Gary Numan is touring the world, celebrating the 30th anniversary of his classic electronic pop album, The Pleasure Principle.
His path from punk rocker to making The Pleasure Principle, though, was a bit of an accident.
I was in a band called Tubeway Army and we were a three-piece punk band. We went into a studio to make a record and we had three days to go and make it, which was the punk songs we were playing live.
I went to the studio, never having seen a synthesizer before, and round the corner was a thing called a Minimoog, which was quite a famous synthesizer. It was supposed to be collected by a hire company, because somebody had rented it the day before and they’d forgotten about it. They never turned up, so I started using it all day for this first day and I just loved it; I didn’t know much about them, but I was having fun working it out and thought these amazing noises were coming out of this thing.
I just thought it was the best thing I had ever heard.
I went to the record company and told them I’d found this synthesizer thing which was amazing and this was what I wanted to use for the future and so all those punk songs are going to be electronic punk songs, and I don’t want to be in a band anymore, I want to be a solo artist. I thought I had found something really special!
The record company were really unhappy to be honest, they didn’t get it at all, they wanted a punk band and that’s it. Luckily for me they didn’t have any money so they couldn’t afford to send me back into the studio because I’d blown the budget.
So they released it and it did a lot better than they expected, so they let me go back into the studio and make another album.
So I went back into the studio and made another album. And then we had a single from this album that went to number one, so I went from having never seen a synthesizer before to becoming the ‘number one expert on synthesizers’ in the UK.
Synthesizers were hugely expensive at the time, so it was really a matter of luck that Numan happened into his defining sound.
Numan found himself in the position of being the face of synth pop, having spent, according to him, ‘about eight hours with a synthesizer”.
“In those early days people would ask me questions about synthesizers and programming and I didn’t know what they were talking about,” adds Numan, “and yet I was supposed to be a champion of this sound.”
Numan’s comments are via an excellent interview at UnderTheRadar.co.nz.