By Clare McCabe
Gary Numan is a truly unique artist and everybody knows it. And he is back in black and ready to darken New Zealand and Australia once again!
Never one to let the past remain his legacy, Gary released his 20th album 'Splinter' at the end of 2013.
Gary Numan has Influenced everyone from Trent Reznor to Prince and The Prodigy to Afrika Bambaataa, Basement Jaxx
and Kanye West.
Known for his classics including Down In The Park, Metal, Are Friends Electric and of course Cars, as well as recent anthems like The Fall and A Prayer For The Unborn, the upcoming Gary Numan shows are not to be missed.
Many bands have covered your hits (Foo Fighters/Jack White/NIN/etc). Which band/singer, in your opinion, has covered one of your songs in the best way?
Well, first of all, it's always very flattering that people want to cover my songs. I've never really got used to it, despite there being so many over the years, and I still get a ripple of excitement when I hear about another one. The most recent was Grace Jones a few weeks ago and that was cool to hear about. Many people have done really good versions and it's impossible to pick one to top the list. But, you seemed to have mentioned some of the best in your question. The NIN cover of Metal was quite special I thought, Foo Fighters version of Down In The Park, Jack White's version of Are Friends Electric and Fear Factory's version of Cars were all fantastic. But, so many other people have also done great versions of my stuff that it is, honestly, impossible to pick a favourite.
Speaking of NIN - any plans to collaborate with Trent in the future?
Nothing set in concrete. We have talked about it a few times so we shall see if it ever comes to anything. I live fairly close to Trent now, about 20 minutes away, so it's a lot more likely now than when I lived in England.
Rat Scabies is a big fan of searching for the Holy Grail - what do you get up to in your downtime? Still flying?
No, I pulled out of air display flying when the first of my three children were born. Pretty much everyone I knew in display flying was killed in one accident or another so it was clearly very dangerous. It was more a case of when it happened rather than if. So, when we started a family it just seemed too reckless a thing to do as a weekend hobby. Plus, the children want to do other things. They don't want to sit at an airfield all weekend while Dad rolls around the sky. Having a family changed me from being a very self centered person into someone quite different.
Do you take the family on tour with you?
My wife Gemma is always with me, she has a vital role to play when I'm on the road and it would be hard to tour without her. The children are all at school age so it's much harder to take them along. Plus the hours we work and the tour bus lifestyle is not particularly suitable for young children. Wherever we have time off though, and they don't have school, we try to bring them out to be with us.
Speaking of family, are your daughters fans of your music yet?
They say all the right things about my music to my face but their favourites are clearly Katy Perry, Beyonce and Rihanna. I have heard them singing my songs though from time to time which is a surprisingly emotional thing to hear. I hope they all decide to go into music in the future. They are all showing a lot of interest and ability, both in learning to play instruments and singing, and I would love to see them start to write songs and record their own ideas.
You just performed at the wonderful event that is SXSW - are there any particular bands you want to see/events you want to attend?
SXSW was one of the most mental things I've ever been involved in. I played six shows in three days and did a huge amount of interviews and other events, such as talking on panels and so on. Nearly all the plans I had made about going to see other bands came to nothing. I couldn't believe how busy it was, and how much was going on. Simply getting from one event to another was a major operation. It was a fascinating thing to be involved in but I found that almost every minute of every day I was there was accounted for with work. I had hoped to see a number of people play while I was there but only managed to see two, and both of those were the bands on just before or after I had played.
Are you and the band enjoying this particular tour and are you looking forward to visiting NZ and Australia this time?
It's been great touring the Splinter album. This is the most concentrated touring and promotion I've done for any album of mine in the last thirty years so it's been very hard work but very exciting. It's good to be touring an album that has been so well received by fans and media, that certainly adds an extra level of excitement to everything. I love touring, it's the best part of being a musician, of being in a band, and I'm very happy to travel so, apart from missing the children while I'm away, it has no down side. We are all looking forward to bring the tour to Australia and New Zealand. The last time we were there was fantastic so it will be good to come back with the new album.
London or Los Angeles - where do you prefer to live?
Los Angeles. Without meaning to offend people living in London, for me it's no contest. LA is an extraordinary place. The people are friendly and have a fantastic attitude to life and play. There is just so much to do, beautiful weather, mountains and ocean all within a short drive, opportunities for career, for my children as they grow up. I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever about moving to California.
Anything you specifically miss about London?
I don't really miss that much about the UK actually apart from friends and family. The UK that I grew up in as a child is not the UK that exists now anyway so there is that constant feeling of sadness and regret at the way it's changed, and continues to change. The fans there are amazing, incredibly enthusiastic and supportive so I obviously miss that side of being there. An afternoon by a sleepy river or at a local pub for a meal on a nice sunny summer day was always quite special. The quaintness of English villages, the peculiar and hilarious, if somewhat cruel, humour of the British is something I miss at times. Certain food items, my old house and neighbours. But, in the main, I don't even think about it very often so I guess that says a lot.
Are you pleased with the reaction your latest album has received?
The reaction has been so positive I can barely believe it. The music is undoubtedly very dark. Its heavy and quite aggressive in places and not the sort of thing that gets much help via TV exposure and radio play so I had no expectations of it doing much at all, but in the UK it was a Top 20 album. Definitely didn't expect that. I'm very proud of the way it has been received by the fans and by the media. Splinter is my 20th album and to see many reviewers talking about it as the best album I've ever made was quite special for me. Most people that have been around as long as I have have slipped into either safe mediocrity or now tread the nostalgia route. I have done neither, I'm still making aggressive, forward looking music and yet I'm getting the best reviews of my life. To make music like this is a risky move especially at this stage of my career but the reaction to Splinter has made all the worry worthwhile. I'm very happy with the album and it's just great to see people getting into it to such a degree.
Lost is definitely my favorite tune on your new album - dark and heavy and very serious - love it. Do you find it hard to write such personal lyrics?
No, I find it quite easy actually. Writing about something you feel very deeply about helps the process rather than hinders it. It's so clear in your mind, it makes it easy to find the right words, and easy to erase the wrong ones. I think writing about things that are clearly very personal makes for a more interesting experience for the listener. I think it adds a level of depth to an album, to a song, that is hard to find when you are just writing about things that you are less emotionally attached to. That may be one of the reasons that Splinter has ben so well received, it's full of songs that look at a very difficult and emotional part of my life.
I have read you are not really one for nostalgia (ie. playing all the old hits) but can the audience expect the odd sneaky version of Cars or Are Friends Electric at your upcoming concerts?
Yes. It's very true that I'm not a fan of nostalgia. However, there is a clear difference between legacy and nostalgia. A career that becomes based on constantly revisiting old hits, playing nostalgia tours every year, 80's festivals, events like that, is, in my opinion, a shameful waste of time. But, to incorporate an element of your past career within a set is perfectly acceptable, in fact it would be arrogant not to as to not do so would be similar to sticking two fingers up to those fans that had been with you from the beginning. There is a middle line to be found. For me the middle line is to play certain older songs that have some relevance with a modern audience. Older songs covered by NIN, Foo Fighters, Basement Jaxx, Jack White for example, and others, that can be reworked into the heavier, more industrial sound of my recent albums, all played in-between the new Splinter album and other more recent songs. This way the set is a cohesive thing, it all sounds as though it belongs together, it all sounds new and fresh, and yet I'm able to play songs from different era's that both old and new fans have come to listen to. I feel that I've got the balance just right with the Splinter tour. The set is very heavy and very aggressive. A relentless onslaught of power that's hard work to perform but very exciting nonetheless. I must point out that anyone coming along hoping to revisit the 80's will be seriously disappointed.
You will be returning to London later this year to play at the wonderful Hammersmith Apollo - how do you think the audience will react?
Outrageously I hope. That London show will be the final show of the Splinter campaign so it's going to be quite a special night. It will be the biggest and most spectacular light show I've had since the Wembley shows in 1981, even bigger than the UK Splinter tour last year and that was pretty cool. I haven't played at the Apollo for many years so it will be quite an emotional moment to walk back out onto that stage. My career was all but dead and buried in the early 90's and I have painstakingly rebuilt it since then, with a very non commercial style of heavy electronic music, so to be able to play in that venue again is, for me, a huge achievement. I'm looking forward to it so much.
And lastly - where are you most looking forward to visiting on your current tour?
A place not actually on the tour. I really want to get to Ningaloo Reef in Australia but I'm not sure it's going to be possible. I've long wanted to swim with Whale Sharks and just experience the wildlife in that area. I have a feeling though that we will have to come back as a family once the touring is finished. I'd also like to visit Hobbiton but I doubt that will be possible either. One of the disappointing things about touring is how little of the places you visit you actually get to see and explore. One of the good things about it is you get to build up an amazing list of places to go back to when the tours are over.
Mr Numan, thanks so much for your time. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time touring the USA and we are very much looking forward to seeing you play in Auckland in May.
Gary Numan Splinter Tour
Friday, May 23 - The Studio, Auckland NZ
Sunday, May 25 - Astor Theatre, Perth WA
Wednesday, May 28 - Tivoli, Brisbane QLD
Thursday, May 29 - HQ, Adelaide SA
Friday, May 30 - Hi Fi, Melbourne VIC
Saturday, May 31 - Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
Tickets via Metropolis Touring
VIP Meet And Greet Packages via garynuman.tmstor.es/