He is one of the most charismatic musicians to come out of the late 70s new-wave, electronic era. Since the release of his first album – as Tuebway Army – in 1978, Gary Numan has gone on to make another 21 records.
Last year saw the release of his 22nd album, Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind). To promote his latest release, Numan is currently on a UK tour, taking in venues considerably smaller than he usually plays.
“We’ve already done a major tour of the UK last year, soon after the album was released.
“I wanted to tour the UK again but I didn’t want to go to the same places as last time. I wanted to take the Splinter album and tour to people outside of those major cities rather than keep expecting people to travel in to see me,” the 56-year-old Londoner explains.
A pioneer of electronic music, Numan’s albums always feature a very cinematic quality. Numan explains that this cinematic atmosphere is essential to his music.
“It’s vital. It’s one of the reasons I feel that I would find writing for film an interesting experience, and that’s part of the reason why I moved to Los Angeles in 2012.
“I have always seen music visually during the writing and recording process. It’s one of the reasons I love electronic music so much.
“With electronic music, you not only create melodies and arrangements but the very sounds themselves.”
As a songwriter he starts with the sounds first.
“Music always; words are the very last thing I add. That’s not to say they are less important, far from it, but the mood of the music will guide where you go with the lyrics.”
Despite a 36 years passage of time since Numan’s first album came out, Splinter made its way into the UK top 20 – his first top 20 album in over three decades.
“It feels good but I’m not that chart-orientated to be honest. What’s most important is how well the album does over its life span; does it reach out to new people as well as keeping the existing fan base happy; does it boost the career?
“That long term view is far more important than a good week in the chart, but a good week in the chart is still a nice thing to have.”
Splinter has a very gothic tone, which is personified by the album’s cover.
Numan says that one song in particular is very important to him, which explains the darkness explored on the record.
“The one that was most important is called Lost. During my years with diagnosed depression, from 2008 to 2012, I became quite a different person.
“Many things suffered because of that and my marriage to Gemma was one of them.
“I wrote Lost at a time when I was thinking about leaving and writing that song made me realise just how stupid I had been.
“It helped us move past all the c**p that I had been putting us all through and I fell in love with her all over again. That song quite possibly saved my marriage.”
In the past, like many artists who have an incredibly successful single, Numan had become frustrated by being defined by a single song, the number one single Cars. It got so bad that he even removed it from his live set for a long time.
Nowadays, he says his perspective has changed, and Cars is back in the show.
“I’ve come to realise that it’s a very cool song to have written and that I should be proud of it.
“It’s arguably one of the most famous songs in the world, and is still used constantly on ads, covered and sampled, 35 years after I wrote it.
“I think most songwriters dream of writing something that successful so I started to feel rather petty and childish when I complained about it.”
Having an album back in the top 20 and still as prolific a writer as he ever was, Numan says that he sees no point in stopping now.
“Splinter has been the best received and reviewed album I’ve ever made, and I’ve made about 20 of original music.
“My song writing has never been stronger so I see no reason not to be highly optimistic about my ability to keep on producing music at such a high level.
“I’ve been doing it professionally for 36 years now, no reason it shouldn’t keep going.
“I have more ideas now than ever.”
Gary Numan plays at Holmfirth Picturedrome tonight, 7.30pm, £25, sold out – returns only. www.picturedrome.net