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Gary Numan: (R)evolution in the head

Electronic music icon Gary Numan wanted his autobiography to chart the remarkable journey towards the family man he has become

Simply put, (R)evolution is the story of my life so far, much like any other autobiography, I suppose.

But I believe people have very different reasons for wanting to write an account of their life. For some it’s to correct perceived ‘wrongs’ against them, to give their side of an issue that dominated their lives, for others a chance to show the more human side of their nature that is perhaps rarely seen in public.

For some it just seems to be an ego massage and nothing more, some seem to want to ingratiate themselves with their own fan base and so protect and nurture their loyalty, and for some it’s simply showing off. There are no doubt a million and one more reasons than the few I’ve mentioned.

I find it hard to know exactly why I wrote (R)evolution, but I believe we are shaped by the lives we live, the problems we face and hopefully overcome. How we handle success is of interest of course, but how we handle disappointments and setbacks is far more interesting.

How we overcome the many hurdles along the way, both to initial success, and even more so to what it takes in trying to maintain that success, resonates with many people, be they fans or not.

My life seems to have been as much about dealing with setbacks as it has celebrating the high moments of success and I have, most certainly, been shaped by the many struggles far more than the few successes.

I like the man I’ve become. I haven’t always liked the man I’ve been, and telling the story of how that evolution took place is what drove me to write the book.

I have definitely made some very good decisions, wrote a few decent songs, but every step forward has been attached to a stumble, sometimes backwards, sometimes sideways. I have made some extraordinarily bad decisions, decisions so awful I was lucky the career survived.

I believe it’s true to say that I have done more damage to my career than all the bad press in the world was ever able to do, and yet I’ve survived.

My most recent album Savage was one of the most successful of my life and I find myself being called legendary in almost every article I read. I say that not to be big headed, just to illustrate how things have changed, and how I have changed with them. The book attempts to explain these changes as the years unfolded.

I am often asked how it feels to be labelled a genius by Prince, or the many other kind things that have been said about me by other truly legendary artists.

The truth is it all seems slightly unreal. I have such a grounded view of myself, I am so unaffected by ‘fame’, that those incredible comments feel as though they belong with a character I created, not with me at all. I try to instil in my children that same feeling.

I have been incredibly lucky, I am not super talented, I am nothing special. Kindness, honesty and decency are everything.

Songwriting is the most disposable of talents and so many people can do it, and do it well. So the book is not about that. That’s a side story at best.

The book is about the journey that took me from a troubled school life, where I was expelled more than once and came out of school with not a single qualification, to the world stage. How does that happen?

I have Asperger’s and I talk about how I have always seen that as an advantage, not a problem. How it has also shaped my life and how I wouldn’t change it for the world. I talk about how the career was all but dead and buried and how meeting Gemma, my wife now of 23 years, saved me from the very brink of destruction.

Mine, like so many others I’m sure, was a classic roller coaster journey for a while. A huge rapid rise followed by a savage fall from grace, and then the lesser ups and downs as it slowly winds its way down towards the inevitable end. Many of the setbacks were simply bad luck, just as many of my successes were often just
good luck.

Many of my problems were self-inflicted, but the solutions to those problems were mine as well, and that’s why my rollercoaster ride seemed to jump tracks and started to climb once again. I have reinvented myself more than once, and so my career did not wind down to an inevitable end.

For the last 28 years every album has done better than the one before and so I have found myself on a different journey. (R)evolution is the complete story, and now seemed the right time for it.

(R)evolution by Gary Numan is out now (Little, Brown, £20)