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Our Friend Electric: Gary Numan In Interview
We caught up with Electro-pioneer Gary Numan to talk music, life and everything in-between. In what would turn out to be an extraordinary and revealing interview Gary took us on a journey into his mind.
On the eve of the release of his new single 'Crazier' (released June 23rd) we caught up with Electro-pioneer Gary Numan to talk music, life and everything in-between.

In what would turn out to be an extraordinary and revealing interview Gary took us on a journey through his life in music.

What were your strongest memories of growing up with music?

My Mum and Dad were, and still are big Country and Western fans, they were quite big record buyers but when I first started getting into it as a kid it was the Monkeys I remember. I was only about seven or eight and there was a few of us in the street, so we decided we would go into peoples houses and mime to Monkeys records for money - we were called the Monkey Juniors. So I'm Top Of The Pops miming is my forte! Haha...

The first serious thing that came along for me, as a fan, was T. Rex and 'Ride A White Swan' era when they got into Electronica. I got into music when I was really young, around four of five. I remember watching Hank Marvin on the TV and I remember the music didn't mean anything to me at all but the guitar was electric. That meant a lot. So my interest in music was more to do with the technology that made music. Music was kind of a by-product, a necessary evil. That's what happened with the Electric guitar and later the synthesisers. When Synths came along I was more interested in the technology than the fact it made music. I'm not really a very good musician... I don't play anything very well. I don't know anything about writing music, if you say to me play a G sharp on the piano I'd have absolutely no idea what that is, I do it all by feel, by sound. I stumble along until I find something, I can hear where that should go.

In terms of an exploration?

Yeah, but more because of lack of ability than artistic licence. I have a style, I think, which is primarily due to lack of ability. But I don't mean that in a bad way, because to compensate for that my route to making music has been different because it has to be. Therefore my songs are not excuses, if you like, to show off how good a player I am. If you listen to people who can play really well and write their songs tend to be platforms for them to show you how well they can play - endless guitar solos or bizarre chord arrangements because they can. That doesn't necessarily make for good music. I hate to make such a sweeping generalisation.

The basis of great music is something that can't be explained so easily?

I think the search for sound, an atmosphere, is a better place to come from. There are often times when one note will do. One note on the keyboard, what ever it may be - like one enormous, evolving sound that just breathes. To me that has far more emotion tied up in it than the most intricate of guitar solos. I love sound... my idea of fun is to go out and record sounds with a microphone and a minidisk, take them back home, put them into the machinery and mess around with them. It's interesting, for instance, to find different ways of finding percussion that doesn't involve a drum kit.

When you first started making music how much did the Pop star persona element of music mean to you?

Well, it depends on how far back you go. I think my reasons for getting into music initially were far more to do with lifestyle than creativity. I didn't care too much about art. Not sure if I do now really. I never seemed to get many girls at school and pop stars get loads of them so that was a good reason. This was around the time I was twelve or thirteen. It seemed such an amazing life; touring, living this fantastic lifestyle, everything changing, from one place to the next. And you look around at other people, it didn't seem very exiting really. Truth by told I had nothing to say, or that I deserved to do it (still don't think that these days!) it just seemed an amazing way to live your life. I grew to have an interest in music, but that came later. I was as shallow as fuck to be honest about it.

I mean for goodness sake, you get up, you go to the studio, you write stuff, you record stuff and you go out on tour with all your mates and its really good fun. It doesn't' really have a bad side.

So many pop stars find time to moan though...

The things that are bad about it you can avoid. If you get bad reviews...don't read them! There are plenty of things about it if you want to think that way, and from time to time unfortunately I've gone down that road, there are plenty of things you can moan about - I've lost count of how many death threats I've had, people trying to pick fights with you I still wouldn't trade a second of it to work in a mine, or a factory for instance, cause that's really horrible.

How did being in Mean Street, your first band, come about?

I was in a band with my mates from school, and we did three gigs together under a different name. And then they threw me out. The drummer was still using the drum kit I'd borrowed from my uncle and he threw me out! I turned up to rehearsal and there was someone else singing.

No one had said anything?

No, no one had said anything. 'I guess I'm not in it anymore then' So that hurt a bit. But they became Mean Street and went off and became a Punk band for a little bit. I went off and started a band that was called The Lazers at the time as a guitar player. I just wanted to get a bit of stage experience, no singing, no writing (as I was writing for the previous band). Said to them during the first rehearsal that we should get a better name, as everyone's called 'The' something. So they asked me if I had any ideas and I came up with Tubeway Army. Later on the same day I asked them if they had any of their own songs as all the tracks were cover versions. No. So I said 'well I've got some from this last band I was in'. The bloke who was singing who was also the bass player couldn't sing, so I ended up singing. So I went in there, first rehearsal, wanting to be in the background. I end up singing, it's my songs and my bands name! I was a bit pushy in those days.

Soon after that I got into Electronics, got the deal with Beggars Banquet. The rest of the band then left and it was just me and Paul - the bass player - left.

What were your first experiences with the Synthesisers of the time?

First one I ever saw was a mini Moog. I'd gone to a studio to record the first album I ever made as Tubeway Army (we were still a punk band at this point) and there was a mini moog that had been left behind. It was a studio in Cambridge called Space Wood. So there was this synth in the corner. I'd never seen one before and it looked great and I said to the studio owner if he'd mind if I had a play with it. I just turned it on and pressed a key and it just sounded HUGE.. like 10 rock guitars playing at once, as massive sound. It's just lucky. Whoever had used it before had left it set up on that sound - if they'd left it on a different sound it might have gone 'dooop' (Gary imitates the sound much made by BBC special effects in the 70's - i.e. crap) and I would have thought Synths were a load of shit. It was just luck that it happened to be there, luck that the hire company hadn't collected it yet, luck that it was left on this amazing sound...

So instead of recording a Punk album, I had this, all of my songs were guitar based, chugging riffs and I just converted it to the sound on this synth. I went back to the record company with a pseudo-electronic album and they weren't too happy about it. Luckily they were a tiny little label and didn't have the budget to re-record it so they were just stuck with it. That was lucky...haha! It got quite heavy, one of the record company guys tried to start a fistfight with me because he just didn't want to know. I just felt that this was really what I wanted to do. I loved it and I loved the sounds it made.
written by on 6/25/2003 12:00:00 AM

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