Music » Music Stories & Interviews

Electronic pioneer drives into '90s



The Club, May 26, 1998

New Wave legend Gary Numan is between a rock and a hard place. Currently touring America to hype the release of his latest album, "Exile," he is keen to show off his new songs and new band, hoping to become a viable '90s act in the process. On the other hand, his name is rarely mentioned without the preface of "New Wave legend."

Numan is remembered in the U.S. for his 1979 hit "Cars" -- which remains a retro-dance favorite today. But as far as most of his early listeners are concerned, he hasn't put out a record since "Telekon" in 1980. Even fans who picked up on his later U.K. releases are still stuck in a time warp thanks to the lack of distribution of his works in the United States. As a result, Numan is often thought of as a nostalgia act.

"I've been offered so many reunion tours and '80s tours, and I haven't taken any of them," says Numan. "After all, once you've done the nostalgia thing, what's left for you?"

After 15 years of career downspiral, a tribute CD and the featuring of "Cars" in a European commercial have led to his rediscovery. A remix compilation, "The Mix," promises to spur a serious reassessment of his back catalog. Then there's "Exile," which takes Numan across familiar post-apocalyptic, futuristic territory, but in fresh and more accomplished ways. "The next 12 months are going to be very important to me as a '90s artist," he says. "The problem is I'm not really sure how much people here know about my stuff."

Numan is focusing on material from "Exile" for this tour. According to his website (http://www. .uk), the album is "about the idea that God and the Devil are one and the same person, that heaven and hell are one and the same place." The outspoken atheist finds a lot to work with in the darker side of spirituality.

Reluctant to work with others in the past, Numan has recorded recently with death-metal kings Fear Factory and is working on a collaborative effort with hip-hop originator Afrika Bambaataa. He reveres Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor, but doesn't plan to emulate their showy, theatrical style to emphasize the dark side of his songwriting. "This is the music I've been wanting to make," he declares. "In the past, we relied perhaps too much on spectacle for the shows. But we're not going to rely on spectacle now."

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