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Gary Numan: Android in La La Land

A robot with profound human feelings: this new doc about Gary Numan reveals the emotionally fragile human being and the ups and downs behind one of Britain's most poignant and innovative pop idols of the 1970s

In late 1970s, everyone in Britain was dancing to an electronic beat and questioning whether Gary Numan was human. Well, 30 years later Gary Numan: Android in La La Land finally revealed that the iconic and emblematic musician was not only the godfather of electronic pop music, but also a family guy.

The man/machine relationship has troubled philosophers, artists, engineers, scientists and critics for a long time. When Gary Numan came into the music scene he was just 21. His robotic dance and single ‘Are Friends Electric’ reached number one in the UK but according to the press he was a “freak”. One paper even suggested his mother should have prevented from giving birth to him. Numan admits he “was a nerd kind of bloke” and “antisocial”. Nevertheless his amateur experimental music, that mixed punk with electronic, pleased many teenagers. Gary wanted to be the first artist in the world to do an electronic album, but he realised that there were other musicians exploring the same avenue, such as Kraftwerk and David Bowie.

This documentary explores the trajectory of the pop idol, going deep into the ups and downs of his career. It is an honest tale based on the present Numan, with little archive foortage. Numan self-imposed a long hiatus of shadow as he could not deal with the sudden rise of fame. His confidence went down. His ambition brought depression, anxiety, a long period in the wilderness, and also led him into a near bankruptcy. His parents were very supportive in the beginning of his career but they contributed to his childish behaviour. When he lost control of the money, he cut relations with his family.

He confesses he had panic attacks. “One thought brings another, and you can’t help it. You won’t stop.” Taking antidepressant drugs “doesn’t make you feel better, but you can then cope with your problems”.

Gary had the fortune of marrying Gemma, his biggest fan since she was 15. In Gary Numan: Android in La La Land it is clear that he would not have made it without her. The couple has three young daughters, Raven, Persia and Echo, but their marriage hasn’t always been flowery. Gemma says, “We had a lot of horrible things together”, referring mainly to her miscarriages before Raven was born. The girls are obviously proud of their pop idol father, though they admit he is a different kind of daddy. “My father doesn’t go out to work. He works at home”, says the eldest.

While Numan was in his reclusive period he learnt how to pilot a plane. This achievement is indeed symbolic of his career which all of a sudden took off and then fell into an oblivion. Despite having influenced artists such as Dave Grohl (Nirvana and Foo Fighters), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga, Gary Numan struggled with self-confidence for many years.

In recent years, he went back to the studio and on an extensive globe tour. Then he moved to Los Angeles with his family, a dream he has pursued for a long time. He returned in 2013 with the album Splinter, that was his first album to reach UK Top 20 in three decades. He is now much more spontaneous and comfortable on stage. He counted with the help of Matt Colton, who mixed his ideas in studio. Colton worked before with Muse, Coldplay, George Michael and Peter Gabriel. His most recent hit is a ballad, dedicated to Gemma. After all “everything changed the moment she came along”, Numan puts it.

Gary Numan: Android in La La Land premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June and it is in UK & Irish cinemas from August 26th.

Below is the film trailer:

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By Maysa Monção - 15-08-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who currently lives in London. She has a Masters Degree in Film Studies from Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy, ...

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