Just a few weeks ago Gary Numan had two tracks at Number 1 in two different charts with the Sugababes "Freak Like Me" and his own "Rip" track topping the Kerrang Chart. His songs have been sampled or covered by the likes of Basement Jaxx, The Foo Fighters, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. And his latest "Best Of..." collection entitled "Exposure" looks through his 24 years career. We caught up with Gary for about the 3rd time in the past twelve months to see how its all going.
Q: We've spoken before about the amount of covers there have been of your tracks in the past few years. But there really is a renewed interested in your work. I mean, over the past week you've had two tracks at Number 1 and you weren't even here in England to enjoy it all. What was it like hearing about all these major events and being away in holiday in Mexico?
A: I had a number one with Sugababes and number one in the Kerrang chart with my own "Rip" song. So I was number 1 in two different charts with two different songs in the same week....which is just about the most brilliant thing that could ever have happened. And I'm not here...I'm in f**king Mexico!!! I'm in Mexico by this pool moaning that I should be in England. My wife was going shut the f**k up!!!
Q: So what do you think of the Sugababes "Freak Like Me" track then?
A: I liked it. It was a bootleg to start with, with someone else doing the vocal and I just thought what a bizarre idea. I just couldn't see how it would work...how someone could find a track that works with the "Are Friends Electric" music. It was brilliant and then I heard the Sugababes thing, no offence to the Sugababes but I hadn't heard anything they'd done before and I just thought they would be a little girl band who couldn't sing and it was really good. The vocals were really impressive.
When I first got it, I was having a little party round here. The band, my mates and all their girlfriends were here - so I put it on for the first time and everyone liked it. There wasn't anyone finding fault with it. I though that was a good sign because they're a fairly critical crowd all being muso's and that.
It just got bigger and bigger and started to get played and then on the video channels. At one point I was scrolling round the music channels and it was on 3 different channels at the same channel. I did the Graham Norton show and I said I think its better than mine - I think the vocal is a lot more interesting than mine.
Q: They didn't actually know who you are when they recorded it. Must be a bit strange in that regard?
A: If you think that "Are Friends Electric" was number one in 1979, so that's 23 years ago. They were still seven years away from being an embryo so its not surprising. I find that amazing that seven years after the original was number one they're being born. On one hand its really good and on the other hand it makes you feel a bit old really.
Q: Keeping it current the other number one is with "Rip" on the Kerrang Chart. I believe there's a bit of a story behind the video?
A: The video cost £11,000 - so its a relatively cheap video to make and we paid for it ourselves because the record company wouldn't put up any money...and then I got dropped by the record company. The record company that originally put out that album was called Eagle, so I got dropped by Eagle and they never really tried to get that video shown - they ignored it really.
Artful licensed it from them, put it out and it went straight to number 1. It was like how do you feel Eagle? I've got no problems with the label or the people that worked there, in fact they're the nicest record company i've ever worked for, but I guess they're kicking themselves a bit now.
Q: You've also got another "Best Of..." album out this week. You must have lost count by now at how many have been released over the years. What's different about this one?
A: These "Best of..." things are very much record company driven records and its very rarely, in my case never, that the artist is behind putting out a "Best Of...". I don't really like them, they're often nostalgic and milk fans. But this one is the first collection that has a good selection of new music, as well as old music, on it. The tracklisting really does seem to be a good look at what I've done from the very beginning to right what I'm doing now...and that's an important element to have on an album.
There's even a new track on it. They let me redo new versions of two of the older songs on it. So its got stuff on there that people haven't heard before. I think for me the timing is perfect because there have been so many cover versions or samples used over the past few years...alot of which people may not be aware that it is my music that is a part of it. Like the Basement Jaxx song for example.
There's a sticker on the front which lists some of the people that have covered songs or sampled songs from that are on it. And I saw it yesterday for the first time and I looked down it and thought - f**k this really is quite cool. Its just when you see it in a list that you realize just how many there are and it really is a good selection of bands.
Q: Sticking with the subject of cover versions and how many people have covered you. Is there anyone you've had to turn down and say there's no way you're covering it?
A: I'm not that precious about the music to ever do that. People have done things that I've not particularly liked...but I would never say who they were because that would be really ungrateful. But I'm just really flattered that people want to do it all. If I like it, it's a bonus as far as I'm concerned
The only thing I've got a problem with is Animal Testing. I'm really against Animal Testing so I wouldn't want something used. Say for example, someone did a cover version and then it got an advert for Natwest (they're b**tards for Animal Testing because they support a lot of laboratories and things like that) I wouldn't want it. But it hasn't happened so far!!!
Q: Next Year at the Brit Awards, it is possible they could ask you do a duet with Sugababes on "Freak Like Me" or with Basement Jaxx on "Where's Your Head At?". Would you do it if they asked?
A: I would be a bit uncomfortable with that to be honest. There's something about that, that just doesn't sit right with me to be. One of my own songs I've no problems, but to go along and stand at the back playing keyboards while Sugababes do their thing makes me feel a bit funny. Because my involvement wasn't that. I recorded a track 23 years ago which they have used...I wasn't involved in the recording or production of it...and to have be going along at the back would be a bit gimmicky.
Q: You were talking before about the new instrumental track on the album "Exposure". I guess it offers a indication of where you're heading for the next album. Any radical changes at all?
A: It's an indication, but no way a definitive guide to where its going. I was really happy with "Pure" so what I want to do is a heavier, better version of that. I'm not expecting to get into any major direction changes at all. I'm happy with where I am musically at the moment and "Pure" was a development of the one before that. That was "Exile" and that was development of the one before that.
Q: What inspires you to keep writing and writing after all these years?
A: Every time you go in there you are coming up with things you've never come up with before. The creating of sounds and going out with your little recorder hitting things and scraping things. And you get back to your studio and start to work with it and just build up this big collection of sounds and you write your songs using that collection of sounds.
And you can remember banging that particular drain cover in the street one day and all of a sudden you're using that sound as a bass drum. I think you just have to have an open ear really. My wife has got one of those Smart cars and when you get up to about 60 mph in the drivers seat a strange noise comes out of the corner of the window. Its this brilliant sound and I keep trying to record it, but you can't get rid of the air noise to get to this humming.
Everything you do and everywhere you go there is sound...and you've just got to be aware of it. Not just for sounds, but also for words and lyrical ideas or just atmospheres. Sometimes these little ideas can be a spark and all of sudden all these little ideas can come pouring out.
Q: Do you ever envisage a point in the future where you write the perfect song?
A: You can write things that you're really really happy with and you go and switch the telly on and there will be something better. Every album and every song I've ever written I can guarantee there will be a better song that week somewhere. You can be number one and actually be fully aware that there are better songs that haven't even got in the chart.
I don't believe there is the perfect song either. You probably notice yourself that there are songs you may have loved two or three years ago that you just thing are just all right now. And songs that perhaps you didn't like too much a few years ago, you now love and are perhaps some of the best songs you've ever heard. Its the way we are. We can get tired of things we used to love, from music to people, and what is the perfect song today probably wouldn't be tomorrow morning!!!
"The Best Of....Gary Numan" is out now
A Live DVD is scheduled for release later in the year
For more info check out
Post your own Gary Numan related comments on our Message Board