On September 15th, Gary Numan released his 22nd album Savage (Songs from a Broken World). Ade Fenton returns as producer. This project began life as a fan-backed Pledge Music Campaign of which I was a supporter. The campaign started in November 2015 and as of May 2017 – and at the time of this writing reached 257% of the campaign goal.

Jumping In

If you are only familiar with the Numan’s 80’s hits like “Cars”, I recommend you jump into his recent heavier work by first listening to his master work Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) which was released in 2013. Note –  this was also produced by Ade Fenton.

I had the privilege of interviewing Gary Numan for my synth tech & technique blog Modulate This! In 2014. Below is an excerpt.

Mark Mosher:  There are some amazing textures and sound elements on Splinter. What’s your creative process for creating unique sounds to support your songwriting?

Gary Numan: Sounds can come from anywhere. Walking around the street with a recorder kicking things, slamming things, scraping, dragging, whatever. Using software packages like Omnisphere and Massive, whispering words and phrases and then manipulating those sounds beyond recognition, recording journeys, trains, cars, absolutely anything and everything, and then finding ways to mess with those source sounds until you have something you’ve never heard before. There is no process as such, just a real pleasure from finding new ways to create new sounds.

Mark Mosher: There is a fantastic video on the Nine Inch Nails YouTube channel where you make a surprise appearance and perform “Metal” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehMqEXUspfs) back in 2009. You’ve gone on to share the bill with NIN for a series of concerts and NIN guitarist Robin Finck both plays on Splinter and has played with your touring band. Can you tell us more about the Gary Numan-Trent Reznor-NIN connection and perhaps how this connection has deepened since you have moved to LA?

Gary Numan: Trent came to see us at a show I was playing in Baton Rouge many years ago, this was when he was making The Fragile. He brought with him a copy of a song of mine that he had covered called Metal which was fantastic.

After that, whenever NIN played in London I would go and see them and we would meet up briefly for a chat. Then in 2009 I was invited to join them on stage at their O2 gig in London, then to do the same thing when they played the last four shows of that version of NIN in Los Angeles that same year.

When I moved to Los Angeles Trent wrote the first of my Testimonial letters for the US authorities which really helped. As soon as we moved to the US he invited to his house a couple of times and made us feel very welcome, then the recent shows and some other social things.

He’s been a good friend, in his own, quiet way, on several levels and I’m very grateful to him.

And my favorite part of the interview was Gary’s advice to up-and-coming artists…

Mark Mosher: Rather than fall back on “nostalgia” you have really pushed the envelope to try new ideas throughout your career. Do you have any advice for Modulate This readers on how to take the “long view” of their craft and their music careers?

Gary Numan: I’ve always been aware that everything you do today will stick to you in the future so you must be very careful. You need to think about how today’s actions will be perceived in the coming years. Will they hurt your reputation, weaken your fan base? Are you doing things now for short term gain that might kill your career growth in the coming years?

I’ve made some terrible mistakes over the years but the thing that has always been important to me is never to rely or dwell on past glories, no matter how big they might be.

Try to move forward musically with every album, don’t be afraid to try new things, constantly, and avoid nostalgia at all costs. Of course, if you just want to be rich then milk the nostalgia route for all it’s worth. Plenty of people make very good livings by simply repeating things they did decades ago but I think that’s a pretty empty way to look at creativity.

Write music because you genuinely love what you are doing, not because you think it might get you on the radio or keep the record label happy. I went through a period of writing ‘strategically’ and the music suffered and I did nothing that I’m proud of or still play today. It was soul destroying actually and almost ruined my career. For the first part of my career, and certainly for the last 20 years, I’ve written songs with no thoughts at all about how they might achieve commercial success. I want that of course, but you must NOT try to design your music to achieve it. Write what’s in your heart, what you love, and then hope for the best as far as commercial success is concerned.

You can read the full interview here.

Savage (Songs from a Broken World)

Fast forward to Savage (Songs from a Broken World). The first thing to know is this is a concept album.

Savage (Songs from a Broken World) is a concept album centered around the blending of Western and Eastern cultures in a post-apocalyptic world that has become desertified as a result of global warming. “The songs are about the things that people do in such a harsh and terrifying environment,” Numan stated in an interview. “It’s about a desperate need to survive and they do awful things in order to do so, and some are haunted by what they’ve done. That desire to be forgiven, along with some discovered remnants of an old religious book, ultimately encourages religion to resurface, and it really goes downhill from there.” *

First Impressions

I’ve given the album 4 proper listens. My first impressions are:

  1. Savage is a continuation of the Splinter vibe. It’s still big and heavy – but is more cinematic. I got the sense from following along with Pledge campaign that Gary simultaneously felt the pressure to do a strong follow-up to Splinter and at the same time – because of Splinter’s success – had the confidence to leave more space in the music and take arrangements and sound design to a more cinematic place.
  2. The song writing, doproduction, mixing, and mastering are fantastic. Big beefy heavy songs – yet Numan’s vocals are front and center.
  3. His more story-based approach offers some fantastic long instrumental intros.
  4. I really dig it!

My Favorite Tracks

My Name is Ruin” which is the first single released is fantastic and features his Persia.

My second favorite track is “When the World Comes Apart

Great Live Show

He’s on world tour: https://garynuman.com/tours2/ (and for my fellow Coloradan’s – Denver Dec 18th, Aspen Dec 19th) and his show is fantastic. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the last few shows in Denver and one at the Mountain Oasis Festival in Asheville,NC.

More Info

Mark Mosher
Sr. Systems Analyst | Synthesist

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