Kele Okereke Interviews Gary Numan

The two electroheads meet up

Two artists, one conversation. Personality Clash: bringing like minds together since 2004. This month, Bloc Party frontman gone solo, Kele Okereke talks to synth legend Gary Numan.

The two hooked up over the telephone to rant about the perils of city living, cars and moving to America…

Gary Numan

Synonymous with those slick, synth-pop classics ‘Are Friends Electric’ and ‘Cars’, the authoritative presence of Gary Numan pervades the genres of punk, electro, new wave and glam. As a solo artist he is known best for his 1979 album ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and, aged fifty-two, he is still going strong.

Kele Okereke

Kele and his band Bloc Party first rose to fame in 2005. Their debut album ‘Silent Alarm’ was lauded by critics for articulating the thoughts and feelings of a generation whilst at the same time offering a new electronic take on indie. Currently flying solo, Kele continues to champion his interest in electronics.

Kele: Whereabouts are you at the moment?
Gary: I’m on tour in Boston. Kele: You must have been out to the States a fair bit during your career? Gary: As it so happens, we’re thinking about moving over here. There’s no thug culture and the music scene is great though. My wife Gemma’s wanted to live here forever and I’ve always loved it there but never really wanted my children to be American. < Kele:Where in America would you move to?
Gary:Los Angeles: we love the weather, and every street you go down is like a scene in a film, it feels really glamorous. The schools are really good too. Kele: I’ve been thinking the same thing myself actually. One of the best things about my job is that you get to see how life is in different parts of the world, and for the last few years I’ve been really thinking about moving to the States as well, probably New York. So I decided that in April next year I was just going to do it at the first opportunity I have, while I’m still young. So, where do you feel most at home?
Gary: Well, I think it’s really good to keep moving around, see a different way of life, soak up different influences, get a fresh perspective. I’ve lived all over the place – Canada, Jersey – but I’d say I feel at home in England itself, not necessarily London though. I don’t like cities so I’ve never been mad about London. I’m so sick to death of people being so miserable. We’ve just come back from Florida, for a little holiday with the kiddies, and we get off the plane at Gatwick Airport and I know this is a really pathetic thing, but it really bothers me that you can’t park a car in England because you can’t open the bloody doors!

Kele: Yeah, I always find that when I come back to London within twenty-four hours I always see a fight. Nowhere else in the world do I see people fighting in the streets on a regular basis. But every time I come back to London, I see taxi drivers shouting obscenities at each other and cyclists. Shoreditch at the weekends is just awful, worse than Leicester Square. And that’s part of the reason I want to move because I don’t like the idea of being fearful of what’s happening around me. I hate to say it but I’m fearful of London. Isn’t ‘Cars’ written about London?
Gary: Yeah, I was driving to London and I was stuck behind this car in traffic and the people in front got out of the car and started having a go at me so I locked myself in because I’m too small to fight. But they started kicking the car, and it scared the shit out of me so I drove up onto the pavement and then they started chasing after me with bricks and bits of scaffolding. Ever since then I’ve thought of the car as being like a cocoon. Whenever I’m in London or a city, it keeps you separate from people which I like. If I go out and I see the car parked in the distance, I’m walking towards it and it feels like a sanctuary to me. That walk back to the car is the most nervewracking because I got stabbed when I was about nineteen in Broadwick Street in London, so fears and insecurities about cities probably come from that. I’ve seen pictures of you though, you look pretty tough, I bet you don’t have many problems? Kele:Yes and no. I think people think I’m more intimidating than I actually am so I haven’t been in any horrible situations myself but almost everyone I know in London has. That’s why I started kickboxing at the beginning of the year though, just so I know that if I ever needed to throw a punch I could. Question for you now Gary does it get easier or harder as you get older?
Gary: Both. It’s easy to stay excited but harder to get people excited about you, so it’s a bit of a handicap. I just think ultimately that if you love what you do, everything else is easy to deal with…

Gary Numan’s new DVD, The Touring Principle ’79, is released November 29th.

Read the full interview in the new issue of Clash Magazine out now. Read about the issue HERE

Words by April Welsh

Clash Magazine Issue 56

This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the 56th issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from November 9th.

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