Interview: Human League man for North Yorks fest
The last time I talked to Martyn Ware he was visiting Harrogate working to talk about a possible ambitious art-sound installation.
It never quite came off but I did at least learn at that memorable meeting that, of all the members of synth pop legends Human League, a band Ware co-founded, the one who might not have done anything without that push was its most famous member – Phil Oakey.
I’m talking to Ware again because one of his other legendary incarnations – arty early 80s electronic provocateurs British Electric Foundation – are playing a headline gig at Grassington Festival in North Yorkshire shortly.
The emphasis will be on entertainment from what is a stellar cast, rather than the avant garde, he tells me.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. The rules of the game are that every singer does an electronic version of their biggest hit plus one unusual cover, from Bowie to soul to the Sex Pistols.
“There will be a Prince tribute at the end. We’ve got a lot of guest singers such as Peter Hook, Jaki Graham, Glen Matlock, Mari Wilson and, of course, Glenn Gregory.”
The latter fronted up popular hitmakers Heaven 17 with Ware after their time together in the thrilling pioneering days of early electronic pop with Human League and BEF.
Ware may have kept on nodding terms with the pop world for nearly four decades now but he hasn’t forgotten his experimental roots in the late 1970s when he and his fellow Human League members had the self-belief to imagine the future and create it for themselves - and the world - in industrial Sheffield.
Ware said: “It was the arrogance of youth. It’s not knowing what you don’t know.
“As well as my art, I do a lot of theatre work and film soundtracks. I still see myself reflected in that 20-year-old.
“I remember Vince Clarke of Erasure, who’s a very quiet guy, once said something to me that had a profound impact, “I’m my own biggest fan. I think everything I do is brilliant.”
“I still feel a bit like that. You have to be that way to keep being creative.”
BEF play at the Festival Field Marquee, Grassington on Friday, June 29, 8pm.