|Gary Numan's Dead Son Rising grew out of a set of demos the singer had left from previous projects, but as he explains: ‘The original ideas that sparked off these songs are now barely visible. It’s grown into another animal, something more experimental.’
Produced and co-written by Ade Fenton ( Numan’s collaborator on 2006’s Jagged), the material ranges from the heavily anthemic ‘The Fall’ (written about ‘an old friendship gone bad’) to the Arabic and ghostly ‘We Are The Lost’ and one of the standout moments, the brooding ‘Dead Sun Rising’. The latter both contain elements from a sci-fi fantasy story Numan has been writing over the last few years. Meanwhile, troubled relationships are explored on ‘For The Rest Of My Life’ and Not The Love We Dream Of’, and there’s also room for two instrumentals (‘Resurrection’ and ‘Into Battle’), showcasing some of the ‘soundtrack-type’ material that Numan and Fenton have been working on recently. It all adds up to one of Numan’s most atmospheric albums – one for those who loved his B-side experiments in the past but also containing some very direct, streamlined electronic rock in the likes of ‘Big Noise Transmission’, ‘The Fall’ and ‘When The Sky Bleeds, He Will Come’.
Q & A about Dead Son Rising by Gary Numan
Why has it taken so long to release Dead Son Rising. You said in 2009 that it was coming out later that year.
Well, to put it simply, It’s taken a long time to get an album that I was happy with but the story is a bit more complicated than that. Dead Son Rising started out as a collection of songs that hadn’t made it on to the Pure and Jagged albums, perhaps even as far back as Exile. These were songs that had not been used initially because they weren’t finished in time to be included on Pure and Jagged, or didn’t have quite the right vibe for the albums they were originally intended for and other reasons. I have a very small collection of unused songs because until relatively recently I erased everything that I didn’t use. I must have erased hundreds of songs over the years which, eventually, I realised was a stupid thing to do. But, for many years, it was all part of the process for me to keep writing new stuff and not labouring over things that hadn’t worked as well or as quickly as I wanted them to. It was obvious that the new Splinter album was going to take some time to make and so we thought it would be a good idea to put something out in the meantime. Something that fans would find interesting and that would help to fill the gap between Jagged and Splinter. The idea of finishing off an album of songs, many of which were already nearly finished, seemed to make sense and shouldn’t take very long.
I sorted out about fourteen songs, including a few new ones, and Ade started to work on them. Within a few months we had an album nearly finished. I had some reservations about it and so work continued for some time until the only thing left to do was write the lyrics and sing them. This was about two years ago and this was, I think, when I announced that it would be released in the very near future. Unfortunately I had another crisis of confidence and decided that I actually hated everything about it that I had contributed. I thought Ade had done a brilliant job of making shit sound good and I considered that what I had given him to work on was useless. I went off the melodies, the chord structures, all of it. Most importantly, I no longer wanted to put it out but didn’t know what to do about it, so I just left it alone and stuck my head in the sand.
Then, last October/November 2010, I heard some music being played in another room while I was on holiday in Florida that sounded really cool. I rushed in to see who it was only to be told that it was me, the same Dead Son Rising stuff that I’d said I’d hated the year before. I don’t know what happened but it now sounded fantastic. I loved it. When I got home I spoke to Ade and told him about yet another change of heart and so we started to work on it again. At first we were thinking of putting it out as a mini album but then ideas just kept coming and we ended up with more and more music to put on it. The songs with vocals went from four to seven, added to other instrumentals, and so it became a proper album. Interestingly though the version being released is almost entirely different to the one that was originally planned in 2009. The last nine months has seem the album almost entirely reworked from the ground up. It may even be worthwhile to make some of those earlier versions available at some point in the future if people are interested.
The finished album is nothing like the original demo’s. Almost 95% of the music is new and bears little or no relationship to those demo’s that started the whole thing off. It is not an album of older songs that didn’t make it on to Pure and Jagged but an album of newly written material. That alone makes it far more worthwhile to me and something that is much more satisfying to release.
So, I do totally accept that it’s been a long time coming and that I unintentionally gave a few inaccurate announcements along the way. It has also backfired in that Splinter is still not ready and so the gap between Jagged and Splinter is even longer than it would have been, because of Dead Son Rising. However, even though Dead Son Rising has been a most tortuous album to make, I’m glad we did. It’s ended up being something I”m really very proud of.
Why have you split the Dead Son Rising tour into two sections, one in September, and another in December?
We started to plan a short September tour when we were still thinking of Dead Son Rising as a mini album. We expected that it would only be of interest to the more hard core fan and so only planned a fairly modest tour to promote it. Obviously, as things have turned out, there is a lot more interest in the album than we expected and so we wanted to expand the tour to bring it to parts of the country that weren’t being visited in the September tour. But, we found it hard to find available venues in September and we were unable to build a longer tour around the shows we had already announced. However, we were able to find venues in December and so we decided to run the tour in two stages. Also, as we were already playing the ATP Festival in December, it made sense to build the second leg around that festival date and so incorporate the ATP Festival into the DSR tour.
Is Dead Son Rising the follow up to Jagged, and if so, what has happened to the ‘Splinter’ album?
No, Dead Son Rising is not the follow up to Jagged, that is still what the Splinter album is intended for. Dead Son Rising is an alternative project, put together and co-written by me and Ade Fenton. With my conventional Gary Numan albums I follow a plan from concept to completion that gives the album a sense of identity and cohesion. The songs, although they are all different, all sound as though they come from the same place. They have a sound and an atmosphere to them that identifies them as coming from a certain album. With Dead Son Rising, because of the slightly erratic way it was put together, and because it started life as a collection of older unfinished songs, it didn’t acquire the same guidelines that other albums do. That has allowed it to meander more, to be more flexible in style and content. It’s a more quirky album.
Why did you make Dead Son Rising in three different packages, Standard, Deluxe and Super Deluxe?
Special packages are now a very normal part of releasing stuff. Pretty much everyone is doing it in one way or another from Placebo to Bjork, from Nine Inch Nails to U2, from Kiss to Pink Floyd, Lady GaGa and Nirvana. Everyone is doing their own thing as people try different ways to adjust to the rapidly changing face of the music business. Making and selling albums is not the simple process it used to be and as new technologies come along, as the expectations of fans change, as the alternatives to buying albums increase, artists are looking at ways of keeping their fans interested, both in them as artists, and in the music they make. To some it’s a very scary time. Album sales are plummeting, record companies are getting ever more demanding with what they take from an artist, with the collapse of the major retail chains outlets for music are getting fewer and fewer and more and more people are finding other things than music to buy or are downloading music illegally. I’m one of those that doesn’t find it a scary time, in fact I welcome it. I have made a lot of noise over the years about being an ‘independent’ label and artist, fighting amongst the powerful companies. The changes sweeping across the music business are frightening but they also bring with them great opportunities. The three format packages for Dead Son Rising is just our tentative first step into this new world of opportunity. We have tried to come up with a range of packages that will appeal to hard core fans and those not so hard core. We have made all three packages quite different in what they offer, at quite different prices, but they all contain the basic album, the music itself. We will learn a lot from our own experience with Dead Son Rising, and we will learn a lot by looking closely at what other artists and labels do in the future. Those lessons will evolve into ever more interesting and thoughtful packages in the future.
I believe that, for fans, this is something of a golden era. Many fans now expect far more than just a basic CD and now they are getting far more. Whereas before with each new album you knew what you would be getting, now we have no idea. It could be on a USB stik, an album downloaded a song at a time, a film, even sung in your own living room, who knows? And new things are always just around the corner