Music2deal’s Richard Rogers interviewed electronic legend Gary Numan a couple of months back in Oberhausen, Germany before a sold out gig. The successful European tour followed Numan’s UK number 2 album ‘Savage’ released last September on BMG Records that included the huge single ‘My Name Is Ruin’. ‘Savage’ is Numan’s biggest charting album for 36 years.
Gary has just contributed the Foreword to Richard’s forthcoming new book ‘Depeche Mode – Violator: The Ultimate A&R Guide’ due out through Glamour Puss Publishing very soon.
In the second of a three part interview Gary discusses the orchestral tour in November that will see the light as a new DVD and live album. Plus the Old Grey Whistle Test, lost songs, tour support groups and Hohokam.
Richard Rogers: So from what you were saying earlier the Orchestral Tour is going to be massive and will take in songs from Savage and selected pieces from the earlier work in your back catalogue. Was there anything you didn’t like that you put out previously.
Gary Numan: The one I didn’t like was ‘Machine And Soul’ which I hate with a passion. Dreadful album.
RR: The demo b-sides on the CD singles to that album were really good.
GN: Were they? (Laughs) I don’t remember those at all. There will be a live album from this tour and we may record it and film it at the Royal Albert Hall but they want an outrageous amount of money to do that so we might end up doing it at Bridgewater in Manchester. We are going to go up and tour in Scandinavia again as we did really well there which is surprising, however on the recent tour we had 3 gigs that sold out immediately and the other sold out on the night. I haven’t done much promo either. I did a Q and A session in Copenhagen in some library and that was packed and I didn’t expect any of that. It’s all been a big surprise and the promoter is very happy so we are going back there. We also seem to be doing really well in Belgium as all the shows on the recent European tour were the first to sell out.
RR: Do you think it is anything to do with that one off gig you did in Brussels years ago?
GN: Well I did really well in Belgium to begin with and then it fell away a little bit and then the whole of Europe vanished which was disappointing, largely my fault I suspect but disappointing all the same. I don’t know if it’s all to do with the previous album Splinter or the new one Savage but it’s all picking up again and i’m not trying to make any big claims. But from where I was to where I am now is extremely positive and seems to be on the up. I’d like to see the same thing happen in Germany as it appears to be on the up.
RR: The Savage album did actually make the lower reaches on the German chart.
GN: Cool. We went to Luxembourg for the first time yesterday as i’d never been there before and we went to France and the show was great. The last show i’d done in France was years ago and was horrendous but this time there were 3 or 4 more times the amount of people and everyone knew the words which really shocked me. It’s noticeably better than it was before whether that’s the new album or not I don’t know.
RR: Well as an A&R man I don’t say this lightly, it is a superb album.
GN: Well we did the Old Grey Whistle Test a special one off, a couple of weeks back and we were given two options in the rehearsals. We could do one new song, one old song live in the studio or they said you can come in for a chat and we play some of the videos. I went for the chat to save all the problems getting all the gear in for the band as I assumed they meant they’d play one new video and one old video. I thought it would be great as we started with our first ever show on the programme in the late 70’s and the whole thing would have come full circle. There would be a talking point as my daughter Persia who was on the last single and video for My Name Is Ruin would also have her first TV appearance on the same show. They then told me they will only show old songs if I come in for an interview so I changed my mind and we had a right old messy day sorting out the band and equipment for the show. But we did it. Persia was there and we played a heavy version of Are ‘Friends’ Electric? and My Name Is Ruin. Then we had a little chat but I didn’t say much. Joan Armratrading and Dave Stewart were there on the sofa and they did all the talking.
I love Dave Stewart, he doesn’t live that far away from me in Los Angeles. He is very clever and funny. The two of them took a bit of a ‘bashing the industry’ kind of stance which a lot was true but I don’t want to go on TV and keep moaning because I wanted to be a bit more positive than that because it’s not all bad, it’s just different. Album sales are not so great but ‘sync’ income and live income is flourishing so you’ve just got to adapt to it and accept it.
RR: But do you not think it is much much harder for a new band particularly to get their foot on the first rung of the ladder? Gary, Because you have a name and reputation and acts like yourself and OMD can go out and play live and you know people are going to turn up and you can make at least a fair living out of it whereas it is OK if you’re Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber but if you’re not one of those names and new on the scene you’re fucked really.
GN: I don’t know really because it’s hard to get a true grasp on it now and i’m not in that position but I remember when I started off to get gigs. I remember one guy at a particular venue who would only give you a gig if you had sex with him. You know there was so much weird skullduggery and taking advantage of little young pretty boys in bands and there was a whole load of shit going on. So it wasn’t fucking brilliant back then and nobody would give you any money for gigging. It was really difficult and the record company deal at the end of it seemed like a lifeline. I got my record deal with Beggars Banquet Records and there was no money and I was still on the dole, legally of course for ages. It was difficult back then, I didn’t have a car so borrowed my Dads. Personally I don’t see it being more difficult now than it was back then. When I play live I bring onto the tour (as support acts) bands that I genuinely like. They don’t pay to be on the tour, in fact they all get paid to be on it, not a fortune but they get paid. The band that were with us in America got $500 a gig and I never mess anyone about with soundchecks, they all get one and I don’t fuck anyone about. I try to make it as friendly and as nice an experience as possible. They all get a dressing room and a rider that I pay for. You try and do as much as you can to help out new bands. The last 4 or 5 bands have been female fronted artists such as Me Not You in America, I speak Machine etc. It’s trying to do what you can to help out if you see any injustice or a difficulty and not do it by charging a grand a night to new acts just because they’re utilising my audience. That to me just seemed greedy.
RR: But that was the record companies fault, they charged bands an extortionate amount of money to go on tour to line their own coffers. I remember in the early days you taking on tour bands such as Simple Minds and OMD to support you and I think you didn’t charge any of them.
GN: OMD supported me in 1979 and I never charged them in fact I put all their gear in my truck and carried their gear around for them and they travelled on our tour bus with us. I found out they didn’t have any money so I just helped them out. We’re all in this together. I’ve had so many people support me who have gone on to be much bigger than i’ve ever been. You don’t want to fuck people over because firstly it’s just not nice and secondly it’ll come back to haunt you.
RR: I must ask is this what happened to the band Hohokam? On the back of one of the singles it says ‘From the Forthcoming album Seven Deadly Sins’ on Numa Records your record company at the time. However the album never came out.
GN: They fucking imploded. They were nasty to each other, they were rotten to me, they were very unusually, a self destructive group of people.
RR: That was such a shame as they had some really decent songs.
GN: Yeah, I thought they were good.
RR: One of them is dead now.
GN: Yeh although I don’t know what happened to him. One of the guys was all right actually. But they would come in and you would be the one they got at because although i’d signed them they hadn’t become rock stars in the first ten minutes. It was a mixture of ignorance, naievityand ingratitude. There was a lot of back stabbing amongst themselves and I thought I don’t want anything to do with this.
RR: One question I will ask you is the last time I interviewed was in 1983 and the question was ‘You’ve got this B-side out on the single ‘Sister Surprise’ and it’s called ‘Letters’ and yet it’s the same track as ‘Face To Face’ the B-side to your top 40 hit ‘Love Needs No Disguise’ with Dramatis. Is it the same track’. Your reply was ‘ask me next time you interview me’ so 35 years later I’ll ask you again.
GN: My memory of it is they are different tracks and they mastered the wrong one by accident and that’s as much as I can remember. I think there was a mistake and it shouldn’t have been the same bit of music. As far as i’m aware they were two different songs and I don’t think that one has ever seen the light of day. Beggars Banquet have put out so many things that they seem to have discovered which I swear blind is more than I ever wrote. (laughs). However I am surprised it hasn’t come out with all these releases they’ve been putting out.
Part 3 of the interview will be available on music2deal shortly.