Gary Numan

Visionary. Pioneer. Genius. Whatever you call him, it’s hard to find a musician—electronic or otherwise—that can’t claim Gary Numan as an inspiration in some way. With decades of experience under his belt, millions of fans worldwide, and a few years since his last release, Numan now has the element of surprise with Jagged, his deepest, darkest and most powerful opus to date. He is primed for a renaissance, and it begins now.

Daryl: Barring the wet blankets out there, do you find that you’ve earned more respect for having waited so long to release Jagged? I think there’s something to be said for bands that aren’t album-pumping machines.

Gary: Some people have given me respect for wanting to make the best album I can rather than the quickest, others have said I’m wasting my time and getting distracted by other things. There is a bit of truth in both points of view to be honest. But I was distracted by things that mean the world to me and I don’t regret a second of it. Since the last album we’ve had two daughters and I didn’t want to miss a single moment of their early lives. If that and my desire to make a really good album means they take a little longer to make, then so be it.

D: How much of a perfectionist are you with your music?

G: I am quite bad actually. I have to be careful that I don’t end up tweaking and fine tuning things that no one but me will ever notice. I’m getting better but I probably still waste a lot of time fiddling with things that really are fine as they are.

D: With all of the positive response to your last album and now Jagged, are you inspired to release music more regularly?

G: I find it brings more pressure strangely enough. With each new album you run the risk of people not liking it as much as the last one. It becomes more difficult to keep moving forward musically—and also to keep people with you—so therefore it can take longer. With each step forward that you try to take with the music you risk leaving people behind that want you to keep doing exactly what you did last time. It goes way back as well. I still have fans—soon to be ex-fans I would imagine—who want me to just rewrite new versions of Cars for the rest of my life and that just isn’t going to happen. For someone like me, someone that wants to keep moving the music forward, losing existing fans is a constant risk and a constant reality, so I need a steady flow of new people getting into what I’m doing to survive.

D: How much control do you have over your music now, in terms of old songs and other previous work? What is your current relationship with record labels?

G: It depends on the label, but generally I’m okay with most of them. As for control: I have little over the original recordings, especially the earlier stuff, but I now have the right to re-record pretty much everything I’ve ever done. Not that I’m interested in doing that to be honest. I’m far more interested in writing new songs than redoing old ones.

D: Jagged is both powerful and subtle; it is never overbearing or abrasive, yet it also strays away from being sappy or emotionally flabby. What aspect do you think makes this album more intense than previous albums?

Gary NumanG: We tried to produce it in such a way that it takes many listens to really appreciate everything that’s going on. On first listen you obviously hear the big melodies and main musical lines, but then, on subsequent listens, you can hear just how much else is lurking underneath those melodies. There is a huge amount going on in Jagged. Almost every chorus is huge and so we wanted to maximize that “here comes the big bit” idea by making many of the verses, or alternate link sections, more gentle. For such an aggressive sounding album, some of the verse lines are almost pretty—sometimes strangely ethereal. I love that change from the floaty verse to the all-out and anthemic chorus and it makes playing the songs live a very exciting thing to do. I think the production gives the album an almost relentless feel to it, a constant onslaught of noise. The intensity probably comes from that.

D: I know the lyrics on this album were inspired by “broken” or unstable people you’ve known in one way or another. How much of the lyrics are real and how much are manufactured?

G: Much of it is actually about some of the darker things that I’ve been involved in or fascinated by, as well as some of the people that I’ve known over the years—so it’s all based on truth. However, it is at times exaggerated somewhat for the sake of drama, but only exaggerated. Very little is manufactured.

D: Your music has remained on the darker side for some time, regardless of events in your life… Do you ever feel like creating songs that are completely off the wall or outside of your style?

G: I do write other stuff from time to time, but I have no interest in releasing any of it. I only want to release songs these days that I also want to play live…and that means the current darker stuff for the foreseeable future. It’s already a problem trying to play songs from the middle period of my career as it’s such a different sound to what I’m doing now…it just doesn’t fit well at all.

D: Is there a song that strikes you particularly hard now that the album is finished and people around the world are listening to it? Anything that gives you goosebumps?

G: The song called Scanner. It’s the only song on the album that isn’t about the darker side of my past. Scanner is about still wanting to protect my children after I die, and how I would try to come back as a ghost to watch over them. I’m not an overly sentimental man but when I sing the song I think about not being with them and it makes me upset…then I can’t sing anymore and it all falls apart. It can be embarrassing on stage.

D: You dropped the word “Halo” from your working version of the album title, and religion peeks through only incidentally on this album…Have you said all you need to about the subject?

G: I doubt it, but I don’t want future albums to be devoted solely to that topic, so it will probably crop up again from time to time on certain songs. Dropping the word “Halo” from the title was more an attempt to stop people thinking that Jagged was yet another album about my dislike of religion and my lack of belief in God. Calling it “Jagged Halo” was likely to give the wrong impression as to its content.

D: Any clues as to what we can expect from you next?

G: I really like where I am at the moment musically speaking, so I won’t be straying too far from it. However, I do have a constant need to move forward, so I’m looking at making the next album more up-tempo, more aggressive. I would also like to include even more of the Arabian feel that is on some parts of Jagged, maybe develop that idea a lot more. This one tends to sit in that medium to slow, menacing range when it comes to tempo. The next one needs to move up a gear.