Electronic music pioneer Gary Numan brings his signature synth-based guitar effects pedals when he visits the Oakland Metro Operahouse on September 3.
Composer and musician Gary Numan has contributed to 20 albums over the past four decades, rising to prominence at the end of the 1970s as front man, writer and producer for London new wave rock band Tubeway Army.
As a solo artist, Numan is most famous for his 1979 hit single “Cars,” which reached No. 1 on the charts in both the UK and Canada. Noteworthy musicians like Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson have all cited Numan’s work an influence. We recently spoke with him about recent struggles, motivation to keep making music and his first new studio album in more than three years, Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind), scheduled for release on October 15, .
Do you embrace modern technology and new production techniques available today?
I’m completely modern. I have nothing to do with old school recording at all. It’s all very computer-based software based. I’m writing on software synthesizers and I haven’t had any old equipment in about five years—no synthesizers from the early days. With each new album, I completely move forward.
What took so long to create your latest album?
I did an album a few years ago as a side project with a friend of mine called Dead Sun Rising. It’s actually been seven years from my last accomplished studio writing. I had real problems. I had depression and I was on medication for that. My wife had depression and we had three children all in this short time.
I just had so many issues going on. The thought of starting another album, I didn’t want to do it and it felt like a stupid thing to do. You know, to add another a level of pressure. I just kind of ran away from it really.
I wrote things, two or three songs. A few months later I’d write two or three more. I didn’t really start it properly until 2012 when I moved to Los Angeles in October and I’ve probably wrote half of it since I’ve been here. Even though it has been seven years, the bulk of it has been done in the last year and a half.
Is the new album’s heavy, aggressive, dark style tied to your recent struggles?
The music I’ve been making now for quite a long time has been heavy and dark, so it’s kind of been a continuation of that. That’s really what I’m into. The reason this one in particular is the way it is, one of the inspirations for it came from the first few years of being depressed and all that shit going on. It’s great food for creativity and it really was horrible time for me, but I also wouldn’t change it because it has helped me in a way to make new music.
What keeps you motivated to keep releasing new music?
I’m excited about it now as I was when I was 19 or 20 years old, you know? It’s the same challenge. When you’re trying to find things that you’ve never heard before and that led to a musical application or musical separation—a chair chair being dragged across a concrete floor. Turning that into something musical is really challenging and really quite fun. I’ve never heard that sound before.
What you start with that chair being dragged across the concrete, it doesn’t end up like that. You know spend a lot of time on the computer, making it very different using various machinery. Breaking it up, into chunks, mapping it across a keyboard. You’ll never recognize how is started. And that’s fun. For me, that’s a lot of fun.
Do you still have the goal to play Coachella at some point after missing your 2010 performance because you got stuck in Europe because of the Icelandic volcano ash cloud?
I’d love you, yeah. I went out there this year, not to play. I’d never ever been to Coachella before and I went out there just to see what it was like. It was so cool! I went out there with Trent Reznor to see the How to Destroy Angels set. It was such a cool festival and I really enjoyed being there. I would love to play there. If we could work it, we could play there next year when we come back from tour.
I just went out to Lollapolooza, and that was great, too. The festivals out here, I love it. The festival experience has been really positive and I’d like to get involved in it more.
Do you have any career regrets?
So many, man, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I think I’ve been really lucky to survive, to be around. I’ve made so many mistakes, but at the end of all that I am still here and I am still making music.
You wonder, if you change any of those mistakes, would it still work out the same? The mistakes that you make and the good decision you make are all part of building what you become. If you’re content with what you have become, there’s no point in looking back. Genuinely sometimes mistakes, they really are just a great blessings in disguise. You just have to recognize them for that.
Are there any musicians today that have a similar style as you or that you admire?
Officers. They’re amazing and I’ve taken them out on tour with me twice. They’ve only got one album out and are making a second one now. I did a collaboration on a single with them. For me they’re brilliant. they’re the next new big thing around at the moment.