By Jeevin Johal
VANCOUVER – The name Gary Numan is synonymous with electronic music. A pioneer of the genre, Numan experimented heavily with synthesized sounds and melodies in the late 1970s, producing songs deemed incomprehensible by those still caught up in the British rock n’ roll invasion of the 1960s. Controversy surrounding his explorations would soon follow with the release of his 1979 album Replicas.
“The Musician’s Union tried to ban me for a couple of years,” reminisces Numan, “saying it wasn’t real music and I was putting real musician’s out of work. It was pretty insulting.”
With the release of his latest album Savage: Songs from a Broken World, it seems as though the genre that Numan sacrificed so much to create, has put him on the chopping block. Billboard, the American media Enterprise in charge of deciding what’s cool and isn’t, recently excluded the album from entering the electronic charts, labelling it Rock/Alternative despite his heavily electronic production.
Numan says: “My early albums, which effectively kickstarted the whole genre to begin with, are less electronic than Savage. It’s by far more electronic than the The Pleasure Principle, which is considered to be an electronic classic!”
Over the past couple decades, Numan’s influences have led him to venture into more aggressive songwriting, dabbling in heavier, more Industrial style production. While they continue to encompass considerable electronically produced sounds, the stereotypical definition of modern electronic music has unfortunately overlooked the complexity of these songs.
“If they are trying to gear their charts to towards being more Dance/EDM, then they need to change the name of that chart,” says Numan. “They disqualified [Savage] because it’s not the right kind of electronic,” he continues, persisting, “it’s just bullshit, utter bullshit.”
Though his status as a founding father and icon of electronic music waivers in the eyes of some, it’s impossible to discredit his influence. The 1990s saw a generation of goth rock and industrial acts hoisting up Numan as their cult leader, absorbing his bleak views and paranoid assessment of the world to shape their own music and image. Savage continues along these same dark, thematic parallels, venturing even deeper into more global issues.
On the album, Numan finds himself abandoned in an apocalyptic future, caused heavily by the adverse effects of global warming; a danger he is passionate about correcting. He claims that the album was originally intended to be a science fantasy.
“But because of Trump, it started to become a little less fantasy and more a possibility.” He continues, asserting: “It’s a worry that a nation with so much power has an uncontrollable, renegade disgrace for a human being as its leader.” However, despite all of Trump’s malevolent ignorance, Numan remains hopeful that the saner minds in charge will use their influence for good.
In his 1979 song “Down in the Park,” Numan depicts a hostile future in which machines rise to power, quickly taking out their homosapien rivals. If Savage ends up accurately predicting the environmental collapse of our planet while technological and military advancement remains top priority, then maybe things will come full circle as all of Numan’s prophecies become reality. Perhaps we should give his discography the attention it deserves, as it might help us survive the impending uprising.
Gary Numan performs at the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver) on November 23 and the Commonwealth (Calgary) on November 24.