Let me share with all fans my blog interview…about music, technologies, recordings and world of well known musician, songwriter, singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Enjoy my interview with Gary Numan!
Gary, basic question: Creating music – what does it mean for you? Is it a long-term process with inspiration coming gradually or it can be spontaneously done – due to modern technology – in a few days?
Creating music can be spontaneous regardless of technology, new or old. You can sit at a piano, pick up a guitar, and in a few seconds be playing something new. I wrote ‘Cars’ in about ten minutes so writing songs doesn’t have to be a long process. A body of work though, an album that may run for an hour for example, that can take a while. It depends a great deal on what type of album you want to make to be honest. A simple guitar, bass, drum album can be written and recorded very quickly (no disrespect to people that make that kind of music). But, if you want something that is far more complex, an album that’s multi layered, that is still revealing new things even when you’ve listened to it twenty times or more, well that takes a bit longer.
Songs can come quickly but not always. I have one now that I’ve been working on for over a month and it’s still nowhere near where I want it, and that’s with all the technology you could wish for. Technology is not really the problem, although it does have some impact of course. The real problem is not having any good ideas. Or, in some rare cases, having too many ideas and not being able to choose where to go with a song. Inspiration comes like the wind, sometimes it’s full on and raging, other times it’s like a gentle whisper that you can barely feel. Those quiet times are the most scary. You wonder if you will ever feel that full power again, and it can make you panic. Creatively I have always felt as though I was walking along the edge of a crumbling cliff, that any second it could all give way and I would fall and that my career would all be over. No new ideas, no more music, just empty. It’s a constant fear. Making a new album is always a very stressful thing as that fear of failing lives with you every day. It’s like living on a very extreme rollercoaster emotionally.
Looking at it from a distance, how do you perceive the changing nature of recording technology? What would you keep/restore, if you could – what type of recording?
I wouldn’t keep anything. There is so much talk about analogue, digital, tape, mp3, warmth, this, that and the other. I don’t care. When I started I had 24 track tape machines and a room full of wires, racks of gear touching the ceiling, and none of it mattered if you wrote shit songs. It’s just the same today. I now sit next to a small desk, plugged into my Mac and Pro Tools but it will all sink or swim on the quality of the songs. I’m perfectly happy with what I have today and I have no longing for preserving anything from the past. Equally, I will embrace whatever comes next if it makes the process easier or more enjoyable in any way at all. I think people that obsess about gear sometimes lose sight of the fact that it’s the songwriting that really matters. A good song will always be a good song, regardless of how it’s recorded. All a recorder needs to do is to record the musical noises you are making. The main focus should be, in my opinion, on those musical noises, not what type of machine is going to record them.
It seems that an album could be actually recorded on just one notebook with a good piece of smart software. Still I feel that it somehow sounds pretty much the same (take s works with all types of I-gadgets).
I agree. A laptop with the right software is quite capable of recording music to a very high level. It is definitely possible to record an album that way if you wish. The software that can be employed in a laptop is exactly the same as the software in my full studio. Audio interfaces also allow you to record anything organic you want to into that laptop. They are powerful, mobile recording studios in this modern world. I have no problem with that, in fact I think it’s an amazingly useful option to have. All of this technology is there to help in the creation of new music. It is up to the person creating the music to make it somehow unique. It makes no sense to blame a laptop, or software, for much of modern music sounding the same. No more than you should blame the guitar or any other instrument. It’s the responsibility of the people making the music to make new things, to make music move forward. But, it’s also the responsibility of the music buying public to embrace new music but that, sadly, doesn’t happen often. Our radio waves are full of bland shit because, sadly, that’s what most people want to listen to. Easy listening, non challenging shit that’s very easy to make. With or without a laptop.
Do you see any connection between recording in the 60s and today, technology left aside?
It depends how far back you want to strip the process. If you take my basic point that a recorder is only there to record the musical noises being made, then things are exactly the same now as they were back in the 60’s. Back then a band would set up in a studio and a machine would record that performance. That’s pretty much what still happens to day for many bands. If you add the technology you’d left aside though, it’s very different.
How do you approach marketing/promotion of your music?
I look at the world we have with each new album. Technology is moving so fast, social media is constantly changing, you cannot have a fixed view on what you should do to promote your music. When my new album comes out it will be three and a half years since the one before. A great deal will have changed in those three and a half years so you need to be aware of those changes, embrace and understand what new technologies and ideas are current and then decide how best they can be used. The one thing that doesn’t change is touring and that is vital. To be out amongst the fans, to be seen and heard in that environment, is still the most useful and meaningful way of promoting a new album, and obviously the most exciting part of being in a band. But, that has to work in conjunction with many other things. Branding is now the big thing, alliances with products, collaborations to expand your fan base. To be honest I hate that more mercenary side of the business but it is important. I’m not sure I’m that good at it though. It feels shallow and lacking in soul.
It´s possible promote and sell albums without major labels? Any frustration for Digital download?
The frustration with digital download isn’t for the technology, although I don’t like it at all if I’m honest. The frustration comes from the appalling rip off of the bands. Illegal downloading was bad enough but the legal downloads are hardly any better, from some areas anyway. I recently printed out a royalty statement for my downloads and streams. It came to over 200 pages, tens of thousands of downloads and streams from all over the world. When I counted how much the paper had cost me to print it, it was more than the money I was being paid from that statement. It quite literally wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
Steaming is just a disaster as far as I’m concerned. The only reason to have your music available for streaming is in the hope that it new fans will come along and use the streaming services to research your music and then go on to buy hard copies, or come to a gig. If streaming becomes the way most music is consumed then the music business effectively dies because it simply doesn’t pay anything worthwhile outside of a handful of mega stars.
Downloading itself sucks, although nowhere near as bad as streaming. It is a little better if you own your own music but not many bands do. I am a great advocate of bands going independent as soon as they possibly can. Record labels are now insisting on 360 deals which are just outrageous and are just another tool digging the grave of music. The entire business needs a huge shift in thinking and I think that, in many ways, it’s up to us, the artists and bands themselves, to forge and force through a new way. Managers who still cling to outdated models of commission, agents the same, record labels who are grabbing everything they can from young eager bands who can’t see the long term picture. But things are changing, and they will change ever faster I believe over the next few years. I genuinely think this is a very exciting time in music, a monumental change is underway on every level.
Do you still believe in a concept of album? My young friends or kids listen 60 sec from song and skip to next…or select only individual songs.
Buying tracks at a time is like reading pages of a book out of sequence, and not reading entire chapters at all. You miss entirely the true story, the full story. It’s tragic, but I feel confident that sense will return and that the album as a body of work will one day be recognised again. A lot of consumer traits at the moment are happening because they can, not because they should. I have faith that people will realise that because technology allows you to do something, that it isn’t necessarily the best way to do it. Music can take time to reveal itself. It can take many plays, in conjunction with other music around it, before you fully appreciate what it’s about. This can be the beauty of an album. How many times have I listened to an album and made my choices on what I liked and what I didn’t, only to change entirely that opinion after a few more listens. You cannot appreciate all that music has to offer on a 60 second sound bite. You take away the chance of that music working its magic on you. Some things take longer than 60 seconds to reveal their true self.
Can full album alive?
I hope so. It’s up to us to make sure it does, and to ride out this period of instant gratification. But, as in all things, you have to watch the world and be realistic. I’m already beginning a move into writing books because I like the idea of creating a narrative that unfolds. If music loses that then I will probably switch to something else that still has it. I do think music will get through this though. The arrival of the internet and related technologies has hit the world very hard, and very quickly, and it’s staggering a little under the weight of the changes. But, so much of it is good and worthwhile we should enjoy that and just try to make sure that the bad parts of it are buried as soon as possible.
What about Gary Numan in a next 10 years?:). Can we expect GN in Europe?
Definitely. We are already in discussions for touring the new album in 2017 and moving into territories we haven’t played in before. My aim with the new album is to expand as much as possible and enjoy new places, new people. I’m very envious of those bands that I see touring in countries I’ve never been to, and I would like to join them, to be a much bigger part of the European music scene.
Big thanks again, Gary for your time and answers:)
16.3.2016, DOUBLE LOUD