Gary Numan uses the word “celebrating” a lot when talking about performing “The Pleasure Principle” in its entirety, to commemorate the album’s 30th anniversary. It seems like a strange choice of words, given the breakthrough synth album’s icy and isolated feel. But contradictions are part of the joy of conversing with the singer who became famous singing about how inside his car was “the only way to live.” He is sociable, full of surprising revelations and he cheerfully cancels out many of the definitive statements he makes.
“When I made the album I was really enjoying being in a band and being able to go into a studio,” he says. “But nonetheless, I was still more or less a teenager, with all of the problems that teenagers have.?And as I later discovered, I also have Asperger’s Syndrome, so there were all sorts of problems with a young man trying to forge his way into some kind of a career, and that’s why ‘Pleasure Principle’ lyrically has a lot of the ‘poor little me,’ ‘no one understands me’ and ‘I’m so alone’ and all that crap, but that’s pretty common feelings for 19, 20, 21 — so I don’t feel too embarrassed about it, but just a bit.”
It’s with the same cheerful insight that he discusses revisiting an album he didn’t listen to much over the past 30 years.
“I actually grew to like it much more than my memory of it,” he says. “It’s only when I’ve come to start playing the songs again and try to get into these arrangements, they just don’t do what I expect them to. And I’m thinking, ‘Actually, for its time, that was a pretty strange album.’”
But he’s quick to add, “It could be a lot better.”
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Business with ‘Pleasure’Does Numan still use any of the vintage synth equipment he used when he recorded ‘The Pleasure Principle’? Hell no!
“The old stuff went out one door and the new stuff came in the other,” he says. “I don’t long for the equipment that I had in 1979 or 1989. Or even 1999, actually. I’m really interested in what’s going to come through tomorrow. … To me, they are like hammers and chisels. They’re just tools of the trade. You get the best out of them you can ... and when something new comes in, you just move them on.”