Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“They’re cold, geeky geniuses”

hero_newman.jpg

British Electro legend Gary Numan pays tribute to his bookish German forbears, Kraftwerk...

“It was probably John Peel that first played me Kraftwerk. It would’ve been the mid-to-late Seventies and it was probably Trans-Europe Express he played. I don’t know if any of my friends even knew about them – they were all David Bowie or T Rex fans – but I loved it. They had cool sounds and simple melodies, sometimes two or three notes would do if they were just the right ones. They sounded very different to anybody else. They’d find a certain groove or a vocal sound that fitted together perfectly.

“The sort of music I wanted to do when I got involved in electronic music, though, wasn’t what Kraftwerk were doing. They went for the full artificial sound, whereas I really liked guitar, bass and drums and I wanted to add another electronic layer to that. Kraftwerk were completely electronic and non-conventional, and I really admired it. I just sat back with Kraftwerk and thought, ‘F*ck me, that’s clever! I would never have thought of that. How do they get those sounds? Where do they get the idea to do it in the first place?’ I thought it was genius.

“It was partly their aesthetic that was so fascinating. Our impression of Kraftwerk was that they sat in a room surrounded by wires, not really talking, just tapping Morse Code messages to each other. That they were a little bit geeky and very cold. Somebody once told me they actually used mannequins at gigs and they weren’t even there, but it’s all part of the mystery about them – the reluctance to interact with humanity while engaging with machinery.

“We shared a fascination with the idea of mankind merging with machines; for me it came from an interest in science-fiction and I did a couple of albums – maybe three – that had sci-fi references. With Kraftwerk, that seems to have been their whole reason for being. The whole thrust and continuing theme of what they’ve done was this interaction between man and machine. For them it was a career, for me it was a flash, a moment.

“But their lasting legacy is one of acceptance – they made electronic music cool at various points, acceptable to a vast amount of people. They haven’t varied it particularly or moved sideways or reinvented themselves. Like the Rolling Stones, they’ve done what they’ve done for 40 years, and done it well. It’s a remarkable achievement.”

Gary Numan: Now… And Then app for iPad and Android tablet is out now

Comments

More

Stormzy's 'Gang Signs and Prayer': Review

It's an encapsulation of Stormzy in a moment in time - now

by Grace Medford
27 Feb 2017

Foo Fighters could announce Glastonbury headline slot at surprise gig

It looks like they're playing a really intimate venue

by Alex Finnis
24 Feb 2017

ITV slammed for heavily muting Skepta at Brits

Dermot O'Leary was allowed to swear

by Matt Tate
23 Feb 2017

Bradley Walsh and Stormzy became best mates at the BRITs

Expect a fire collab soon

by Matt Tate
23 Feb 2017

Oscar nominees get the Honest Trailers treatment, and it's great

They're on form as ever

by Matt Tate
22 Feb 2017

Some massive names have been added to this year's Lovebox lineup

Solange, Kaytranada and Jamie XX are all on the bill

21 Feb 2017

Why it's time to celebrate the second division Britpop bands

As Sleeper reform, this is why you need to look past Oasis, Blur & Pulp

by Dave Fawbert
15 Feb 2017

Circa Waves' Ultimate Playlist

The band's singer Kieran Shudall reveals his top tunes

by Joe Ellison
15 Feb 2017

The revenge of the Kaiser Chiefs

The indie-rock band that refuses to die

by Louise Donovan
15 Feb 2017

Star Wars' Cantina Band is Australia's favourite song to have sex to

The infectious song is the nookie tune of choice Down Under

15 Feb 2017