Gary Numan
By Eric Kaze
With the release of his new album, a new tour, and a new generation of fans, Gary Numan is definitely a Nu Man these days. I chatted with Gary just prior to the opening night of his tour, in Philadelphia.

e- On Replicas, and even more so on Pleasure Principle, your music shifted from a harder-edged guitar sound to a sleeker keyboard sound. Was this a calculated move, or was it a natural evolution reflective of your mood at the time?

g- It was definitely done as an experiment. I wanted an album with no guitar at all, but yet I wanted it to have a full and complete sound, an all around good sonic vibe. Looking back on it, it was probably a mistake, although the record did make its mark. But now I wonder what the whole point of it was.

e- In my opinion, the whole '80s synth movement owes everything to you, the Human League (Travelogue, Reproduction), and Kraftwerk. Do you feel like a founding father? How do you see your influence?

g- I had never given it any thought until about 12 to18 months ago. Suddenly everyone starting referring to me as an influence. The tribute album came out, which included some amazing artists. I heard Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson talking about my music, and I finally understood the mark I had left. I even heard Snoop Doggy Dog dropping my name.

e- Along with the music, you were also a pioneer of the video movement. Did music video become what you envisioned? What do you think of music television?

g- Back then, I thought video would totally replace live music, but it really never progressed much from then. There is only so much you can do. I think probably 75% of videos are total crap, including most of the ones I've made. I did think the NIN video for "Closer" was brilliant, and the Manson videos are all stunning. The problem with video is that it takes away the individuals perception of a song, and replaces it with what the artist forces upon you, not really a good thing.

e- You've recently released Exile, which, by the way, is a great record. Any musical influences on you during the writing of the record?

g- Not really. I am not one who lives within the music business. I don't read music magazines or listen to the radio. I find them very bland and uninspiring.

e- The record has a strong dance beat, but the music itself is much more sparse, with a darker tone. Would that be an accurate description? Was this the intended sound?

g- I am very happy with the way it turned out. There are about 36 drum loops, all dance beats. I wanted a dark feel, but yet with a powerful, heavy sound. The thing I like is that it still has that groove if you want to move around to it. It all flows throughout its own central theme, like a soundtrack.

e- What is that theme?

g- That God and the devil are very similar. I am not a religious person, but I did a little reinterpretation of the Bible. Made God a little darker, somewhat terrifying. Mary gets raped by the three wise men (they were bearing gifts all right, but not very nice ones), angels are pissing on the graves of children.

e- There seems to be quite a crossover appeal with Exile...gothic, industrial, synthpop. Where do you see your market?

g- I wasn't looking for any particular market. I had made a really crappy album in 1992, very un-Numan-like. I had run out of ideas, was in a bad relationship, had no money, almost lost my house. It was time to rethink and start over. I decided to do music as a hobby, as opposed to being a job. I wrote from the heart and that took a darker turn. I am not too familiar with gothic music, although I do quite like the Sisters and the Mission. As I had mentioned before, I also like NIN, and Manson.

e- Did you have any input over the artists or song selections on the Random CD?

g- Random was great, it really changed a lot of people's attitudes about my music. It really encouraged me, knowing that there was that much interest in my work. It changed my whole environment. I had no input though, didnŐt even know it was coming out until about six months before its release.

e- The critics always found a way to take the piss out of you, but yet you have maintained a strong, loyal fan base. Why is that?

g- I don't really know. Whenever the presses are overly hostile it tends to harden a fan's loyalty. The British press hurt me very badly, but the fans were always there when I needed their support. They went as far as protesting outside radio stations (probably did more harm than good), but it was a nice idea. I've always toured regularly, and tried to make the best records I could, with that one exception in '92. I always try to make myself available to talk to fans and sign autographs whenever I can; I think that is very important.

e- By the end of the '70s you made a decision to play only large clubs, then tired of those big shows, then retired. Now you are playing smaller clubs in the States. What would you prefer these days?

g- Earlier on, I had very little confidence on stage; I felt very awkward. But now, after so many years, I feel I've become reasonably good at it. It's just nice to have anyplace to play, actually. I like the intimacy of small clubs, sort of a feeling of family. I do still play some huge gigs in Europe, and they are nice because you feel good being a part of something so huge.

e- What type show can we expect on this tour? Will the music be guitar or synth oriented?

g- Lots of guitar. It will be a powerful show, but there aretwo keyboardists with me. I'll be playing a lot of guitar. The material will be from Exile and the pre-1980 era, only about two songs from the middle period. The older stuff is reworked, but the basic melodies and arrangement will be the same , so people will still know the stuff and can sing along if they want to. My compromise was throwing in added guitar, and more drum loops. Hopefully it will be satisfactory to myself and my fans.

e- One of my all time favorite songs is "Down In The Park." Will you be playing that one? What was the inspiration for writing that?

g- Thanks. I guess the inspiration was the Roman gladiator days. It was one part of the story on Replicas. The government created a curfew to keep people off the streets at night. If you were out past curfew, it was a criminal act punishable by death. The machines in the park would detect the humans and they were programmed to kill them in all sorts of bad ways. Certain members of society were allowed to watch this transpire from a nearby diner. Oh yes...we will be playing that one on this tour; we always play that one.

e- Despite 20+ years in music, most people still only know you for one song. Is that okay with you, or does it continue to frustrate you?

g- It has been very frustrating at times, but I guess it is nice being remembered for something. I was a one-hit wonder in the States; people don't know that I charted 30 singles in England. This tour is definitely my second chance. I'll never get back to where I was, but I find myself on the edge of a huge opportunity. I don't want to be known as a nostalgia act, which is why I turned down a few of the '80s reunion package tours. I felt that would be the kiss of death. Once you do that, nobody cares about anything new you try. I am not interested in past glories. I'd like to re-establish myself as a current act and stand on the merits of my new material, but we shall see.........

Recent and some older, still in print US releases from Gary Numan.
All of these are currently in print in the US. Sources; Record company press releases, Cdnow! and Musicblvd. See resource section for where to order.
Various Artists Random (Beggars Banquet)
Various Artists Random 2 (Beggars Banquet, fea remixes by techno remixers)
Tubeway Army (with bonus tracks) (Beggars Banquet)
Replicas (with bonus tracks) (Beggars Banquet)
Pleasure Principle (with bonus tracks) (Beggars Banquet)
Telekon (with bonus tracks) (Beggars Banquet)
Living Ornaments 79 (2-CD set of the Hammersmith Odeon Show)*
Living Ornaments 81 (2-CD set from Wembley Arena show)*
* These two albums available via Beggars Banquet Mail Order only, see resources section White Noise (2-CD set, Cleopatra Records)
Exile (Cleopatra)
The Mix (Cleopatra)
Archive (Rialto)
Archive Volume 2 (Rialto)
Here I Am (Receiver)
The Other Side of...(Receiver)
Story So Far (3-CD set, Receiver)

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