Gary Numan: An Alien of Extraordinary Abilities

The British electronic music icon is an Angeleno–and he’s loving his L.A. renaissance.

Among all of L.A.’s expat European artists—Werner Herzog, Morrissey, Lol Tolhurst of the Cure—Gary Numan may be the most incongruous. He still has the inky black mop top, the penchant for piratey, all black threads, and the dark, agro-goth musical leanings, but as of about a year ago, he also has a home and a life in sunny Los Angeles. And like that other Newman (Randy), he loves L.A.

On Tuesday, the electronic music pioneer known for synthesizing obscure industrial clanging into anthemic pop hooks (most famously in the songs “Cars” and “Are Friends Electric?”), released his new album, Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind). To celebrate, he scheduled a series of local shows: a free set at Amoeba, an intimate, pre-recorded live show for KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, and two nights at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (the last of which is tonight).

The album’s title could be purely artistic, a reference to some cosmic concept utterly outside of himself, but if you listen to Numan talk, it seems that Splinter has deeply personal roots. “I got more done in the first three months after I moved here than in the previous 10 years,” Numan told KCRW’s Jason Bentley. (You can hear the interview and the entire set here.) Though he’s cheeky and self-deprecating about it all, the album emerges from a long, difficult period in which Numan felt saddled with the baggage of his hits, unable to move past his 1980s persona.

These days, he seems like he has moved—literally and emotionally—far away from that. How does the newly minted Angeleno like to spend his time? Playing with his wife and kids, hanging out with his pal Trent Reznor, and dragging industrial tools around his yard for days on end until he finds a sound he can incorporate into his music. It’s a relatively charmed life, and if Splinter is anything to go by, it’s a creative renaissance for Gary Numan.