Former Human League synth whizz Ian Burden fields questions about his new album
Says here you’ve had a “limited involvement” music for the last 30 years. Limited? How so?
“I’ve done a few things soundtracks for corporate videos, and music for radio commercials. I get occasional requests to add keyboards or bass to recordings, or to mix some demos.”
So what’s been keeping you busy?
“I never thought of music as a career. On leaving the League I had a reasonable level of capital assets, so was able to invest to get some income. I had a property business for a long time.”
Do you ever hear from the old gang? Xmas cards off Phil…
“Ha ha! I don’t think Philip has ever sent anyone a card, ever. I spoke with him a few years ago to check a publisher’s request for some permissions but I’ve had no social contact since I moved away from Sheffield, apart from saying hello to Susan at Newmarket racecourse about 15 years ago.”
Tell us about the vintage synths in the loft…
There was a couple of keyboards wrapped in bedsheets and there were some modular synths rack-mounted within a flight case parked in a corner of my office, with books and files stacked on top.”
How long have they been there?
“They hadn’t seen daylight for at least a decade. I figured they ought to be in the possession of somebody who could use them… but that meant I needed to test them first, which involved hooking up the Midi and writing some test sequences. That’s how the album began.
What was there?
“They date from 1987 to 1992, apart from a pre-Midi Roland MC202. I’ve two Oberheim Matrix 1000 modules, two Roland MKS 50s, two Proteus/1s, a Yamaha TX 802, a Roland R-8M, and two Roland D50s.”
Which one, if you had to choose, is your signature machine?
“Probably the newer Minilogue and Volca. They have the same filter design as the old Korg 770, which was used a lot on ‘Dare’ and was my favourite back then.”
There’s a delicious sense of humour at work. Is ‘Stay In Tune’ an ode to the old synths or the old vocal pipes?!
“Both! But it’s also an exhortation to unity and humanity. The political world is still operating the medieval strategies of divide-and-conquer, trying to put us all out of tune with each other.”
Did it surprise you how easily the hooks poured out of you?
“Maybe I’ve been subconsciously storing ideas, I don’t know. It certainly all came very easily.”
The whole thing segues really nicely. What was the thinking with that?
“I always liked the way artists such as Pink Floyd allowed songs to drift into each other. It makes an album feel like more of a journey, to me at least.”
Has this adventure relit your fire?
“Well, I’m about half-way with another album. I don’t like being indoors ordinarily, and as we’re heading into summer I’ll probably need three or four rainy days per song.”