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It’s not every day that you get to chat to a musical superstar on the phone, and speaking to Gary Numan – a man who has survived the fickle music scene as a popular and prominent artist for over thirty years – was both a surreal and inspiring experience.
Gary began his career at the end of the seventies and established his place in the music industry as an artist who combined conventional instruments with synthesizers to create exciting electronic music. He notes that what he considered as “cutting edge” technology at the time would now be seen as“very basic”, and as a self-proclaimed “geek when it comes to technology” he’s found it interesting to watch how technological advancements have affected music and the music industry.
However, he is keen to recognise the problems that these developments have caused; namely the internet and downloading – both legal and illegal – which has “shattered the model [of the music industry] as it was” and has failed to replace it with anything he feels is a satisfactory alternative.
Alongside these dramatic changes, in recent years we have been bombarded with a new way of getting into music – the TV talent show. To my surprise, I find that Gary sees these shows as quite positive, and while he admits they are not something which he has any interest in, he understands that in such a competitive industry they are “just another way of getting in”.
Aside from his music, many people associate Gary with his distinctive style; the eyeliner, pale face and solemn expression. In fact, his image was so much a part of his music, that he had some fans “that got really upset, because every once in a while [he would] smile”, and after a concert he would get letters explaining how that had ruined the performance for them.
Image is huge in the mainstream world of pop music today, with artists continually re-inventing themselves to stay interesting and on trend. Gary sees this as providing an artist with an “added level”, but is careful to point out that regardless of style, “really good music … should be [at] the core”. He cites Bowie as someone who is “massively visual” and yet underneath it is exceptionally talented, whilst acknowledging that focusing on image above everything else can mean that we are sometimes left with the problem of“style over quality”, where artists are simply a “glossy” exterior.
Arguably Gary’s best known song is‘Cars’ and he revealed that it was the quickest song he ever wrote. Within ten minutes of picking up his bass guitar he had created that infamous, catchy riff, and after half an hour he had written the lyrics. For any budding musicians out there, Gary’s advice for song writing is simple:“all you do is sit down at a piano … or a guitar and you just start playing”.
His ability to write memorable riffs is also apparent in ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’, with the main hook being sampled on the Sugababes’ ‘Freak Like Me’ nearly twenty-five years later. The single went to number one, showing his ability to create music which is considered current in a variety of genres and decades, and Gary said he felt “flattered” to have his music featured on their track.
On the subject of songs becoming hit singles, he believes that “there are a million and one songs which deserve to be classics but have never gotten out of somebody’s bedroom”, because a lot of the time it is out of your hands and down to luck, your record label and the media supporting your music.
So what does the future hold for Gary? Well, he is planning a life-changing move across the pond, to L.A. As someone who describes themselves as “massively British”, Gary admits that he will “miss almost everything”, but that America has some opportunities – and the weather – that Britain can’t offer. He spends a lot time on tour, so is used to long periods away from home; for Gary, “out of all the things you do as a musician … touring is the best part”.
However, he speaks of how continuing to tour into his seventies would be “unrealistic”and that he hopes to move into composing for film and TV, which would allow him “to stay in music [and] to stay doing something exciting and challenging”.
For now though, Gary is preparing for his Machine Music Tour, which will see him play in twelve different venues across the U.K. between May and June. He has an amazing outlook on his career, and while we often read of musicians complaining about the stresses of life on the road and living on a bus, it is refreshing to hear him proclaim “there’s no stress”.
He revels in the joy that he is able to “stand up on stage every night and sing songs to people that like them, and then get paid for it” and it is clear that, wherever his career takes him and whatever country he ends up in, he will always be – at heart – a London lad with an exceptional gift, who still has a great deal to give the music world.
With the start of another year, once again comes the inevitable list of resolutions. For myself, and many others, the barrage of ‘New Year, New You’ themed campaigns drives me to dieting extremes, and causes my Januarys to consist of one fad eating regime after another. From Beyoncé’s fortnight of solely drinking a maple syrup and pepper concoction to the ‘What Would Jesus Eat?’ diet – you name it, I’ve tried it. However, from the get go, failure is imminent as my fatal crutch is – and will most likely always be – chocolate. For me, nothing can destroy a health kick like chocolate can; one square of Cadburys can lead to a whole cake and once I’ve fallen off the wagon, there’s no getting back on. Then one year I discovered that I could still get my chocolate fix, but in a much healthier and guilt free form. Here are three of my favourite chocolate quenching recipes, all of which include at least one of your five a day and cut down on ingredients such as butter in order to lower the overall fat content. That said, like any meals which contain confectionary or sugary products, these dishes should be eaten in moderation; but by occasionally integrating them into your food routine they allow you to have a yummy treat whilst still forming part of a nutritious and balanced diet.
Chocolate and Courgette Loaf
based upon a recipe from joyofbaking.com
60g chocolate (55% cocoa), melted
2 courgettes, grated
230ml sunflower/vegetable oil
250g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tbsp ground cinnamon
1tsp vanilla extract
Mix together the first half of ingredients in one bowl, and the second half in another until each mixture is evenly combined. Then stir one mixture into the other, pour into a greased (with oil) loaf tin and cook at 175°c for 1½ hours.
Chocolate and Mushroom Risotto (serves 4)
based upon a recipe from the Hillmots Fitness Meal Plan
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g dried porcini mushrooms
400g Arborio rice
1L stock (chicken or vegetable)
50g chocolate (55% cocoa), finely grated
Fry the onion and garlic in a tbsp. of hot water. At the same time place the mushrooms in a pan and cover with boiling water. When the onion and garlic are soft, place the butter in the pan and when it’s melted, put in the rice. Add the mushrooms and the water they were cooked in to the pan and stir until the liquid has been absorbed. After this slowly add a spoonful of stock and stir until absorbed, then repeat this process until all the stock has been added. Season the risotto and then sprinkle the grated chocolate on top. You can also add some grated parmesan for an extra kick.
Chocolate and Beetroot Cupcakes (makes 12)
based upon a recipe from Cook Yourself Thin
150g soft brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2tbs golden syrup/honey
30g plain flour
30g plain flour
¼tsp bicarbonate of soda
40g ground almonds
2 raw beetroot, finely grated
50ml black coffee
20ml sunflower/ vegetable oil
150g chocolate (55% cocoa), melted
Blend the first third of ingredients until the mixture is pale in colour and light and flurry. Combine the second third of ingredients in a bowl and them add to the egg/sugar/syrup mixture, after stirring this add in the remaining ingredients. Pour into cupcake cases and bake at 160°c for 30 minutes. I decorated mine with a tsp. of Nutella, a raspberry and some fondant icing stars.