Still intermittently haunted by preconceptions that he is moody, arrogant, defensive and humourless the Gary Numan of 2006 is in fact none of these things and having plumbed the depths of a major career dip is once again recording some of the best material of his career. Name-checked by stars as varied as Beck, Afrika Bambaataa, David Bowie, Liam Howlett, Armand Ven Helden, The Bravery and Marilyn Manson, and much sampled the time has never been better to reacquaint yourself with Gary Numan's work, especially given the strong echoes of his early material to be found amongst the harder edged industrial rock on Jagged.
“I can't hear those echoes but too many people have noticed that same thing for it not to be true. My wife Gemma was the first to mention it nearly a year ago. I think echoes is a lovely way to put it. Although I don't hear them myself those that do seem to think it's a good thing, a good addition to the harder edge that my music has these days. I did work very hard in trying to make sure that every song was packed with melody. I didn't want it just to be an album of hard noises with no real songs underneath. Maybe it's that concentration on tune and melody that echoes back.”
There are some very nice (for want of a better phrase) 'world music' type vibes on the album - like the opening eastern drones on 'Pressure' - where did the influence for those sounds come from?
“I've long wanted to make an album that uses Eastern musical influences and merged them with our western styles. This isn't that album but it does contain a few fledgling ideas in that direction. Some of the vocal lines are attempts to add that flavour but I think ‘Pressure’ is the most obvious. The intro to the live set is a four minute addition to the intro of 'Pressure' and develops that eastern mix idea far more.”
Lyrically, Jagged seems to be coming from a pretty bleak place, one hopes this is writing from observation rather then experience
“More from memory in many instances. Life is good at the moment. I'm happy with career and family and I have few serious issues to deal with but it hasn't always been like that, so I don't need to look too far back to relive things that were grim and unpleasant. Add to that the fact that I've been doing this for a very long time and many people have come into my life and out of it again. Some of them left a lasting impression and often not for good reasons so I can cast my mind back to them as well. Plus I can look around and see a world full of horrors.”
What, if anything do you believe in, especially now you are a family man in these dark and dangerous days of war, famine and frightening natural catastrophes?
“I have no belief in any God and little faith, if any at all, in the leaders of the world, I have lived my life in the belief that if it can go wrong then sooner or later it will, and if it can happen to someone else, then it can happen to me. So I'm prepared for bad times but trying to ensure that, by cautious planning, I might be able to sidestep them when they seem to be coming my way. It's foolish to blunder through life simply expecting everything to go well. Then again I'm a paranoid fucker so that's probably all just bollocks.”
You are experiencing something of a career renaissance, how does it feel?
“[Actually] I think since Pure I've probably done more to kill my career than at any other time. If it wasn't for Steve Malins (PR, journalist and friend), who pushed for and put together the Hybrid album as a very cool gap filler while I dragged my heels on Jagged, I think it would all be over. It's taken me five years to make, four of those because I was sitting on my arse and getting distracted. The fantastic momentum that was created with the Pure album and the way in which my career was turned round [was almost lost when] I just settled back to watch my baby grow up. Steve helped keep my name around and was also instrumental in sneaking in two top 20 singles as well. If I'd been left to my own devices I'd have done nothing but watch my career disappear down the toilet. That said though, I do feel that I've come up with a pretty cool album and I am now firmly back in the saddle and eager to make up for lost time."
Jagged is out now on Cooking Vinyl records and more details can be found at www.numan.co.uk If you would like to read the entire interview (with loads more chat about the new album), you can download it here