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Baker's Dozen

Music For A Chameleon: Gary Numan's 13 Favourite Albums
Julian Marszalek , December 6th, 2012 07:46

Quietus hero Gary Numan tells Julian Marszalek about his 13 favourite albums and how they "kicked my arse"... plus the time Freddie Mercury sent a limo to buy him a Big Mac

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Ultravox – Systems Of Romance
There was never a rivalry between us. Oh, not at all! That Systems Of Romance album was one of those pivotal albums for me. It's arguably one of the two or three most important albums of my life.

I got into electronic music quite by accident. I went into the studio to make a punk album and there was synth sitting in the corner and I got converted there and then. Because of that I tried to find as many other people that were making electronic music and learn what they were doing. I think at that point I only had three days in the studio with one synthesiser but I was passionate about it but I obviously didn't know anything about it.

I tried to find a few things and then I found the Systems Of Romance album. I thought the band name was a great name and the album had a great title and when I played it I loved it. There's a song there called 'Slow Motion' which to this day is still one of my favourite songs ever – I really, really love it – and they became the standard for me which I was trying to reach. They were doing a similar thing in that they had a conventional line-up but electronics were the main part of it which is what I was doing. You had people like Kraftwerk that were entirely electronic but that wasn't what I wanted to do. Ultravox were by far the best thing I'd found. That album become my blueprint, my reference point. With whatever I did, I was trying to get to that level. When I was doing 'Are "Friends" Electric?' and 'Cars' and all those sorts of songs I was trying to get as good as I considered Systems Of Romance to be. I never, ever got close in my opinion. I had more success but in my opinion the quality of what they were doing was beyond anything I got to at that time. I was always in awe of it.

When I did my first album – which is seen as a pioneering album – they were on their third! I mean they were light years ahead of me! John Foxx was groundbreaking! I used to go see them live all the time and I thought that John Foxx as a frontman was fantastic. As I say, it set the standard that I tried to follow.

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Dec 6, 2012 1:14pm

Awesome (in the English sense) reading. Great to see an older dude not getting jaded and still being so into other artist’s music. Such a cool geek.

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Nik Bartlett
Dec 6, 2012 5:31pm

I've got half these albums, Numans got good musical taste - great to see Rammstein Mutter and Sisters of Mercy Floodland in there. I was at the Depeche Mode gig at Crystal Palace, went just to see the Sisters of Mercy support but it was still daylight - Eldrich and daylight just don't work so Numan didn't miss much from them that day. On the other hand Depeche Mode were excellent :)

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Dec 6, 2012 6:35pm

Hi Gary I'm fat and paranoid will you be my friend?

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I Am Dipshit Suzuki
Dec 6, 2012 8:09pm

What a frightening fucking list... Amazing how one's taste really CAN get worse as one get older and has more access to music than in the past. Yay, Manson! Yay, Nin! Yay Depeche! Etc vomit vomit. All I can wish Gary now is the chance to record with Butch Vig, still the Quietus' undisputed champ of horrible listening habits and unlikely to ever be dethroned but... Gary landed some hard punches.

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Dec 6, 2012 8:28pm

In reply to Wellwellwellington:

amen to that!
not that i share much of his musical taste i'm afraid...

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Dec 6, 2012 10:14pm

he just clearly stated that he is a poser. bummer.

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Dec 6, 2012 10:42pm

In reply to Nik Bartlett:

"Enjoy the puppet show" class from Eldritch

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Dec 6, 2012 11:16pm

Love Gary Numan and I'm into many of the albums on this list but 'Invaders Must Die'?!
To pick that Pendulum-inspired abortion over any of the first three Prodigy albums (fuck it, even the 4th album) is mind-boggling.
I'm actually really glad he just concentrated on bigging them up as a live act because I can't imagine what reasons he would have given for liking the tracks on the actual album. And I don't want to know.
Sorry for sounding so negative. An otherwise great read.

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Dec 7, 2012 1:13am

It's weird that he leaves out Jesus Jones who I once heard him claim to be "the greatest band ever" once. This is not a predictable man!

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Dec 7, 2012 1:30am

A fun read, he's got some good stories to go along with his selections. Dig that he can be humble - more than once offering up hearing an album around the time he was recording one of his own and admitting it was blowing his material out of the water.

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Dec 7, 2012 2:02am

This wife of his sounds like a real cool bird

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Dec 7, 2012 8:34pm

Apparently I'm the first to notice that the Be Bop Deluxe LP cover has the brilliant typo "Sunburts Finish". Does this LP feature the glam-prog hit 'Rubber Duckie'?

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Post-Punk Monk
Dec 8, 2012 12:48pm

Ooof. There's some predictably wretched music on that list given how he's been releasing immature, unlistenable dreck for the last 15 years. While I was pleased and happy with "Sacrifice" and will go as far as to consider it one of his best 4-5 albums, the pathetic way he's plowed that furrow ever deeper into being a "metal" act lost me completely. Moaning on and on about god doesn't exist/is an alien/blah blah blah. It's just so tiresome! Hey, I'm an atheist too and part of my reasons are that I don't see the point in moaning one way or the other about something that doesn't exist. Methinks he doth protest too much. And trashing "Scary Monsters" and "Lodger?" That takes unmitigated nerve, considering what I've heard from "Pure!"

I have nothing against heavy aggressive music. At 49 I still enjoy a lot of music with harsh impact. But there's a world of difference to me between the wankfest that is NIN versus lets say Killing Joke. One is adolescent, the other is mature. It makes all the difference in the world to me. By 1996 I pruned a lot of mediocre "industrial" music from my collection: a handful of NIN releases [nothing later than "Fixed"] were among the first to be ejected. By that time I'd seen the industrial scene begin to blend with the metal one and it left me cold. Give me old Cab Volt records any day over thrash metal with synths and vocalists using distortion pedals. "Ogre Music" is what I call such nonsense. Yes, after Skinny Puppy's Nivek Ogre as much as the sound itself. Those Skinny Puppy albums also got the heave-ho!

I have to admit, that the end of the line for Numan and I after 33 years was buying a copy of the "Machine Music" DVDs. I thought it would be enjoyable, but nothing after the "Call Out The Dogs" clip survived the fast forward button. I was appalled to hear what he'd degenerated into. In retrospect, it all made Warriors" sound brilliant! And while I'd long ejected "Outland" from my racks, maybe it's time to sell off "Exile" too. A line in the sand has been drawn and I don't want to see the gruesome spectacle of a 65 year old Numan playing OzzFest '23.
For further ruminations on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®

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Dec 9, 2012 2:25am

I'm not really a fan of his or dig many of his choices but that was a very good read. It is funny how he was on full self deprecating mode.

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Post-Punk Monk
Dec 9, 2012 3:30am

In reply to ANDRES:

Well, Gary is a very forthright guy who doesn't puff out his chest at all. Unfortunately, he's rather dismissive of huge chunks of his career that I prefer to his Kerrang® Years. But to his credit, he's still a breath of fresh air as popular musicians go.
For further ruminations on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®

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David Macku
Dec 10, 2012 8:37am

Freddie Mercury says to me, 'Are you alright, luvvie?' :-D :-D

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Dec 10, 2012 10:33am

Absolutely hilarious

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Jan 18, 2013 1:19pm

Urrhh, well there was the small matter that Mr. Numan was about £500,000 in debt and on the verge of being declared bankrupt back in 1992..........

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Feb 21, 2013 3:46pm

The bullshit continues about being snubbed by Japan (the group). Mick Karn knew Numan and pretty much decided he was a weird bastard and wanted nothing to do with him.

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Mar 16, 2013 4:36am

In reply to Jack :

I interviewed Numan in '82 and asked if he was going to work with Mick Karn again. I asked why when he said he wasn't, and he replied, "The man's a cunt." Okaaay… That being said, I love Japan and Numan, but can easily understand how they wouldn't get along. At least Numan's humble and can be funny, while Sylvian's generally insufferable.

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Apr 1, 2013 8:16am

Give Numan major credit for this pick. I think it was the cover of Sunburst Finish that first drew me to buy it, but Bill Nelson had me from that first lick of Fair Exchange. The man was a and is a genius and a remarkable character and aesthete. His stuff sounds like no one else and seemed to have parachuted to earth inside a capsule from the far edge of the solar system.

Be Bop Deluxe was a very cool planet. They were one of those bands whose stuff just grew stronger them more you listened to it. For some, the rapid changes and odd melodies seemed too busy, but after a bit it so refreshing to hear something bursting with creativity and jewel-like finesse compared with the leaden repetitiveness late 70 music setled into. Nelson could outplay anybody, but he never thought that was point. That was why he could surf the changes that lead to the New Wave scene so easily; he was always an experimental genius who knew when the leave solos out and great feeling in. He was economical and yet sounded huge. It all worked. No wonder he is revered in Japan.

Nelson's lyric about machines and electronic devices having secret motives was way ahead of its time. Remarkable soul, one of those U.K. eccentric geniuses who emerge from the landscape seemingly fully formed and who just astonishes. Where are those folks now? Ah, well.

Credit to Numan for owning up to being a pathetic geezer on the make back in the day. He made some good music, but not up to Bill's standards. That was the missed connection of a lifetime. Bill Nelson is the real thing. Numan's straight about himself and about this being one of the greatest U.K. albums of all time. Grab, it, stick with it, and be rewarded.

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