Rockcult: How was the resounding success of the «Splinter» album and the supporting tour influenced you: did something change in your creative direction and your views on art?
Gary Numan: Not really, nothing changed that I’m aware of. Splinter came at the end of a long and difficult period where I had been diagnosed with Depression. I was on medication for that for a few years. It caused a lot of problems in so many areas of my life and that only added to other big issues that were going on. So when it came time to write the album I had a lot of very deep and personal things to write about. In the middle of all that, in the middle of writing the album, I immigrated to America with my family which caused another level of stress and worry so the album was constantly being filled with so much emotion I feel it made a difference to the music. I think people reacted to how personal the album was, and I think it touched people that have also had to deal with those mental illness issues because it’s a problem that’s too often kept hidden out of embarrassment. The Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell tragedies make this very obvious. We need to talk more openly about these things, help each other through them.
Rockcult: You’ve never performed in Russia. Were there any steps to organization of Russian tour? If not, why didn’t you think about it? Do you want to perform in Russia with the «Savage» album?
Numan: Sadly, I’ve never had any offers or requests from Russian promoters or organisers to play there. No festival has ever invited me, no promoter has ever shown any interest. Until you wrote to me I had no idea that anyone in Russia had ever even heard of me. More recently friends of mine, a band called IAMX, played in Russia and came back to Los Angeles full of love for their experience there. Since then I’ve been asking lots of questions to see if I could find a way to play some shows there. It was such a coincidence you writing to me as that was going on. I would love to play in Russia and I hope with Savage it will be possible. 2018 is when I’m hoping to bring the Savage shows to as many new places as possible.
Rockcult: Approximately 8 years ago, you said that you have recorded video footage of the concerts of the industrial period of the 1990s and the early zero ones, but we can see only modern concerts. Many (and me too) are waiting for them. Will they be released?
Numan: I don’t know to be honest. I think I’ve put out far too many DVD’s in the last ten years. I’m not even sure I’m going to film any of the Savage shows.
Rockcult: You play again your electronic classics: «Replicas», «The Pleasure Principle» and «Telekon». Are you going to play entirely other albums, as it was, for example, with «Jagged”?
Numan: I doubt it but it’s possible. The three you mentioned were all Number 1 albums in the UK and are generally regarded as being ground breaking, innovative and influential. They have a special position in music history, electronic music especially. I’m not sure that the others hold that kind of credibility or have the same level of devotion with the fans. As an album reaches a meaningful anniversary, 20 years, 25 years, moments like that, then it might be worth playing some shows from that one album. I’ll have to think about that as each anniversary comes along.
Rockcult: A few days ago you wrote that you are shooting a video for the song «My Name Is Ruin». Can you tell a little about this single? Will it be tough and aggressive, or more atmospheric? [The interview has taken before the single release]
Numan: It’s extremely tough, massive groove, huge chorus, harsh lyric. The video for it has just been delivered to the record label and in my opinion it’s the best video I’ve ever had. It was filmed and directed by Chris Corner from IAMX actually, who I mentioned earlier. He did my last one as well for a song called I Am Dust. He’s incredibly talented. The song also has my daughter Persia singing on it, and she appears in the video, so that’s a special thing for me. She’s only 11 but has an amazing voice and looks incredible in the video. Ruin has been very popular with the fans so I’m hopeful that people will also like the album. Ruin is a very clear example of what the album itself is like.
Rockcult: For 20 years there have been applications for cooperation from you and Trent Reznor from time to time. However, apart from periodic joint performances, there is still nothing more. Are you still going to record something?
Numan: It’s possible but it’s not something I think about too often. I’m a big fan of Trent and we live quite close to each other in Los Angeles. We see each other fairly regularly so there’s a lot of friendship there but we’re just both madly busy all the time.
Rockcult: Are you interested in Russian culture: music, cinema, literature?
Numan: I don’t really break things down into country by country culture, not artistically anyway. I’m interested in all cultures, the world is full of amazing things, amazing people, talents and skills that take your breath away. These are things that open up to you most as you travel. Those cultural differences, that are always so fascinating, are best discovered first hand by travel and real experience. I prefer to experience culture rather than read about it from a distance. I hope and expect that a trip to Russia will give me a vast hit of culture, quite different to anything I’ve experienced before. I very much look forward to that.
Rockcult: You support some modern experimental electronic musicians, for example Gazelle Twin and I Speak Machine. What young bands or performers have you been inspired lately?
Numan: Don’t really get inspired from music that much, I haven’t for many years. I like a lot of artists, I Speak Machine, Gazelle Twin, Officers, I Am Warface and many other new and older bands, and I recognize their talent, but inspiration for me comes largely from elsewhere. I have been doing this for a very long time and it gets ever harder to find musical things that are truly inspiring. Film scores have some genuinely incredible musical moments and I probably get most of my musical inspiration from those moments. But, mostly, it comes from everywhere else, not music at all. Films, books, conversations, noises that you hear as you travel, just from life itself and all the things that are constantly being thrown at you. Obstacles to overcome. I find battling through life, especially now I have three young children, gives me all the inspiration I can deal with.
Rockcult: Your last albums, especially «Splinter», have become more human and personal, in contrast to the earlier releases of the «android» period and the industrial «atheistic» period. What topics are you interested in revealing now?
Numan: Savage looks at a possible future, one that has been shaped by the apocalyptic effects of unchecked Global Warming. I have been working on a science fantasy novel for quite some time and with the previous Splinter album I borrowed some of those ideas for two of the songs. With Savage it’s more like a musical version of the entire story. It’s set in a savage, unforgiving environment and the people that survive are, by necessity, violent and tribal. There is no hope of change. Cultures and religions that argue and fight for position in the world now have long been abandoned in this fantasy future. Water is so scarce it has become currency, simply surviving is all that matters. Then, someone finds an ancient text, a small part of an old religious book, and from that moment on things become very much worse. As an album it really found its direction when Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Accord. That one act of utter stupidity and ignorance shook me very badly and so writing about what might happen because of that decision became the driving theme of the album.
Фото - Welcometoleeds →
Rockcult: How is work on your fantasy novel?
Numan: Still working on it. For the last year or so I’ve been adapting the book to the Savage album so most of the new work has gone towards that. Now that the album is finished I’ll get back to writing the book version. Adapting the ideas in the book to music has been very helpful though, and it has made a big step forward with the book possible so I’m a little more confident about actually getting it finished than I was before I started the album.
Rockcult: Last year took place the long-awaited collaboration with another electronics titan, John Foxx. But, as you said, you did not come up with this song together from scratch, but you composed an «accelerated» part on the ready-made material by Foxx and Benge. Do you plan to compose a few songs together, sitting together in the studio?
Numan: No, no plans for that. I never sit in a studio with anyone anyway. I’ve made four albums with Ade Fenton producing for example and we’ve never sat in a studio together to do anything creative. We occasionally work in the studio together on technical things, mixing is one, but nothing else. For me the creative part, the song writing, is incredibly personal and I couldn’t do it with somebody sitting next to me. I really Like John Foxx, he’s a real hero to me, and I was very proud to have worked on that song. I would be more than happy to work on another song with him if he asked me but it would always be done separately. I’m not very confident about collaborations either. I’m quite nervous working on other people songs and I would always want to work on my parts in private so I can work out all the mistakes before I send in the finished thing.
John Foxx And The Maths Featuring Gary Numan - Talk (Are You Listening to Me?)
Rockcult: Has your life changed after moving to America? Which countries and cities inspire you?
Numan: It has changed a little. Living in California gives you a more outdoors kind of life. The weather is so lovely all the time, the ocean is close by, mountains are close by. You have the vibe and excitement of Hollywood just a short drive away. It’s a good place to live. I don’t really get inspired by cities too much though. Los Angeles is a peculiar and surprising exception but generally I don’t like cities. Too many people in a hurry. Too dirty, too uncaring, too dangerous. The only inspiration I usually get from cities, almost any city, is an overwhelming sense of suffocation and a desire to get out as urgently as possible. Recently though I spent some time in Dubrovnik in Croatia and that was remarkable. I loved my time there.
Rockcult: Are you piloting now?
Numan: Not at the moment. I was an air display pilot, a formation aerobatic pilot in World War two historic aeroplanes for many years. I was an instructor for that and an examiner for a while. But, eventually, almost everyone I knew was killed in various accidents and crashes and so, when my first child came along, I decided to get out of it before it killed me. It seemed too risky a thing to do when you have a young family. I loved the excitement of it, the danger of it, but I don’t think a man has the right to risk his life every weekend when he has children. It isn’t fair on them. I do miss it though, very much.
Rockcult: In 2014 was released the soundtrack to the film «From Inside», which you wrote with your longtime companion, Ade Fenton. Very atmospheric and monolithic work. Are there any plans to do such experiments?
Numan: One of the main reasons for moving to the US was my desire to get into writing film scores. I saw it as a logical next step in my music career. Having been here for a few years and been around it more closely, I don’t want to do that at all anymore. I’d rather carry on as I have been doing. I love the touring, playing live. I like not having to write music to someone else’s direction. I write what I want and I don’t have to discuss it or change it to someone else’s requirements. I’d much rather write books as the next phase of my career. Having said all that, I did really enjoy the two films I have written for. I was very lucky in having very kind and agreeable directors and producers to work with on those projects, and given those circumstances I’d happily do it again, but I hear too many horror stories to believe that composing for film is a serious career avenue for me in the future. Plus, there re already a huge list of people doing it that are fantastic. The film industry certainly doesn’t need me.
Rockcult: What motivates you after so many years of working on music? How can you keep your curiosity and interest in finding and creating something new, when there is a risk to rest on your laurels and record albums, simply copying your recognizable «chips”?
Numan: I have a real fear of repeating myself musically. I am absolutely obsessed about moving forward and never repeating myself. That constant search for new sounds and new directions is what keeps it exciting. I am as passionate today about a new album as I was when I was 18, because the driving desire to find something new has never gone away. I hate nostalgia. My rare visits to older albums, when I occasionally tour an old album again, are done out of a duty to long term fans, not really because I prefer to be playing older songs. I have very little interest in what I’ve done in the past. I am always excited about tomorrow, what tomorrow might bring, I could hardly care less about yesterday.
Rockcult: What can you wish young musicians? What mistakes should they avoid at the beginning of the creative path, so as not to «burn out»?
Numan: Make the music you want to make. Do not be turned from the path you see and desire for yourself. You will probably meet people that claim to know best, that will try to convince you that they know a better way. They don’t. Do what you love.