Steve Morris

‘My voice is a curse’: Gary Numan interviewed

Steve Morris talks to the synth-pop pioneer about luck, plane-spotting and Asperger’s

Gary Numan: ‘Asperger’s shaped the music I made then, it still does’. Credit: Sarah Lee/Guardian/eyevine

Reading the opening chapter of Gary Numan’s recent autobiography, (R)evolution, I start to get the odd feeling that I could just as well be reading about my own early life. Like Numan, I grew up near Heathrow and found the aircraft that flew over our house beautiful and magical. My parents were working class and worked hard and supported me all the way. Like Numan, I wanted to be a pilot, and a rock star. And like him, I never quite fitted in. Perhaps I could have formed a seminal band, become a pilot in my spare time and moved to LA. But then I don’t have that voice, or that talent. Never mind.

I am chatting to him by Zoom. He’s in his LA home and eagerly awaiting the release of his 18th solo studio album, Intruder.

The idea for the album came from an interesting place: a poem called ‘Earth’, written a few years ago by his then 11-year-old daughter Echo. It is ‘a child’s view of what the Earth is going through’. If the Earth could talk what would it say? Two of his children sing on the album and Numan co-wrote a song with one of the kids. ‘She wrote 90 per cent of the song, but I still get a credit.’

If the lyrics are direct, then the album’s soundscape, created along with producer Ade Fenton, is otherworldly, beautiful and brutal. But there is a strange ingredient: the Turkish musician Gorkem Sen. Sen invented, and is the only person in the world who can play, the yaybahar, an acoustic string synthesiser that has a strong Middle Eastern flavour.

I decide to test out a pet theory — that the alienating, grim and scary soundscapes of his music are a direct result of growing up in a place that is Nowheresville.

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