Sep 2010 21

by Nicole Powers

The Pleasure Principle is an album that’s provided its maker, Gary Numan, with both instant and delayed gratification. Three decades ago, when the now classic electro album first came out, it made a massive impact culturally and commercially. The Pleasure Principle, and the iconic single it spawned, “Cars”, hit the number one spot simultaneously on the album and singles charts in the UK in September, 1979. The following year, the records crashed the US Billboard charts, making the painfully shy young vocalist, composer and musician a household name here too.

Numan’s Kraftwerk-inspired tracks, which channeled the voice of the machine, had a raw energy and DIY aesthetic that served as the bridge between ’70s punk and the early dance and hip-hop scenes of the 1980s. Indeed the bare break beats from the opening segment of “Films” (the fourth track on The Pleasure Principle) became the sample of choice for a generation of producers, thanks in part to the song’s inclusion on Street Beat’s tastemaker compilation series Ultimate Breaks and Beats (which served as the primary DJ and studio sample resource pre-CD).

Ironically, as the spotlight faded on Numan, the sounds he created proliferated exponentially through the fabric of pop music culture. As a new generation of producers sampled samples, the origins of these staple breaks escaped many. However those in the know – such as Basement Jaxx, Armand Van Heldon, Afrika Bambaataa and Dr. Dre – openly covered, used, credited and paid homage to Numan’s body of work.

In 2002, Numan once again toped the charts in the UK with an all-girl band called the Sugababes and a song called “Freak Like Me.” The track was essentially a highly produced and super slick mash-up of the top line from Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me” and the riff and groove lifted directly from “Are Friends Electric,” a song Numan recorded pre-Principle with his band Tubeway Army (which first hit the #1 single spot across the Atlantic in May, 1979).

More recently, Trent Reznor outed himself as a fan, inviting Numan to perform his songs with Nine Inch Nails during the band’s 2009 shows in London and Los Angeles. The strong reaction Numan received following his guest spots at NIN’s four final shows in LA in particular turned heads, and a coveted invite to play Coachella this year was forthcoming. Unfortunately, fallout from a volcano in Iceland, which grounded flights throughout Europe, meant that Numan, along with several other artists, was unavoidably a no-show at the festival. However fans won’t be disappointed for long, since a dedicated tour honoring the 30th Anniversary of The Pleasure Principle will stop off in 15 US cities this fall.

We called Numan up at the East Sussex home he shares with his wife and three children to talk about the shows, his music – past and present – and the realities of life beyond The Pleasure Principle.

Read our exclusive interview with Gary Numan on


  1. […] to Jarre and have been inspired by him in turn. Notable names include Tangerine Dream, The Orb, Gary Numan, Laurie Anderson, Vince Clarke, Cyndi Lauper, The Pet Shop Boys, Peaches, Little Boots, Moby, […]