Gary Numan never sought out to be a pioneer of electronic music, he just loves making noise.
And Numan fans might be surprised that, out of all the great equipment he's worked with over the years, the one instrument he'll never let go is not a keyboard, it's a Gibson Les Paul that his parents got him when he was a teenager. He says the guitar has been used on every one of his albums, including his latest: Savage (Songs From a Broken World).
"I wasn't a keyboard champion—I'm still not, really," Numan tells Q104.3 New York's "Out of the Box" with Jonathan Clarke. "I'll use them the way I'll use anything else. I was a guitar player."
Numan was playing that Les Paul as part of a three-piece punk band when he discovered the wonderful world of synthesizers.
While loading in for a recording session, Numan noticed a mini Moog synthesizer in a studio. The engineer showed him how it worked and everything changed.
"By the time the other two had finished unloading the gear and setting it up, I'd changed everything. I thought that the noises coming out of that thing, that Mini Moog, were just unbelievable. I fell in love with it immediately."
Over 40 years later, modern popular music is more heavily-driven by electronics than ever. Numan's songs have been covered or sampled by a variety of new artists. But is pop killing the guitar?
"It's just about sound," says Numan, who insists his loyalties lie with whatever makes the best noise. "The guitar is in no danger. It's not going anywhere. If it makes a great noise, fantastic; if you can plug it into a few things and make an even better noise, great; if you can't, then find something else. That's all it is, even down to the way you use your voice in a song. There's lots of way of making good sounds."
Making good songs with those sounds takes a bit more inspiration. When it came time to write Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan says he borrowed liberally from a novel he's been writing.
"I normally write about problems, you know, things that have been going on in my life that are an issue," Numan says. But in a weird bit of irony, Numan doesn't have many personal worries nowadays. He says he's living well in California, his family is happy and healthy, and bliss just isn't all that compelling if you're a songwriter.
"I decided to steal ideas from the book, and it became all of it, it became the whole album eventually."
Watch the full interview above!
Here's the official music video for Numan's new song, "My Name Is Ruin":