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9 December 2020updated 07 Jan 2021 9:05am

Gary Numan Q&A: “I don’t feel a need to lie, never have“

The musician discusses the Second World War fighter pilot Douglas Bader, Winston Churchill and The Great British Bake Off.

By New Statesman

Gary Numan was born in London in 1958. He was the frontman of the new wave outfit Tubeway Army and has released more than 20 albums throughout his career. He has sold more than ten million records.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting in the front of a van with my mum, watching my dad disappear into the fog. I was about four. We’d run out of fuel. Without my dad I felt vulnerable and the fog made everything seem sinister.

Who are your heroes?

As a child, Douglas Bader, a fighter pilot during the Second World War. He had lost his legs in an earlier flying accident. He became a highly successful combat pilot.

[See also: What the Hitler conspiracies mean]

What book last changed your thinking?

Many years ago I read John Fowles’s The Magus and that seems to be the point at which my deep mistrust of people began.

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Which political figure do you look up to?

Putting to one side the many concerns coming to light recently, I’ve admired Winston Churchill since I was very young. I still find many of his speeches emotional.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Aeroplanes. I learned to fly in 1978, flew around the world in a light aircraft in 1981 and was a formation aerobatic display pilot for many years. I stopped when the children came along. Most of the people I’d known in the display world were killed in accidents – it felt too reckless and selfish a thing to do with a family. I miss it.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I’d love to visit Earth, from a safe distance, just before the meteor hit that wiped out the dinosaurs.

[See also: As Christmas approaches, we should remember the pagan rituals that came before it]

What TV show could you not live without?

None of them. I’ve got into The Great British Bake Off of late, and Gogglebox, but I could easily do without.

Who would paint your portrait?

My wife, Gemma. To be painted by the person you love the most would add something special that no other artist could match, regardless of skill.

What’s your theme tune?

Other people thinking of me would say “Cars”. What I would like to feel is appropriate is the hymn “Jerusalem”, but it really isn’t appropriate at all. I’d have to go for the tune from The Magic Roundabout.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

In 1979, after one of the first interviews I ever did, the journalist took me to one side and said, “You need to learn how to lie.” It was probably very good advice but it’s not advice that I’ve ever followed. I don’t feel a need to lie, never have.

What single thing would make your life better?

I already have it: anxiety tablets. As I’ve got older I’ve found that the increasing pressures of life and worries about getting closer to the end of it can get on top of you. Having a little pill that can bring you back to a more sensible reality is a miracle.

When were you happiest?

When I was eight years old. Surrounded by love, no expectations, no fear of failure; just everything to look forward to.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A racing car driver.

[See also: Lewis Hamilton is a record-breaking champion – so why is he still so widely disliked?]

Are we all doomed?

We may not be doomed, but I’m less confident our grandchildren will inherit anything worth having. With us gone the Earth will flourish and we will be nothing more than a memory, a sigh in the wind. 

“(R)evolution”, an autobiography by Gary Numan, is published by Little, Brown

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This article appears in the 08 Dec 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special