Blown Away By Gary Numan

Gary Numan is a survivor –  of the music industry as well as in life – and his latest album, Savage (Songs From A Broken World), reflects that perseverance in describing what one man needs to do to keep going in a world destroyed by global warming.

            Savage is album No. 22 in his discography over nearly 40 years and counting, with peers such as Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson citing Numan’s influence on their own work.

            Numan has maintained his independence as an artist and employed a Pledge Music campaign for Savage, which closed at 258 percent of its goal. As part of the campaign, he offered fans the opportunity to purchase equipment and other items he’s used on tour.

            “You want it to be something unique. You don’t just want to have an album at the end of it. You want people to get a hold of things that for a fan would be really, really precious. The thing about equipment for me is I’ll finish an album, and normally I would either give it to a friend or take it down to my local music shop and sell it. There’s no history with it so some people buy it and don’t know what it’s done.

            “It was fans’ suggestions to me a couple of years back [about how] they would love that sort of thing. To have something that was that important to the music that they love, or grew up with, would be an amazing thing to have.”

            Numan was in Southern California when he talked to Pollstar about the music industry and maintaining a connection with his fans.        


Courtesy Gary
– Savage (Songs From A Broken World)
– Savage (Songs From A Broken World)

You’ve experienced the highs and lows of the music industry – from comparisons to megastars to being criticized for just being different and successful – and you’ve continued releasing albums and touring. What’s your opinion of today’s music scene?

I find the current situation in the music scene, in general, very exciting. There does seem to be a lot of people that are down on it and worried about it and I understand that concern. But it seems to me that for anything taken away because of these changes and new technologies, new opportunities have come along. You just need to be able to recognize them, make sure you don’t rip anybody else and be really cool with your fans about what you’re doing. If you just look for what will be beneficial to you and the fans, it’s not a problem at all.

 And I think from a fan’s point of view, it’s almost become a “golden era.” Fans are now able to get a hold of things and do things that were absolutely unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago. Meet-and-greets were mostly unheard of. I still don’t know of anyone else that brings their fans to a rehearsal but I’m sure that’s going to change. It’s brilliant on both sides of the fence but you do need to be aware of that and looking for those types of opportunities.

 All this talk about the way the industry has changed and how record sales have collapsed – all of these things are true. But we are now able to balance that a little bit by supplying fans with different things that we don’t mind paying for and that’s making the difference. My album sales way back when were 10, 20, 30 times what they are now but I’m still able to earn a living from it because of the Internet and a close relationship with the fans. Their expectations have allowed these different things to come into play. 

What prompted you to set up a Pledge Music campaign for recording Savage (Songs For A Broken World)?      

It was a reaction, really, to the way the music industry has changed with the advent of social media. The ability for us to have a closer relationship with the fans is much better than it used to be. I think it’s a really important development, so I’ve been trying to find ways of doing more of that kind of thing.

 Everybody does meet & greets now. That’s become pretty normal at shows. We allow a certain number of people to sit in on the rehearsals. We continue to do what we would normally do at rehearsal and they witness what goes on.

 Then we have a break and chat with everyone. They can come and play my guitar or play the drums, whatever they’d like to do. They’ve got an hour to hang out with us and talk to us about anything. It’s just another way to try to build a slightly closer relationship with our fan base and that’s been very popular. With the Pledge Music thing, I just wanted to try and extend that a little bit.                                                                                               

What have fans been able to experience through your campaign that is unique to this project?

Mark Holloway/WireImage/Getty Images
– Gary Numan
Gary Numan performs at Pyramids in Portsmouth, England, Sept. 24, 2016.

 I was trying to find a way of showing them what the process actually is [when] making a record and that can be quite difficult. You can have unpleasant days, … where nothing comes together, and you get worried and your confidence begins to crumble. 

And you can have great days. I wanted them to see all those sides of it, like how a song starts. I sit down at a keyboard and come up with a very simple tune. Or why sometimes you might change directions with a song. You might be going in a particular direction and then you kind of unravel it, go back a few stages and take it in a different direction. 

All of those things are sort of unknown to fans. They just get a finished album, all shrink-wrapped and lovely, and they like it or don’t like it but they’re not really aware of the process that went into it. I was hoping that by them being exposed to the process, they would not only appreciate a bit more of what it takes for an artist to make them at all – and it’s quite a journey – but they would have a better understanding of what the record was about. When they listen to it, they’ll have a closer connection to it. 

How have you kept your vision for your music when change is a constant? 

I can’t honestly say I have a great understanding of the music scene from one week to the next because I really don’t. I don’t know what’s current, I don’t know who’s happening. I’ve got no interest, to be honest, so when it comes time to record an album, I’ve only got me. I just go into the studio and start to make up songs. I don’t know who’s on the charts or who’s playing stadiums. That type of influence has no bearing on me whatsoever.  

But I am influenced because I’m living in the world. I’m watching T.V., I go to the cinema, I’m hanging out with friends, so I’m exposed to things. Just traveling, you see things and hear cool noises. There’s so many ways the influence comes to me. It’s not usually from a musical direction so I stay relatively in my own tiny bubble. Providing I’m still interested in moving forward, there’s no reason why that should be a problem for me at all.  

Most electronic musicians are really technology-based so as each new album comes along, there’s new software, new ways of creating sounds. Just by staying up to date with technology, your music should progress because you have all these new things available to you.