Gary Numan

1. What is your birthday?

I was born on March 8, 1958 in London, England.

2. When and how did you first become interested in music? How long have you been playing?

When I was very young, about 4 when I first became aware of music but nearer to 7 or 8 when I really became interested. It wasn't really music that interested me though to be completely honest. I saw a band on the TV and I was fascinated by the fact that the guitar player had an electric guitar, with switches and dials. It was the technology that grabbed me not the music. I became seriously interested in music many years later, long after I had a record deal. My main interest was always the machinery that made sound, and the sounds themselves of course. Music was almost a by product, a side effect. I grew to love music eventually but my fascination with the technology remains very strong. I can't remember for sure but I began to play guitar when I was about 10 and keyboards when I was about 19.

3. Tell me about your music history.

Well I've been a professional musician for just over 25 years so covering that in any detail would fill a book. I've made about 19 albums of new material or something like that. In the UK I've had about 30 chart singles, maybe more, and about 25 or 30 chart albums, including live albums and what seems like a never ending flow of Numan compilations courtesy of old record companies. My first single came out on Feb 10, 1978, which was also the day I quit my 'real' job and took up music for a living.

4. What is your most memorable show and why?

I don't have a 'most' memorable show. I've never played a show that was so much better than the others that it stands out as being the best, or worst. Well maybe Jacksonville a few years ago could be the worst come to think of it. The promoter had heard that I was considered influential with some dance acts and so promoted my gig by giving out handbills at a few dance clubs. Hardly anyone turned up and those that did didn't expect what I was doing, which was industrial more or less, and it was not a happy night. As we walked out of the venue back to the tour bus a woman ran by screaming that someone had just shot her boyfriend in the head. It was all rather odd. I've had great shows pretty much everywhere else I've ever been. I love touring, more than anything. Every tour seems like a life within a life, you get to experience so much, at such an amazing pace. To pick out any one show is just impossible I'm afraid.

5. Tell me about your latest music project.

I've got a few going on at the moment. The most important is my new studio album called Jagged Halo. This I will have ready by the end of the year hopefully. I've also just recorded a new vocal for one of my songs called Metal that Afrika Bambaataa is covering for his new album. This is the same song that Nine Inch Nails covered on their Things Falling Apart album. I've also co-written a song with Junkie XL who had that massive hit recently with the 'Little Less Conversation' Elvis remix. I've co-written a few other songs with different people and I have a collaboration single called 'Crazier' with Scottish artist Rico coming out in a few weeks time. We just filmed the video for that in Berlin. The co-writing thing is something I've not really done that much before. I have well over 300 Gary Numan songs released since 1978 and only 20 or so more that are co-writes in that same 25 year period. That's why Jagged Halo is my main interest. It's my own thing and that's where I'm most comfortable.

6. What else do you do besides play music?

I fly historic aeroplanes at airshows around Europe. I specialise in World War 2 combat aeroplanes and low level formation aerobatics. Actually I haven't done much of that recently as my team mate was killed in a crash a while back and now my wife Gemma doesn't want me to fly anymore. I used to be an examiner for air display pilots and taught aerobatics at a special flying school in the UK for a while. I believe it was the only school in Europe that taught low level display aerobatics but that might not be true anymore. I also have a boat which is good fun, I've just completed two courses on sea navigation. I like to take my car on race tracks whenever possible but it's getting more difficult these days to find decent organisers for that. I run my own NuWorld web site so that takes quite a lot of time, I write stories, in fact I expect to do that instead of music at some point in the future. I did, until a month ago, run our own Gary Numan quarterly magazine, called Alien, but it took up too much time and the internet killed the demand for a printed mag in any case. I dabble at video editing and CD-Rom design and I'm just getting into DVD authoring which is very interesting. I'm also into animal welfare and take part in campaigns against cruelty to animals and such like. And finally I'm now reading everything I can about babies as Gemma is pregnant and, hopefully, after seven years of trying, I'm going to be a father which is very cool.

7. Do you believe in psychics? Why or why not?

I believe in ghosts, I believe that certain people can communicate at some level with them so I suppose the answer is yes. I'm more than a little uncomfortable with people that charge money to give 'readings' though. I don't really know why but I always seem to be very skeptical about those 'around the table holding hands' type of events. We have a fantastic TV show here called Most haunted and that has a psychic on a regular basis who wanders around various places talking to things. I find it fascinating and more than a little disturbing.

8. Who are your musical influences and why?

No one band or person in particular but I do listen to a lot of things so I am constantly influenced. I listen to anything that can help me write whatever I'm working on. I suck things in all the time. Not just music but noises, pictures, films, words, anything at all that can help. Everyone, no matter how imaginative or creative, needs a little spark at times to ignite that imagination. I search constantly for sparks. So I don't listen to anything or anyone for a specific reason. Inspiration is everywhere, you just need to have your eyes and ears open every waking moment. I really iiked the last Korn album, I love things like Nine Inch Nails and the UK band Sulpher. I was at a launch party for the new Marilyn Manson album a few days ago and that sounded very impressive. I like the German band Rammstein, I like Curve, but I just listen to things all the time. Usually it's heavy and aggressive, or menacing in some way.

9. Have you ever inhaled?

No. I've never smoked a cigarette of any kind, I've never drunk alcohol either so I've never known the delights of being drunk and throwing up on your best friend.

10. What do you think about the war with Iraq? What are your thoughts on Eddie Vedder and the Dixie Chicks onstage actions concerning the war and the president?

I don't know what the Dixie Chicks and Eddie Vedder did as it didn't make the news here so I can't comment. On the war I don't really know what to say. IT seems to me that the only information we get comes via the TV or the press. It's time limited into sound bites, compressed into a news item or column inches and, mostly, highly opinionated with a pro or anti twist to it depending on the author and the subject. Therefore this type of information can only be treated with a great deal of suspicion. This makes it near on impossible to know the truth about any situation, but especially something as dangerous and deadly as war. All I can say is that it's a great shame that it was, or was thought to be, necessary. But sometimes they are. It's not a perfect world.

11. What is your favorite song that you have played on and why?

My current favourite Numan song is either 'Rip' or 'My Jesus', both from the Pure album. They both have extreme dynamics, those 'here comes the good bit' moments, and the tunes not bad. I can't say why I like my own stuff, it feels like looking in a mirror and saying hello handsome. It's just a little bit embarrassing.

12. What is the worst job you have ever had and why?

I was already famous in the UK as I turned 21 so I didn't have much opportunity to have any really bad jobs. I was once fitting air conditioning sections into the basement of a big bank in London when the grips slipped and the large shaft we were moving rolled into me. I was pinned against a wall by several tons of metal. Plus it was snowing heavily above and my prison basement was filled with icy slush. I wasn't sure if I was going to be slowly crushed to death, freeze or drown. It took them about 30 minutes to get me out.

13. If a movie were made about your life, what would the theme song be?

I can't believe I can't think of a good answer to this. But I can't at the moment. Sorry.

14. If you were god for a day, what would you do?

Start again.

15. If you had a chance to bring back one person from death, who would it be and why?

Jesus. I have a few questions I'd like him to answer.

16. What is the happiest you have ever been and why?

Now is pretty good. Why? Because I'm alive and healthy (and that should never be taken for granted) and things have gone from shit to great career-wise over the last few years and I'm writing some of the best songs I've ever written, my wife is perfect and has been since the day I met her eleven years ago, it looks like I'm going to be a Dad, I was virtually bankrupt not too many years ago and that's all fixed and, apart from all that, I just love my life.

17. Tell me about an average day in the life of Gary Numan.

I don't have average as it depends on whether I'm touring, writing, recording, flying, etc etc. So, this is a slight invention but a typical day can be as follows. I wake up, look out across the beautiful rolling hills of England that just happens to be the view from my bedroom window, see the sun is shining and think to myself, "I think I'll go back to sleep". Such is the freedom of the professional musician and, more than all other pleasures that being a pro musician brings, that freedom to choose my day is the one that I appreciate the most. More likely though is that I get up, go through my e-mails, update the web site, go to the studio and put in at least a few hours until it gets too hot (my air con unit is not the best) and then play with my dogs for a while. I'll probably work on some of the other things that need to be done. I design all the Numan merchandise for example so, if a gig or tour is coming up, I'll need to design the t-shirts and such like for that. I may have the band round for rehearsals which will go on late into the night. We also have a large on-line merch store on the web site and I work on designs for items that will then be added to that on a regular basis. I might go to a gig or to a friends. Quite often I'm studying for a licence or qualification of some kind either for flying, boating or something else along those lines so I'll put time aside for study. I always end a normal day by reading. I go to gigs all the time and meetings with record company, agents, promoters and other musicians seem to be a fairly regular thing. I do several interviews every week so they can fill part of a day at times. Obviously if I'm touring a day is very different. Also, as an album nears completion it becomes an 18 hour a day obsession and so those days are quite different again. My work ethic sips a bit in the summer. Nice weather is a rare thing in England and I do tend to put work to one side when the sun shines a little too often.

In all honesty if I go over the last 50 days every single one of them was different so it really is impossible to talk about an average day. That simple fact is the answer to your next question.

18. What does success mean to you?

Freedom to choose the life I lead rather than have life lead me and the fact that every single day is different to the one before. Where I am, what work I'm doing, everything changes all the time. It's rarely dull.

19. How did you know you wanted to be a musician?

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say it was when I realised that musicians always seemed to get the best looking girls and drove great cars. I was young and my desires were few and simple.

20. Who do you think the greatest musician of all time?

I have no idea and, if I'm to be absolutely honest, I couldn't really care less. I have little interest in great musicians. I love songwriters first and foremost and great musicians do not often make great songwriters. It seems to me that great musicians write songs that are intended to do little more than show off their great musicianship. Song after song of endless solo's and chord structures that are extremely difficult to play, and usually not very nice to listen to either. My philosophy when it comes to music is why play a thousand notes when one will do. I love atmosphere, a sense of hidden power or menace. One slowly evolving single note drone can hold far more emotion than the fastest, and longest, guitar solo's. Keep your widdling and facial distortions Mr Great Musician. This is all a bit of a sweeping generalisation I know. There have been some very good songwriters who were also quite gifted when it came to playing as well. But they are few and far between and I would rather listen to someone who can't really play that well and yet can touch your soul somehow than all the 'Great' muso's put together. Have you ever noticed how so called great singers add about two dozen extra notes for every one that was originally written? I find that very annoying.

21. Where were you when 9-11 happened and how did it affect you?

I was in the studio, got a phone-call after the first plane went in and then watched the rest unfold as it happened. I cried, and I am not one for tears as a rule. I don't think I'd cried since our first baby died. I couldn't believe how enormous a tragedy I was witnessing. I couldn't believe the bravery and heart breaking courage of those in the buildings and on the ground and I could not believe the evil that planned and carried out such a thing. It affected me very deeply.

22. What is your favorite movie of all time?

The Battle Of Britain. I doubt you've ever seen it or even know what it's about. It's really very good especially if you know your English history and it also helps if you like old aeroplanes. It's when we stopped the Germans during World War 2, a year or two before America joined in.

23. What is your greatest achievement of all time?

Becoming one of the few low level aerobatic pilots in the UK I guess. I once saved my parents house from burning down when they were out when I was only young although I did set it on fire in the first place so I'm not sure that should be counted as an achievement. Getting a number 1 single and album a few times is something to be proud of I suppose but it has a lot to do with luck so I can't really think of that as an achievement. I flew around the world in a light aircraft once. That was something to experience and more than a little terrifying at times. I'm not sure really, one of the above.

24. What is your favorite place to play a live show and why?

I love London most of the time as it's my home gig and, usually, we have some amazing shows there. I've also had great times playing shows around the world though and I do especially like touring the States (apart from that one time in Jacksonville). If I had to choose a favourite country, I'd choose the United States. It seems more willing to enjoy itself than anywhere else.

25. Do you have a message you would like to send to your fans? If so, what is it?

I never write songs because I think I have a message or something important to say. I write for very selfish reasons. I write as therapy, very much for my own inetrest and as a way of getting things out that would be unhealthy if they stayed bottled up. If I then touch people somehow then I'm very happy about that but that connection is not the reason I do it. It's a happy coincidence. The only thing I ever want to say, and I need to say it again and again, to my fans is thank you.

26. What is your favorite quote of all time?

Aim for the stars. You might not make it but you won't end up with a handful of mud either. (Something along these lines was uttered by an astronaut many years ago, I forget his name I'm afraid)

About this Article

This article was written by Barbara Fara and is identified as Article #59.
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