|Triple J interview : Monday 20th April 1998|
....missed the first few seconds, basically just Jane Gazzo and Gary saying "Hi" and the first question from Jane.
Gary : ....and then some other people that were trying to be helpful just said that they thought that at this stage of my career I should have done something a lot more commercial, and they didn't feel it was particularly radio-friendly and so on, because it is very very dark. But I don't want that you know; I don't want to be like Take That or the Spice Girls sort of thing. It's really not what I do best, and I saw so many other things around that I thought were just as dark as my album if not worse; people like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails - much darker than I am - were out there doing quite well. So I thought it was a bit blinkered really, a bit short-sighted, but that was that. So I pretty much gave up with it, not with the album but with trying to get a contract. And then all of a sudden a company that I'd never heard of just rang up one day and offered me a deal for it. And then when I looked into it, it was actually quite a good company, it was the remnants of several old ones that had got together, you know a lot of experienced people, and started up something new. So I've come up golden with it. I really have struck lucky I think.
Jane : Now Gary, last time you and I spoke was, oh must have been mid-year last year, when the Random compilation had just come out, where all the British artists had all gotten together and recorded some of your favourite songs, and we spoke about that. What have you been doing since then?
Gary : Um, I toured Britain, I got married actually. I don't know if I was married last time....
Jane : That's right, you weren't married last time , you were about to get married.
Gary : Yeah I've got....unclear...still together, still very happy. So I think it's gonna last.
Jane : Congratulations
Gary : Thank you - it's cool actually. What else did I do? I got the deal sorted out for the album, toured Britain....
Jane : How did your tour go?
Gary : Oh it was brilliant...
Jane : 'Cos you do a tour every year don't you? A Christmas tour?
Gary : Well, we try to stay a little bit further away from Christmas, 'cos people have spent all their money by Christmas, so they can't buy concert tickets. So we normally tour Octoberish, that sort of time. Or sometimes in the Spring - it really depends on how the album recordings have gone. And then I went on honeymoon. I was meant to be doing a film, but I couldn't do that because they kept putting it back and putting it back, and they put it right back into this year, and this year I'm touring pretty much constantly. I've already done a European tour, and in about I think nine days we're off to America for 5 weeks, and then possibly after that coming to Australia and then onto Japan. But we're not sure whether it's gonna be straight after the American tour or whether there'll be a little gap in between first. But that's quite exciting, we're just waiting to find out where we're gonna go.
Jane : How are you finding touring, and how are you finding the reactions and the responses? Is it people who are reliving you as you were in the 80s, or is it a whole new genre of Gary Numan fans?
Gary : It's a bit of both really. There's obviously people there that remember us from before, because they react to some of the more obscure older songs that we do live, and then there's other people that quite clearly weren't even alive when I was there before, you know, people like 15 or 16, and that's been one of the things that's been quite rewarding and exciting about the whole thing. 'Cos it would have been OK to have just had people that remembered you from before, but it wouldn't have felt like I was advancing anywhere, and it would have felt a little bit retro and nostalgic. On the European thing particularly it was encouraging to see young people. But the reaction is quite different. The reaction was really quite cautious, to start with, for the first 5 or 6 songs, and people didn't quite know what they were gonna get, and then about half way through it started to kick in and people realised what it's about and to decide whether they like it or not. We did 2 encores a night in Europe, except for one place where we did 3. It was brilliant, it really was good, but you felt as if you had to fight for it, to win people over. In England you go onstage and people stand up and start screaming on song one, before you even start. Over there it wasn't like that, it was much harder work, but none the less, 2 encores a night, you have to consider that a bit of a victory really. So, very happy when we came back.
Jane : I know we talked about this last year, but I imagine bands like Shampoo and the Foo Fighters and all the bands that have recently covered your stuff would have helped push you into the public realm a bit more...you know the Nancy Boys etc...
Gary : Oh yes, very much. Without that Random album, and without all of those bands saying such nice...like Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor are on the guest list for Los Angeles already on this tour. With these sort of people coming along and supporting you and saying good things about you in the press and so on, it has to make a difference. And I honestly think that it was their input more than anything that has made such a difference. It's made so many people find out about me or remember me, or turn back onto me, than was there before. Honestly, 2 or 3 years ago I was about as fashionable as a slug crawling up your leg - not at all. I couldn't have given myself away. I couldn't. I tried to do the album. Hah! I couldn't give myself away.
Jane : I think the quote was "Gary Numan never went away, he just went out of fashion".
Gary : Yeah, very much so.
Jane : But now you're back. And how have you found your music has evolved since the days of Cars and We Are Glass? How do you think you've grown musically?
Gary : Well, I think after Cars, for the first few years I was doing some quite good stuff, up until about the mid 80s. And then from the mid 80s onwards I feel that I lost my way a little bit. And I started to get into a kind of music that I shouldn't have been in really. Right up to about '92, when I really made the most dire album that I've ever made, and it was at the end of that one that I realised that I really wasn't doing the right thing, and I stopped. I took a little break and just went back to writing things...I stopped worrying about - no offence - but I stopped worrying about radio play and that kind of thing. Just going back to writing what you wanted to write, they way you did when you very first started. And the music became much much darker immediately, and more aggressive, and so on. And it seemed to be the answer for me. This is the second album having this new change of heart, kind of thing, new writing. And I think it's working. It is much darker, but it...
Jane : It's a very dark album
Gary : Yeah, but I seem to be happiest there, funnily enough. I work much better when I'm writing that sort of thing; I think the albums are better for it. But for a while after Cars and so on I just went wrong basically, quite badly wrong in fact.
Jane : Yeah? You really think you went wrong?
Gary : Yeah I do. I think I got away from what I did best. And I was trying to experiment, trying to try out different sorts of music. And I did that, I shouldn't be ashamed of it, but I think that some of it, as an experiment, was wrong. And I learnt that it was wrong - I think it took me too many years to realise that I shouldn't be in the area that I was in. And then I got back, just in the nick of time. I think after the '92 album, if I'd have done another one like that then I really would have been finished, no matter how much good things Marilyn Manson was saying about me. I'd have been over, because when people turned onto my music it wouldn't have been good enough to have kept them. I got myself back just in the nick of time.
Jane : Well, it's great to have you back Gary. As I said, the reaction here in Australia...I think we got the album here last week and the Gary Numan fans have all come out of the woodwork and we've been getting requests for Dominion Day, which I believe there's a video clip to be seen soon?
Gary : Yeah - there is. It should be around any time now actually.
Jane : And you'll be pleased to know people have been ringing on the weekend and today, asking when you were going to be on the radio...
Gary : Oh really? That's great - thank you.
Jane : Yeah. I notice here on the cover of your brand new album Exile, the eye makeup is still very much there Gary. Are you still wearing makeup and those beautiful white suits in your live shows?
Gary : No, I don't wear white suits. I look like...have you seen Hellraiser? The film Hellraiser? With the man with the big long black coat and so on.
Jane : Is that what you look like now?
Gary : Yeah, a little bit, but I've got hair.
Jane : So have you been taking tips from Marilyn Manson?
Gary : Um, well it's more like going back into me own past really, 'cos when I first started I used to wear black all the time. So it's really going back into that, but just trying to make it...I wanted to look like a priest that had gone badly wrong. And so I have a black collar that goes round my neck, and this big long frock coat, and boots that come right up to my knees and so on. It's trying to look like a priest from the darker side of things.
Jane : A priest who obviously didn't stick to his vows.
Gary : No (laughs).
Jane : I like it - Gary Numan and Hellraiser. That's very nice.
Gary : It looks quite cool on stage actually.
Jane : Well I like the cover, the cover's great. And it's good to see you still applying the Kohl eyeliner too. Very nice.
Gary : Well it's not as much as it was, but it's still there yeah.
Jane : And just briefly Gary, are you still flying?
Gary : Yes. Not as much as I would like to because, as I say, I'm touring pretty much non-stop now. I've not flown now for about 6 weeks or so, but yeah I try to. I'm supposed to be doing a few airshows this year, but it's so difficult to fit in, you know. Because, like I say, I don't know when I'm coming to Australia, but it's probably gonna be in about 6 or 7 weeks' time.
Jane (having multiple orgasms) : That's so soon! That's so exciting!
Gary : It'd be great, yeah, but it makes it very difficult to organise other things, because I'm finding out about these tours quite late in the day, as people are getting them together for me. It's pretty difficult to organise anything outside of touring, so I just sit around and wait for the phone now, pretty much, and wait and see where I'm going next. But it's very exciting. I've not toured overseas for so many years, and this is like the second chance that I was beginning to think I would never get. 'Cos I really do think I messed up the first time. The first time I had some success I just said some things, and did some stupid things, and I just messed it all up. You always think you're gonna get a second chance, and after so many years I was beginning to wonder whether I would or not. But this feels like it - this feels like another chance to do it again, and do it properly this time, and not make such an idiot of myself.
Jane : Well, I think you take yourself the wrong way. But look, it's brilliant to have you. We're all very happy that you could make some time for us. And I have to tell you that speaking to you last year was an absolute highlight of my life. you're up there with Boy George in my books.
Gary : Yeah? Really? You spoke to Boy George?
Jane : Yeah, yeah. But definately last year was the highlight, the interview last year, speaking to you.
Gary (sounding shy) : Thank you very much.
Jane : So make sure you visit us when you get here to Australia in 6 or 7 weeks, if that does happen.
Gary : Yeah, absolutely. Well, if we're coming I'll let you know anyway. So you'll know well beforehand.
Jane : Ok Gary, well look we'll let you go. What's the weather like in London there today?
Gary : Well let me look out the window.........it's raining.
Jane : Is it early in the morning?
Gary : Yeah, pretty much. Well, oh no, it's not early - just coming up to 10 o'clock.
Jane : Oh, very nice. Well, I'm going to get you to pick a track and introduce it to us, and tell us what it's about, and say goodbye.
Gary : Oh OK - right then. This is a song from the new album, which is called Exile, the song is called Dead Heaven, and it's about the possibility that God and the Devil might be one and the same thing, which is a theme running throughout the album actually, and this one talks about the possibility of the angels and disciples not being what we thought at all, and of the 3 wise men not bringing gifts to Jesus but doing something far more unpleasant. So anyway, sorry, this is called Dead Heaven.
Jane : You've been taking that priest off the rails slant very seriously (giggles). Thanks again for your time Gary Numan, and good luck with the album, and hopefully see you soon in Australia.
Gary : My pleasure, thank you very much.
Jane plays Dead Heaven.
Jane may sound a little bit gushy at times, but she's the only bona fide Numan fan in the Aussie media, as far as I'm aware. I think I'll send her a card.