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WISE WORDS: Gary Numan Reveals Why He's Never Been Able To Lie, But There's A Positive To His Asperger's Condition

Gary is one of electronic music's most celebrated pioneers.

04/04/2017 15:22 | Updated 13 April 2017

For the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to actor GARY NUMAN.

Celebrated as one of electronic pop’s great pioneers with his 1979 hits, ’Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’, Gary still enjoys a tireless cult following, as much for his offbeat ‘android’ persona as for his distinctive synthesizer hooks.

Following his peak popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gary has branched out into film music and collaborations with other artists, most recently Jean-Michel Jarre.

Gary lives with his family in California, but continues to perform around the world. To mark his return to Britain this summer, with an appearance as part of Liverpool’s 50 Summers Of Love at Exhibition Centre, he sat down to swap some Wise Words with us…

What do you do to switch off from the world?
I don’t really. I tend to move from one stressful thing to another. If I’m not in the studio or touring, then I’m busy doing family things with Gemma and our three children, and that’s more stressful than anything else. I used to fly in an aerobatic air display team but stopped doing that when the children came along. I tried boating for a bit when I lived in the UK but stopped that when I moved to Los Angeles. I’m thinking about getting back into flying and boating actually, but I need to get the new album out and the touring campaign over with first.

How do you deal with negativity?
I avoid putting myself in a place where it’s known to exist for a start. I don’t read Twitter or Facebook comments, I don’t read reviews, I don’t really interact with the world much at all. I wrap my family around me and try to keep the world outside the gate as much as possible. Luckily, though, I have Aspergers so, when I am touched by negativity, I’m able to just step over it for the most part. On the rare occasions it gets to me, I allow it to make me angry and I use that anger as a driving force to work harder and prove people wrong.

Gary Numan
Gary Numan says there's a positive side to his Asperger's condition

When and where are you happiest?
When I’m with Gemma and the children, wherever they are. I do love life here in California, but I also like to travel as often as possible. I love touring as that offers excitement and the chance to travel all over the world. Before I was married, I would have said I was happiest when I was upside down in my aeroplane but that all seems a long time ago now.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I am brutally honest and open, often in a way that could potentially hurt my career, and so I was once told that I should learn how to lie. I’ve never been able to lie unfortunately, but it was probably very good advice.

What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
Too many to list, but realising that loyalty can be a fickle thing at best was one of them. 

What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
Everything’s going to be alright, just stop worrying and enjoy it. 

What 3 things are at the top of your to-do list?
Today it’s buy an RV; visit Antarctica (not in the RV obviously); get tickets for the US Formula 1 race in Austin, Texas.

What do you think happens when we die?
I think we cease to exist in every way, although I firmly believe in ghosts, having seen one myself, so that would suggest that, in some situations, it doesn’t all end when we die. I find that challenge to my beliefs quietly exciting and comforting. Strangely enough, the older I get, the more I want to find a reason to abandon my belief that death really is the end.

When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
Never. I have no belief in a higher being, God, or whatever you want to call it. I look at a cloud and see something beautiful, not something created by God. I look at the ocean and I’m filled with awe, I look at mountains and I’m left speechless at the grandeur and majesty of the high peaks, but I have never once, in my entire life, ever thought that it had anything to do with a God.

What do you try to bring to your relationships?
Grumpiness apparently.

What keeps you grounded?
Life mainly. It’s really very simple. Many, many people can do what I do, many of them better than me, so I’m very aware that I’m lucky rather than talented. I’m also riddled by self-doubt, so I have never thought of myself as clever. I’m too aware of the pain I go through to create anything to ever feel clever. That lack of confidence, coupled with the feeling that you’re just lucky and that sooner or later everyone’s going to realize, keeps your feet very much on the ground.

What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?
About two days ago someone let me park directly outside an entrance to a venue, without charging me extra for ‘preferred parking’, because it was raining and I had the children with me. I thought that was very thoughtful.

Gary will be appearing at the 50 Summers Of Love Festival at Exhibition Centre Liverpool on Thursday, 27 July - all info here. 

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