Needing no introduction, synth-pop maestro Gary Numan has been an active force in the British music scene for over 35 years. Still as relevant as ever, Numan has been cited as an influence by artists as diverse as Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Matthew Dear, Nine Inch Nails, Prince, and Battles, with whom he co-released the single ‘My Machines’ on Warp Records in 2011.
The Assembly, Leamington Spa’s stunning 1000 capacity Art Deco venue will host a rare one-off gig by the legendary Gary Numan on Friday 7th June.
This one-off headline gig is an exclusive chance for fans and newcomers alike to hear all the classics including Are Friends Electric?, I Die You Die and of course Cars, alongside material from the forthcoming album, nearly five months ahead of the Splinter UK tour.
Gary Numan’s forthcoming album ‘Splinter’, slated for release on October 14th, utilizes new sounds and ideas, revealing his status as a true iconoclast and tireless innovator. In a live setting, Numan’s progressive recordings become even more anthemic and allow audiences to experience first-hand his widespread influence over modern pop music.It’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you Gary. First up can we ask you how this one-off show came about? It is a very nice art deco style building and has a relatively small capacity, is that what drew you to it?
We want to play a show before the main tour in November to try out some of the songs from the new Splinter album, see what works live, and possibly what doesn’t of course. We played there a while ago and the crowd were great, the venue is rather lovely, reasonably central in the country, so it seemed a good choice. We are playing a festival the same weekend but that will be a different set of songs so the Leamington show is the big test.
You are about to tour your new album Splinter later this year. Will you be including any of its material into your set?
About four or five songs probably, maybe six; the album is quite varied this time in terms of power and dynamics and I think some of the songs will work better live and some or probably more suited to listening at home with your headphones on. This is what we hope to find out so we make the right choices for the November tour.
You are known as the pioneer of synth-pop but we hear you have taken a different approach to this new album musically. Can you elaborate on that?
The odd thing about that is I was never synth pop. I was at the front end of the rise of electronic music into the mainstream, a pioneer of that I guess, but synth pop, in my opinion, came a little later and was a much lighter version. It was a far more commercially driven ‘pop’ adaptation of what we had done before. I think these musical labels have a tendency to lump things together that shouldn’t really be together. For example, in 1979 I was writing songs about robot prostitutes and machines programmed to rape you to enforce a night time curfew, synth pop was quite different. But, in answer to your question, my music took a fairly dramatic turn in 1994. It became far more aggressive, far heavier and darker. The new Splinter album continues in that vein but is, nonetheless, quite a different sounding album to the last full studio album that I released. That was called Jagged and came out in 2006. I did another album called Dead Son Rising at the end of 2011 but that was made up of a mixture of unreleased demos and some new songs that didn’t find a home so I don’t see that as the studio follow up to Jagged. Splinter was written partly in the UK and partly in the US where I now live and the music has moved back and forth between the two countries as my producer Ade Fenton and I have worked on it in our two studios.
We tried to make every single sound meaningful; every sound, every melody, everything, carefully thought about, tried and tested. Many songs have evolved through many different versions, sometimes significantly different. We wanted it to be full, not just of memorable melody, but a vast array of new and exciting sounds that hopefully people won’t have heard before. Sonically it had to be special to stand up against some of the great sounding albums around now. Even if you don’t like the songs you should still be able to hear how carefully it’s been put together. I think the production that Ade has done on it is incredible.
Do you still enjoy playing all of your classics?
I’m comfortable with them but the newer songs are always more exciting. When you’ve played something a thousand times it becomes an enjoyable routine. When you play something new you are still caught up in the excitement and freshness of it. It sounds like progress, like improvement, like the person you are now, not the teenager you used to be. I’m proud of my older songs, some of them anyway, but I have never wanted a future where I constantly remind people of what I’ve done in the past. Past glories should stay in the past and you MUST earn any ongoing success by continuing to make music that’s of high quality and is relevant.
I must assume you still enjoy touring as you have one lined up. Has life on the road changed much over the years?
I love touring. It’s by far the most enjoyable part of being in a band, of being a professional musician. The only change is one of experience and confidence. When I started I had little of either and now I have quite a lot of both. That experience and confidence makes it a very enjoyable thing to do and not the nerve wracking nightmare that it was when I started out. But, essentially, it’s much the same as it always was.
You travel to buildings that seem to have no heating and are permanently cold and damp, you play songs that people like (hopefully), to enough people (hopefully) that stop it from being an embarrassing empty venue fiasco, and then you move on and do it all again. As a lifestyle it’s the most amazing bubble to live in. The band are my closest friends, the atmosphere is always friendly and positive. I love travelling anyway and the tour buses we travel in are just amazing machines. It really is a fantastic thing to do and I cannot understand why so many bands seem to moan about it.
What about social media. Are you active on twitter/facebook etc?
Reasonably, but I’m not a slave to it and you do read a lot of rubbish; telling people what you had for breakfast seems utterly pointless and ego massaging to me. How special do you think you are that you assume other people give a shit about what you had for breakfast? As a tool to keep fans informed of useful stuff it’s brilliant but I don’t use it to interact. I’m never been good at interacting with the world.
It’s partly why I became a musician, so that I could hide from the world and pop out under my own terms here and there. Because of that, it’s almost certain that I don’t gain the advantage that other, more tweet friendly, artists enjoy. In part is due to a lack of confidence I guess. I find it hard to believe that thousands of people care what I did today, where I went, who I met. I can’t work out what would be interesting to my followers and what would be nonsense. As someone with Aspergers I have always found it hard to understand people at the best of times.
Have you any opinion on the impact music downloading has had on CD sales and the fact that vinyl sales are increasing?
I think music sales are down in general and continue to decline in most areas. I’m not sure I would blame that decline entirely on downloading though as there are many other entertaining things all fighting for our disposable cash. Music is no longer the sole source of entertainment. In an age of smart phones and tablets the convenience of having music downloaded straight into your device is obvious. CD’s, much as I love them as a format, are just not as convenient as downloading.
But, why the increase in vinyl is harder to explain; a desire for a meaningful piece of art perhaps? The packaging can be so much better and more pleasant to have, hold and view than a CD, or a download. It might be that. Whatever, things bare changing constantly and we, as musicians and artists, are constantly looking at new ways to make music and to sell it. I think it’s an amazing time to be alive, both as a fan and as a musician. It’s all very exciting and as one new technology rises and falls so another comes along and we all have to learn how to use it, both as a creative and as a user. The goalposts don’t move periodically, they never stop moving.
Finally have you any words for the fans that have stood by you over the years and support your music?
I have always been extremely grateful to anyone and everyone that has supported me, whether for one album or all of them. You cannot make music that appeals to everyone, even amongst your own fans, so you need to constantly work at rebuilding the fan base, bringing new people in, hanging on to people that were there before. But it’s very much a two way thing, I hope it is anyway.
I have worked very hard for a long time to give people music that they have hopefully enjoyed, to play shows that people have found exciting and entertaining. Loyalty is something that you earn and I think I’ve done that. I am so very grateful to the fans that have enabled me to do the thing I love most, and I hope they are grateful to me for writing hundreds of songs that they have enjoyed over the years. We support and respect each other, and that’s the way it should be.
Gary Numan live at The Assembly, Leamington Spa
Friday 7th June
Ticket Price: £25 plus booking fee.Online ticket Link
Venue Ticket line: 01926 311 311
Above GN Live photography by Ed Fielding