Gary Numan has never gone out of fashion, it seems, if you listen to artists from Prince to Lady Gaga including him in their lists of influential pioneers of modern music.
He first appeared on 'Top of the Pops' in 1979. However, unlike many others from this particularly electronic age that he helped create, he's still going strong, touring and collaborating, most recently with Officers. Below, in an exclusive interview with HuffPost UK, he describes what's changed, and what's remained the same...
You've been heralded as 'ground-breaking'. How deliberate was this, or just a by-product of reaching to create good music?
I don't think anyone sets out to do something groundbreaking, I know I certainly didn't, but I was trying to make music in a new way, thanks to the emerging synth technology at the time. I have always been far more interested in sound than technique, and how sounds work together, how they can be layered. I think electronic music, in its infancy anyway, allowed us to create music in a way that hadn't really been possible before. It created a new kind of musician.
Proof of Gary Numan's enduring influence, if it was ever in doubt...
How has your relationship with your fans changed over the years?
Very little I would say. I have always been hugely grateful and appreciative of their support, and I have always tried to be accessible and approachable, and friendly of course. As new fans come in, and some of the older fans move on, my attitude remains the same.
You're a frequent musical collaborator, most recently with Officers. Tell us a bit about the collaborative process - does it make life easier, or are there unexpected challenges?
They often pull you out of your comfort zone which is one of reasons for doing them. There is always an element of challenge and they don 't always work out to be honest. I'm loving the latest one though, the 'Petals' single with Officers. One of my all time favourite collaborations.
And where it began... on Top of the Pops in 1979
The Sugababes brought you a whole new fanbase world - was there a particularly surreal moment when you realised this for the first time?
Strangely enough, when the Sugababes' 'Freak Like Me' went to number 1, which was built around my 'Are Friends Electric' song, I had another song called 'Rip' go to number 1 in the Kerrang TV chart so I was pulling new people in from very different areas of musical interest. That was quite an amazing week.
According to what I've read, your enduring image was initially a happy accident, created 5 minutes before Top of the Pops.... based on "acne... eye makeup... self-consciousness"... How easy was it to maintain this aloof persona when you're obviously a friendly, warm person, or were you in a hurry to shake it off?
I think I might have oversimplified the truth behind the evolution of that first image actually. It took a lot longer to put together than those TOTP 5 minutes. But, the reason for my use of image was twofold. Firstly, it gave me a false persona to hide behind as I was extremely shy and lacking in confidence. Secondly, I thought I needed to create something that was more interesting to look at than a man looking at a keyboard. Synths are not the most visually exciting instrument, not like a guitar for example. I never tried to be aloof, but I do see now why it came across that way. I just didn't make music that you could sing with a big grin, still don't.
Who do you think is breaking new ground at the moment?
My favourite band at the moment is Officers. I really love what they're doing and I'm glad to have them back out on tour with me again.
What is your creative process these days - has it changed?
I think if you are creative then it's an unstoppable thing. It just keeps coming throughout your entire life. Certainly though there are periods when it slows up, and others when it pours so fast you don't have enough time in the day to get it all down. I have no fears that I will ever run out of ideas. In fact I'm now looking to book writing as another avenue to add to music to get the ideas out.
How's life in LA? Anything about British everyday life you miss?
I've only been in Los Angeles for two months so it still feels a bit like an extended holiday. At the moment I'm loving it, beautiful weather, friendly, a million and one things to do, vibrant and exciting. I miss my family and friends obviously and I'm sure that I will miss other things as time goes by but I do genuinely believe that, difficult decision that it was, it was the right decision, for me, Gemma and most especially for our three children.
Gary Numan is currently touring with special guests Officers joining him on stage. He plays tonight in London and tomorrow in Nottingham. Click here for more ticket info. And see Gary Numan and Officers in action below...
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