Catching Up With Gary Numan

Written by Adam Rathe on . Posted in Posts.

It’s been 31 years since Gary Numan, at the time still
totally futuristic looking, released The Pleasure Principal, the album that put songs like “Metal” and “Cars”
into the world, making Numan a new wave icon and, somewhat unexpectedly to him,
a hero to the next generation of musicians.

Tomorrow night, Numan’s tour for the anniversary of the album will land him at
The Best Buy Theater in Midtown, and we had a chance to talk to him to find out
what fans, old and new alike, can expect.

New York Press: What’s the thinking behind touring for the anniversaries of
albums. You did it two years ago…

Yeah, we did Replicas
in 1979 and it was the 30th anniversary of me going professional and
it was almost my 50th birthday, so I went out and had some fun. What
we decided to do on that tour was play all of the songs from
Replicas and it was OK, not as horribly embarrassing as I had
expected it to be. Now it’s the 30th anniversary of
Pleasure Principal
and I started to wonder
if my stance on old stuff, which has been aggressively angry, was a big
mistake. So we did the anniversary of the album in the U.K. last year and it
went well. We were going to do one show in Manchester and eventually it became
a proper tour and the album has been re-released. This isn’t something I want
to make a habit of doing, however.

Playing these songs now, do you rediscover anything about them?

I did! When I wrote them, they just seemed like normal songs
to me—I was in the studio trying to play the right notes and sing them
properly. Some of the songs I’ve barely listened to since the year the album
came out, so to go back to it after such a long break, I was surprised at how
quirky it was and I was impressed with the structure.

There will be people who come out to see these shows
because they’re Pleasure Principal fans
but might not know the new stuff. How do you think the new songs will go over?

I think that while the structure of the songs is more
conventional, I think the writing and arrangements [on new songs] are better.
From a production point of view, it’s more fleshed-out now. I’m happy
doing Pleasure Principal but it’s 30 years old, so it’s exciting when the new
stuff kicks in. And if people don’t agree with that, it’s out there for them to
judge; it’s what I’m doing now and all my cards are on the table.

Which of the bands that you’ve influenced are your favorites?

I’m a big Nine Inch Nails fan, I am a big Marilyn Mason fan.
Some of the stuff has been really surprising, Afrika Bambaataa covered “Metal,”
and that was surprising. I went to Universal Studios yesterday and in the
parking lot, Basement Jaxx [“Where’s Your Head At” samples Numan] was playing
and my kids were excited because dad’s on the speaker. I’m not actually
talented, I’m just very lucky, so when people do a cover version and do a
really good job, it makes you feel good and introduces you to new people.

You’ve worked with Trent Reznor a bit in the past, will there be more
coming from that collaboration?

We were with Trent in September of last year and he said it
would be good to do something, but something that nobody expects, but that’s
easier to say than do. I am very aware that he’s huge and I’m not and I am very
cautious about pushing this forward because I don’t want him to think I’m
making use of him. The thing I worry about is that I am so passive that I give
the impression I’m not interested when I really am. I’m just anxious not to
appear pushy. I’d like to get into a studio and just throw ideas at each other.
I’m crap at explaining music on the phone…

Well, maybe Reznor, or any of those other folks, can join
you on stage in New York…

I hope so, there’s an open invitation to anyone.