The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me was recorded in a toilet with an SM58

“Apparently it was the best acoustics,” says frontman Phil Oakey

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Philip Oakey of The Human League

Image: Luke Brennan / Getty Images

The Human League lead singer, songwriter, and co-founder Phil Oakey has reflected on the recording of the band’s 1981 hit song Don’t You Want Me.

Speaking to WA Today, Oakey reveals that the track’s rather unconventional recording location was chosen due to the superior acoustics it offered over any other parts of the Sheffield studio they were in.

“At one stage, while I was recording with the headphones on, our producer Martin Rushent sent the engineer to scare me by jumping down from above,” the musician recalls.

“Someone kept flushing the toilet behind me as well. Martin had quite a lot of little jokes for the artists and we did record that song in a toilet with quite a cheap microphone, a Shure SM58,” says Oakey. “But I’m not complaining.”

The synth-pop band is set to kick off their Australian tour this week, and the members have shipped out their synths from Sheffield in preparation for it.

“We can’t hire them in because then we’d sound like a cover band,” Oakey says.

Speaking about his love for electronic instruments and the annual Synthfest UK that’s held in Sheffield, he says: “It’s truly fantastic. You just walk into a room where there’s hundreds of bald guys with round glasses making horrible noises. I’ve bought two different voltage-control filters in the last two days alone. You can’t ever get enough of it.”

Elsewhere, Oakey also reflects on the band’s achievements over the years, a feat he attributes to being “incredibly lucky”.

“We’re not musicians. We never trained. We’ve managed to continue as a band by always just feeling lucky about everything we’ve ever done. I have never been the greatest songwriter in this group. I’ve never been the best singer in this group. I’m not a very good frontman or anything, we just do our best and hope that the audience will fill in the rest.”


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