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G


ary Numan! You are an electronic legend! What equipment did you start off making music with, and


what do you use now that we have computers and more developed ways of creating sounds? I started with an acoustic guitar when I was very young, that’s how I started writing songs. When I started writing with the hope of actually recording something one day, mid teens I guess, I was lucky enough to have a decent electric guitar, amp, a few pedals and a cassette tape recorder. I made two albums with that gear (not the cassette) before I was able to afford my first synth. Tese days it’s mostly computer based and so done with software synths and processing. I do have a few cool hardware synths, the Roland JD-XA, Moog Voyager and MIniMoog D newly arrived, Access Virus and my old faithful Alessis Quadraverb. Mostly though it’s done with software these days. What was the reaction to your early tunes like Down In Te Park at the time? It was obviously very different to what else was popular at that time, mixing guitar with synths. Down In Te Park was the first single released from my second album, called Replicas. Replicas got to number one in the UK when the second single was released, a song called Are Friends Electric, so it did very well ultimately. Down In Te Park itself didn’t have that commercial success as a single but it remains one of the biggest crowd favourites. It’s been covered by many people, including Marilyn Manson and the Foo Fighters, so it seems to have been popular. Te early rise of electronic music, which Down In Te Park was part of, was greeted with a mixture of contempt and adoration. From the press it was mostly contempt, but the public seemed to go for it in a massive way. Are Friends Electric was number one for a month, which was very cool. Cars has perhaps been your biggest hit, and everyone is still in love with that song. What do you think it is about it that made it an instant classic? Cars, and the album it came from Te Pleasure Principle, both hit number one at the same time, in the same year that Are Friends Electric and Replicas had also been number one in at the same time. It was a very good year. Cars is about the closest thing to a pop song I’ve ever written but it isn’t a typical pop song so I don’t really know why it did what it did back then, or why it still does so well


today. It’s covered and sampled constantly by a wide range of artists - Snoop Dogg has a version out at the moment for example, it’s used constantly on adverts like the currently running Aviva ad, and it just keeps on going, year after year. I guess the riff is quite catchy, the high descending string line is memorable. But it has no vocal chorus, virtually none of the things usually associated with a hit single. But neither did Are Friends Electric, so it just goes to show that the public are receptive to things outside the norm if they are ever given the opportunity to hear them. What did you feel you could achieve as a solo artist that you couldn’t as Tubeway Army? Not having to debate every decision. Simple as that. I knew where I wanted to go, how I wanted to do it, and I didn’t want to keep having to explain that and fight my way forward. It’s why I left labels years ago. Too many people trying to force you to dilute your vision. I’ve always been perfectly happy to sink or swim with my own decisions. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong. I don’t blame people. But I do object to being bullied in to doing things by labels, cue my awful Prince covers of many years ago as a case in point. You’ve always had a very distinctive physical look onstage. I understand that came about as a result of happenstance rather than a deliberate move. You’ve obviously gained a lot of confidence over the years, but do you still get nervous before a show? Te use of image was designed partly to make the lyrical content of the songs more believable. I adopted the persona of a character in the songs I’d been writing at the time. Te other part was that it gave me something to hide behind as I was cripplingly shy. I’ve been doing this for a long time now so the need to hide behind a persona is long gone. Strangely enough, the real person that has grown up and developed on stage over the years is very much like the one I pretended to be back at the start. I’ve been doing this for most of my life, so being on stage is as natural to me as having dinner these days. It’s rare for me to get nervous, very rare, but it does happen from time to time. You’ve dabbled in many genres within your songwriting – jazz, funk, rock, industrial, electro and pop. Which artists have influenced you the most over the years? Only a few. I was a big fan of the John Foxx version of Ultravox when I started in


electronic music, John was a major early hero. I loved the Depeche Mode Songs Of Faith and Devotion period when Alan Wilder had a big hand in what they were doing. I’m a huge fan of Alan Wilder, as I am of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor, another genius in my opinion. You’ve projected a different image for each album, giving it a strong identity, almost like a concept, or a work of art, rather like other greats like Bowie. Did you feel you needed to do this to retain your audience’s interest or was it a natural development for you? A bit of both if I’m honest. To begin with it was all very natural, a part of the art of what I was doing, but then I started to feel that I ought to, rather than because it had any real meaning for the music. Tat’s when I started to lose my way with the career, with my creativity. It stopped being natural and genuine. I was able to shake that off and find my real direction again around ’94 with an album called Sacrifice. Since then the need for ‘image’ has largely gone away but the way you look does still need to reflect the music you make. If you met someone who had never heard your music before, which of your albums would you suggest they listen to and why? Splinter, Jagged and Pure. Tose three, most recent, albums sum up everything I’d ever want people to now about me, or think of me. I wouldn’t play them any of the stuff before that. Not that I’m against it in any way, certainly not these days anyway, but I would want people to know what I’m doing now, not what I’ve done before. I would want them to know where I am creatively, not where I’ve been. I have no desire to live on past glories. I'm proud of them at last, I wasn’t always, and celebrate them once in a while like on the upcoming tour, but I don’t use them as a symbol of why people should still be interested in you. You must justify fan interest which each new album you make. You have to keep earning the support, not just saying I did something great a lifetime ago and that should be enough. It isn’t enough. If my new album isn’t great then I deserve to lose fans. In the 90’s you made a move to start making harder edged, more personal music. What heralded this decision? In the years leading up to that I’d been writing songs to try to keep a wide range of record label opinion happy in a desperate attempt to salvage a career that was failing badly. I was really unhappy, I didn’t like what I was doing,


outlineonline.co.uk / September 2016 / 11


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