Inside the head of… Gary Numan

Synth-pop star Gary Numan, 59, is known for the hits ‘Are “Friends” Electric’ and ‘Cars’ in the late Seventies and early Eighties. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife Gemma O’Neil and their three daughters

What is your earliest memory?

I was about four, and my mum, dad and I were out driving in this old van on a foggy winter’s day. Suddenly the van broke down and Dad disappeared into the fog to find a phonebox, leaving my mum and me alone. I just remember being so frightened.

What sort of child were you?

A bit of a homebody. I never had many friends and was happy in my own company. I was into all things mechanical. The best Christmas present I ever got was an old box with dials that my dad made me himself.

Synth-pop star Gary Numan lives in Los Angeles with his wife Gemma O’Neil and their three daughters

When did you last cry?

My mother died last year, and Dad decided to move out of our old family home near Heathrow. I wrote Are “Friends” Electric? and Cars there, so visiting last month for the final time was emotional. I shed a few tears.

What would you like to be better at?

Everything! I’d like to be a better singer, a better guitar player, a better keyboard player. But most of all I’d like to be a better dad. My career might have had its ups and downs but the one thing I genuinely lose sleep over is my parenting skills.

What are your best and worst character traits?

I’m very focused. I’m very honest – sometimes at my own expense. I’m very caring and loyal. As for worst, well I get angry, I can be moody. I can also be very impatient.

What’s your biggest fear?

Dying. Since turning 50 I’ve thought more and more about death. When you hit the big 5-0, you can’t kid yourself any more that ‘the end’ is a long way off. The truth is from 50 on, it’s all downhill health-wise.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I’m not that bothered about the way I look. Until I met my wife I didn’t even have a mirror in my house. I wouldn’t mind being a bit taller, though – I’m a shade under 5ft 9in.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

It’s got to be George Clooney, my favourite actor, although I doubt he even knows who I am…

Have you ever cheated death?

I’ve had planes catch fire, and bits fall off them… you name it.

What is your most unappealing habit?

I chew the knuckle on my right index finger when I’m nervous. It’s now misshapen and I have a shiny lump for a knuckle.

What law would you change if you could?

To ban all animal testing.

What has been your biggest achievement?

I’m proudest of the fact that I qualified as an air display pilot evaluator. Flying WWII planes low-level in an aeronautical display formation is dangerous stuff. So to be a recognised expert in that field meant a lot to me.

And what’s has been your biggest disappointment?

My wife Gemma losing our baby back in 2000. That was crushing. The baby died unborn during the pregnancy. Thankfully we’ve gone on to have three beautiful children since: Raven, Persia and Echo.

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

Early on, a journalist who interviewed me for a pop magazine said: ‘You need to learn how to lie.’ I understand what he meant but I’ve never been able to do it.

What, or who, do you dream about?

I’m the only person I know who doesn’t dream.

What song do you want at your funeral?

The Buddhist prayer, The Great Bell Chant (The End Of Suffering), which talks about what it means to die and where you’re going. It’s the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard, and I want it written in my will for it to be played at my funeral.

Numan’s album ‘Savage’ is out now. His UK tour begins later this month.


Last film you saw? 

The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Samuel L Jackson and Salma Hayek. It’s a black comedy with a great cast and lots of shooting and violence. 

Last book you read? 

The British author Adrian Tchaikovsky’s sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel Spiderlight. 

Last gig you went to? 

Garbage in Los Angeles. We know the singer Shirley Manson, and the band were at their best. An unforgettable night.