NUMAN WEEK: Bernholz on the influence of Gary Numan
As part of Numan Week we've been discussing the great man's influence with a number of artists. Today, Brighton's avant garde electro-artist Bernholz takes the hot seat...
What do you think is unique or unusual about Gary Numan's music?
It's unique because of his voice, not just in the literal sense that there is nobody else who sounds like him, but also in that his whole sound is a persona that is fragile, alienated, playful but also world-weary.
The sense of space, particularly in the earlier albums, between echoing synths and live musicianship is something I haven't heard by any other artist. The marriage of humanity and technology was a utopian ideal of possibility, and less about the fascist/consumerist regimented thing it was sometimes mistaken for.
He is a human playing with austere, sometimes frightening sounds. And then he goes and makes that scary sound incredibly catchy.
Is there a particular track that has inspired you?
'Down in the park' by Tubeway Army is one that I always return to.
Any albums that you feel have been particularly influential?
The Pleasure Principle - it plays like a concept album, without explicitly referring to a 'storyline'. It's an album sung by an outsider about things that people deal with in the modern world, a conflict of love and fear in and of a growing urban technological landscape. It is about play, psychology and sexuality, but never gives too much away.
Why do you think Numan has ''crossed'' generations so that he's arguably a bigger icon in 2012 than he was in 1980?
He broke down the barriers to a certain degree. By interpreting Tomita/Kraftwerk/Bowie with something more popular/populist, he defied the scepticism of 'real' musicians (coked up rock has-beens) and their paranoia of future technologies, who believed in a certain musical 'purity'. It belittled the hierarchies and snobbery on both that side, and the side of techno-purists. That's as important to young musicians today as ever.
I actually think his use of analogue synths have inadvertently kept his music relevant - the further our culture moves away from the technologies that are 'obvious' in their workings, the harder it is to visualise and fully engage with them. People like the tactility and human element to his music, that digital technology doesn't quite do the same.
One of the strongest interpreters of the ideas Numan opened up in the last few years was James Murphy/LCD Soundsystem, who himself has gone on to be a huge inspiration. Also, I think what Gary Numan did last year with Battles on the amazing track 'My Machines' was one of the best things he has done in years.
Do you think it's the darker, atmospheric side of his music that still gives him a credible, underground appeal in 2012?
The atmosphere, certainly. It hovers in a different place altogether, deeply psychological and fetishistic. That's not necessarily a dark place, but it taps into the subconscious, because the sounds it employs and the hooks are so strong.
PHOTO: ED FELDING