Gary Numan speaks to Robbie Byrne ahead of his headline performance at this week’s Guinness Jazz Festival in Cork
Numan’s career thus far reads a little like those Bond films of late: electric opening/ forgettable midsection/ thrilling finale. Appealing to punk kids and pop aficionados in equal measure, Numan hijacked the imagination of late-seventies Britain with his breakout single Are ‘Friends’ Electric – an oscillating aural odyssey that appeared, to British press at least, to come from another realm.
Sure, Numan’s android aping image helped, but as he explains today, creating a blueprint for the electronic music we know today was never all that intentional.
“I had no real ambitions to revolutionize music,” says Numan. “I was just trying to find something new and exciting – something that would allow me to make sounds that intrigued me.
“With electronic music, you not only create the melody and structure, but you also create the very sound itself. Nothing else does that. So I really don’t care whether the noise of the future comes from a synth, a cardboard box or my dog farting. It’s the sound that matters, not what makes it.”
His most recent offering, Splinter, sees the London native darker, bolder and more brilliant than ever before. Lauded as Numan’s best LP to date, the singles it spawned graced the US airwaves more than any release since his seminal work The Pleasure Principle. “After my depression came a surge of optimism,” he says. “A drive I had that had been absent for long time.
“That’s no discredit to my previous work either – I really loved the three or four albums that lead up to Splinter, but with seemed to jump up two levels. My love for writing had returned.”
The shots released alongside Splinter subtly suggest a wraith-like Numan, one that has witnessed death only to walk with the living once again. Lazarus he might be, but it’s an unholy resurrection that Numan is bullishly proud of:
“I don’t think about airplay, PR, or all the bullshit politics of being with a label anymore. Ask me what I’m most proud of a decade from now and I know it won’t be the number one albums or Wembley performances — it’ll be survival against all the odds.”
Gary Numan will play at Cork Opera House on 25th October 2015. Check out the full interview in our upcoming print edition of Motley Magazine.