The Pleasure Principle – Gary Numan returns
Under the Radar met up with electronic giant Gary Numan for a chat: Groundbreaking electronic artist Gary Numan is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his seminal album, The Pleasure Principle. As part of this revelry, he is returning to New Zealand for the first time in 31 years and UTR caught up with him to discuss how it feels to revisit an album three decades later, whether he knew the album was going to have the impact it has and what made him write such music in the first place.
You’re coming to New Zealand this month, are you looking forward to it?
Yes, it’s been 31 years since I was there last, so it’s very cool. I’m very very pleased to have the opportunity to come and do it again but I’m also very aware that a lot of time has passed and I don’t know what to expect really. So I’m very pleased that I’m coming I just not really confident, I have to say, I really don’t know how it’s going to go.
Is it crazy to think The Pleasure Principle came out over three decades ago?
It’s funny, actually. Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday and sometimes it feels like it was 130 years ago. So much has happened since I wrote that album that I feel like such a different person to what I was when I wrote it. It’s a little bit weird going back to it after such a long time and I have to say that I’m not really a fan of looking back into the past, I’m much more of a fan about what I’m doing tomorrow than yesterday.
When the 30th anniversary came along I didn’t want to make a big deal about it but I didn’t want to ignore it either, so I thought I’d just do one show in England and all the hardcore fans can come along to that. Then that sold out really quickly so it became four shows and then at that point the record company got interested and they wanted to do a special anniversary issue of the album with all these extra tracks they’d found in the archives, and so it turned into a much bigger tour. And then the Americans – it was quite a big album over there when we toured it there – got interested. So what started as a single gig has grown into this much bigger thing that I never planned.
I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would, because I’ve always found anything to do with nostalgia is sort of taking a few steps backwards, and I’m really not that interested in playing old songs so for me to do this is quite a big thing. Having said that it’s been really interesting to play the music I wrote when I was a boy.
The Pleasure Principle is what the tour is about, so what we’re doing is playing that album for the first 45 minutes but then we’ve got another 45 minutes or more which tends to be new stuff, and quite often we’ll do two or four songs that aren’t even released yet. For me it’s quite interesting to be playing things that are right from the beginning and things that are so new they haven’t been heard, all in one show. It’s a nice way of showing people something I’m proud of from when I started but also how it’s evolved into what we do now.
How does it feel to have an album that is still musically relevant three decades after it was released?
For a long long time I didn’t think much about it at all. Obviously when I made it I was keen to make it sound as good as I could and then out it went. Some people in the press liked it but most people didn’t – it generally got pretty bad reviews, especially in the UK. The press didn’t really go for it here, so it took a long time before people started to view it the way they do now.
A really interesting thing happened a while ago where the NME Magazine did a retrospective review of it and said how important it was and how innovative it was – all these really complimentary things – but when it came out they absolutely slagged it into the ground, they hated it. Since I’ve gone back and re-visisted it again, I do feel proud of it in a way that I never was before. I think when it first came out it was quite a quirky unusual record for the time and I appreciate it more now than I did then. It just sounded like a record that I’d made rather than anything that was particularly unusual or different so I’ve grown proud of it and I appreciate it now more that it was quite an unusual record for the time.