Gary Numan – What Rock’N’Roll Has Taught Me

The synth-pop hero on voting Tory, having Asperger’s, and not getting his knob out.

Hits and fame are nothing compared to having fans on the Starship Enterprise

When I wrote my first albums, I did so thinking it was going to be transient pop music. Most of the people that reviewed ‘The Pleasure Principle’ [Gary’s first solo album] gave me one or two albums at most. So to see so many people still referencing that music is amazing. Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson are the obvious ones, but one of my favourites is when William Shatner covered ‘Cars’. I’ve always been a bit of Trekkie, so to have Captain Kirk having doing one of your songs is pretty brilliant. I’m actually more proud of things like that I am of getting to Number One!


Don’t rip your fans off

I didn’t make money from touring until the mid-’90s because my stage show was so expensive. I remember doing three nights at Wembley in 1981 and losing about £60,000 a night. The idea of the show was to have a London of the future where the buildings would glow so that there would be no dark alleys.


I also had little pyramid shaped robots… it was all a bit Stonehenge to be honest, but it cost a bloody fortune. To have made any money, I would have had to charged two or three times the ticket price – which is common nowadays but, to me, it seems like the wrong thing to do – to charge people for my indulgences. If it meant I lost money doing it, then that was my way of saying thank you to the fans for putting me there.

Take bad reviews rather than no reviews

I always had a bad relationship with the press – slagging my albums off used to be par for the course. Someone even said that my mum and dad shouldn’t have had me once. To say that I should have been aborted because I made an album they didn’t like is a bit strong! It became an accepted part of being a pop star, but I just stopped taking any notice.

But there was a period towards the end of the ’80s that people stopped writing about me at all – and that was probably even more difficult, to be honest. If no-one is moved enough to write a long, scathing review, then you’re not touching them. You’re not bothering anyone. At least you’re a talking point when you’re getting slagged off, but when you’re being ignored it’s a big worry. It meant I was in big trouble.

Getting famous brings out the nutters

I had a lot of strange fans in the earlier days. I’ve had death threats, my girlfriend had someone say they were going to get acid thrown in her face, my mum and dad had a petrol bomb put under their car. My mum was under police protection for a month. It’s all from jealousy, in my opinion. I think when you become successful very quickly as I did, they assume that your life has taken a massive turn for the better – they assume that there’s vast amounts of money, that every good-looking woman in the world wants to shag you.

Of course, it’s not like that at all, but a lot of people believe that. So if they’re sat at home reading all about you, they don’t have a job or money and they don’t like your music anyway, they end up lashing out a bit. After a while, people get used to it and it all dies down, but at first it was quite scary.”

Don’t be too open about your political opinions

I voted for the Tories in 1983, but I also voted the same person that most of the people in the UK opted for – that’s why it was a landslide victory. If you wanted to shoot me for that then do it, but then you’d have to shoot 35 per cent of the British population because that’s how many the Conservative Party won by [it was more like 42 per cent – Pedant Politics Ed].

It’s not like I was saying vote for the National Front – I wasn’t voting for anything unique or violent. I genuinely thought that the best option was voting for the Conservatives at the time. But I do regret talking about that because people got really fucking weird about it. At the last election, there was a Scottish newspaper that ran a big feature that had me down as Conservative, which was an absolute bloody lie. I only voted for them that one time and I was so demoralised by what happened and the negative reaction I got for saying I voted Conservative that I get involved very little in that sort of thing now. All you’re doing when you vote is voting for the best liar.

If you’ve got Asperger’s, you should think about a career in music

I started reading about Asperger syndrome when I was in my thirties, so I took some online tests. There was one where the scale went up to 50, Asperger’s started at 32 and I ranked as a 38. I’m self-diagnosed, so I’m not sure if that counts, but I have a real problem with interaction and I have obsessive tendencies that can be quite extreme.

I have no real conception of what offends people – I mean, I know enough to not get my knob out in front of someone – but the more subtle aspects of conversation and interaction I have no natural feeling for. But being in the music business is actually one of the few professions that having Asperger’s can actually work for you. Having a highly obsessive and highly focused sense of determination I’ve actually found to be useful for me. It’s a great profession for someone who spends a lot of time on their own… thinking about themselves. It’s perfect for the self-obsessed!