Emerging from darkness 

click to enlarge Gary Numan's newest recording is called "Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)." - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Gary Numan's newest recording is called "Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)."

Synth-pop pioneer Gary Numan frankly comments about the darkness rippling through his upcoming recording, "Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)," and its self-descriptive, industrial-strength dirges such as "Lost," "I Am Dust" and "Love Hurt Bleed."

He pulls no punches when recounting the emotionally turbulent times he has been navigating. "I think I had a midlife crisis," says Numan, who appears in Oakland next week. "I had some really big problems, and life just went the wrong way for me."

That's putting it mildly. The man who practically launched the electronica movement with his definitive "The Pleasure Principle" in 1979 (with its chart-topping hit "Cars") had suffered debilitating writer's block through much of the 1990s.

He had given up his passion for flying World War II planes in air shows when his squadron members began getting killed in air crashes, and got married and had three daughters.

Then he moved from London to Los Angeles, where, he admits, "I used to really miss my life — the life I had before the children came along."

"I was massively depressed," he says. "So I was on medication for that, but I was having anxiety attacks, my wife was experiencing postnatal depression, and she was in big trouble. So our marriage went a bit rocky for a while — we never split up or anything, but it wasn't what it was."

With his free time taken up with raising his kids, he adds, "Starting a new album was just the last thing I ever wanted to do. It was just a horrible time."

But the multi-instrumentalist had a few things going for him. His old friend Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, for one, a Hollywood native who welcomed Numan to town the week he touched down.

Numan had often opened for NIN in concert, and Reznor, in turn, happily loaned him his guitarist Robin Finck, who — along with Numan's longtime production partner Ade Fenton — helped kick-start the smoldering "Splinter" sessions.

Another advantage: Numan kept right on writing through his punishing purgatory.

"I was very careful, and I came back into recording slowly, initially," he says. "But I did build up a fair body of songs. And then? Everything was good. We got through all that, we were stronger than ever, and we got used to being a family."

Even through his trademark mascara, the perpetually-black-clad Numan, 55, can see everything clearly now. Pain often leads to great art. "And once you're happy again, you can be honest about it," he says. "My whole inspiration for 'Splinter' was drawn from those difficult years. And I do think it's a better album for it."

Gary Numan

Where: Oakland Metro Opera House, 630 Third St., Oakland

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Tickets: $27

Contact: (510) 763-1146, www.ticketweb.com

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Tom Lanham

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