"Don't Listen To Advice!" Gary Numan Interviewed

"Don't Listen To Advice!" Gary Numan Interviewed

The music maverick on his new album, life in Los Angeles, and refusing to look back...

There isn’t a beginner’s guide to releasing an album during a pandemic, but if there was Gary Numan would certainly be a front runner to author it. His upcoming album ‘Intruder’ poignantly situates him as an artist at the peak of his creativity, a sonic pallet and thematic backdrop that cements his hard-fought return to the top.

Since coming to prominence with era-defining hits such as ‘Cars’ and ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ (with Tubeway Army), Gary Numan has remained consistently creative and released a huge catalogue of work. His impact on electronic and alternative music has been hailed by pioneers such as Prince, David Bowie and Kanye West and remains impactful today.

We spoke to this music maverick about his vision for the album, life in Los Angeles and the importance of never taking advice.

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To say there were some nerves prior to interviewing Gary Numan would be an understatement, I find myself prancing around the house with the melody of ‘Cars’ firmly lodged in my head. After what’s felt like an eternity of a day, I finally find myself talking to Gary Numan over a zoom call at 10pm due to time difference. He talks to me from his house in LA, where he happily resides with his family.

Numan details his reasons for moving to LA, that sheds a far more complimentary light on the La La Land label often ascribed to the city. “It was a creative move for me, I realised I only had 'x' amount of years left, and I wanted to spend that time making the most of life. I remember looking outside at the weather in the UK and realised, it was a reaction to getting older, a reaction to the speed at which life was passing by.”

During the pandemic Gary and his family decided to stay in the US, where he finished the production of 'Intruder'. “If I’m being totally honest, I don’t think I’ve had to endure it in the same way as others, as when I’m recording, I usually don’t go anywhere, or do anything”. He adds to this, saying how the state of affairs actually sparked creativity out of him. “The virus coming along was an amazing, yet equally tragic thing to come along for the creative process. Everything I was writing about was right there, tracks like ‘The Gift’ were actually based on the virus”.

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The album is invariably imbued by the ongoing issue surrounding climate change. This creative endeavour aims to turn the tables and empower earth with a sense of agency we seldom permit it. Intruder poignantly depicts our planet as the protagonist, scorned by the trauma mankind has cast upon it.

Numan explains: “It’s all inspired by my youngest daughter Echo, she wrote a poem about the Earth, about how it would try and explain its situation and how it feels. It really inspired me and I searched to find meaning in how exactly the earth feels and trying to find meaning, translating those ideas into music.”

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Musically there’s a striking contrast between the beautiful simplicity of the song’s introduction and the cacophonous, post-industrial aggression that emerges. It also highlights a contribution from Görkem Şen, the inventor of the yaybahar (an acoustic stringed synthesiser), which adds a portentous texture to the dynamic production. “Sonically, I’ve always tried to make things a little bit more cinematic, I was told about a man called Görkem Şen, who created an instrument called the Sabahar. He’s the only man who can play it. I feel so lucky to have convinced him to get involved in the first three songs”.

Collaboration is something rarely associated with Gary Numan, asides from his ongoing one with Ade Fenton. The two have worked closely alongside one another for over 15 years, nurturinng a now blossoming musical relationship, “I want it to be as finished and rich as it can possibly be, so he can get the clearest understanding of my intentions behind the music.”

Whilst the two of them weren’t able to touch base for much of ‘Intruder’, the creative process wasn’t tampered with too much at all. “We never really sit down side by side when we are working on the album, it would just be intrusive. We used to argue a lot more in the early days, now we both trust each other.”

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Ade’s fine tuning has worked a dream on the album, arguably Gary Numan’s best in years. Numan’s inherently forward-thinking vision is why he’s been at it for so long, with a decade spanning for decades. When asked about what advice he would offer to young musicians, he bluntly says: “The best bit of advice I’d give to anyone is don’t listen to advice!”

“You need to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. You’ll be surrounded by people you think know better, people who’ve never been on stage or played and instrument. It corrupts your vision and I know this for a fact, it happened to me in the middle of my career. Sink or swim in your own vision”.

This energised spurt of wisdom from Gary Numan has him thinking, mildly philosophising on what has been a truly remarkable career. “I’m certainly no genius… I think Trent Resnor is close to being a genius. He is showing a versatility after his Nine Inch Nails days. I also think Prince was incredible. My whole career is built on happy accidents and knowing they’ve happened!”

Perhaps Gary Nuan's ability to embrace happy accidents is genius in itself.

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'Intruder' is out now.

Words: Josh Crowe // @JoshThomasCrowe

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