Who is Gary NUMAN ?
The man who singlehandedly spearheaded the synthesizer revolution of the late 70s/early 80s, Gary Numan's influence extends far beyond his first hit, "Are 'Friends' Electric?", the first #1 synth-rock single. That seminal track helped usher in the synth pop era on both sides of the Atlantic, especially in the U.K., where he was a huge pop star and prolific hit maker during the late '70s/early '80s. Sure, there were a few making music with synthesizers before him; Kraftwerk, Ultravox!, Bowie in Berlin and even Human League, and as brilliant and ground breaking as they all were, they missed something very important.
A pop star image.
After Kraftwerk rode the Trans Europa Express looking very German they became robots with red lips, Bowie was crying in his spagetti in Berlin and Ultravox! were on the telly in Hawaiian shirts singing about Hiroshima (a masterpiece). After the nuwave dust had settled, Numan's mark continued to make itself felt. His dark, paranoid vision, icy alien persona, and clinical, robotic yet very human sound were echoed strongly in the work of many industrial artists to come.
Numan continued to record, and by the late '90s, he'd become a fashionable name to drop; notable alt-rock bands covered his songs, and the industrial dance movement called 'darkwave' looked to him as its mentor.
Numan was born Gary Anthony James Webb on 8 March 1958, to Tony & Beryl Webb. Raised in the London suburb of Wraysbury, Gary's love of aeroplanes was born as they flew directley above his back garden to and from Heathrow. His parents bought him his first guitar at 12. Inspired by the punk movement, he joined a group called the Lasers in 1976. The following year, he and bassist Paul Gardiner split off to form Tubeway Army. They recorded two singles for Beggars Banquet under the names Valeriun and Scarlett with his uncle Jess Lidyard as Rael.
Scrapping that idea, Gary found his 'nu' name in the Yellow Pages from a plumber named Neumann. He removed the e and extra n and had his name. NUMAN. A Nu man with a Nu kind of music. His name change was done just in time for the pressing of the first album to be released, "Tubeway Army". Chiefly influenced by David Bowie's Diamond Dogs (see Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family) and a bit of 'Beauty & The Beast' from 'Heroes', Ultravox!'s 'Systems of Romance' (with the original frontman and pioneer in his own right, John Foxx/ an album that served as a blueprint for both Tubeway Army albums) as well as science fiction writer Philip K. Dick (read Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said).
The group's second album, "Replicas" was released in early 1979. Gary wanted to release it under his name as he wrote and played everything apart from drums and bass guitar, but BB thought it would be a bad move due to the cult following Tubeway Army already had. The first single "Down In The Park", which is Gary's personal favourite to this day, did nothing.
It's second single, "Are 'Friends' Electric?" hit number 1 with a unique sound, some clever marketing techniques by BB (a 7'' pic disc and an OGWT performance bathed in white light) topping the U.K. charts for four weeks solid, sending Replicas to number one on the album charts simultaniously as well. A feat rarely achieved by artists. Numan had become a star overnight.
"The Pleasure Principle" was released in the fall of 1979 and gave us Numan's international hit "Cars," which reached the top ten in the US charts and hit number one in the U.K. The single and album also became Numan's second straight British number ones. In November he released "Complex" which was the first top ten electronic ballad in rock history. At this point Gary was already touring Britain with a huge, futuristic stage show which was one of the the biggest lightshows the world had seen at the time. He continued to make his lightshows even bigger for the next two years as a way to thank his fans for buying his records. In later years he would admit the shows were to make up for his inability to dance about the stage, but the motionless, android stare sent shivers up everyone's spine.
"I Die : You Die". Tracks that weren't included on the album to 'add value' for the fans.
In 1981, Numan announced his retirement from live performance, playing three farewell concerts at Wembly Arena with the biggest light show in British rock history. The light show cost Gary £20,000 per night despite all three shows being sold out. It was his way of thanking his fans. Something still rare to this day. If he had raised the top ticket price just £2 he would have broke even. He refused. Even today huge acts with half the light show charge £100 per ticket to get every penny they can.
While "Dance" and its only single, "She's Got Claws" were in the top ten, Numan flew around the world in his black twin engine Piper Navajo. His retirement proved short-lived, and when he returned in 1982 with
"I, Assassin", the album went straight into the top ten. That may not seem too bad but it didn't sell even half of the numbers 'Replicas' had.
Although I, Assassin was another Top Ten album, and "We Take Mystery (To Bed)" was another top ten hit, Numan's singles were starting to slip on the charts. The title track of 1983's "Warriors" became his last British Top 20 hit for almost twenty years, with the second single "Sister Surprise" going top forty only. This is not taking into consideration his collaboration with Bill Sharpe on
"Change Your Mind" (#17) in 1985, because Numan only sang lead vocal and did not write the song.
Numan and Beggars Banquet subsequently parted ways, and Numan formed his own Numa label, releasing "Berserker"in late 1984. With 'Berserker' Numan had discoverd the art of sampling and the PPG Wave. A German synth with a new type of synthesis that evolved from the Minimoog/Polymoog/Arp Odyssey that he has been relying on for so many years. The new synthesis technology gave Gary a brand new, metalic, electronic and colder sound than ever. Unfortunately, without the advertising muscle of a huge record label, it only reached #45 in the charts with the title track single reaching #32.
1985's "The Fury" became the final Numan album to reach the British Top 30, peaking at #24, with it's three singles reaching the top 50. Over the next few years, Numan collaborated with Shakatak's Bill Sharpe, releasing four singles from 1985-1989, and the album "Automatic".
"I Can't Stop", Numan signed with IRS, but the relationship was doomed from the start.
IRS forced Numan to change the title of 1988's UK release from ''Cold Metal Rhythm'' to "Metal Rhythm", and to "New Anger" for his first North American release since 1982 (and also remixed two tracks, changed the order of and added two songs from Berserker) and would not fund any supporting tours for New Anger or 1991's "Outland", of which four versions were recorded and two alternate versions exsist in fan circles. This was due to two factors. The first was IRS kept asking Gary to change verses, mixes and all the little things the 'expert' men in suits do. Secondly, there was a fire at Gary's outland studio which lead to him having to record it yet again. Some fans argue that the finished product was a watered down version of the earlier takes. This fan included. Earlier versions had heavier synths and a much sharper edge than what was finally released. When the label collapsed, Numan returned to Numa for 1992's "Machine + Soul". The lowest point of Gary's career, according to him.
1994 brought the release of the 'return to form' "Sacrifice", the first glimmering of Numan's return to critical favour. Apparently, it was a new relationship with a lifelong fan, Gemma O'Neil, that sparked the beginning of a new era of Numan. For years Gary had been trying to write songs to make the charts, while at the same time losing everything that made him unique in the first place. Sounding like himself.
Gemma explained to him that he'd lost a huge part of his fanbase because he just didn't sound like himself anymore. Enter 'Sacrifice'. (Witness the transformation on the soundtrack to his aviation video
"The Radial Pair": the blueprint for Sacrifice, and the live album Dream Corrosion)
With his fan base's faith restored and expectations raised, Numan continued to write songs that HE liked with 1997's "Exile".
Then there was 2000's "Pure" , which was acclaimed as his best work since '1980's 'Telekon' and expanded his fanbase to even greater numbers.
In 2002, Numan enjoyed chart success once again with the single "Rip", reaching #29 in the UK chart and #1 on Kerrang. In 2003 the single "Crazier", cowritten with Rico, reached #13 in the UK chart. Rico, an artist from Glasgow, also worked on the remix album "Hybrid" along with Sulpher, which featured reworkings of new and older songs with a more contemporary, industrial style.
In 2004 Numan decided to relaunch his own label, changing Numa Records into Mortal Records and releasing a series of live DVDs and a critically well-received new studio album "Jagged" (reaching #3 in UK independant chart), released in March 2006. An album launch gig took place at The Forum, London on 18 March followed by successful UK, European and US tour.
The end of 2006 saw Gary appeasing a large part of his fanbase by doing a 'mini-tour' in the UK, playing songs only from the 1980 album Telekon. This four date extraveganza saw Gary on stage with his largest light show in over 15 years, playing songs that haven't been performed in 26 years, or never at all.
The success of these shows has Gary planning to do a repeat with Replicas in Spring 2008.
Although Numan released a straight-to-the-fanbase album "Dead Son Rising" in 2011, this is his first self penned full album since Jagged in 2006.
In recent years he’s been quoted as an influence by everyone from Lady Gaga to Kanye West; Matthew Dear to Queens Of The Stone Age, The Foo Fighters and Nine Inch Nails (the latter inviting Numan on stage at several shows in 2009, including their o2 Arena concert in London); Prince to Boyz Noise, Richie Hawtin and Battles (they released a single ‘My Machines’ on Warp Records with Numan in 2011). But while Numan’s unique style continues to connect with fans from the worlds of Metal, Hip Hop, EDM, Industrial and Indie, he remains as focussed as ever in pursuing his own singular vision. Splinter sounds like no-one else while utilising new sounds and ideas. Perhaps it’s the voice – one of the most distinctive in rock music and often associated with machines and icy alienation, but for those who are drawn to Numan’s songs, his singing is strangely emotional, almost soulful in places. And if you like that side of his writing, you certainly won’t be disappointed with the new album where there are 4 or 5 tracks that set Numan’s vocals against moody atmospheric slow-burners to stunning effect.
On October 14th Mortal Records presents "Splinter" (Songs From A Broken Mind), the inspired new album by pioneer, chart-topper and influential artist Gary Numan. Splinter features guitarist Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails, Guns N Roses), is produced by long-standing collaborator Ade Fenton, and will be followed by a full national headline tour in November. The album finds Gary on fine dark electronic form; sounding both cutting-edge and classic Numan, it marks his best work since the late 70s, early 80s heyday. Gary s knack for sexy, idiosyncratic dancefloor killers is strongly evident on the pounding, growling throb of Love Hurt Bleed , whilst Who Are You carries equal clout as-body-music-Numan-style - infectious, but sounding unlike anything else you might hear blasting from a soundsystem. Although Numan released a straight-to-the-fanbase album Dead Son Rising in 2011, this is his first self-penned full album since Jagged in 2006. But while Numan s unique style continues to connect with fans from the worlds of metal, hip hop, electronica, industrial and indie, he remains as focussed as ever in pursuing his own singular vision. Splinter sounds unique, while also utilising new sounds and ideas.
Listening to "Savage" (2017) is like absorbing a film soundtrack. It is cinematic, textural, full of longing and tension, and the lyrical content is as riveting as any of his classic works. The former android now looks to the dystopian future, where global warming has destroyed the planet. Each song is a vignette into some piece of what’s going on in that future, and the collection as a whole was inspired by a novel that Numan has had in the works for some time (but is as yet unfinished).
In "Intruder" (2021), Numan tackles climate change with a gritty and dark rendition of planet Earth’s inner feelings and thoughts. The album drips with nihilism, hurt and despair, as Numan’s personification of Earth asks listeners, “Can you save me?/ Can you hear me?/ I am screaming.”Intruder has a technical polish and dusky finality that Savage lacks. Intruder is urgent, emotionally rich and serves as an admonition about the dangers of climate change.
The Numanoid Channel