After a quick hello which led into a discussion about the Isle of Wight and his appearance at the Bestival, I began by asking Gary’s opinions on Festivals and their general atmosphere…
When it comes to live events, do you prefer them in an intimate venue, or do you think festivals are the way forward?
Festivals, by far, there’s no competition really. The thing about intimate venues is [laughs] there’s not many people! There never is, and that’s no good, if you’re going to play live you want to be seen by as many people as possible wouldn’t you. In my position… my music these days is a lot heavier than when I first started and its not very radio friendly, so I don’t really get played on the radio at all. If I’m ever on the radio it’ll be the old songs which are completely irrelevant to what I’m doing now. So its very difficult to reach out to new people, and you end up playing shows year after year where you’re preaching to the converted. I think one of the best ways to get round that is to play festivals.
Do you have any festivals lined up for next year?
Not at the minute no, we haven’t even started… We’ve just done some shows in September for the new album and I’m in the middle of a massive writing period now coz’ I want to get another album finished by April, I’ve got some more shows in December and then when that’s finished its just getting the new album finished and until that album is done I don’t want to commit to anything. It just has that feeling that if I don’t do it now its just going to drag on and drag on and things will keep getting in the way of it and it’ll end up not getting done until the end of the year and it’ll end up released in 2013 and that’s mental… The album that just came out it has been about five and a half years since the one before that, and that is just ridiculous. So what I’m trying to do now is make sure that never happens again and get an album out around every eighteen months or sooner. I’ve got a little bit of a chip on my shoulder about how stupid I’ve been with gaps between albums, so until I get the new one done I don’t really want to commit to anything.
For Dead Son Rising, what were your intentions with the album? How did you want it to come across to your fans?
When we first started talking about it it was actually meant to be a filler, just an album of old demos and things I hadn’t released before off the last two albums. It had very low ambition to be honest [Laughs] when we started putting it together. I knew it was going to take me while to… The one I’m talking about finishing for next year, Splinter, I knew it was going to take me a while to make that and I was a bit worried about losing momentum from the last one. So the idea of the Dead Son Rising one was to fill that gap, to put something out that would be relatively quick and easy to finish as we’d already written all the songs. But it just went completely to sh** from the word go… We actually did finish it pretty quickly and the only thing left to do was to fine tune the vocals and some lyrics and that, and I have to admit I just didn’t really like it. It hadn’t come together the way I wanted it to. Tried for quite a while to tweak it and fix it, we just kept changing it and changing it… But it just didn’t come together for me so I wanted to just put my hands up and say I’m really sorry but its just not what I want and I’m done with it now.
About a year and a half after I’d sort of turned my back on it, I was on holiday in Florida with my family… I was doing breakfast and stuff with the kids and in the background my wife was playing some music, which I thought, was brilliant. So I went flying there thinking what is this because this is what I want to be doing, and it was so embarrassing because it was me. It was the Dead Son Rising album that I’d turned away from… and she had a right go at me because I’d made such a big thing about it not being what I wanted. So, doubly embarrassed now, now that I really like it and I couldn’t understand why I didn’t like it before… So I rung up Ade (Fenton) and said once again I’m really sorry but I like it again now so when I get home can we finish it…
So it started out being a filler album and ended up being something very very different, something which I’m much more proud of.
With plenty of discussion in between, Gary voiced his anxious feelings regarding the use of technology at a previous gig (London Troxy) not too long ago; dreaming that he’d gotten on stage and hadn’t rehearsed…
Do you have any particular venues that you like to play at? Or try hit on each tour if you can?
It depends on the look of it really and what kind of light show we’re carrying. This one is kind of in-between what we did at the Troxy and what we do at Universities so we have a big projection screen at the back, so you need a certain amount of height. When we did shows in September we went to Rock City in Nottingham for example and it was a bit of a mistake, as we thought we’d figured it out but when we got there we couldn’t have any projection there and I feel a bit bad for the fans when that happens because they pay the same money for their ticket as someone else at another venue. And at another venue they’d get all the production and all the stuff and Rock City didn’t get any of that. Its that kind of thing that you’re looking for, you want to make sure that the show fits, that there’s enough room on the stage and that people are able to see.
Do you have any favorite venues?
I do actually, there’s a place in Manchester called The Academy that’s always been brilliant, I love it there. The O2 arena I’ve only done it with Nine Inch Nails, I haven’t done it in my own right but for an arena venue it sounds brilliant. Brixton Academy is another great place, Brixton is great, and a long time ago they used to have seats in it downstairs, it wasn’t anywhere near as vibrant as it is now.
If we go back to Dead Son Rising, do you have a favorite track from the album? Or is there one that fans are tending to pick up on? My favorite is ‘The Fall’…
‘The Fall’ probably would have been my favorite, it was the first one to be finished and I actually liked that, that’s from one of the first version of the album and I liked ‘The Fall’ even then so we’ve been playing it live now for three or four years so it feels like an old song. I’ve kind of got used to it and its not a favorite anymore… There’s a song called ‘Dead Sun Rising’, funnily enough [laughs] which I really like and that was a very very different song and it was almost maybe a week before we finished it and I did a vocal for it. So me and Ade sat down with it again and said the vocal suits the track that we had, but we felt it could just be much much darker than what it was. So we went back and pretty much re wrote the whole song underneath that vocal and I really loved it, I was really happy the way that it came out.
When you’re touring you tend to mix up the old with the new… Are there any tracks you leave out on purpose? For example, I love the track ‘Jo the waiter’ but I’ve not been lucky enough to hear you play it live!
[Laughs] That’s my wife’s favourite song ever, how weird is that?
Why do you dislike it so much?
Its just… I think the word ‘twee’ kinda sums it up, I don’t understand what people like… I have done it actually; because my wife loves it I sometimes knock it onto the encore just to keep her happy. It just seems like one of those very silly songs that kids write when they’re a teenager [laughs] and I don’t mean it as an insult, I just mean that in that point in your life you haven’t done much and probably haven’t experienced much compared to what’s coming… Especially with the sort of life I’ve had, it just reminds me of when I was a kid, when I was a teenager, desperately trying to be something when I had many more years to go through yet! I explain it very badly… But its just a really simple, easy little song…
I guess that could be what people find appealing?
Yeah! It could be actually yeah… [laughs] My wife is a massive Nine Inch Nails fan and the music that she loves is all really heavy, really dark and really menacing and when she said ‘Jo the waiter’ is her favourite song ever I thought ‘Hey? How does that make any sense?’ [laughs]… But there you go, I don’t know. Its very simple and very good to play, and its actually quite fun I must say that when we play it live the crowd go mental when we do it, so it seems to be a very big favourite.
I then took a moment to convince Gary to slip ‘Jo the waiter’ onto the set list for his December tour, or for Southampton Guildhall at least… To which he laughed and took note! So, fingers crossed eh?
On another note… I really enjoyed your Little Boots collaboration, are there any artists you’d like to collaborate with and haven’t yet?
Only Trent (Reznor) I suppose… I’ve been talking to him for years now, and I did a guest spot on their last show in 2009 and again then we went out after that and said that we’ve really got to do something together. Trent said what we need, what we have to do… is not do a Gary Numan album with Trent Reznor on it, and we mustn’t do anything that sounds like a Trent Reznor album with Gary Numan on it… Together we have to do something different. Something unique. I would love to do that, I guess that’s the only collaboration that I’ve not done that I’d be excited about doing. But you never really know what’s around the corner, as I did Battles recently and that was great, I really enjoyed that, I was really please with what we did.
I guess there are a lot of people out there that would be really fun to collaborate with and I’m just not aware of them at the moment. I don’t go out and chase it… I’m not actually massively confident if I’m honest about what I do, I live in my own little bubble and I’m quite happy in my own little bubble. I’m quite nervous about collaborations, and that makes me quite picky and choosy about what ones to do.
On another note… Do you have a favorite use of your music by another artist? I really like the Sugababes ‘Freak Like Me’ use!
The Basement Jaxx one ‘Where’s your head at?’ that was really cool… I actually really liked ‘Freak Like Me’ as well, I thought that was really good. When that came out ya’ know I did loads of interviews because that went to number one there was lots of interest in it and I did loads of interviews, and you know I reckon maybe 75% of the people I spoke to were either expecting me, or wanting me to slag it off. Or slag the Sugababes off… I thought that was really negative and thought ‘what’s that all about?’ because first of all my part of it was the music, not the lyrics or the vocal and my contribution was just the music that was lifted from ‘Are Friends Electric’… And I thought it sounded great. Over twenty odd years since its first number one when I had it and it still sounded really cool, so I was really proud of it and I thought the vocal that the girls did was really strong because they can genuinely sing. I loved it, I thought it was really really cool and I was really proud of it. But then I got people saying “oh you know, it’s a sh**ty girl band what do you think about that, ruining your classic song…” ohh fu** off that’s really horrible, that’s a really horrible thing to say. They’re trying to compliment me on one hand and get me to stick the knife in the back of another, I’m not interested in that. I loved it, I thought what they did was really good. The whole thing was good where I was concerned. Nine Inch Nails did a song of mine, ‘Metal,’ I’d guess that would be my favorite because I’m such a fan and Marilyn Manson did a version of ‘Down In The Park’ too.
People have noticed and mentioned to me that they have never seen you smile and laugh as much as they have done recently, do you still enjoy touring?
The touring side of things for me for a while has been the best part of what I do, all of it, I used to really love studio stuff… That used to be where I was most happy and the touring side of it was kind of a bit of aggravation really as I didn’t really take to it when I first started. But as the years have gone by, and certainly now for a very long time it has been the other way around I find going into the studio to be a bit daunting. Being shut away in a little room… Touring is brilliant, absolute brilliant fun, the band are kinda my closest friends so its like going out on a school party really [laughs]. You’re on these lovely big tour buses which are amazing things anyway, with your best mates and my wife always comes with us too… So you’re with people that you love. You’re going on stage every night and playing songs that you’re really passionate about to people that love them…Its just brilliant. The only downside to touring is that I’m away from my children a lot, and I love them to bits and I really miss them when I’m not around them. But if I can deal with that and put that to one side then there really is no downside to touring at all.
Also, another question asked online: Do you still have any Tubeway Army archive that might see the light of day?
Nah, I think… The record company I was signed to when I did all the Tubeway Army stuff, I’m pretty sure they’ve dug it all out. I am surprised actually… A year or two back they re released an old album and they did manage to find a whole mass of stuff that I don’t even remember doing! So, I know for a fact that I don’t have any, but whether the record company themselves have still got some old things tucked away… I’ll be very very surprised if they have now, as they must have dug up everything. I still can’t believe they found stuff… They sent me a CD of it actually to just check out, and I don’t remember any of it. You’d have thought it would have sparked something, and think ‘oh yeah, I forgot all about that’ and remember it now that I’ve heard it… But I cannot remember! [laughs]
Here’s another… What are your thoughts on your current support artist Jayce Lewis and are there any chance of you doing a collaborative track together?
With Jayce? Yeah.. I like Jayce a lot actually. He’s one of the most popular support bands I’ve ever had. He’s a brilliant guy I really love him… Its been great having him on tour and I’m really looking forward to December again to hang out with him. I would definitely be up for doing a track with Jayce at the right time.
Here’s an interesting one… If you could gain the back catalogue of any artist, who would you choose?
It would probably be… Either T.Rex or Nine Inch Nails probably. They are the two that I’d really want to have everything of. A one era to the other kind of thing. I think I’ve got everything that Nine Inch Nails have done actually [laughs]. T.Rex were just my absolute favorite when I was a kid, I love them to bits.