Gary Numan

Gary Numan

Gary Numan is a man that should need no introduction – but allow me to try. He was the first UK electric act to hit No. 1 – a feat he achieved twice in 1979 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’. He counts Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Dave Navarro, Alan Wilder from Depeche Mode, and the cast of The Mighty Boosh as close friends. In his career spanning thirty-five years he’s released 20 studio albums, earning him the title of ‘Godfather of all Electronic Music’.
“I still can’t dance for shit!” he joked when we caught up ahead of the Australian leg of the ‘Splinter’ tour. “I’m not sitting here thinking I’m anything special or God’s gift to music. When I sit down in the studio, I still think fuck! What am I going to do? And I panic.”
Honest, humble and human are three words that best describe Gary Numan in 2014. Everything was on the table – his battle with depression, the breakdown of his marriage, and his feelings of awkwardness while on stage in the early days.
“The good thing about this tour is that we’ve done a fair bit of it already – we’ve done Britain, Europe and America, so we’re pretty slick now!” he laughed. “You might even say I’m comfortable with what I’m doing…”
But as you may already have guessed, that was not always the case. “Confidence has always been a real issue for me, unfortunately. When I first started out I had no experience on stage and I wasn’t very good, and I knew it! I couldn’t dance – I couldn’t move around much at all. I used to practise everything in the mirror and it was so contrived and awkward. I really wanted to be better, but that’s what it was. I was twenty-one. I didn’t know what I was doing.
“I got lots of criticism back in the day – if I’m honest, much of it was deserved. But now that I’ve been doing it for thirty-five years, I’m more comfortable being on stage and touring than anything else in my life. It couldn’t be more opposite. Now I absolutely love it. Splinter has brought a new level of energy back to the crowd and it’s really exciting for me and for the band. I’ve enjoyed this last year of touring more than anything I’ve done before. It’s been amazing.”
Gary also credits Splinter with helping to pull him out of a very dark hole. “When I started writing the songs for Splinter I wasn’t better – a lot of the things were still going on. There’s a song on the record called ‘Lost’ which is probably the gentlest song on the album. When I wrote that song I was still in trouble and my wife and I were having real problems in our marriage.” Gary continued candidly. “We came quite close to splitting up at one point and it was that song, or writing that song, that saved us. “I started to write about what it would be like if she wasn’t there and it helped me to … (sorry, this is going to sound very corny) fall in love with her all over again.
“I remember clearly after I wrote that song going back into the house and apologising to [wife] Gemma, realising I was about to make the most terrible mistake. In the next few weeks we talked over everything and I think that’s when I really started to get better, realising just what an absolute dickhead I’d been before that!” Gary said with a chuckle.
“Songwriting is like talking to a therapist except you’re talking to yourself. But you’re still thinking about things very deeply. Without sounding too arty-farty, I really believe in it, and it’s even exciting to me.
“I can’t wait to play these shows; I think we’ve found a good balance of new and old. It makes for a very heavy, aggressive, powerful set. But I don’t want to trick anybody – we’re not doing retro or anything nostalgic. It’ll be a night of very hardcore electronic music.”
When&Where: The Hi-Fi, Melbourne – May 30
Written by Natalie Rogers