Early albums are electric
Electro-pioneer Gary Numan is looking back as he looks forward to a UK tour '“ including a date in Sheffield.
The tour will celebrate three of his early albums, Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon and follows on from the success of his last album Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind), which reached the top 20.
And the 58-year-old Cars star says: “2016 seems an ideal time to revisit the three albums that changed my life.
“These three albums are now considered classics and playing tracks from each one will be very special for me.
“I rarely look back at past glories but, with these shows, I intend to not only look back, but to celebrate those early days.”
Gary came to prominence in 1979 when his single Are Friends Electric? hit the top of the charts.
Its heavy synthesiser sound was unusual for the time and his androgynous stage persona created a “mystique” about himself, which led to his fans copying the look of pale skin and short, dark hair.
The first single was released under the group name Tubeway Army, as were the albums Tubeway Army and Replicas.
Replicas also topped the album charts and created interest in the earlier, eponymously-named album, which also charted.
Following this, Gary reverted to his own name for the follow-up single, Cars, and all future recordings.
Cars also reached number one, as did the albums The Pleasure Principle and Telekon.
Gary say: “I believed very strongly that electronic music was going to be massive. I can’t honestly say that I thought I was doing anything special, I was just thoroughly enjoying working on music I’d never really heard before.”
“I was aware using synths in that way was new and I knew the sounds we were coming up with were new and that it was all very different to anything else out there, but I felt like a very amateurish beginner, so it didn’t feel groundbreaking at the time.”
Back in the beginning, it was another groundbreaker that influenced Gary.
“I loved T Rex when I was younger. It was Marc Bolan that really gave me the push to want to be a pop star.
“When I got into electronic music I hadn’t heard very much that I’d liked, and nothing that had made me want to get involved.”
But things changed, as Gary explains.
“It was playing around with a synth for the first time, as an experiment, that made me realise what they could do,” he says.
“I had no guidance or artists who inspired me to move in that direction, so I just made it up as I went along.
“Soon after, though, I discovered the early John Foxx-fronted version of Ultravox and he became a big hero of mine.”
And from just experimenting, Gary began to have the hits which he will celebrate in his new tour, which arrives in Sheffield in September.
“It was an amazing experience,” he says. “Especially to know you’d done it with a new kind of music.
“I was proud, but also overwhelmed by everything that came with it.
“Being Number One, in both the singles and album charts at the same time.
“1979 was a very good year and I thought back then that if I was lucky I might get another couple of years before it all faded away.”
But Gary continued to have success and he has influenced many of today’s artists such as Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails, The Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, to name but four.
However, Gary tends not to write or produce for other artists, although his work is often covered or sampled – including by Snoop Dogg who is using a sample of Cars in a new song.
“I do get a lot of pride when I hear other people doing my stuff,” he says. “It’s very flattering.”
n Gary will be appearing at The Foundry, Sheffield on Thursday, September 15. For tickets, call 0844 477 1000.