in Sheffield - is us, and you don't even mention us! And do you know what he said? He said you're so much part of the furniture that we don't think about you...

THAT HAS GOT TO HURT!

Well I suppose it made sense to a certain point... and he did put a little sideline in the paper a couple of weeks later, but I was quite offended...

VERY FAMOUSLY - AND I'M NOT 100% SURE IF THIS STORY IS TRUE OR NOT - YOU AND JOANNE JOINED THE HUMAN LEAGUE AFTER BEING SPOTTED IN A NIGHTCLUB HAVING A DANCE...

That's right yes! It sounds really poncey now because everybody does that sort of thing now, but then it was very unusual... we had no aspirations to being in a group, we were at school doing our A-levels and we didn't join the group because we thought it would bring us fame and fortune, the reason we went on that first tour was because we'd get six weeks off school!

LOOKING BACK AT THE SITUATION FROM HERE... IF YOU HAD A DAUGHTER OF THAT AGE AND THE SAME THING HAPPENED, WOULD YOU LET HER JUST GO OFF AND JOIN THE HUMAN LEAGUE?

I'd let her join the Human League... I don't think I'd let her join a Hear'say or anything... I mean I don't actually have any children, but if I did then I wouldn't push my child towards that sort of thing. The business is too unpredictable and I would be very reluctant... I mean we have been extremely lucky, but if you look at someone like Hear'say it's eighteen months and they're burnt out and that's quite sad...

IF THAT FATEFUL NIGHT IN THAT CLUB HADN'T HAPPENED, WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'D BE NOW?

God who knows? I was going to go to University - that was what my plans were, to finish my A-levels, pass my A-levels, and go to University, and that was the plan. Who knows where I'd have ended up! I often think about it I really do...

I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU'VE JUST BEEN IN CANADA PROMOTING NEW MATERIAL... WELL OLD NEW MATERIAL ANYWAY!

Oldish new material yes... we were the promoting the 'Secrets' album...

SO ARE YOU STILL WORKING THAT ALBUM OR WAS THAT A BIT OF A ONE-OFF?

It was just a one-off... the Canadians are a bit strange and it just came completely out of the blue. The record company there phoned us up and said could we do nine days of promotion? We just thought nine-days in Canada would be good, it's not particularly hard work or anything and so that's why we went! They're releasing a single 'You'll Be Sorry In The Morning' and they've got a remix done and everything, and although they've not done a video we did quite a lot of TV for it - it was all very odd, but that's kind of how it goes there you know!

WOULD ANY OF YOU CONSIDER WORKING OUTSIDE THE HUMAN LEAGUE?

Well, Philip's done quite a few bits... and he's just been doing a track with a DJ... I can't remember his name! But Philip's often done different things, but I personally don't want to do anything else in music - if I do anything else it'll be in a different area... I don't really think I'm good enough to do anything else in music, and I don't really want to do anything else in music. I'm quite happy with the Human League and if that doesn't work then I'd quite like to do something else maybe...

ANY IDEAS WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO DO?

No I don't actually! Someone said to me the other day that I should be on Emmerdale, but I've never acted in my life, and there's no indication that I could... I really don't know what I'd do, I really, really don't know!

WITHIN THE BAND AS IT STANDS NOW, ARE THERE DEFINED ROLES IN DIVIDING THE WORKLOAD BETWEEN YOU?

Philip is what we call the musical director, and he works with a guy called Neil who's not actually in the group but always works with us live on stuff, and Philip writes the songs with Neil, and pushes the music in a certain direction, a direction he's got an idea in his head for, and Joanne sort of looks after the finances, and I do all the business and social stuff - the talking to people and that sort of thing...

DO YOU AND JOANNE EVER FEEL THAT YOU'D LIKE TO BE MORE INVOLVED MUSICALLY?

No, and I think that's why the group's still together. I think one of the reasons why the group has stayed together is that Joanne and I decided that we weren't going to be part of the song writing, and that's meant we've never had those arguments where someone writes a song and someone else doesn't want it on the album and all that, and it obviously works because Joanne and I are the only people left in the group from 1981 and we don't write. That says something I think! I think ego's can get very bruised when it comes to song writing.

The only detrimental thing about it for Joanne and I is that we have nowhere near as much money as Philip... we just have a wage and that's how it works with us...

I'M SURE YOU CAN ALWAYS TAP PHILIP FOR A DRINK OR TWO HERE AND THERE THOUGH!

Not really! I don't really go to places where he goes!

OBVIOUSLY THE NEXT THING FOR YOU IS THE HERE & NOW TOUR, BUT WHAT HAPPENS FOR YOU AFTER THAT?

I don't know really, we haven't made any plans, and we often don't make plans - and we just see what comes in. Simon, our manager, will just say 'oh so and so wants you to do such and such' or we'll get the chance to do a tour or something. We've not made any plans but we have had some discussions with a new record label - because we're without a record label at the moment obviously - but we've had a discussion quite recently with a new record company... but I really, really don't know what's going to happen - we'll have to wait and see basically!

NOVEMBER 2002

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