Interview with Gary Numan

by Anna Denejkina

Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle

Written for The Music Network 

Originally published on February 10, 2011


Pioneer of electronic music, legend and rockstar, Gary Numan is returning to Australia this May in celebration of the 30th anniversary of his revolutionary record, The Pleasure Principle, originally released in 1979.

From synth pop and new wave, to industrial rock and dark wave, Numan’s music is timeless, and with over three decades of music behind him, his magnetism and humility is continuously palpable.

“I’ve said some really stupid things in interviews… and you suddenly realise that they can actually be as harmful as they can be helpful,” commented Numan on getting nervous during interviews; a mammoth thirty-two years into his career.

“When I was younger… I never got nervous about them at all,” he continued in a vivacious tone, “now I get worried that I’m going to say something stupid, and you’re going to hate me!”

Describing that it isn’t a situation of biting one’s own tongue, but “pausing for a couple of seconds before you say something silly”, Gary progressed to describing his 2009 Australian tour in a very enthused tenor.

“We had such a brilliant time actually… we all thought that it was one of the best tours that we’ve ever done, and when we were asked to come back again we all jumped at it.”

The forthcoming, five-stop tour will feature shows that not only highlight The Pleasure Principle in its entirety, but also feature new material. “I don’t really do these old albums very often,” said Numan, who is admittedly not a fan of nostalgia and revisiting old work. “The Pleasure Principle [tour] became a much, much bigger thing than I intended it to be,” he said. “For the 30th anniversary I was going to do one show in England and that was it, I didn’t want to tour.”

“The show is going to be in two halves,” he continued. “The first forty-five minutes is The Pleasure Principle, the second half of it we play mainly new stuff that’s coming on the next album, and more recent songs. It shows the relation from what I was doing in the early days and what I am doing now, and I think it puts the new stuff into a very good light, to see where it’s come from, and how different it is.”

From collaborations with Fear Factory to Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan has also worked with Brighton-based duo, South Central, commenting that working with other artists expands and pushes him outside of his own bubble.

“I am doing more collaborations now than I’ve ever done before, but you have to pick the right ones,” he said. “There is a tendency when somebody gets in the charts, people try to put you together, and I’m not interested in that, I’m not really interested in doing collaborations with the latest pop star,” asserted Numan. “I am quite choosy… I would much rather do it with people I really like, or if they have some kind of uniqueness about them… it often makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do, but I am quite careful.”

Mentioning another of his great loves, Numan described the compelling experience of major festivals. Playing last year’s massive Sonisphere Festival, he commented on the difficulty of pulling off a great performance to a large audience.

“I really love festivals, [but] they are hard to get though, they are a hard thing to get done unless your,” pausing for a short moment before reaching the right example, “Metallica, or absolutely massive! It’s a very powerful thing, from a career point-of-view, to get out there.”

Confessing his love for playing live, even more so than he did in the early stages of his career, this is perhaps the last chance that an Australian audience will have in experiencing the electro end of Gary Numan, as he stated that The Pleasure Principle will be the last of the nostalgia tours. “It just feels funny, singing songs that are thirty-years-old,” he stated. “I think if you do it a bit too much it will stop being fun and become a bit embarrassing. And I would hate that, so I won’t do it anymore after this.”