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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.
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.