Gary Numan: interview

Simon Parkin Thirty-years ago the album Replicas shot Gary Numan to synth stardom. And he has been pop's premier android since his 1979 number one, Are 'Friends' Electric? ushered in the electronic-pop era.

Simon Parkin

Thirty-years ago the album Replicas - and specifically its single Are 'Friends' Electric? - shot Gary Numan to synth


Gary Numan has been pop's premier android since his 1979 number one, Are 'Friends' Electric? ushered in the electronic-pop era.

The shock generated the single - many still vividly being electrified by seeing him on Top of the Pops - guaranteed classic status to he album Replicas.

Numan's second album - though his first with his Tubeway Army - it is still held in high regard and cited as an influence by everyone from Marilyn Manson to The Sugababes.

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t Why a tour linked to a 30-year-old album?

“Because it's my 30th anniversary of being in the business and I am 50 this month, I decided to celebrate those two big milestones. Normally as a rule I don't have anything to do with nostalgia. I have become a little bit obsessed about nostalgia, it feels desperate and horrible. But for this particular tour, I'm going to swallow humble pie - because it does seem to be the right thing to do.”

t What's so special about Replicas?

“It was the one that started everything. It's the album that launched my career. When this album first came out I was already working on a new one. I never toured with Replicas at the time. I never took these songs on the stage before. A lot of this stuff is going to be played for the first time ever. It's a bit of a one-off event. I will never do this again.”

t What will be the make-up of the audience?

“When I first started to think about it I thought it would be the old fans who would be interested but that isn't what happened. Although those people are there, because that's who its designed for, the unexpected thing is that people who weren't even alive

when Replicas came out seem to have an historic fascination with it.”

t Why is Replicas held in such high regard by fans?

“It was the first really big successful electronic album and it's become this reference point. It has this phenomenal reputation that I wasn't expecting. It has become a much bigger phenomenon then I remember it being at the time. It's becoming something of a worry.”

t What are your memories of recording it?

“I remember sitting in a sweatbox of a basement studio in London with a hired synthesizer because I couldn't afford to buy one. The whole thing was done in five days; it would take me longer than that to write a tune now. It was so elementary that I can't believe the songs are regarded as highly as they are.”

t It was a huge success though?

“I am not sure the album is as good as people think it is. I am worried someone is going to turn round one day and say 'actually that is rubbish'. I have been genuinely amazed with the high regard that people seem to hold it in. The whole session was so full of expectations and dreams, it was a lovely period to be in.”

t How did you deal with that sudden success?

“I would say 70pc traumatic, 30pc enjoyable. There were fantastic moments, but the pressure and the hostility that came with them was completely unexpected, and I would have to admit that I took it very badly. I was probably the first big pop star of the post-punk period, so politically I was persona non grata.”