James Freud - Breaks Silence on the Numan Case
"Naturally, I was a bit disappointed, but a lot of it was my decision. If I'd come out with the album I did record, I think I would have killed everything. I would have just been a Gary Numan clone more or less... I would have been a Gary Numan clone of a Bowie clone!
James Freud is in good humour, despite having just experienced three months which began with a bang and fizzled out, like a damp skyrocket. The fuse was lit with great anticipation and excitement, rose feebly a couple of feet in the air then fell limply to the ground.
Far from being limp, James is still bubbling. He arrived back in Australia from England to find his single, "Modern Girl", sitting comfortably in the Top Ten and his debut album, Breaking Silence, receiving complimentary reviews.
He's now busy rehearsing with his band - at last reports called Berlin (ex-Teenage Radio Stars, ex-Ego, ex-Radio Stars) - in preparation for live work.
A new single is also being culled from the Breaking Silence album - "Enemy Lines".
The single recorded in Sydney with Gary Numan - titled "Automatic Crazy" - is being kept on ice for possible future use, probably on a follow-up LP.
But the question most asked of James since he stepped from the flight from London was: Why? Why did he walk away from a world tour with Gary Numan? What happened to the album that Numan produced? What went wrong?
"What happened was, the album we did with Gary ended up sounding too much like Gary Numan, so we've come back to re-do the album for a start. We're going to use about 50-percent of it.. We're going to add things on to it and record about five new tracks. We also had trouble getting a new record deal because everything was so rushed.. We had to get it together in time for the start of the tour and there just wasn't enough time".
"It just wasn't worthwhile doing the tour unless we had a good record to put out. The record companies were waiting to hear what we'd done with Gary and we really didn't want to play it to 'em".
"The tour would have cost money to do and without a record company behind us, we couldn't do it".
In fact it would have cost James around $25,000 to do the British leg of the Numan tour alone. God knows how much the other dates around the world would have cost.
It's an economic fact of life that supports acts have to pay - for accomodation, for transport, for equipment, etc.
"There were a lot of record companies really, really interested, but because there was such a rush to get it all together, all of a sudden they went cold, because the market over there, the whole business, is in a really depressing state".
"They're just putting off people left right and centre and they're being really careful.. they're pondering on everything and we had to get the deal together really quickly because we needed the money, and they were too scared.".
Has James learnt anything from the Numan Experience?
"Yeah, I think I've learnt a lot.. putting it into words is another thing. For a start, I've learnt to appreciate Australia!"
"But as for studio techniques, I don't think I've really learnt anything. I think we're quite advanced - I don't think the rest of the world has got that much on Australia as far as studios, equipment and recording techniques go".
James is less enthusiastic about Gary Numan's studio techniques. "I thought at first, before I went over, that Gary's sort of sounds, combined with mine, would be quite interesting. I thought it'd be an interesting combination."
"Instead, it turned out to be a dirgy combination - it just didn't do the business. I've got my own sound, and I understand my own music".
"At first I thought, oh yeah, it's a good opportunity, everything's gonna be great - but always, with things like that, you know if it's gonna work out or not. No matter what it seems like on the surface, you get a gut feeling".
"We couldn't really forsee it happening the way it did. But I've learnt a lot - I've learnt to understand myself a lot better".
James also came to understand Gary Numan a lot better. For about a month, he lived at the Numan family home - Gary still lives with his mother and father.
"I was living at his house for about a month and I got quite bored there because he never goes out anywhere, he doesn't take any drugs.. he doesn't drink or anything. So we were just sitting around the house, drinking cups of tea and recording all the time. He lives with his mum and dad. His mum hasn't been for a night out in something like 18 years and he's got an adopted brother."
"I became quite disillusioned with how that whole thing really is. I mean, you'd think in the position that he's in, that life is a lot different, but it isn't really. His own paranoia stop him from going out anywhere.. they might be real paranoias".
Life at home with Gary might have been boring - but working with him in the studio was.. interesting.
"In the studio with Gary at times it did get very tense. I couldn't really describe the feeling that was there.. but, like, I'd say I didn't like something he was doing and there'd be silence in the room for 10 seconds or so and no-one would dare speak or anything".
"Then he'd say 'alright', put down his guitar and walk out of the studio for a little while, and then he'd come back".
"But that happens with everyone".
"I heard an amazing tape at the studio.. it was of the Troggs in the studio recording and they were calling each other every name under the sun, like: 'you stupid f... c..., can't you get it right', 'you f... do it, you c...', I'll f... punch your face in you c...' and you could hear guitars being thrown around.. it was great to hear".
"When I recorded Breaking Silence, I was the one in command of it, but this time Gary, as producer, took the leading role. He got the final decision more or less on everything, plus I was using his musicians - his uncle was playing drums and Paul Gardiner the bass player and Gary was playing guitar - and their usual style is playing Gary's music and trying to play my music it just didn't work out. Maybe if I'd had my musicians I could have had a lot more control".
Why not take to England?
"Gary thought his uncle was a better drummer than mine and he didn't think the rhythm section was together, but in actual fact they're one of the best around. They're very good and I admire them a lot. But Gary thought his rhythm section would do it better".
James maintains that he and Gary are still friends and parted with no animosity. But what does James think of Gary's music?
"I liked his early albums, but I've gone off them a but now, but I go off any record after a while. I don't think Gary's progressed a lot since his first album.. they're a bit samey".
"I think his music becomes a bit monotonous after a while.. I think he's scared to try anything new. I don't know whether he is scared but a problem is that he has too much control".
"It's good to have control, but he's got two brilliant keyboard players yet he insists on doing all the keyboards himself, except some piano work".
"So all you have is one person's ideas going on to the tracks when if you have got good musicians, they've got good ideas of their own and if you use their ideas you can only get good out of it".
One would expect James to be a little disillusioned and let down by the failure of the Numan Experience to fulfil its initial promise.
But, on the contrary, he sees it as a learning experience - a rare opportunity too good to pass up. Now it's back to work, promoting his debut album, doing the rounds of press radio and TV, rehearsing for live work and so on.
Despite witnessing, first-hand, life at the top - the life of Gary Numan - James is still determined to achieve success.
"I've always wanted to succeed in music... since I was about five or six. I had all these Cliff Richard records my uncle gave to me.. and the Beatles. I used to have one of those plastic Beatle wigs and a tin guitar when I was five... I really can't find the centre of the motivation - it was just there".
The influence of Cliff Richard is hard to relate to James as he stands now.. but English music has definitely shaped James' ideas.
"I've never really listended to anything American - except Velvet Underground and Television. I think English music is far more progressive and it's always searching for something new."
"America has always just plodded along. They're got MOR and then they've got Ted Nugent and Kiss.. they never do anything inventive. From England, though, you get Roxy Music, and Eno and Robert Fripp.. all the people who've been really creative and inventive".
"England seems to revolve around the art school type thing".
-- interview from JUKE MAGAZINE, 1980 - originals in-hand.