The Human League’s classic Don’t You Want Me might be seen by today’s youth as a quaint slice of ’80s electro-pop, but underneath the pulsing synth lines lies work of exceptional production mastery.
Martin Rushent - who produced the track along with it’s smash hit parent album Dare - pushed the band forward with his obsessive use of the legendary (and notoriously labour intensive) Roland MC-8 sequencer (an 8-track monophonic digital-analogue hybrid). The main synths used on the album were the polyphonic Roland JP-4, a selection of monosynths (including the Korg 770 and Yamaha CS-15) and a string machine.
According to Dare’s assistant engineer, most of the sounds were produced by careful and considerate layering of the limited resources available. And special mention to the LinnDrum LM-1 which provides every one of the albums brilliant (and still relevant) electro drum sounds.
Listen: The Human League - Don’t You Want Me
How to get the sound
To achieve the sound of the track’s great lead riff, we turned to the Korg Legacy PolySix, a VSTi interpretation of the early ’80s Korg keyboard of the same name. Its simple architecture is more than capable of conjuring-up some magic. For the patch we turned to a sawtooth wave, with a second saw wave an octave lower. The amp and filter share the same snappy envelope.
The key to this sound working is the Unison button. This doubles-up the sound with slightly detuned version of itself, with each panned in opposite directions. Add a touch of reverb and it’s job done.