Gary Numan | PHOTO COURTESY OF BB GUN PRESS
Updated: March 26, 2014 7:51PM
With an innovative streak extending 37 years, Gary Numan connects to his fans at different points along his timeline. Many initially heard him as a synth-pop pioneer who first charted during the New Wave era with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” Recent converts are drawn to Numan’s exploration of industrial and gothic textures.
Numan delves deeply into uncharted personal territory on his 20th album, “Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind).” The material will surprise those who expect the detached and untouchable character heard in 1979 single “Cars.”
“I was diagnosed with depression in 2008 and spent the next few years fighting that,” says Numan. “The cure for depression is almost as difficult to beat as the illness itself. The cure stops you caring — about anything. Eventually, I realized that I had to come back to the real world, but it took some time. That’s what ‘Splinter’ is about.”
Starkly contrasting with the icy delivery of “Cars,” the new song “Lost” is emotionally naked. “It’s sung from the heart, trying to come to terms with a horrible situation,” says Numan. “The subject matter is so deeply felt, compared to the subject matter of ‘Cars,’ it’s not surprising that they sound so different.”
“Where I Can Never Be” is another intense and intimate track from “Splinter.” Numan explains the song’s origin as a father’s concern for his family. “Part of the cause of my depression was a growing fear and paranoia about getting old and dying. That started to turn into fear of not being there for the children.”
With Numan’s knack for fiction writing, the song evolved to include a ghostly twist. The revised lyric features a character that misses a loved one. “It gives the impression that someone they loved has died,” says Numan. “At the end, you realize it’s the person singing that has actually died.”
“Splinter” expands the jagged sonics and aggressive pulse that led Trent Reznor to claim Numan as a major touchstone. The presence of Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck on songs including “I Am Dust” underscores that connection. Numan reciprocates the respect. “Trent has been open about the people that have influenced him over the years, and I’m very proud to be one of them,” says Numan. “He has sent that influence back out just as strongly.”
Numan’s relationship with “Cars” has sometimes been rocky. “I realized I should be proud of it,” he says. “I tried to embrace it as an important part of my legacy.
As a sensitive soul living in the public eye, his signature song from “The Pleasure Principle” still resonates. “It does come from personal experience,” says Numan of “Cars.” “I was once attacked by two men who got out of their car and tried to get me out of mine. I was able to lock all my doors, as the song says, and eventually drive along a [sidewalk] to get away. That experience had a lasting effect on me. I still feel safe in a car, and I still feel vulnerable when I’m walking around.”
♦Gary Numan, with Big Black Delta and Roman Remains, 9 p.m. Mar. 29, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, (773) 549-4140. Tickets $26 (ages 18+over); metrochicago.com. SPOTIFY playlist: http://spoti.fi/PStGi8