Gary Numan webchat – as it happened

Last modified: 02: 25 PM GMT+0

He never listens to music, thinks America has better opportunities for women, and loves a Tesco shortcake. The electropop pioneer was here to answer your questions. Read the answers in full here

That's it! Thank you for all your questions

lipslikesugar writes:

Not a question, just a thank you. Thank you for enlivening things and long may you continue to do so. Wish that time flew less quickly

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Thank you. And thank you to everyone who took the time to ask questions. It's very much appreciated. I'm really enjoying being back in England, and very much looking forward to seeing everyone on Friday at the Royal Festival Hall. Bye.

Rado asks:

Can you tell me if you have a favourite software synthesiser?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Omnisphere by a company called Spectrasonics is my favourite. Omnisphere 2 is being released next month and is stunning.

ID1296466 asks:

As Convergence is a Festival of Electronica will you be going back to basics for Friday’s gig?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Electronica is not nostalgia. I wouldn't do it if it was nostalgia. The set will be a mix of songs from my entire catalogue, and there will be things from the late 70s right up to things from Splinter. I'm allowed 90 minutes, and I hope to fill it with songs from most areas of my career.

iaingall asks:

I remember when you crashed your plane in the village where I lived at the time - Botley. Surviving a plane crash? Did this effect your outlook on life, your music or just your laundry bill?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Just to point out, I didn't crash it. It was being flown by a commercial pilot. But I did own it. It made no difference whatsoever to my outlook on life, or my laundry bill. I was flying again two days later. I consider it to be a very exciting and interesting experience having survived it, much like being a popstar.

IanFLondon asks:

How did you get American citizenship?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I'm not an American citizen. I'm still British with a British passport. I am what they call a permanent resident. Or a legal alien. Which I really like. There is an option to become a citizen after you've been living in America for a few years, which does give you certain advantages, but I doubt I would do that. Although I'm sure my children will.

bingohandjob asks:

You’ve talked a lot about your financial success/failures in the past, even quoting a worth of £4m in 1981. What are you worth now?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I saw a fantastic T-shirt that said: I was born with nothing, and I still have most of it left. That pretty much sums up life for me.

PeterFox79 asks:

Do you ever see yourself working with a full band in the studio again, with less emphasis on technology (old school if you like :-))

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I still do work with musicians in the studio, but I never worked with a full band. Everything was recorded sequentially, one person at a time. But I love technology. My entire career has been based upon using cutting edge technology and always will be. I came into music more through a love of technology than a love of music, in many ways. And I've never lost that.

"I secretly enjoyed the fact that when I did Tops of the Pops, nobody knew I was singing about a robot prostitute"

Elvis Chomsky asks:

Why the quotation marks in ‘Are Friends “Electric”?’ Was it and Down In The Park about gay sex?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

First of all, Down in the Park is not about gay sex, of which I have no experience whatsoever.

The quotation marks are actually around the wrong word. And the "Friends" in the song are robots. They are robots with a clone human skin, and can supply a wide variety of services from plumbing to prostitution. They were from a science fiction story I was writing, and they were called Friends as a slang term because you didn't know what they were for when they arrived at your door, or your neighbour's door. Your neighbours had no idea what service they were supplying. It was the equivalent of getting porn in a brown envelope.

I always secretly enjoyed the fact that when I did it on Top of the Pops, nobody knew I was singing about a robot prostitute. Which would surely have got the song banned.

SteelAndYou asks:

There has been lots of talk about performers and their riders. What’s on your rider for RFH and what is the most unusual thing that you have ever requested? (and did you get it!?)

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

English biscuits, hopefully. I've never actually requested anything! Except maybe Jim Beam now. Most of the rider is so the crew and band are happy, as far as I'm concerned.

SteelAndYou asks:

You’ve got a big and vocal following on social media - Twitter, Facebook & Instagram and your fans interact with you a lot through that. Do you read the posts and comments and do you ever want to respond?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Very rarely. When Splinter was released, I started to interact for the first time ever on Twitter, and within a week, negative things started to come. Fans started to get angry, supporting me, and it just became unpleasant. So I pulled out straight away, and won't go back. The problem with the internet and social media is that it's given everyone a voice, but it seems that some people don't know what to do with it. They use it as an outlet for every negative thought they have. And I find it utterly depressing.

I recently went onto a forum, for example, to find out about an electric car for one of my children. There was a YouTube video. Within four comments it had degenerated into a foulmouthed slanging match from parents arguing about the best and worst electric car for children, it was unbelievably pathetic. That seems to be quite typical.

basspixie asks:

I was five in 1980 and your music has been with me my whole life, I don’t think there has been a day that I’ve not listened to you, but I can honestly say that Splinter is by far the best album you have ever done, it’s just stunning. How does it feel that this far into your career, you are producing your best work?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Initially the reaction to the album just made me feel a huge sense of relief. It had taken me a long time to make, I was incredibly nervous about how people would react to it. But their reaction was so positive, so incredible actually, that I actually looked at the album myself again. When it was first released I was listening to it with the ears of a nervous, almost frightened man, and it wasn't until the reaction started to come in that I was able to listen to it in a more confident way. It's not been 18 months I think since it came out, and I now consider it one of the best albums I've ever made. And to have made it so deep into the career at a time when most artists that have been around this long have blanded out, I feel very proud of it.

The pressure now is to do it again. Which is what most of 2015 will be devoted to. I have no plans for it whatsoever - I'm going to go to the studio when I get back from this gig, and just see what happens. I have no pre-arranged intention or direction for it. There'll be a new producer if I use one at all. It's an absolutely blank page at the moment. It may not even be industrial.

bingohandjob asks:

As others have mentioned here, your wife Gemma posted a photo of Jean-Michel Jarre at your LA home. It is doubtful you are a fan, so how did this visit come about?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I am a fan actually. But he's also a friend, and he's been to our house several times. And he is one of the loveliest, most charming people I've ever met. Who rolls around around on the floor with our dog Wilma.

VolstedGridban writes:

Gary, not sure about the hair dye, man. I would leave it out and go white, with a little encouragement. That would suit you much better. Any thoughts on that?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Dear Dad, I told you not to send in any questions.


arturu asks:

From a composer’s point of view, how did you get inspired to use the mixolydian mode extensively in your music? It has become a distinct sound often associated to your work, so it would be great to hear more about that.

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. But it makes me sound really clever. Thanks a lot!

"I don't really listen to music at all...I never have it on in the house or car"

PeterFox79 asks:

Do you listen to music for pleasure? If so, what acts are you currently listening to?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I don't really listen to music at all. I listen to music when I'm working on it, writing it, touring it. I do go to gigs as often as possible but never listen to the radio, I never have music on in the house or car, in fact I bought all my children iPods so that when they listen to music in the car I don't have to hear it. So my exposure to new music comes mainly from gigs, and going to see bands.

The only new bands I've seen recently that I really liked have been bands that I've toured with: Roman Remains, Big Black Delta. In the UK we toured with a band called Officers who were great, The Losers on the last tour were great. But that's it! Slightly embarrassed about that. But my kind of exposure is limited.

jez_1964 asks:

If your children became religious, would you be supportive, or try to influence them.

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

We've already had many discussions about God thanks to the various things discussed and taught at school. If they ask me what I think I tell them honestly: that I don't believe, and I consider the whole thing ridiculous. But if they choose to and it makes them happy, then I'm ok with it.

Hannah Ebben asks:

Do you aspire to be or become a role model or advocate for fellow people on the autism spectrum? If so, how?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Absolutely not. It seems to me that everyone's experience is unique and is unlikely to be relevant to every other person on the spectrum. I have had the opportunity to be able to channel my Asperger's into something creative and something that has been the most important aspect of my entire life. Those experiences may not be relevant in any way to other people with Asperger's. I would feel very uncomfortable setting myself up as any kind of role model or spokesperson on the autism spectrum, especially when I'm not even officially diagnosed.

Merton69 asks:

What are the reasons please, that in recent times you have dumped your two synth players and replaced them with the MacBook? Your gigs lack a huge dynamic now. Shame as not long ago, your gigs were an ‘experience’, not just a gig.

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

First of all, I've gone from two synth players to one. To make up for that I now play keyboards myself on stage for many songs, which I thought fans would enjoy. And as for the MacBook, that simply replaced the DAT player I used for 20 years before it because the MacBook was more reliable. I would be surprised if anyone left Hammersmith in November thinking the show lacked dynamics. But each to their own.

"I've never liked synthpop"

Ian Maloney asks:

Do you prefer synthpop or industrial music?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I've never liked synthpop.


"My favourite biscuit? Tesco shortcake. Incredibly hard to get in Los Angeles"

MisterIks asks:

What’s your favourite biscuit?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I have a favourite school of biscuit - Tesco shortcake. Other people make it and it's rubbish. Also rich teas, ginger nuts, custard creams, McVitie's milk chocolate digestives. All of which are incredibly hard to get in Los Angeles, and another of the reasons I like coming back from time to time.

"I've never regretted having Asperger's, I've never not wanted to have it."

chubbyross asks:

What difference did having the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome make to your life?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I was never diagnosed Aspeger's actually. It was suggested as a cause for my problems at school when I was 15 I think. I was sent to a child psychiatrist in London because of the behaviour problems I had at school which ultimately got me expelled, and it was there that Aspergers was first mentioned. But it was never an official diagnosis. However, I've done several online self diagnoses of it, and I sit deeply within the spectrum for Asperger's, and as for the difference it made to my life, difficult to say. I think a career in music is helped by having Asperger's. It gives you an obsessive degree of focus and determination, which is very useful. It allows you to emotionally disconnect from a lot of the negative stuff that is fired at you by people and the media. There are times when being obsessive is almost a virtue, and it's been very useful to me. I've never regretted having Asperger's, I've never not wanted to have it. The only downside I suppose is that I'm shit at small talk, and I'm not always supportive when people are having emotional problems because I don't understand them. But other than that it's been a welcome part of who I am.

I would think it's better to be a solo artist with Asperger's than in a band, where you're the one who makes all the decisions and guide the direction of things, because you're not particularly good at compromising. It's why I'm not good at working in the studio with someone - when I do it's always done remotely. I lack tact, apparently, and have no sensitivity to feelings.

PeterFox79 asks:

With such a large back catalogue and a constant clamour from fans to hear lesser played material, how difficult is it to put together a set list these days?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Putting a set list together I find incredibly difficult. It seems that no matter what you choose, some people are disappointed. But I have something like 350 songs or maybe more on record, so choosing 20 for a set that has to include songs from the new album that you're most likely promoting, the classics that everybody gets angry about if you don't include, it only leaves about five or six songs per gig from that 350. So it's a huge pain and worry every tour, every gig, to find a right balance of things that allow you to vary the set from one tour to the next and try to please as many people as possible, and keep it fresh and exciting for the band themselves.

With the Royal Festival Hall show on Friday, I have a set that's considerably different to the one we did in Hammersmith in November - at least half the songs are different, and of those songs that are the same I try to do new versions of most of them. So hopefully people will appreciate we're doing something different to our previous London show.

"I was sat 10ft from Marc Almond in a restaurant recently. He didn't punch me, so I guess everything's ok now"

hursts3 asks:

What is it with the anger from Marc Almond from Soft Cell toward you? Their song ‘Bedsitter’ by the way is a total rip off of This Wreckage.

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I don't think there's any anger from Marc towards me. He said something unpleasant about one of my songs about 35 years ago, so I think we've probably both moved on. In fact, I was about ten feet from him in a restaurant in London a few months ago, and he didn't punch me, so I guess everything's ok now.


Pamela Tufnell asks:

Hi Gary will you be writing any books in the future? Science fiction would be interesting...

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I'm working on two at the moment, but to be fair, I've been working on them for the last ten years. One is a science fantasy book, all swords demons and magic, although progress on that is moving along fairly quickly now. The other is the first in a series of children's books, that I will try out on my children first, and if they think they're shit I'll stop right there.

"I'd hope to be doing this in 20 years, but I'll be 77 then and that seems a tad unlikely"

Karen Germanotta asks:

Can you see yourself still touring in a few years time? And do you enjoy tours more now than you did in the peak of your career? And may I end with a thank you for the music since 1979...

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I love touring now more than ever. Partly I think because I've been doing it so long, there is no nervousness, no fear of it. I have 37 years of experience doing it, which builds a considerable amount of confidence. And with that confidence you're able to just enjoy what is a remarkable thing to do for a living. It's the best part of being in music, in a band, and I dread the day I have to stop doing it. So I can definitely see myself doing it in a few years time; I'd hope to be doing it in 20 years, but I'll be 77 then and that seems a tad unlikely.

LectricEye asks:

You already told me the answer to this at a meet and greet in Vancouver, but I think the answer is worth sharing as it really puts the lyrics of the song in context... My question was, “What was the inspiration behind the song, My Last Day?” I still think the ending of the song is at least 45 minutes too short!

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

We have a friend in LA who was diagnosed with brain cancer and was told she could die at any time. And I was incredibly impressed with her attitude and strength towards that, but it made me think about if you were told if you only had one day to live, what would you regret? So the song is mostly about my children, regretting not seeing them grow up. And the happy side of what's quite a grim story is that she had an experimental, risky operation - a doctor came along and said he had a technique he wanted to try. And they fixed it - they took out 95% of the tumour and has a very long life ahead of her. It was an incredible story, and we were part of it, in a way.

"There seems to be greater opportunities for women in America than in the UK"

Wondervoice asks:

You moved to LA to escape the ‘gang warfare’ in England. Has it really been any better in the US or do you still feel threatened, given most people have guns out there? You are back in the UK for your Albert Hall show this week and came back last year for a few gigs and festivals. How much different does England feel each time to when you left it?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Moving to America had nothing to do with gang warfare in England. I didn't even realise there was gang warfare in England! The reasons had nothing to do with violence in Britain, which was misreported widely before I left. The reasons for moving were: weather, pressure from my wife, a better chance for my children as I have only daughters and there seems to be greater opportunities for women in America than in the UK. I still think, and this is a bit of an armchair opinion obviously, that there is a significant amount of resistance to women achieving a high level here. It's very common for CEOs of major companies to be women in America. There just seems to be less resistance to it, it's a more normal thing.

But mostly it's the weather! And a desire to get into film music, hence the move to Los Angeles specifically. And simply a desire to have a more outdoor lifestyle, rather than one that was constantly cancelled due to rain.

WrenShaw asks:

I love your deeply moving lyrics and your bone thrumming music. Which do you write first, music or lyrics?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Not entirely sure what bone thrumming is, but I'm up for it. The music comes first, always, the lyrics are the very last thing that I write.

Baz Dedhevan asks:

I’ve been told that the name ‘Tubeway Army’ came to you after going to see The Subway Sect play live. Do you recall this? (The person you went to the gig with told me this little gem)

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

That's not true. The name Tubeway Army came from a newspaper article that was reporting on a gang that were travelling underground, getting off at random stations, and beating people up. And I think the headline was called Tubeway Army, but I can't remember for sure... but that's where it came from. I think I was 16 and just remembered it.

Tim Bell asks:

Does Gemma, Gary’s wife, insist he has a healthy diet these days, or does he still insist on McDonalds or steak and chips as he did in the 1980s?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I'm getting slightly healthier thanks to Gemma, I've even started to eat vegetarian chicken. I don't go to McDonalds at all, primarily because they support SeaWorld which I'm against. I've also started adding spinach and kale, 5 leaves of each, to my egg for breakfast. I have a disgusting green egg for breakfast. I try to eat fish instead of burgers wherever possible. Not so good for the fish. And I've also started working out for the first time in my life for the last two months.

Howard Gibson asks:

How special and important to you is returning to England to play shows now that you have moved across the pond?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

It's always been important playing shows whether I live in England or not. But now, because I live in LA, it does seem to feel a little more special than before. I really look forward to coming back and meeting the fans again who I don't get to see as often as I used to. And meeting friends and family of course.

SteelAndYou asks:

Your daughter made a wonderful cameo performance on ‘From Inside’ If she came to you to say she wanted to enter your profession would you encourage/discourage her and what advice would you give her?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I'm already encouraging her, all three of them actually. All three girls are showing huge interest in music; two of them are already writing songs, and I've been in the studio with them. I would love them to get into music, I would encourage it absolutely. My eldest is called Raven - she's a massive Katy Perry fan so her songs tend to be pop. I know I'm biased but they are genuinely well-written and catchy and she's surprisingly dominating in the studio - she bosses me around. It was quite difficult the first day we had, it was like having a temperamental artist in there. At one point she said: I don't think you're the right producer for me, I don't think you understand pop music. I'm thinking of putting an EP together - it would be so cool having a record out at 11.

As for advice, you'd have to take that one day at a time depending on what happens to them.

jez_1964 asks:

Marmite, yes or no.?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

Absolutely yes. It's hard to get in America, it's a rare treat for me.

JaggedReplicant asks:

Are we ever going to see you as a star in a reasonably priced car?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I would love to. Actually been trying to do it for years but they never asked me. I have a suspicion that Jeremy Clarkson doesn't like me either!

CaptainSumo asks:

Have you stopped flying completely? Do you miss it?

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I have stopped flying for the time being. I do miss it very much. I live within a mile of an airfield which flies the same kind of aeroplanes I used to fly... it bothers me every day, really. I do intend to start again. I stopped flying because of the children - I was an air display pilot, and most of the people I knew were killed in accidents and so it seemed too reckless a thing to do. And I didn't have the time to indulge in it because of the children; I didn't have the money because of the children!

"I'm an IVF father...Dolce and Gabbana are ignorant and ill-informed"

clareyesno asks:

You tried out IVF treatment with your partner – what do you make of this whole Dolce and Gabbana ‘synthetic children’ debate? I can’t imagine you’re particularly enamoured with them but would like to know your thoughts on the subject anyway!

User avatar for GaryNuman1 Guardian contributor

I was surprised at how ignorant and ill-informed they were, to say something so ridiculous about IVF and adoption and surrogacy. I'm an IVF father and there is nothing synthetic about my children. It was deeply offensive.

Gary Numan is in the building!

Here is Gary ready to answer your questions in the Guardian offices...

Gary Numan in the Guardian offices 18 March 2015
Gary Numan in the Guardian offices, 18 March 2015 Photograph: Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Post your questions for Gary Numan

Of all the androgynously gothic creatures that stalked the charts in the 1980s, Gary Numan was the most striking of all. With his nasal voice, sounding like a middle manager teetering on the edge of psychic breakdown, he sang about ennui, technology and frustrated human connection, all of which still chimes with our age of distracted social networking.

Bolstered by irresistible electronic melody, he topped the charts with Are Friends Electric? and Cars, before embracing an industrial sound on a string of successful LPs throughout the past three decades. But as he told the Guardian in 2013, his intensely staring stage persona was “my way of getting around the fact I was cripplingly shy … a way to create a front I could hide behind.”

Now living in LA, he’s back in London for a Royal Festival Hall gig on Friday as part of the Convergence festival, and is joining us for a live webchat on Wednesday 18 March from 1pm GMT onwards. Post your question for Gary in the comments below and he’ll answer as many as time allows.


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