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While Gary Numan is considered a pioneer in the field of early electronic music, I've always been a passive fan of early work in the genre. It sounded cold and crude at the time, and by today's standards it sounds cruder still. I have always been a fan of Numan's voice, and abilities with song and arrangement. Purists may nay say, but his revamping of old classics is timely and well deserved. If a stylistic reworking makes any great song palatable to modern ears, I support it. I believe it is just the hook, which ultimately leads them back to the early source material. In researching this interview, I learned a great deal of Gary Numan. There have been a great many opinions concerning the man. We are organic beings, and resist though we will, we are forever caught up in the cycles of change. It would be the height of arrogance to believe character is defined by "period moments" in ones life. Ego, survival, or plain stupidity, motivate a great many expressions of self. I like to think of us all as works in progress. So, without further ado, let me present one such work - Gary Numan.
BlackOrpheus: You've been called many names, but I've repeatedly seen you referred to as "Gazza". Can you account for the origins of this moniker?
Gary Numan: It's a rather annoying
attempt at familiarity usually by people I hardly know. It seems to be
an English obsession to abbreviate someone's name or distort it in some
way. I have no idea why. A quirky by-product of an island mentality perhaps.
GN: I wished. I own a four bedroom
house that was originally built in the 1930's. In fact more than half of
it was added, rather badly actually, by the people that owned it before
me in 1988. It sits in four acres of quite
BO: It's well known that you are an accomplished pilot. a) You've flown around the world, I believe? b) I don't imagine you're logging much flight time of late? Do you own your own planes? c) If so, what type? d) Can you share a couple of the more extraordinary adventures on your around the world flight? I understand you were arrested in India? Did they treat you well? What kind of conditions were you kept in?
GN: Yes, I flew around the World
in 1981. I don't fly too often at the moment but I do keep my hand in with
periodic practice. I have an aeroplane called a Harvard, I believe
it's called a T6 in America. It's a World War Two ex military
plane. We were arrested in India on suspicion of spying and smuggling.
We were kept under armed guard for four days. We were threatened often,
but not actually hurt in any way. We were kept in what was for there a
decent room. To me it was like a flea bitten pig sty but I'm probably a
tad fussy. Other interesting things that happened included a double
engine failure over the Pacific Ocean at night which
BO: A lot of singers are becoming actors, and a lot of actors are becoming singers. I've heard some mention of your acting in a comedy. Any truth to this?
GN: I had a 'don't blink or you'll miss me' part in a British comedy. It was enough to reinforce my belief that I am to acting what Adolf Hitler was to world peace.
BO: I have to ask, what are your feelings about "Cars"? I imagine you've made excellent income off the song? My frustration with "Cars" is that it's become too easy to seize on that song as "the" song that defines Gary Numan. It's just about the only Gary Numan song regularly heard on commercial radio, it's cited on countless compilations, and an all too common club track. Barring that one song, most people are shockingly ignorant about the breadth of your work.
GN: My feelings about it are similar to yours. I'm proud of it but it has hindered as often as it has helped my career. It does not define me at all. In many respects it is one of the very few pop songs I've ever written. The other 300 or so have tended to be heavier at times, or just shit at others.
BO: You've been married for about four years or so now. Please share with us what marriage has added to your life, personally, and professionally. I understand you have a lot of animals about the place. Is this owing to Gemma's influence? I remember reading years ago, that while you liked animals, you had none.
GN: Marriage hasn't made any difference, but being with Gemma, married or not, has changed my life completely. She is the missing part of me, now in place. And it's a huge part. She is the rational, kind, reasonable, thoughtful, caring side that seems to be missing when I'm alone. She is the bridge builder between my temper and people around me. She is my smiling contact with the rest of the World. Without her I feel naked, clumsy, aggressive and helpless. I have no comfort without her, no wish to breathe even. If I don't die first we will die together. We have two dogs and six cats and Gemma is constantly trying to add more but I think 8 is enough for the time being. I love my animals. I'm very involved with animal rights in the UK. I've had animals since I was a tiny child.
BO: I was deeply grieved to hear bout Gemma's miscarriage. I have some sense of how much the pregnancy meant to both of you. a) Have you decided to try again? b) Had you considered adoption? c) Why is being a father important to you now at this point in your life? For what reasons? How did you come to put it off so long?
GN: We have to go the IVF route.
We've tried again and failed a few months ago. This morning we had
more embryos implanted so we are still trying. We'll consider other
options when we feel we need to. Being a father now has to do with being
with the woman you want to spend your life with. That's the reason I've
waited this long.
GN: I've never drunk and I've never smoked. It's not a moral thing, I just don't like the smell or the taste. If I liked drink I'd be pissed off my face constantly probably. I do not eat healthy. In fact I have no interest in healthy living or healthy life styles. Eat what you want and if it makes you fat, try eating a bit less of it. I can't say much about living longer due to my wifes nurturing as I don't know how long I'm going to live. Gemma eats absolute rubbish and can't cook a single thing so the nurturing is in different areas to food. Her sexual appetite and sense of adventure will either kill me before my time or ensure I live forever. It depends on the next few years I guess.
BO: You were quoted as saying that a lot of the inspiration for your new direction, was culled from your experience of music in American clubs. Do you think industrial music is more popular here, than in Britain?
GN: We don't really have many industrial clubs. Hardly any at all. Industrial music is definitaly more popular there than here.
BO: I've read that the British release of "Dominion Day" was disappointing? For a long time, Britain was your largest fan base. With the disappointing reception of "Dominion Day" in Britain, do you think that's changing? If so, where do you see new fans emerging? How is the market for your work overseas? Have the remasters of "I, Asassin", and "Warriors" been released yet? I'd read there would be no new tracks included on these. Is that still the case?
GN: I have no idea about Warriors and I, Assassin. They are being put out by an old record label and I'm not kept up to date with their plans. I'm not really interested in what happens to rehashes of old albums anyway. Dominion Day was a case of simply not getting the record into the right shops at the right time. A simple admin. fuck up basically. I didn't draw any career conclusions from it at all. It didn't have a disappointing reception, it just didn't get delivered to the shops. It would be crazy to draw conclusions simply because of a record company delivery date mistake. New fans will emerge wherever, and whenever, the new songs get heard. That's my sole mission. To get the new stuff heard. Not to get involved on old album re-releases, not to go on TV and play Cars, not to do 80's shows, just play the new stuff and move forward.
BO: As a new audience is opened up to you through covers of your work, and critical praise, are there any pending side projects, or collaborations in the works? I'd heard of a possible project with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. Has that moved forward yet?
GN: Billy Corgan has said he wants to work on something, Trent Reznor has talked about co-writing. I hope these things happen but they are both massive stars, and no doubt very busy. We'll see what happens.
BO: I understand there was something of a backlash against the album "Sacrifice" by "Christian" people. I thought I'd read that they were primarily Americans? What were their objections? And I have to ask how your album even came to their attention?
GN: Religious people don't like
their God and beliefs being dismissed by people like me. I rely on the
fact that they will turn the other cheek and then 'forgive me, for I know
not what I do (or say)'. I'm sure if God was pissed off with me,
He's quite capable of sorting me out all by himself. He seems to
ignore me totally which is probably what they should do. I have religious
fans, ex fans now I guess, so maybe the album came to objectors attention
via these people. I don't really care to be honest. I'm just
a small Englishman from a little country a long way away. I'm hardly
a threat to God now am I?
GN: Absolutely nothing to do with spiritual release or exploration. It was a horror story, pure and simple. It looked at the fictional idea that we had badly misunderstood, and badly translated the Bible. And that God was dark and evil. On the album He begins to show his true colours. Angels pissing on the graves of children. It was all pretty dark, but it was fiction. I don't believe there is a God at all so how can I believe that He is evil?
BO: What religious denomination were you raised in? At what point in your life did you break with your faith, and what instigated that break?
GN: I wasn't raised in any religious denomination. I was even excused religious instruction at school when I was 13 after I'd convinced the headmaster that I didn't believe and that I could better use the time learning something else. Even as a small child I thought it was all nonsense. I've never waivered from that opinion for a second throughout my life. If religion makes people happy; if it gives them comfort or the strength perhaps to cope with loss, then I have no problem with it. But when it is used to intimidate and corrupt, to frighten and take from the most needy, then I have a problem with it.
BO: I understand you consider yourself
to be atheist? Would you say that being atheist precludes one from
having some sense of "inner life" or even spiritual practice? And
if it doesn't, how do you reconcile that to a total absence of some divine
presence, however far removed from traditional definitions?
GN: I've heard you postulate the question in Atheism's defense as " If there was a god, how could he allow the suffering in this place and fail to act in defense of his creation?" I will postulate another question or two. In one-way or another, all of us are creators. If we had the capacity to create a life that responded to us out of free will or because it was programmed to respond to us favorably, which would we choose? If we gave that creation free will, and interfered every time we thought it was making a mistake, or thought we could help, would that creation ever truly be capable of self growth or love for us? Would they resent our interference? Would they turn to us only in times ofcrisis or necessity? If there is some higher power, I believe we were given a free will -self - determination. We aren't playthings for someone else's amusement. We can pollute the planet, our bodies, etc. as much or as little as we choose to. But having that choice, we also live with the consequences. I would hope that most of the life we make here would depend on ourselves. The environmental, medical, and cultural challenges arethings we can rise to, together. If we can't, we will band together as we so often do against those things we have no power to combat. What are your thoughts on this?
GN: I will create a life hopefully. And I will interfere every single time it does something that I think is a danger to itself, or to others. What do I care if it resents my interferance if I can stop it from pouring a boiling kettle over itself? What kind of 'creator' would I be if I let my little creation hurt another? To create something and then give no help or guidance is actually a great cruelty. And that just about sums up your God1 as far as I'm concerned..
BO: I've heard a lot of anger and sorrow in Pure. Those emotions are entirely understandable in light of your recent loss. It doesn't sound like the rage and reproach of an atheist however. There is no one to blame as an atheist except the cosmos or the self. Did the seriousness of your daughter's plight lead you to call upon divine intervention? If so, how did you feel about doing so in retrospect?
GN: I have never prayed, and never will. I have faced death many times, in sick and dying aeroplanes. I have NEVER asked for Gods help. Why is it so hard for you to accept that I DO NOT BELIEVE? What strange arrogance makes you think that I would call upon divine intervention2. If what you believe is true then the bastard made the decision to take her in the first place. Why would He change His mind and give her back to me? Because He felt sorry for me? Because he made a mistake? Surely not? A mistake by God himself?
BO: One of my favorite songs from among your albums is " A Child With the Ghost." Would you tell me what you're willing to about this song? I think it is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.
GN: It's about a friend of mine who commited suicide because he was a heroin addict. God works in mysterious ways indeed. He was found on a park bench, dead, with the needle still in his arm. A note pinned to his chest said simply, 'Cremation please'.
BO: On an artistic level, what moves Gary Numan? What artists, authors, musicians, and cities inspire you to want to create, and why? What album has moved you the most in the past six months?
GN: I haven't been moved by an album in the last six months if truth be told. I like Deftones, Nine Inch Nails, Snake River Conspiracy, Marilyn Manson, Fear Factory, Limp Bizkit etc. Inspiration comes more from just being alive in the World and feeling what's happening. I don't look at a musician as a source of inspiration especially. Listening to other bands helps in a technical sense with recording techniques and the like but life itself is inspiring.
BO: What's ahead for you in the near future? Are you already at work on the next album? If so, will the themes mirror those of the past three albums? If not, what change of direction will you take?
GN: I have started on the next album although it's only prep work at the moment. It will be a harder, more aggresive, probably even darker version of 'Pure'. I like where I am musically at the moment but I'm convinced I can do it better.
BO: In conclusion, I'd like to extend
my utmost gratitude to Gary Numan and Spitfire Records for this unprecedented
opportunity. It means a great deal to me, because this music has
moved me deeply and often over the course of my listening. I want
to strongly encourage those of you unfamiliar with the Gary Numan of the
past six years, to go and find these last three albums. "Pure" is as stirring
a piece of artistic craftsmanship as any you're likely to encounter in
a market glutted with insincerity. Thank you again, on behalf of
StarVox.Net and myself.
Record Label: Spitfire Records
1 - You may have noticed that Gary appears to mistake me for a Christian, when in fact I am not. My beliefs are rooted in the eastern tradition, and philosophy. I researched this review extensively, reading reviews and interviews going back 15 years. I found the subject of his beliefs seldom if ever alluded to. His atheism was never on trial. I respect his beliefs as I respect those anyone else. I knew people other than myself were confused by the themes couched in the lyrics of his past three albums. I feel that one's beliefs do certainly impact ones artistic creations. My intent, was to elicit clarification on the matter of belief, nothing more. I invite all of you to listen to these albums, and to read the lyrics. Gary Numan's output right now is some of the finest, most consistent music of his career. My experience of his recent albums has been deeply moving, soul stirring. It's quite a remarkable achievement for any artist.
2 - I asked this question based
on the lyrical content of the Pure album, I invite you to draw your own
questions or conclusions.