Gary Numan: ‘Eye contact is something I find incredibly difficult’ | This much I know

The singer and musician, 60, on having Asperger’s, voting for Thatcher and threatening to stab someone in Mexico

I was a very difficult kid. I’d get hyper, argue and make trouble. My school got fed up so I was kicked out. I went to another school and got thrown out, too. I ended up going to a technical college, just to keep my mum and dad happy. Then the college asked me to leave.

A child psychologist diagnosed me with Asperger’s, I must have been about 14. I don’t remember much about it, I just found it quite annoying. My mum seemed to take it badly, as if it was a slight on her. Neither of us really understood.

I was an aeroplane pilot, but everyone I knew got killed. I’ve had four aeroplanes, and bought one for my brother too. I sold my last one when I moved to America. I ducked out of it when my children arrived.

Eye contact is something I find incredibly difficult. I count all the time when I’m talking to someone to make sure I do it right. Anything less than two seconds is considered rude, more than five seconds is too intense, so I have to look away. I worked that out myself. I find conversations incredibly stressful.

Being under house arrest in India on suspicion of smuggling and spying was unexpected. Another air-display pilot and I were flying around the world in a little aeroplane. We landed in a small village on the coast of India and got arrested on suspicion of smuggling and spying. It was madness. The policeman asked if we were taking photographs of the Russian submarine base. I said I wasn’t, but asked where it was. He told me it was 20 miles south!

I voted for Thatcher. It was the only time I voted. She won her election by a landslide, I wasn’t the only one that got sucked in. I’m not a socialist, but it’s absolutely all right, if you’re doing well, to give some of that back. What you don’t want to be doing is giving your money to lazy people who don’t do anything.

There’s nothing good about getting old. Crossing 50 was where it all started. I got to the point where I couldn’t even look at older people in the street without crying. I would think to myself: “How can you live with death so close and walk around as if everything is fine?” Next thing you know I’d be on the floor. It got so bad that I went to the doctors.

I was on antidepressants for too long, my wife said I turned into a Forrest Gump-like character. I lost all ambition, all my drive. I was just bumbling. She forced me to come out and face the world.

I nearly stabbed someone once. I was in a bar in Mexico. He and someone sat in a booth next to us and tried to impress people by opening his jacket and showing me a snake. I had a penknife. It wouldn’t have killed him, but all I remember is I jumped on the table and yelled: “Come near me and I’ll kill you.”

My mum died over a year ago. She’d had cancer for a long time, about 25 years. Mum never let any of us know how bad it was, but we knew. She made us think she was invincible, and she was stronger than I’ll ever be. If I get a cold, I want the whole world to know about it.

Being a good parent is the thing that makes me most nervous. I look at what I do and I’m haunted by every mistake I make. If effort counts for anything, then I’m a good dad, because I really try.

I have a series of weird tapping systems. There’s one where I tap every finger 12 times – three lots of five. One other lot of five, then a middle finger, then a three, twice. Then five, 10, 11, 12, then five, six, seven. Like that.

Gary Numan’s album ‘Savage’ is out now. He performs with the Skaparis Orchestra in the UK this November (


Michael Segalov

The GuardianTramp

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