GARY Numan is waxing reminiscent about one of his first ever gigs in the Capital. The Playhouse, September 27, 1980. He can laugh now about what happened that night, but it was no laughing matter at the time.
“At the start of my gigs I’d come sliding down a ramp, leap off at the bottom, and do a 180-degree spin,” he says. “I’d end up facing the audience with the mic in front of me and launch into the song. It usually worked well.”
Usually, but not on this occasion. “That night I hadn’t checked the stage before going on, hadn’t noticed there was a bit jutting out near the bottom of the ramp. So I come running down, trip, and get sent flying. Luckily I came to a halt inches from the edge of the stage and stood there hovering over the crowd, who had no idea if what had just happened was part of the show or not.
“In all honesty, that’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a catastrophe in all my years performing,” he adds. “It was a pretty high stage, and if I’d gone head first into the crowd I’d probably have broken my neck... or someone else’s.”
It goes without saying, but the 54-year-old isn’t planning on making quite such a dramatic entrance when he visits the HMV Picture House on Tuesday night. What fans can be sure of, however, is another top-notch show from this still relevant synth pioneer.
On his last visit to the Lothian Road venue, back in 2009, Numan gave a commanding performance to a sell-out crowd, earning himself a five-star review in the following day’s Evening News.
But whereas on that occasion he was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his seminal album The Pleasure Principle, next week’s gig will feature brand new songs from the forthcoming Splinter album (due next year), plus reworked versions of tracks from last year’s Dead Son Rising.
He may be getting on a bit, but Numan still loves performing live. “I really do enjoy touring,” he says. “I actually enjoy it a lot more now than I did back in the Eighties. Back then, I was kind of awkward... uncomfortable with being on stage. I guess it’s experience or age or whatever but I’m much less self-conscious than I used to be.”
Despite trailblazing hits like Are Friends Electric? and Cars, the music press never really gave Numan his due in his early days. In recent years, however, he’s come to be regarded as one of the most influential artists around, having helped to create a totally new genre of music – electronica or synth-pop.
You’d imagine he must be pleased with the turnaround. “Of course,” he smiles. “It’s great from a career perspective, because it’s generated new interest in my music. Obviously it’s also very flattering to hear you have made a big impact on other artists.
“It’s added a level of pride and excitement to what I’m doing now.”
Numan says new album Splinter is “pretty much there”, but a recent move to Los Angeles last month slowed things down.
“I’ve done the bulk of the writing, and the production on the first seven or eight songs is virtually done,” he reveals. “But when I moved to America things stopped for a bit... I had to close down my studio six weeks ago and put everything into boxes.
“It’s taken a while for it all to get over here, but I’ll soon be setting up a temporary studio at home for the final batch of writing.”
Minor quibbles aside, he has no regrets about moving to LA. “For one thing, the climate is a lot better,” he says. “Plus, I feel that it gives the kids a much better life.”
From a career point of view, the move also opens up a lot of possibilities for the singer. “I’d love to get involved in film scores or writing for TV, for example, so hopefully that’s something I can do here... as well as making more albums and continuing to tour, of course.”
Gary Numan, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, Tuesday, 7pm, £25, 0844 847 1740