It is really weird meeting a hero. For starters, it’s so fucking nerve wracking. Last week, on Tuesday, I was vexing majorly about co-hosting the show with Gary Numan. What would he be like? Would he be dark and moody, like a lot of his music? Would we get on? Three hours is an eternity if the situation is uncomfortable. What tune should I play first? Will I piss him off if I play ‘Are Friends Electric?’ I know Thom Yorke is pissed off by ‘Creep’… all these myriad thoughts, worries and insecurities were swirling around my brain and preventing me from sleeping, so I was a mess when I got to Xfm the next day.
I had Tone, my ten year old pride and joy with me, as it was the Easter holidays, and I had to tell him on the way to the studio who Gary Numan is.
I explained that when I was a little older than he is now, I saved my pocket money to buy his record. More importantly, it’s a record that helped change my life, for it was at that point, listening to ‘Replicas’ by Tubeway Army and ‘Quiet Life’ by Japan, that I realised that synthesizers were just as sexy as guitars.
In telling my son about this man, I realised that in my lucky life, I have met, interviewed, worked with, or even become friends with some incredible people who have sold millions of records: Lovely ones like Michael Hutchence, Elton John and Gary Lightbody, to horrid ones, like The Cranberries, to the ones who behaved like total cunts, Marty Pellow from Wet Wet Wet or Matt Bellamy from Muse.
Yet I had never met and interacted with someone for whose record I had saved up my pocket money to buy, someone who had helped shape me when I was at my most malleable and absorbent. I mean, what if you meet your hero and they don’t like you…? Or even worse, if you meet your hero and YOU don’t like THEM? What a disaster that would be? That’s something that could seriously spin you out. Suffice to say, I was worried.
I needn’t have been. Gary Numan, in real life, could not have been sweeter, more normal, friendly, polite, on time, all the things you expect someone like that not to be. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, somebody who has put in that much, paid that many dues, been that famous and that influential, kind of has the RIGHT to be an arse.
He sensed my discomfort straight away and said: “Don’t worry, I’m very…” He paused and thought about the word he wanted to use… “Unnasuming… that’s what a lot of people call me”. Good word. He didn’t assume, or presume, there were no airs and graces, and I like to think I’m like that too; approachable and without a veneer of industry bullshit that so many feel they must have, so we got on like the proverbial house on fire.
I’d decided on a really obscure track – with Gary on it – as the first tune, ‘Metal’ by Paul Daly of Leftfield. A brilliant, forward-thinking bit of electronica from years back. As the opening electro-rasps hit the studio speakers, sounding awesome, he asked, “What’s this?” (In a good, inquisitive way, like “ooh, what’s this?” rather than, “what the fuck?”)
“It’s you”, I smiled. “Remember that track you did with Paul Daley? It never came out here did it?”
“No, it didn’t”, he replied. “But there was a cool mix by Trent Reznor”. That name cropped up so many times in the next three hours we ended up joking that the show was becoming an open love letter to the Nine Inch Nails frontman and greatest ProTools programmer of his generation.
We kept dazzling each other with our choices. He hit me with Deftones, Snake River Conspiracy, Sunna, all played, or even championed by me on The Remix over the years. And I laid on him, for example, Trent Reznor’s mix of David Bowie’s ‘Hearts Filthy Lesson’. I somehow knew that he’d like it; it was the first non-Numan record I reached for in planning this show.
He looked at me incredulous as I pressed play. He’d brought the original with him, to play. He joked that my one was loads better and thanked me for playing it. I can safely say that no three hours have gone by faster. We both enjoyed it so much and vowed not to let this be the last time we do this.
So they tell you never to meet your heroes… that’s got me thinking. Certainly, if you’re a Muse fan, then I’d strongly advise not going down that road, just worship from afar and never be disappointed, same goes for arseholes like Damon Albarn (don’t get me started on him, I’m saving my rant about Damon for another of these), but if your heroes are people like Gary Numan, Gary Lightbody, Michael Hutchence or the boys from The Prodigy, then meeting them will only renew your faith in human nature, as it did mine.
Eddy Says from this edition of the CMU Remix Update.