Celebrate early days
By Martin Hutchinson
Gary Numan is taking on a UK tour to celebrate three of his early albums; ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’.
The tour follows the success of his last album ‘Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)’ which reached the Top 20.
“2016 seems an ideal time to revisit the three albums that changed my life. The three albums are now considered classics and playing tracks from each one will be very special for me,” he said.
“I very rarely look back at past glories but, with these shows, I intend to not only look back, but to celebrate those early days.”
In 1979, his single ‘Are Friends Electric?’ hit the top of the charts. It’s heavy synthesiser sound was unusual for the time. His stage persona created a ‘mystique’ about himself which led to his fans copying the look of pale (almost white) skin and short, dark hair.
The first single was released under the group name Tubeway Army, as were the albums ‘Tubeway Army’ and ‘Replicas’. ‘Replicas’ also topped the album charts and created interest in the earlier, album, which also charted.
Following this, Gary reverted to his own name for the follow-up single ‘Cars’ and all future recordings. ‘Cars’ also reached No.1, as did the albums ‘’The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’.
“I believed very strongly that electronic music was going to be massive. I can’t honestly say I thought I was doing anything special; I was just thoroughly enjoying working on music I’d never really heard before.”
But the sound was so – new.
“Yes, I was aware that using synths in that way was new, and I knew the sounds we were coming up with were new, and that it was all very different to anything else out there, but I felt like a very amateurish beginner, so it didn’t feel groundbreaking at the time.”
Back in the beginning, it was another ground-breaker that influenced Gary.
“I loved T Rex when I was younger. It was Marc Bolan that really gave me the push to want to be a pop star. When I got into electronic music I hadn’t heard very much that I’d liked, and nothing that had made me want to get involved.”
But things changed.
“It was playing around with a synth for the first time, as an experiment, that made me realise what they could do. I had no guidance or artists who inspired me to move in that direction, so I just made it up as I went along.”
“Soon after, though, I discovered the early John Foxx-fronted version of Ultravox and he became a big hero of mine.”
So from just experimenting, Gary began to have hits.
“It was an amazing experience, especially to know you’d done it with an entirely new kind of music. I was very proud, but also very overwhelmed by everything that came with it. Being No.1 in both the singles and album charts at the same time was very special. But to do it twice in the same year, with two different singles and albums was unbelievable.
“It was a very good year and I thought, back then, if I was lucky I might get another couple of years before it all faded away.”
But Gary continued to have success and he has influenced many of today’s artists such as Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails, The Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone
Age, to name but four, but Gary tends not to write or produce for other artists.
“A lot of artists cover or sample my songs. Snoop Dogg just cleared a sample of my song ‘Cars’ for one of his new tracks. To be honest, I’m not good with people (he suffers from Asperger’s) so working side by side in a studio with someone, would be a nightmare for me. I do get a lot of pride when I hear other people doing my stuff though. It’s very flattering.”
Speaking of pride, does Gary have a particular favourite from among his vast catalogue?
“Well, I have a song called ‘A Prayer For The Unborn’. It was written after our first baby died so it’s not the happiest of tunes, but it means a great deal to me.”
It’s more than 35 years since Gary exploded on the scene, so there must be many highlights.
“I’ve been doing this for quite a few years so the list of high points is long. Being No.1 obviously, playing arenas, the various awards, being on Top Of The Pops, meeting and working with so many cool people that I respect and admire, seeing my last album ‘Splinter’ get back into the chart was very cool. It just goes on and on.”
“I’m lucky to still be doing it, of course, and lucky that I still enjoy it as much as ever.”
One of the ways Gary used to relax was by flying, going around air shows flying a Japanese Zero fighter.
“I sold that a few years ago. I was an air display pilot for many years, and in that time, pretty much everyone I knew in that world was killed. It’s a very exciting but dangerous pastime. Then the children came along, so it seemed too reckless a thing to do as a parent, so I pulled out of it. I really miss it though.”
Does Gary, 58, like touring?
“Yes, I love touring. Everything about it. I like the travelling to new places, the excitement of the shows, the noise, being with friends, meeting fans, just everything. It’s the best part about being in a band by far.”
Of course, Gary will not be performing alone and he has gathered together an accomplished band.
“That’s right. I have people who have been with me forever. I’m glad to say. There’s Richard Beasley on drums, Steve Harris on guitar, David Brooks on Keyboards and Tim Muddiman on bass.”
The evening promises to be a retrospective of Gary’s early years.
“I hope to change it around every night, but I’ll usually do about six songs from each if the three albums (‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’) and then one or two from the first album I ever made (‘Tubeway Army’). So we’re taking songs from my first four albums in fact.”
What are the plans for after the tour?
“I’m working on a new album now as part of a Pledge Music campaign (www.pledgemusic.com/garynuman) and I will have that album out in early 2017.”
“I’m a bit behind with it actually, and after the tour I aim to get back into the studio as quickly as possible and get on with it. I have a lot of lost time to make up.
“I also have a collection of three live albums out now from shows last year called ‘Live At The Forum’ and a documentary DVD called ‘Reinvention’ just about to be released.”
Gary Numan is appearing at venues around the country from September. 15 to 25.