Whether fronting Tubeway Army, pioneering early synth punk, or pursuing dark industrial rock, Gary Numan has long been at the forefront of electronic music. His name is often praised by certified geniuses such as Trent Reznor and Prince Rogers Nelson, in addition to contemporary trendsetters like Yeezy and Gaga.
This week, he returns with Splinter, his first album in seven years and his most engaging in over a decade. Recently, Consequence of Sound caught up with Numan to discuss the emotional and personal hurdles he had to overcome before completing it, his desire to continuously innovate, and his problems with nostalgia.
If you’re interested in catching Numan live, he’s one of several exclusive artists that make up the lineup to this year’s inaugural Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit that takes place October 25-27th in Asheville, NC. Grab tickets here.
Splinter seems to sonically capture Tubeway Army Gary Numan as much as the harder, darker Numan heard on albums like Pure and Sacrifice, but [you] do it in such a way that there’s a consistency between all the songs. And, you never cower to that retro template that’s happening today. Was there a guiding concept or theme behind this album?
Not really. I have a real problem with nostalgia and retro. My whole reason for being in electronic music in the first place was that it seemed to be a very forward-looking genre of music, and I’m going back to the late ’70s here now. And I’ve always thought of it that way. I mean, there’s a peculiarity now in that it’s been around long enough as a genre that it has its own nostalgia and its own sort of retro feel to it. So, you listen to a lot of new bands today who are electronic, and it sounds to me very much as it did 35 years ago. And I find that really peculiar.
As I say, my reasons for being in it and my love for it is because it always seemed to me to be about what we do next, what new sounds [are coming], because it’s very technology driven. New software will come along, or hardware, whatever. Mainly software, actually, these days. And all these new possibilities, and new types of sounds, and new ways of manipulating sounds particularly are constantly being improved and increased. So, we have a huge arsenal of things that allow us to move forward. And while I am not claiming, at all, to be experimental, there are people far more interesting [in being] experimental than I will ever be. Nonetheless, there’s an ambition with each album to try to come up with sounds that you have not come up with before, and for me, I think that’s a cool thing. And, I think it stops me looking backwards too much.
I’ve read interviews, actually, with other bands, who have said that they’ve gone back to their early days, in terms of technology, to try to kind of re-explore the things that they did then. And while I think, “Well, that’s okay for you,” I don’t really understand it, to be honest. I honestly feel that the stuff that I did in the early days, I’m pretty happy with that and I think I got some good stuff out of the technology. But I have no desire to go back to it and use that technology again. I feel like I’ve done it. I’ve been through there and I’ve used it, and I’m more interested in what’s coming tomorrow, really. I just think, for me, it’s the path that I don’t think would suit the way I think and the sort of things that I’m looking for.
That’s all it is, really. I’m not going to put anyone down for doing that at all, because each to their own. You should come up with good music at the end of it, and that’s all that really matters I suppose. But for me, it’s about trying to come up with something I’ve never done before, preferably with equipment I have not used before, and sounds I’ve not heard before.
If you think about it, you’re only 55 years old, but you’ve recorded in five separate decades. Is that what you credit, the fact that you just never want [to look back], you’re always moving forward?
Yeah, to be honest. My whole nature in terms of being creative is about what will I do next. It’s not about what I did yesterday. It’s not about re-living the past or certainly not living on any kind of past glories that you might have had. I honestly believe that thing, “You’re only as good as your next album or your last album.” I really believe that. To me, there’s a constant desire to want to push forward with each album. To be brutally honest, I think I’ve failed dismally at that three times. I don’t think that I’ve been particularly successful at doing it, but it’s always been the aim with each album. With each one, you set out to have the desire to come up with another 500 sounds I’ve never used before and hopefully no one else has ever heard before.
Unfortunately, humans being what we are, you do have your favorites, so you do have your kind of go-to sounds, certainly when it comes to writing anyway, and that constant sort of thing, “Nah, I’ve definitely used that, I must not use that again.” And there’s all this stuff and there’s this new technology coming in, but they’re presets, [so] probably a load of other people are going to have it, so I can’t use that. And it’s a very conscious decision to try to come up with something that you’ve not heard before. I don’t quite stick to it 100% literally, so again, I let myself down a little bit.
But, generally speaking, it’s about trying to find new things and not repeat what you’ve done before. My voice has a certain sound to it and I can’t get away from that. And, I think my songwriting has a particular kind of style, very melody-driven for one thing. And I think that also shapes what you do. There’s no getting away from the sound of your voice, or the limitations of it particularly. There are certain things that I just can’t sing. Much as I would love to have a particular sort of vocal thing going on in the track, I wouldn’t be able to do it. You work within your limits and you’re as ambitious as you think you can be.
The jazz musician Glenn Miller was famously said to be in search of a sound that he had in his head, but could never figure out what it was. Then he discovered by accident that it was a clarinet. You’ve had many projects. Tubeway Army was said to have begun when you found a Mini-Moog synthesizer left behind in a studio, Beserker and songs like “My Dying Machine” were created after discovering the PPG Wave, and Warriors featured you using the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. Have you ever found yourself in pursuit of a specific sound and these instruments were your way of trying to get there?
Actually, no, to be honest. For me it’s always been a case of, you look around, and you stay up with technology, and you stay in touch with technology. Then it often comes to using what you have. And, quite often, the sounds don’t come from technology as such. It would be a case of walking around with a recorder and banging things, and hitting things, and dragging chairs across the floor, and seeing what kind of cool noise it makes, and then manipulating that. They’re all things that make noises. I’ve got a huge library at home of me sitting there simply saying words in various stages of whispering. You know, you could say a word of a gentle whisper or a harsher whisper, or whatever. Linking all that together, and then you run that through the machines, and it comes back amazing, actually.
You have little periods of doing different things. We used to have a studio, a place called Shepperton, in England, and I spent about a week walking around with a recorder, with a metal stick, hitting different things. Hitting walls, hitting fire escapes, hitting tables, hitting anything. I would record all these different strikes at different intensities, and I would go back to the studio, and I would put them in the machines and start to mess about with them, and see what you could do with them. Layer effects on them, reverse it, merge them, all kinds of stuff. And then, the next day I would go out and do it again and find different things to hit. It’s amazing what you can come up with. Whether that’s considered music or not, I’m not entirely sure, but I think with electronic music it’s as much about the sounds themselves as it is about the melodies of something that you write.
I think, for me, it was a really valued thing to do. And if, at the end of that, you only come up with three or four sounds that end up on the album, well, fair enough. You know, they’re three or four really cool sounds that presumably no one else has ever got. And it makes it worthwhile. In fact, I didn’t do that very much with Splinter, which is a pain actually. I should have. With Splinter, I think I relied a little bit more on software. It makes me feel like I’m getting lazy.
On Splinter, “Lost” is the song that I found myself most drawn to and it’s a ballad. Even though the album itself has a heavier, darker feel to it, there is something about that one song that just keeps drawing me back. Is there something behind it? It seems to be the album’s needle in the haystack.
[Laughs.] It’s quite sparse, isn’t it?
There’s something about it, especially the way you’re singing the chorus. It sounds cheesy to say it’s warm and comforting, but it is. It’s almost like it reminds me of something else, but I just don’t know what it is. It’s like a familiar thing, but it’s new at the same time.
Yeah. I know what it’s about and I know why we kept it sparse, but beyond that, simply put, it just felt right to be that way. The seven-year gap between this and the last one, the first two or three of those were happening pretty much as our children arrived. We went from having no children and then really struggling to have children. We ended up going IVF, because my wife, at that point, couldn’t have children for a few reasons. So, we had one child and then whatever was wrong with my wife fixed itself in the course of becoming pregnant through IVF. So, we had another child by accident, because we didn’t think we could have children. And then we had a third one very soon after. That was more just being lazy, to be honest. [Laughs.] We didn’t do the things that we should have done to keep it from happening.
We ended up having three children fairly quickly close together. The change of lifestyle was phenomenal on one hand and kind of horrific on the other. I, in particular, didn’t take very well to it at all. As much as I love the children desperately — I would do anything, I’d die for them literally — the change of lifestyle was quite difficult. I really did miss the one I had before. And that coincided with me crossing 50, and I had a bit of a mid-life crisis, and I started to get really anxious and panicky about being old and dying, and so on. My wife got post-partum depression really badly on the second baby, which runs straight into the third one, and continued after. At a time when we kind of needed each other the most, we were both having our own problems. And the stresses of suddenly having a three-child family hit us both very, very hard. We had real problems. We had serious, serious problems that we had to work through and get through, and so the song is about that.
I was thinking one day, one particular day when it came to writing the song, I had enough of it. I didn’t like what she had become. She hated what I had become. Neither of us adapted to family life and I started to think, I’m fuckin’ off. I’m getting out of this. This is an absolute disaster for me. Massively depressed, I was on pills for that, and so on. And I wrote down, actually I thought what would it feel like. If you actually do it, what would it feel like. And that’s why I wrote “Lost”. In a strange way, I’m not saying it saved our marriage, but it certainly saved me, at that point, from doing something really stupid. It made me think about it in a different way. It’s all very well thinking about a relationship problem when the argument is standing right in front of you, but if you can remove that, if you can picture yourself in a life without that person, you see it in a completely different way. I did anyway.
So that’s arguably one of the most important songs I ever wrote. I think it had a massive hand in saving my marriage. Writing out those lyrics took me a long time. It took me a day, but that’s quite a long time for me, for lyrics. [Laughs.] They come out pretty quick, normally. In the course of writing all those feelings out in that way, it made me think about our relationship and our problems very, very, very differently. I went back that evening and we started to fix things with a slightly more level, mature approach to it. So, I love that song. It’s massively important to me.
I’m sorry that you had to go through that, but I’m glad that song came out of it, if you know what I mean.
Yeah. That’s why it’s so sparse. It’s just meant to be me talking to myself, talking to her. I didn’t want it covered in production and stuff. I wanted it to be as barren, and naked, and as purely emotional as it could possibly be. I think that’s probably why it stands out, from a production point of view. None of the others are really like that.
And, also during all that time, you moved to Los Angeles, right? You came to America?
Yeah, well, in October of last year .
What was the purpose of coming to America? Especially after living overseas for so long?
Well, it’s about the most amazing country in the world. I honestly believe that. I’m not trying to be an American lover, I honestly do. I lived here before, in the 1980, ’81 period, I think it was. Maybe ’82. I really loved it, I absolutely loved it. I was here for about six or seven months, then I had to leave. I wasn’t properly an immigrant, as such. I went back to England. The career was in trouble by this time, so I had retreated back to England as the place that I knew best and understood the most, and decided that I would consolidate the career there and then start to kind of move back out again. I never really did it to be honest. The career has kind of stayed in this horrible roller coaster thing ever since. It’s kind of a miracle I’m still around, really.
I got back to England and I just got back into that way of life. I guess it was a comfort thing and I stopped thinking about living anywhere else again. Things did start to get a bit better. I got myself out of debt. I was in bad debt. I got myself out of debt. I managed to get myself a nice house again. And Gemma [O’Neill, wife] came along, and everything was lovely and happy. I just got contented, I think, and I accepted that that was my life, that that’s where I was going to be.
We’ve been together 21 years now, she has wanted to live here [the U.S.] her entire life, pretty much since the day she was born. And so there was this constant, relentless pressure. “What about America? What about America? I’d love to live in America.” The children came along. I was very passionate about the children growing up English. I was with that for the first four or five years and then it just started to dawn on me, because Gemma loves it here so much, we’ve spent a great deal of time here, we’ve been coming here more, and more, and more. And I loved it more and more every time I came. And I began to see that there were real advantages here, not just for me, but for the family. Then I began to think about, What’s such a big deal about my children growing up English? Why is that such a big deal anymore? I really started to look more carefully at English culture and what it was becoming, and I realized that it was becoming extremely different.
I don’t know how to put it kindly. The England that I knew when I was a kid, and certainly the England that I loved and read about when I was growing up, is vanishing. It’s not what it was. I didn’t really like it. I didn’t like what it’s becoming. It was kind of a moment of realization for me. I suddenly woke up one morning and thought, What the fuck am I doing? Why would I want my kids to grow up here, especially? I know there are worse places in the world and it has a huge amount of cool things to offer, but I got very, very hard about it. This is my children’s lives. Where will they have the best future? Where will they have the most opportunity to become what they can become? I realized, in my opinion, they have a far better opportunity with life here than they do in Britain.
They’re all girls, for one thing. This whole sex equality thing in Britain is a bit of a nonsense, to be truthful. I still believe that it’s far more difficult for women to succeed in Britain than it is for men. And though I don’t know it as well here, it seems to me that women have a greater opportunity here to succeed in whatever, in almost anything that they can choose. For me personally, I would like to get into film music at some point in the future, so where better to be than here?
And the other thing, and this possibly sounds slightly silly and trivial, but I am 55, and I spend so much time indoors. I had a beautiful house, seven and half acres of land. It was no problems at all, a very lovely place to be and a lovely place to live. But I spent so much of my time sitting indoors, looking out at the rain, thinking, Fuck it! I really wanted to do something today. I really wanted to go somewhere, do something with the kids. Watching the kids sitting indoors, looking over another rain-soaked day, thinking, I’ve only got, what have I got, 20 years left to live and I’m wasting it. I’m wasting my life sitting indoors, looking out at the rain. Last year in England, it rained three months non-stop, every single day. The wettest spring on record. That’s no way to live. And I come here, and it’s sunny and beautiful, and you can just do so much more with every day simply because the weather is nicer. It sounds such a silly reason, but it makes a massive difference to your life. I’m in an outdoor family now. We love it.
If you formed your bands, say, in California in the ’70s and ’80s, do you think you would have been less prone to your dystopias, and your alienations, and paranoias that filled the themes of your earlier material? Do you think that you would have made different music if that were the case?
It’s possible, it really is. Difficult to know for sure. I wonder though, because I think wherever the creative part of my brain sits, it’s definitely triggered by darker things. If I have a really, really good day, the kids don’t fight, which is a miracle, I get some good news, you know, it’s just a really good day, I’m not going to come into the studio at all. Don’t feel like it. [Laughs.] And I’m not going to write about it, that’s for sure. If something unfortunate happens, like your marriage is splitting up or something like that, then you can absolutely guarantee I’ll be straight in the studio. It’s just fuel for the fire for me.
Take Splinter. Half of Splinter was written in the last eight months, since I’ve been in America, including “Lost” funny enough, and yet it’s dark. It doesn’t really seem to make much difference where I am, because the things that trigger my creativity are of a particular kind. I’m not sure. I tend to think, I guess, the next album will really be the one to tell because I would have been here, I would have written that entirely by my living here in the lovely sunshine. [Laughs.] I tend to think it’s going to be much the same, to be honest. I don’t think it’s going to be happy or uplifting. [Laughs.]
Well, I think a happy Gary Numan would be disconcerting.
[Laughs.] Well, a funny thing is, is as a person, I am. I am quite moody, that’s true to say. But, generally speaking, I am a happy person. I very much enjoy the life I’ve got. Now that I’m used to it, I love being a parent. I love being here, massively. I absolutely love my wife to bits. I have no problems beyond ambition and wanting to do better, but that kind of thing sits with everybody. But, generally speaking, I am quite happy and you would never guess it from the music I make.
You’ve cited, personally, that 1994’s Sacrifice was an album where your sound definitely changed, leaving behind the cold synth sounds for the darker, heavier sounds. What is it about that direction that appealed to you? Why do you think you were drawn into that darker, heavier sound? And also, around that time is when the associations with Nine Inch Nails started popping up. Did that have anything to do with it, or were you independently creating your sound, or were you working along a template that Reznor and bands like his were doing at the time?
The Trent Reznor thing actually came later. It came about two albums after Sacrifice. I listened to a lot of Nine Inch Nails at that point and that definitely became like a yard stick. It became a measure of the quality that I wanted to reach. But the Sacrifice album, that was a much more simple thing. In the years leading up to that, my career had been in terrible trouble. I was all but dead and buried, even in England, in Britain, around about ’92 time. I did an absolutely shit album called Machine + Soul and I thought I was finished after that. So, what I did, I realized, and this was sort of helped by Gemma becoming a part of my life and just talking to me about different things in different ways, I realized that for the last six, seven, eight years even, I’d been writing songs not for the love of it, but to try to get my career back on track.
In a way I sold out then. Some people say you sold out when you sell a lot of records, but you really don’t. I think you sell out when you start to write songs for the wrong reasons and that’s what happened to me. And, increasingly, I had been listening to advice. An A&R man here or PR man there would say, “If you do this or that you might get radio play,” so I started to do it. Whereas before, when I started, I wrote exactly what I wanted and I listened to nobody at all. I just did what I wanted, and I was very arrogant about it, and single-minded about it. As the career started to falter, I panicked, I think. I started listening to advice to try to appease people, because I lost faith in what I was doing. And that built up to this 1992 album [Machine + Soul] and I realized at that point I had just lost it. I didn’t know what I wanted to sing about, I didn’t know how I wanted to sound, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. I was absolutely lost. And so, I gave up. I thought my career was finished. I didn’t have a record contract at the time, either. I wasn’t selling anything at all. No tickets, no gigs, nothing. I was in massive debt. In dollars, about a million dollars in debt, 600,000 pounds it was. I was really in trouble. I wasn’t earning anything. [They] had taken my house away from me. It was really bad.
So, I decided that, really, from a career point of view, I was pretty much done. What I had at that time was a little trailer tractor port-a-studio at home. I couldn’t afford to go into a studio, so I had this port-a-studio that I managed to hang on to and I made an album on that. I decided to write songs for that and I was doing it purely for the love of it. It had gone back to being a hobby for me. There was no thought about the radio play. No thought about trying to keep an A&R man happy, because I didn’t have a record contract. It went back to being exactly as it was when I was a kid, when I first started, just writing songs for the love of it, because you had all these emotions, and all these worries and stresses that you talk about and get out, in their own kind of disguised way.
And that’s what happened. I ended up writing the album that became Sacrifice, and it was the first album I had written for a long, long time where it was just done for the love of it, just for the songs that I wanted to write. And I realized, at the end of all that, that I’d really enjoyed it. I loved making it. It was a very different kind of music. It was music I had written freely, music that was written from the heart, without any kind of ulterior motive for it. And I realized it was so much better than anything I had done in the 10 years before that and it taught me an important lesson. And ever since then, I have a rigid, rigid rule with this. Even now, even with Splinter, if I’m writing a song and I start to think, That might sound good on the radio, I erase it. I have a huge anxiety about falling back into that trap of writing songs with any kind of a commercial thought attached to them whatsoever. It has to be absolutely from the heart, what you wanted to write, without any thought about commercialism whatsoever. And then you hope that they do well.
I’m not stupid. You want them to do well. But the thinking, the reason for writing that particular song, any particular song has to be because that is exactly what I wanted to do at that moment for musical reasons only. Not because I think, Oh, that chorus is a bit heavy. I better lighten it up because radio might play it. If I think that, I raze the fucking song, and I punch myself in the face, and remind myself that you must never think like that again. Thinking like that almost ruined me. It almost finished me completely. I have no pride in a lot of stuff that I wrote in that period and I’m absolutely determined to never think that way again, for as long as I’ve got, or whatever years I’ve got left.
As you’ve said, you’re not fond of nostalgia, so explain to me what was your mindset behind Hybrid, where you updated your older material for a more contemporary sound?
Yeah. That was one of those record company ideas that you kind of have to go along with. Though I have to say, I think Hybrid came out brilliantly. It wasn’t something I was jumping up and down about at the time, thinking, Oh what a fantastic idea. I was kind of reluctant to get involved with it really, but it was a new record company. You don’t want to start being awkward, and because it wasn’t my album as such, you can kind of distance yourself from it. I do think it was brilliant, actually. I think the people they got to do that were fucking great. I’m really impressed with the end result of it, so I had to swallow humble pie a bit.
The thing that I am slightly uneasy about, for all my talk of not liking retro and not liking nostalgia, I’ve now done two tours, one of them that went all around the world, playing songs from an old album. That really is, was, difficult for me to do. I know I make such a big thing about not being into retro and so on, yet I did something like that. The reasoning behind it is I do very few old songs live. I’m slightly less hard about this now, but certainly up until five years ago, if I was going to do a set with 20 songs, maybe three of those at the most would be old songs. You know, “Cars”, “Are Friends Electric?”, and one other. And I used to get so much shit from the fans. I thought I was being determined, and looking forward, and it kind of dawned on me one day that in fact what you’re actually doing is sticking your finger up at your old fans and you’re being quite arrogant. I didn’t know what to do about that. I still didn’t want to do lots of old stuff in a set, still don’t really.
So, I tried to come up with a solution to that. The solution I came up with was, I actually wrote something on the website a long time ago, I said, “If I do, if I occasionally just go out and do a few shows where we just do all the songs from an old album, will you stop complaining when I don’t do those songs on my normal tours? Could that be the agreement that we kind of come to, because I know a lot of people want more old stuff than I do. I don’t really want to do it, but I’d probably be okay with it if I only did it once in a while. I wouldn’t feel like I was taking a step backwards. The people that want to hear the old stuff would get to hear it, then I could carry on with my normal tour, my normal career, not really having to worry about taking all the shit that you give me because I don’t do enough old songs. Would that be an acceptable compromise?” And so that’s the way we’ve gone about it.
I did one album called Telekon. I think we did one show, maybe two shows. And then I did a Replicas tour a few years after that where we actually did a tour of Britain with that album. And then a few years after that I did Pleasure Principle. That was in 2009, 2010, I think. I know we came to America, and we took that to Australia, as well. That’s it for me, for the time being. For all of my talk not being into retro and nostalgia, I have compromised a few times. But I really do get worried. I have a lot a people that have stayed with me from the beginning. It was actually a letter. I got a letter one day from a fan that made me think differently, and made me realize that I probably had been overly arrogant on that, and I should make some sort of concession along the way. But I still don’t want to do a set where there’s lots of old stuff in it. I still want to concentrate on the new stuff. And I definitely won’t be doing any kind of nostalgia thing again for many years to come. I think I’ve done enough now to keep them happy.
Now for some real nostalgia. John Foxx. I was talking with a friend of mine who had formed the Florida synth punk band Futurisk around the time you were leaving Tubeway to become a solo artist. He mentioned something about a supposed rivalry between you and former Ultravox vocalist John Foxx as well as how you may have helped Ultravox after Foxx had left the band. What was your relationship with Foxx and was there actually a rivalry? And what was your relationship with Ultravox?
Well, at the time, I had made it in the UK in maybe early 1979, and I get a lot of credit for being the pioneer in electronic music, and all that sort of stuff. But in truth, [when] I made my first electronic album I honestly thought I was the only person doing it. I had no idea that these other people had been doing it. They just hadn’t had any success with it. So, I went out and I started to look for record stores, trying to find anyone else that was doing that kind of thing to confirm that I was truly the first, and I found an Ultravox album. And it looked great, and then I thought, “Fuck me.” It was their third one. So, there was me thinking I was right at the beginning of this sort of thing, and there was Ultravox been doing it for years. It made me realize [laughs]…nowhere near the front. You might be the first one to be successful at it, credit for that maybe, but don’t think you were the first person to do it, because you were not by a long way.
I bought these Ultravox albums, and took them home, and just thought they were brilliant. They kind of set a standard. They were the band that I most wanted to be as good as and I never thought I got anything like as good as them. I thought John Foxx was the most enigmatic and interesting frontman I had ever seen. I used to go see them all the time after that and I loved them. And then they split up. And then I became really successful and I needed a keyboard player, so I called up the keyboard player [Billy Currie] from Ultravox, because for me it was just a huge honor to have somebody from Ultravox in my band. I was really starstruck and blown away by the whole thing.
And then I was doing lot of interviews everywhere because I was really big for a while, and all I talked about [was Ultravox]. So, they got a lot of press and so on, and they reformed the band with Midge Ure singing and had a load of success. They had “Vienna” and they did really, really well for a while. And that slightly frustrated me because it was the John Foxx Ultravox that I loved. I was far less keen on the one that came afterwards. I really loved the first three albums when John Foxx was singing. So, there was no rivalry. I didn’t really know him at all. I think I might have met him once at that point. I was starstruck with him. I didn’t know what to say. I just thought he was great. We’re much closer now. Over the last couple of years or so I’ve gotten to know him much better and hang out with him a little bit. He’s a very, very, very, very cool man, very intelligent. He’s still putting out good stuff. He’s still impressive to me.
You guys should work together.
I don’t know. I don’t know about that, actually. Musically, we’re in different areas. But maybe.
Do you like collaborations or do you prefer to work on your own?
I have an appalling lack of confidence, so collaborations, I find, I’ve done them, but I do find them quite difficult. I am actually riddled with self-doubt, unfortunately, and I’m easily embarrassed. I don’t value my contribution to these things. So, most of the collaborations I’ve done have involved me being on my own in a studio, adding my bit to it and then sending it off to the people, and waiting for them to send it back. [Laughs.]
Is that how you did it with Battles?
Yeah. [Laughs.] That’s exactly what happened. The first thing…Oh that was so embarrassing. They sent me the file for the track [“My Machines”], and I’m actually quite proficient technically, but I just made an absolutely stupid error, and I downloaded it incorrectly. It came out at half speed and I didn’t even notice. I thought it sounded great. This low track, rumbling along, sounded really dark and heavy, and I was, “Fuck it! That’s great!” So I did a vocal for it, sent it back to them and they wrote such a lovely, polite reply to it. It sort of said, “This is really interesting and it’s really original, but it’s not the track we sent you.” [Laughs.]
Fuck me. I was so embarrassed. I’m meant to be this electronic legend. It was so polite and I could understand the torment they were in. But I had no problem and I wrote back, “I’m so sorry. I’d just done it wrong. I’ll download it again at the proper speed and I’ll do something different,” which is the version they released, which is the one I should have done to begin with. Thank god we weren’t in the same room. That would have been even more embarrassing.