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Gary Numan on Staying Relevant in a Broken World

Gary Numan talks relevance, 400 handwritten lyrics and the apocalypse

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    Gary Numan on Staying Relevant in a Broken World
    Courtesy of Gary Numan
    Gary Numan headlines Observatory North Park on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

    Even if you don't realize it, you've definitely heard a Gary Numan song, and that song was probably "Cars." But Numan, who started his career with the new wave outfit Tubeway Army, has a considerably prolific output that trounces his most popular single.

    Since the late '70s, Numan has released 18 solo albums, including his newest effort, "Savage (Songs From a Broken World)." 

    "I think it’s all created by nature. Everything I wanted to do when I was 17 or 18 I still want to do. I want to explore new sounds -- that desire has never gone away. I find it absolutely easy to go into the studio and make new albums -- the difficulty comes with trying not to repeat yourself, not to live on past glories. There’s a stigma that can attach to you if you’ve been around for a long time, so it’s about keeping yourself relevant as an artist," the now 59-year-old industrial synth-pop pioneer told me over the phone last week.

    "Savage," which was released on Sept. 15, was made possible through a fan-backed Pledge Music campaign (like a Kickstarter or GoFundMe for music). And Numan didn't just reach his goal -- he surpassed it, reaching 245 percent of what he was asking fans to pledge. 

    Of course, the upshot of having a successful crowdfunding campaign is all of the work you have to do after the fact as appreciation for the amount that each fan decided to donate. 

    "I still have to complete just under 400 handwritten lyrics," Numan said, sounding rather overwhelmed.

    "I might do it in the future, because it definitely helped. In Britain, the album got to No. 2 on the charts. The pledge campaign really helped that to happen," he added as a qualification. 

    "Given the onslaught of the internet and the way the industry has changed, having a closer relationship with fans is extremely important. My relationship with my fans is one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay alive as long as I have. I used to have a fan club and we would go go-karting or laser-tagging, but this was a really good opportunity to extend that even further ... I wanted people to be aware of what it takes to make an album ... think differently about it, enjoy it more, be more invested in it," Numan said.

    And it's definitely something to think differently about, considering it's a science fantasy concept album about global warming, Trump and an apocalyptic future. 

    "Whether or not I would do it again ... probably but not definitely," he said.

    Gary Numan headlines Observatory North Park on Wednesday, Nov. 15, in all of his android glory. Get tickets here.

    Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford poet-neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. Whoops. He now fronts the Lulls, plays lead guitar in LA band Velvet and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Instagram and Twitter (@RArosenborg), add him on Facebook or contact him directly.