Triple J interview - Sunday 10th August 1997

Gary's version of Down In The Park is played.

whatsisname : God, this is bringing back some memories. And besides getting into aviation for a couple of years there, Gary Numan, surprise surprise, has never really gone away, and he's been further immortalised with a new tribute album. It's a 28-track tribute album called Random, and for this one-time leader of the Tubeway Army, whose hits included Are Friends Electric, Cars, and this classic.....(pauses so more of DITP can be heard).....Yes, the very classic Down In The Park. Well to say the least, Gary Numan is very surprised by all this renewed activity around his career. Jane Gazzo, who is a fan, spoke to the 'Godfather of Electronica', as they're calling him now, about his reaction to this tribute.

Gary : It does seem strange, yeah. For me to have expected something like that I would have to have felt that I'd been very influential. Somebody like David Bowie, or Peter Gabriel, any of these people that's been around a long time, and that have been very, very successful for a long time, you would understand it. Well for someone like me that's had a brief amount of success in, you know, the late 70s and early 80s, to suddenly pop up now towards the end of the 90s is most unexpected, and I had no idea that the things that I'd done had got to so many people and had influenced so many people, and so I'm only just finding this out now. And I am still now, in fact, with a smile on my face. You know, "Er hello? Where did this come from?", 'cos i just had no idea that anything like this had gone on, and it's a very, very, very nice feeling, and all the better for it being a surprise, I think.

Jane : Yeah, absolutely. Somebody actually said to me that Gary Numan didn't go away, he just went out of fashion for a while. But now you are in fashion.

Gary : Yeah, it's so wierd, you know. I'm sitting here in the same house, with the same dog, the same cats, same car, and all of a sudden people are talking to me from all over the world.

Jane : But Gary, do you have the aircraft in your garage as well?

Gary : (laughs) Well not quite, but it's not far away. What's going on now is such a surprise, you see, I'm still quite not sure what's going to happen because of it. I retired for a little....retired, it sounds silly doesn't it... I stopped touring for a little while for about 2 or 3 years, but apart from that small gap where I concentrated on the musical side of things I hadn't stopped working for a second since about 1978, but all of a sudden over the last 6 months or a year I suppose, people are suddenly interested in me again, and it is a surprise because I haven't done anything different, I just carried on doing the same thing. And it seems that other people are now starting to say nice things about me. It's almost as if there's a new generation coming along that were young when I was first successful, and now they've become successful and they're saying that I was an influence on what they did. And all of a sudden that has generated interest across the board.

Matt Sharp and Damon Albarn's version of We Have A Technical is played.

Gary : In America they're calling me 'The Godfather of Electronica', you know, the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers type of thing. It's flattering, but I really don't know if that's right.

Jane : Do you think that had a lot to do with your image? Because as you say you weren't the first to be doing it.

Gary : I think that in many ways it was possibly the key to it. And I took a lot of criticism in the early days for being image based, well not image based, but for having a very strong image. I always thought that it was necessary. The synthesizer is a very non-visual instrument. You stand behind it and look pretty boring, to be honest, whereas with a guitar you can strut up and down like an axe-god. It's very easy to look good with a guitar.

Jane : Get the phallic look happening.....

Gary : (laughs) Not easy, is it, with a big, square wood penis on.

Jane : Funnily enough....

Gary : I thought "What can you do about it?" , and so I thought the best thing that you can do is to try to create a visual image of its own, that was sympathetic to the instrument, you know, in that it had a very techy sort of feel to it, but would be interesting to look at. And so I came up with the black, initially white hair, and the make up and things, and I just thought that was a more interesting way of presenting it than what had been before.

Jane : Having been such a key player of the British music scene, looking around you now, what do you think of it?

Gary : I like Oasis a lot, I think they're very good. I think there's some brilliant things around. The people that I like, funnily enough, most of them are doing my songs. Marilyn Manson's been doing one of my songs live apparently, and the Foo Fighters have, and the Smashing Pumpkins have. Beck's been doing one of mine live, Courtney Love's band were doing one of mine live. Yeah, it is amazing, not everyone that's covering me is on record, you know, a lot of it is live as well.

Jane : So what are some of your favourite tracks on the Random compilation?

Gary : There's several actually, there's at least a dozen I think are excellent. The Pop Will Eat Itself thing I think is just brilliant. In fact, when I'm touring later in the year, I'm looking very very much at what some of the people on Random have done, for me to revamp how I do some of my old stuff. Most of the old stuff that I do, I rework it to make it fit in with the current stuff. The PWEI track, for example, is so very much like what I'm doing now, that I'm really going to go back and look back at a lot more of my old stuff to see if I can bring it up to speed the way they have with that track. It opened my eyes a lot to what I could do with my own stuff.

Pop Will Eat Itself's version of Friends is played.

That's all that was broadcast. After PWEI, whatsisname warned the listeners that they'd probably have to ask at the shops, because they'd never find Random as it has the worst sleeve in history, with virtually no text or any mention of Gary at all.

NB There are some very obvious edits in this interview. In fact they taped over twice as much as they broadcast. I am hoping to be getting a copy of the complete interview in the near future. However, apparently Triple J may be broadcasting the rest of it at some point, so if this is the case I will not be putting it online until after it's gone to air. It wouldn't be fair otherwise, and I wouldn't want to piss Triple J off, as they've done a good job on Random. Let's hope Exile gets similar treatment.