NUMAN WEEK: Gary Numan on his video history
As Numan Week comes to a climax, we hear back from the man himself as he takes us for a whirlwind tour of his video history
1. Are 'Friends' Electric? (Top Of The Pops performance. 1979)
1979. I had grown up watching Top Of The Pops, it had introduced me to pretty much every musical experience I had ever loved. To be in the studio, walking the corridors of the BBC was a thrill in itself, but to be performing on TOTP was very special. This was only the second TV appearance of my career at that time, the first had been on The Old Grey Whistle Test just a few days before. I knew this was probably the biggest opportunity I would ever have and I wanted to make it count.
I asked the BBC people if I could just have white lights, and could I have some coming up from the floor in front of me, and they were surprisingly accommodating. I wanted us to look cold and stark. I didn't really smile, too nervous I guess. I can't dance so I just stood there and tried to look interesting. A week or two later it went to Number 1 so things went well.
2. Cars. (Promo Video. 1979)
I really wanted to emphasise that we were an electronic band and that the 'The Pleasure Principle', the album 'Cars' came from, was guitar free. To that end I had everybody playing keyboards on the video except for the drummer. Again, the stark white light look was evident and the pyramid a continuation of an idea used on the album cover. Amazingly most record companies were very slow to see the potential of promo videos at the time and weren't really that interested.That soon changed. Filmed in West London at the Molinaire studios, not far from Carnaby Street, it helped give my career a huge kick forward into the American market when it was one of the first videos picked up by the fledgling MTV.
3. Films. (Filmed live at Wembley Arena 1981)
I was always very proud of the stage show for these three Wembley concerts. At that time it was one of the largest stage shows ever seen in the UK and included, I'm told, the largest ever moving structure although I'm sure that's a record that must have been beaten by now.
We had a semi circular construction over 86 feet wide and suspended from 6 motors that enabled it to rise and lower at certain times. It also held two spotlight operators who could rise and fall independently of the main structure as they were sat in pods that were themselves motor controlled. They would fire CO2 canisters via a foot switch whenever they went up so that it looked like they were being launched like a rocket. During this track they were lowered and pointing two huge spotlights straight into my face from just a few feet away.
I'm not sure you can see it on the film but the suit I was wearing was actually smouldering. It was extremely uncomfortable and explains the somewhat squinty eyed expression. It was like looking into two suns. It might also explain the slightly spazzy movements.
4. Rip. (Promo Video. 2002)
In a week when the Sugababes version of Are Friends Electric, Freak Like Me, went to Number 1 in the UK national chart, this song, Rip, went to number 1 in the Kerrang chart on TV. It was a very good week. I had two songs, with about 25 years between them, both number 1 in different charts.
Rip was taken from an album called 'Pure', an album that firmly established and confirmed a musical direction that I had first embarked on in 1994. Filmed inside an old disused armoury in South East london this is one of the best videos I've ever made and the fact that it was all put together on a tiny budget with friends made it all the more special.
5. Crazier. (Promo Video. 2003)
Collaborations are not things I do very often and I'm very choosy about who I collaborate with. This is a Rico song, which I have always loved, and we filmed the video for it in Berlin, Germany. I can't remember why but I'd already been awake nearly 24 hours when we arrived in Berlin and started filming. It went on to be an eighteen hour mammoth session without a moments break. It was physically the most demanding film I've ever made but worth it.
The song was supposed to be used to promote a movie made by a German director and our promo video would include scenes from the movie as well as our own performance. It took many, many attempts before the German edit had the right balance for our needs, which was mostly us and just a little bit of the movie.
6. The Fall. (Promo Video. 2011)
My most recent promo video. Taken from the 'Dead Son Rising' album this was filmed on a number of days, spread over many months, at a disused asylum in Lincolnshire. An amazing and very creepy place, made all the more so by the need to film mainly at night and by the bitterly cold, wet and snowy weather that plagued the entire project.
Directed by Paul Green who has been responsible for most of our live films for many years and produced by Ade Fenton, who also produced the previous album 'Jagged'.