Performing timeless hits, which are just as loved today as they were in the 80s, Heaven 17 are set for their Penthouse and Pavement 35th anniversary tour.
They have teamed up with the British Electric Foundation (BEF), a production company from the mastermind of Martyn Ware, the founding member of Human League and Heaven 17 – and now the BEF is touring for the very first time.
Martyn, who is celebrating Heaven 17 recently being crowned ‘Sheffield’s Greatest Band of All Time,’ spoke about where Heaven 17 are today.
“British Electric Foundation was the first entity after we split the original Human League,” Martyn says. “The idea was we were going to have lots of different bands and we were going to write and produce records with lots of different band identities with different singers. Heaven 17 was one of that but it was so successful it took all our time up really.
“British Electric Foundation since then has become like a kind of brand name for my production style. It’s electronic, soul influenced pop.”
Hits like Temptation, Martyn explains, is identifiable for so many people regardless of who they are, which explains why it has become so timeless in its popularity.
“We must have performed that song a thousand times, and it doesn’t matter how many people are in the audience, what the demographic is. It could be an old person’s home, it could be a nursery, it could be playing it to a remote tribe in the middle of the jungle. It’s just something that people get. We feed off that obviously and it’s very nice, I wish we could write another one like that.”
And it was with this song that Heaven 17 narrowly missed the number one slot, beaten at the last minute by Candy Girl by New Edition.
“It’s quite frustrating but I honestly think that because it came out nine years later as well and that kind of confirmed what we all thought really, that it should have been number one in the first place. It’s just that song, there’s something about it. It still sounds great on the radio.”
But Heaven 17, and of course Human League, are by no means one-hit wonders, which the longevity of Martyn’s career shows. Having spent the last 30 years of his life in London, Martyn has never lost his Sheffield roots, as an avid Sheffield Wednesday fan.
Trips to the Steel City aren’t always for pleasure though; he has also been working on making soundscape recordings for his company Illustrious.
“We did 3D soundscapes for the millennium galleries and one of the things that we recorded was the sound of manufacturing in Sheffield and the sound of industrial heritage. I’m sure it influenced our love of electronic music to be honest.
At the age of 60 and despite securing a Freedom Pass for the tube, Martyn is still young at heart and doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. Now he and the band are gearing up for the 35th anniversary tour coming to Manchester in October.
It will feature original songs, guest singers such as Peter Hooton from The Farm, singer Mari Wilson, and Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, performing famous hits and surprise cover versions.
“It’s two gigs for the price of one. You’d would be mad to miss it! We are on top form at the moment. We’ve just done three huge festivals with Rewind.”
Martyn explains how social media has helped to keep the music alive and keep their profile going, and it means that a lot of the ‘iPod generation’ have found a love for his music.
However, there are downsides to the digital age as well. As a lobbyist for artists’ rights, Martyn is passionate about protecting the music industry and that means that none of Heaven 17s new music is available digitally – it’s only on vinyl from their website.
“All we are ever going to do is to sell vinyl on our own website because that’s the only way we are going to make money. I’ve been lobbying in the European Parliament for artists’ rights. Rather than moaning about it all the time, we decided to make a stand.”
After 40 years of working together, Martyn says he and Glenn Gregory are like brothers. “I met Glenn when he was 15 and I was 17. That’s a long time. We are like brothers, always have been. We always used to say, when Ian was around as well, it was like having three heads on one body. We would always write the lyrics together and all the songs.
“We had to split everything three ways, the good socialist republic of South Yorkshire.”
The tour will see Heaven 17 and BEF take to the stage beginning at Liverpool’s O2 Academy on October 20th, Manchester’s O2 Ritz on the 26th and finishing at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on the 30th. www.heaven17.com