Here in my car, I feel safest of all…

Posted 18th August 2020

Who would have been more fitting to play a Drive-In show than the man who delivered the pop synth classic Cars?

Gary Numan isn’t just a musician, he is part of the fabric of music in this country. We spoke with him about his planned appearance at The National Bowl, before the plug was pulled on the concert series. Sammy Jones asked the questions…

Master creator, and all-round nice guy Gary Numan is at home in California when we make contact. In the main, this year’s Coronavirus craziness hasn’t represented too much of a problem for him. The lockdown isn’t such an issue when you are working from home anyway.

“In some ways it hasn’t had too much impact,” says the electro pioneer, “The first half of the year was going to be finishing the new Intruder album, so I just carried on with that. I have a studio at home so I would have been home anyway. Recording the album has been tricky as musicians haven’t been able to travel to work on it, but we’ve been able to find solutions to most problems.

“Being able to work online has made so many things possible that would otherwise have stopped the project.

“I’m also writing a new autobiography, so much the same, little impact. However, I had a tour planned for October to launch the new album and that’s obviously been cancelled.

“More worrying has been how it might affect the children being stuck at home for so long, it’s been nearly four months here, but they’ve handled it very well.”

But being on lockdown has proven to be an issue for Gary’s wife.

“Gemma hasn’t been able to visit her dad who lives in a home for the blind near Brighton, and he’s in his 90’s, so she’s been very concerned about that. She would normally fly over every two months to be with him.”

As a musician working on a new release, the studio has given Gary focus and allowed the Numan creativity to continue, but as he said, October’s tour is off.

Are you worried for the future of the industry? Or are you quietly confident that things will recover quickly?

“I do believe, should a vaccine be found soon, that the live industry overall will eventually recover, but it could take years, and it’s unlikely to go back to what it was,” he thinks.

“The damage being done to it as we sit and wait for that vaccine is horrific. We are already losing important venues that may never come back.

“Musicians are struggling, there’s no work for our crews and they are suffering. Merchandise companies are going bust, bus companies, sound companies, rehearsal studios, lighting companies, trucking and on and on it goes,” Gary said.

“The live industry is vast and it’s being devastated by the genuine need to stop live events to fight the virus. I don’t see much help coming from government either which is tragic.

“So yes, when all this is over, people will want to go to gigs again, and I’m sure that it will be possible to some degree, but it won’t simply snap straight back to what it was before.”

Gary believes that the likelihood of more casualties is a very real one: “I expect it to be a slow, painful regrowth,” he said.

“The virus could leave a second trail of victims, those that didn’t lose their lives but lost their livelihoods, along with their hopes and dreams.”

For now the music industry is having to find new ways to be creative and bring live music to the fore once more; and for a while it looked like there was something to get excited about.

Gary was set to swap the golden state of home for these shores to take part in the Utilita Live From the Drive-In sessions taking place at 12 venues across the country, including here in Milton Keynes at The National Bowl, during August.

The man who is more used to playing bustling sold-out audiences was fully prepared to play in a field to a few hundred cars. It would have been unusual, for sure, and that’s how Gary wanted it to be: “I want it to feel different. These are unique times after all, and these are unique events. The Drive-In shows are an ingenious answer, in the short term admittedly, to giving people some form of live musical entertainment,” he said.

“It is a quick fix for the moment, a chance to enjoy live music once again. It isn’t intended to be a long term solution. I certainly wouldn’t want Drive-In shows to be all I had to look forward to as a performer,” Gary admitted, “But, for now, I think they will provide a very important respite from the way things have been, for those people that are willing to accept temporary changes….”

Gary had promised fans a set that pulled from his entire career; a real crowd-pleasing thriller of a show, and he had put plenty of effort into ensuring ticket-holders got great things.

“Trying to organise this tour is harder than the last 40 years of touring combined,” he admitted.

And then? Not long before Pulse went to press, the plug was pulled on the entire Live From the Drive-In tour. Those behind the venture said they were unable to continue with any confidence because of developments regarding localised lockdowns.

It was a huge blow for fans, and not just for those set to visit the National Bowl, but for music-lovers around the country. Gary shared his sadness.

“I can’t tell you how disappointing this is for me, the band and the crew,” he said, “I thought it was an amazing idea, a small moment of relief in a dismal world…”

Of course there are still a couple of reasons to smile; that new album is nearing release, and the new-page turner is coming soon. No threat of lockdowns will interfere with those!

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