Q&A’s : 10 Questions For – Martyn Ware (Heaven 17 / BEF)

Continuing the series of questions and answers that I sent to various people, whom I’m either in contact with, admire or just wanted to be nosey with. In fact many fit all three.

Today I am privileged to ask Martyn Ware, founder member of The Human League. He then went on to form B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation) and Heaven 17 along with Ian Craig Marsh and Glenn Gregory. Recently he’s received an Honorary Doctorate in Science from University of London. He also received loads of plaudits for his 3D Bridge Project this summer in London. He’s even found time to tour with Glen again under the Heaven 17 banner to packed audiences performing ‘The Luxury Gap‘ album in its entirety.

1. I’ve been lucky to have followed your musical career from the onset of ‘The Dignity of Labour’, still something I hark back to often. I have often wondered why there were no lyrics for the four parts, any reasons why? WE WANTED TO KEEP OUR ‘ARTY’ SIDE GOING, AND LET PEOPLE KNOW THAT WE WERE JUST AS INTERESTED IN THAT AS MAKING THE PERFECT TRADITIONAL POP RECORD.


2. You were among the stars involved in the original Band Aid record back in 1984; did you actually play anything on the actual recording? NO – BUT WE BOTH SANG ON IT. The whole affair seemed rushed and a bit out of control, but to me that was the beauty and the innocence of Bob’s dream, how did you see it? IT WAS A WHIRLWIND – WE WERE ONLY TOLD THE NIGHT BEFORE – SOME MUMBLINGS ABOUT ‘THIS WILL BE NUMBER ONE NEXT WEEK’ – GLENN AND I WERE NATURALLY SKEPTICAL, BUT WERE AMAZED WHEN WE TURNED UP TO SEE JUST ABOUT ALL THE MEDIA THERE.


3. Your alter ego under the banner of B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation), you have released two albums and another out next year. Which singer did you find the easiest to work with (please don’t say Glenn) and the one who gave you most headaches? TINA TURNER WAS WITHOUT DOUBT THE MOST BRILLIANT AND PROFESSIONAL SINGER I’VE EVER WORKED WITH – FIRST TAKE COMPLETE, NO DROP-INS. CHAKA KHAN WAS AMAZINGLY TALENTED, BUT WAS GOING THROUGH A TOUGH TIME WHEN WE RECORDED, SO WE ENDED UP DOING 15 FULL BAND LIVE TAKES AND SPENDING A WEEK TO COMPILE THE FINAL VOCAL. ALL THE VOCALISTS HAVE BEEN EXCELLENT IN THEIR OWN WAY THOUGH – AND NO DIVA STROPS THAT I CAN REMEMBER.

4. Like most of us I’m actually looking forward to the new B.E.F. album ‘Dark’, something occurred to me is that you’ve never taken a lead singing role on any record as far as I am aware (or am I mistaken)? Have you ever thought about doing so? THOUGHT ABOUT IT 🙂 I have seen you sing well when backing Glenn and your appearance recently at the Claudia Brucken London show. I’VE GOT A GOOD VOICE I THINK, I COULD PROBABLY DO IT, BUT IT’S FINDING THE REASON TOO.


5. This year, 2012 has been a particularly busy year for you on many fronts not just musically; the very successful Millennium Bridge Project comes to mind. How does it compare to previous years when Heaven 17 was at its height? AS ONE GETS OLDER, INTIMATIONS OF MORTALITY START APPEARING – SO I PERSONALLY FEEL I HAVE TO WORK EVEN HARDER WHILE I’M STILL ABLE TO – HENCE THE MANY AND VARIED CREATIVE PROJECTS (AND COMMERCIAL TOO) – AND HAVING TO SUPPORT MY GROWING FAMILY CREATES A DAILY INCENTIVE AND FOCUS. It seems to me you’ve not really had time to sit down and breathe. CORRECT.

6. Music scenes come in and out of fashion, with the 80’s again high on people’s agenda. Bands like Blancmange and O.M.D. have recently issued new recordings; do you think there will be another Heaven 17 album, if so what time-scale are we talking? WE’RE CURRENTLY DISCUSSING WRITING SOME NEW MATERIAL NEXT YEAR – PROBABLY A SIX TRACK MINI-ALBUM.


7. Sheffield to me has to be the Düsseldorf of the UK for electronic music. Why do you think so many acts in this genre came to being for the city? BIG QUESTION – THE INDUSTRIAL ENVIRONMENT, THE CHEAP REHEARSAL SPACE, THE CONFIGURATION OF CENTRAL SHEFFIELD (NEAR THE STUDENT POPULATION), FRIENDLINESS etc.

 8. At a time of recession and people’s budgets tight you came out with a 10 CD box set, with Vince Clarke releasing ‘House Of Illustrious’, which I have to say is so engaging to listen to. How did it spiral into such a collection? IT STARTED AS AN EFFORT BY ME TO COLLATE ALL THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS RO CELEBRATE 10 YEARS OF ILLUSTRIOUS. THIS TOOK A WHILE, BUT I APPROACHED DANIEL MILLER AT MUTE ABOUT ANY INTEREST IN A HUGE BOXED SET OF UNRELEASED MATERIAL – HE SAID YES, AND I ORGANISED THE RECORDINGS INTO CD LENGTH BLOCKS – IT THEN TRANSPIRED THAT WE HAD ABOUT 8 HOURS OF STUFF WE WERE VERY PROUD OF, AND THAT SOLELY FEATURED OUR CONTENT – THEN COMBINED THIS WITH PRETENTIOUS AND SPECTRUM PURSUIT VEHICLE TO MAKE A 10 CD SET (FOR TEN YEARS- SEEMS NEAT).


9. As a production team, B.E.F., you helped re-launch Tina Turner’s career, does she still send Christmas cards (if she ever did)? NO, BUT WHEN SHE PERFORMED A FEW YEARS AGO AT THE O2, HER MANAGEMENT GOT ME VIP PASSES FOR THE SHOW. Whilst on a lower scale how did the Hot Gossip recordings come about? I WAS APPROACHED BY CAROLE WILSON AT DIN-DISC RECORDS WHO TOLD ME THAT ARLENE PHILLIPS WAS A HUGE T.H.L. AND H17 FAN, AND WOULD I BE INTERESTED IN PRODUCING THE HOT GOSSIP ALBUM FEATURING SEVERAL COVERS OF MY SONGS.                                              I, OF COURSE, SAID YES…


10. Now I can’t leave you without a question on your beloved Sheffield Wednesday, whom I see you tweet and re-tweet extensively on-line. Where do you think you’ll end up at the end of the season? HMMM…I THINK WE’LL FINISH AROUND 16TH, AND THEN KICK ON NEXT SEASON – JURY STILL OUT ON DAVE JONES, HE SEEMS A LITTLE TOO LAID BACK FOR OUR CLUB. What changes would you like to see within your club? STRIKER, EXPERIENCED MIDFIELDER IN THE TRANSFER WINDOW – THE FANS ARE FANTASTIC AT S.W.F.C. AND JUST NEED A TEAM TO GET BEHIND WITH PASSION. Mx.

Thanks again to Martyn for agreeing to answering these questions, some food for thought I do believe and don’t forget to check out the Heaven 17, Illustrious and Martyn’s Blog for updates on this very busy person’s life indeed. By the looks of it 2013 will be just as productive for him too.

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About Stevo Music Man

Music fan (Worked in music 79-92, gigs, collector, Indie DJ) Football (LCFC Season ticket), Travel, Read, Swim, Cycle & Internet.
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3 Responses to Q&A’s : 10 Questions For – Martyn Ware (Heaven 17 / BEF)

  1. Morten Kristensen says:

    Excellent. Do you think we can have a round with 10 questions about synth-gear used over time in Heaven 17 and the other projects … a sort of synth-geeky question round focusing on the band’s preferred gear brands, models etc. ?

    • As I’m not a techy person so to speak, I’d not know what to ask to be in all honesty and his answers would only baffle me? But I’m sure if you email him (via the website) I’m sure he’d answer your query. But a good point though.

  2. Pingback: Discussion : Adventures Of Sky – The Core, Corby Cube

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