As could be expected from any great sci-fi visionary, legendary synth icon Gary Numan frighteningly accurately predicted our by-now-hopeless addiction to the perpetual state of “plugged-in” decades before it became our actual reality. Indeed, on the anxiously paranoid track “Metal,” he lamented, “If I could make the change / I’d love to pull the wires from the walls.” And with his startlingly prescient hit single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric,” he decisively foretold of our current social media obsession and its attendant ability to spiral us into a collective state of depression: “You know I hate to ask / But are ‘friends’ electric?/ Only mine’s broke down / And now I’ve no one to love.”
His newest album, the awesomely powerful and thought-provoking Savage (Songs From a Broken World), is based on his own unfinished novel about survival after an environmental apocalypse – brought on partly by Donald Trump’s reckless climate policies – has decimated the landscape. It’s full of haunted, deeply affecting electro-metallic mini-symphonies, like “Ghost Nation,” with its ominous prophecy, “When the sky came down / When the sun went dark / When the righteous came and they cleansed our sins.” Particularly foreboding is “Pray for the Pain You Serve,” with Numan chillingly pleading, “I will be here when the storm ends / On my knees I will pray to something / Will you save me?”
Perhaps the album’s centerpiece, though, is the strikingly complex “My Name is Ruin,” which uses Middle Eastern sonic influences as a metaphor for an equally desperate East and West forced to come together in the wake of worldwide catastrophe – a theme running all throughout the record.
Numan will launch a 26-date US tour on November 15. And in the lead up to the new album’s official release on September 15, we caught up with him to talk Al Gore, not believing in God, and the possible Earthly wasteland that awaits us.
So, this is it – the Gary Numan post-apocalyptic record. Do you feel it palpably, that we’re facing an imminent environmental catastrophe?
I do think it’s possible, though I don’t know exactly how likely it would be. Now that Trump has pulled out of the Paris Agreement it’s very serious. It is basically the most powerful nation in the world abandoning the most important climate accord of our lifetime; and some of the elements of the Paris Agreement are extremely fragile. But my hope is that people will pull together and stand for what is right…because it is a real thing, for certain.
It’s shameful that there are politicians still playing the “climate denial” card.
I am shocked that he has even filled the EPA with climate change deniers.
You’re an American now. So how does it make you feel, to have an administration leading the charge against science and common sense?
Well, we were in London recently for a screening of An Inconvenient Sequel, and Al Gore was there. I was so glad we brought our daughters, because I wanted them to see that one of the most important voices, one of the people fighting the hardest for change, was an American. So it’s not all just what they see about Donald Trump.
Does being a father influence the content of your songs?
Yes, definitely. And we don’t shield them from anything, apart from real brutality. Even what was going on in Charlottesville. The reason we emigrated to America, actually, was for our daughters. It just seemed to me that, while it’s hardly perfect, they would have more opportunity here.
How do you address the very real environmental fear on the record?
The album is based on a book that I’m writing, about the world after an environmental apocalypse. The book isn’t yet finished, but I just picked up the ideas and turned them into the lyrical themes on the record. We used a lot of Middle Eastern influence in the music, in the album artwork – even the lettering is Arabic influenced. It’s a way of conveying how, when it all comes down to it, East and West will have to come together to survive. That is what will have to happen.
There’s a track titled “What God Intended.” What is your relationship with religion? Where is God in your life?
Nowhere, actually. I don’t believe in God and never really have. When I was thirteen years old, I wrote a letter to my school outlining the reasons I no longer wanted to get religious instruction – and I guess my argument was solid enough, that they actually allowed me to change my curriculum for the next few years.
Does technology still fascinate you?
Yes, absolutely. But as much as so many people just expect me to be so much the technology person, I actually know less than you might think. I can do a lot with Pro-Tools, I know just what I need to do to get my songs done. But I’m surrounded by people who know a lot more than me.
When you’re younger, you’re more excited about it, naturally.
Oh, yeah – I used to go to sleep surrounded by the equipment manuals I was reading, it was so exciting. But now there are all these other things in my life…and who has time, really?
You’re launching an extensive tour in the fall; and your live performances are still incredibly exhilarating. Do you still feel that fire when you’re on stage?
I still do absolutely, I get swept right up into the songs. It’s an incredible feeling, you can feel the floor shaking around you on stage. I love every minute of the lifestyle – the bus, the shows. If I didn’t miss my daughters so much, I would probably spend all my life on the road.