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Carl

Gary Numan

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Electronic tunes are back in a big way: Owl City, MGMT, etc. But when Gary Numan did it 30 years ago, he got basted in the press.

What I never realized is that he's a guitar guy. The synth stuff was just to prove a point, and while he's quite proud of that work, he's a punk at heart. A punk with Asperger's Syndrome who is more comfortable around machines than people. Perhaps there is a parallel between the rise of the machines (internet) and the rebirth of electronica, and I guess you could stretch it to say that more people are on the Autism spectrum as a result of this social shift away from human contact. Feel free to tell me I'm full of it, but check out the interview.

Gary Numan

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That was an interesting interview, Carl. I hadn't realised that Gary Numan was regarded as a "one-hit wonder" in the States. As your interview revealed, he was a much more successful artist in the UK, (in terms of a string of hit singles and albums), and durable well beyond the commercial peak of electronic music. Funnily enough, even though "Cars" was the #1 hit which sealed his status as a pop "man of the moment", the track for which I think he is most remembered over here is probably "Are Friends Electric?", which was ground-breaking at the time (in bringing electronic new-wave to the masses), and remains (to my ears, at least) an astounding piece of music, which stands the test of time, (especially if played at a suitable volume!)

I have to be honest and say that I went off Gary Numan pretty quickly. After "Replicas" and "The Pleasure Principle", which I enjoyed, he quickly became the kind of pop-star your mate's younger sister likes. Also, he took flying lessons, espoused uncool political views and generally made himself look a bit of a prat. However, that wouldn’t prevent me from admiring some of his work.

I have read previous interviews with Numan, in which he disowned his punk past, professing that he never felt comfortable in that guise, that it wasn't "him". So it's interesting to hear his perspective has changed with the passage of the years.

The Asperger's thing is interesting. I heard a few years ago that he is a self-diagnosed Aspie, so no clinician has actually confirmed his Autism Spectrum Condition. As the father of a young teen with an Asperger's diagnosis, I'm comfortable with any famous, successful cool dude outing themselves in this way. It's not exactly a "badge of cool" for those who have it, so the more Asperger's Icons the better, really.

It is true that many Asperger kids are interested in machines /computers/technology; one of the classic traits of the condition is a tendency to develop "obsessive interests". (Many non-Aspie kids are pretty keen on modern technology too, mind you.)

Also it is true, that many people with Asperger's tend to be fairly solitary (not necessarily through choice), having difficulties relating to other people and, subsequently, limited social networks; a significant and pervasive trait of Asperger's is the deficit in intuitive social learning. That is, the behaviours we all learn intuitively, from infancy, which facilitate social interaction - the understanding of body language and facial expression, of figurative speech, the art of reciprocal conversation or interaction, the ability to empathise, the fundaments of appropriate social interaction, the ability to transfer learnt social skills from one scenario to another, etc. Someone with Asperger's may lack all of these attributes (which come to the rest of us naturally, to some degree or another), but still desperately want to participate socially and to have a healthy network of friends, etc. So it's probably not accurate to characterise such people as "alienated", "loners", or whatever. They "fail" at social interactions so frequently (from the schoolyard onwards), and need so much support to develop the skills required to form and sustain a friendship, that many potential friends move onwards and upwards, into relationships with people who aren't such hard work.

Why am I going on about this? Not sure, I lost my thread a bit. Oh, yeah. I think it is a stretch too far to suggest that "more people are on the Autism spectrum as a result of this social shift away from human contact". Asperger's Syndrome is a neurological condition: you've either got it or you haven't. (No-one acquires it as a result of avoiding social contact). If you have it, there is no cure; only support to help you manage its impact on your ability to function in the world. True, many of us do have some “Autism Spectrum traitsâ€, to some degree or another, but one has to possess several of the classic traits in conjunction, and to a degree that these have an impact on one’s ability to function socially, to be "on the Autism Spectrum". Many people, kids and adults alike, are spending greater time than ever before absorbed in the wonders of modern technology. This may, arguably, be to the detriment of proper, social interaction and in extremis lead to social isolation. Crucially, however, these people can come off the PC, electronic game, Pro-Tools,(or whatever) at intervals and will more often than not have a multitude of potential outlets for social interaction available to them - a gang of mates, a sports club, a pub, a social group – in which they will be adequately able to integrate and cope. Which is not the case for those genuinely on the Autism Spectrum.

Well, you did say "Feel free to tell me I'm full of it..."

;)

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Funnily enough, even though "Cars" was the #1 hit which sealed his status as a pop "man of the moment", the track for which I think he is most remembered over here is probably "Are Friends Electric?", which was ground-breaking at the time (in bringing electronic new-wave to the masses), and remains (to my ears, at least) an astounding piece of music, which stands the test of time, (especially if played at a suitable volume!)

yep, same here :)

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I really enjoyed reading the interview... :)

I wasn't a fan of GN in the early eighties but I liked what he was doing.

I read interviews other people have done and they'll mention me, and I had no idea that I'd been a part of it. And that's really, really cool.

Being part of the musical scene of the eighties, I can say that he was far more important than what he thought he was. I have known many European musicians into techno and they all would mention Gary Numan as a main influence.

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