Interview: Ade Fenton

Ange Chan speaks with Gary Numan’s producer about the new album, ‘Intruder’, and more.

Ade Fenton. Image courtesy of Steve Malins.

“I believe it’s a very strong album and has an added layer of texture which sets it aside from the previous albums I’ve done with Gary. The use of other musicians like Gorkem Sen and Gazelle Twin has also changed the soundscape to something even more epic. There are nods to Gary’s legacy, but it’s very important that it never sounds pastiche…” – Producer Ade Fenton on Gary Numan’s ‘Intruder’ album.

Ade Fenton is a record producer and composer and has most notably worked with Godfather of Electronic Music Gary Numan for a number of years, producing his last four albums; Jagged, Dead Son Rising, Splinter and Savage and has returned to this role for Numan’s forthcoming album Intruder due on 21 May.

2013’s Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) gave Numan his first Top 20 album in over thirty years and saw a massive resurgence in Numan’s popularity, not only bringing fair-weather fans back in the fold but also attracting a new generation of younger fans.  The album also enjoyed universal acclaim, with many critics hailing it as his finest album since the early days. The renewed success meant that the Numan/Fenton combo would go on to produce Savage (Songs From A Broken World) which entered the UK Album Chart at number 2 on its release in September 2017, delivering Numan his highest album chart placing since 1980 and receiving rave reviews. With Numan firmly established as the Godfather of Electronic Music, a position cemented by 2016 documentary Gary Numan: Android in La La Land, there is no reason to doubt that Intruder will continue Gary’s creative and commercial renaissance.

Alongside his work as a record producer, Ade has produced numerous musical scores for film, TV and advertising.  His recent projects include an original score and soundtrack album composed alongside Gary Numan, for From Inside, John Bergin’s award-winning animated feature film, based on Bergin’s novel of the same name. Ade also formed a partnership with multi-instrumentalist Tim Slade, specialising in the creation of original music for film, TV and digital media. Their credits include original scores for October Films’ ‘Serial Thriller’ TV films Angel Of Decay, The Chameleon and The Head Hunter, UK/Irish horror film Nails and the historical documentary series Eight Days That Made Rome.

Your website takes us to 2017, professionally, what have you been doing since then (apart from recent Numan work)?

Yes, I really must sort my website out. I’m useless at keeping people updated with what I’m doing, whether it be via social media or whatever, so it’s a wonder I get any work at all to be honest.

I’ve been working on more Gary stuff, this time re-recording Sacrifice, Exile and Pure, the three dark albums which preceded Jagged, my first album working with Gary. It’s been a really interesting thing to do, because I’m very conscious of the fact that these new versions of those albums should not sound like Ade Fenton remixes. So, I’ve been pretty faithful to the originals on the most part, but they now sound much better. I’ve also produced a few other things, most recently a five track EP for a very cool Slovenian band called Picture Grey which will be released in the next couple of months I think. There’s also the film and TV work I do with Tim Slade and we’ve been busy making music for various projects in that respect.

Ade Fenton and Gary Numan. Image via twitter.com/AdeFenton

Which do you prefer; film scores or music production?

I honestly don’t have a preference. I love doing them both and purely by luck, I’ve somehow managed to get into a situation where I finish an album, then start a film score, so I never really get into a situation where I’m fed up with one or the other.

Which is your favourite album both as a fan and professional point of view?

Almost impossible to answer and I’m not sure whether you mean favourite Gary Numan album or in general. So, I’ll answer both. Obviously, I can’t include any of the albums we’ve worked on together so as a fan, my favourite Gary album has to be Dance. It is a timeless masterpiece that I can still listen to now as if I’m hearing it for the first time. As a fan and as a producer, it’s Nine Inch Nails The Fragile, no contest. It’s still, 20 years on, the most staggering piece of work. Every sound leaps out of the speakers and punches you in the face.

Who would you like to work with? Any why?

Trent & Atticus would be right up there for obvious reasons, Depeche Mode as I think I could make a seriously strong album with them, Penelope Trappes and Gazelle Twin for the reasons set out below. I also really admire Clark and Clint Mansell, that would be very cool.

Who are your contemporary influences?

I’ve just discovered Penelope Trappes, absolutely loving her. Gazelle Twin too, she’s a genius and sets the bar higher with every record. And I have to mention Nine Inch Nails. They’re still pushing boundaries and making amazing music.

When you were running Numan discos back in the day could you ever have contemplated the way your future was to pan out?  

Haha, there was only one and no, not in a million years.

How did you make the jump from fan to producing Numan’s albums? 

Gary and I met a few times at gigs of his before we got to know one another properly. To be honest, he didn’t really like me at first, but after hanging out a bit at parties, we started to get along very well. At the time, I had a reasonably successful career as a techno DJ and producer so I’d often be gigging in Europe or whatever at weekends, then turn up at Gary’s house for a party. I’d always loved heavy music and after a few months of hanging out, I plucked up enough courage to play him some of my more industrial stuff. I think he expected it to be awful but thankfully, he liked it. As luck would have it, for me anyway, he’d hit a few issues in the early days of writing Jagged, so he gave me a track called Scanner to work on. After a couple of weeks I gave a fully produced version back to him. He loved it and he gave me the rest of the album and since then we’ve never looked back.

Ade Fenton and Gary Numan. Image via twitter.com/AdeFenton

How did you feel when Numan was back on top again and your part in making that happen?

His success is my success isn’t it and because he’s one of my best friends as well as someone I work with, I am doubly happy for both of us. We make a very strong team and have reached a level where professionally, we trust one another implicitly. We’re not afraid to disagree and we have created a working partnership whereby making an album together is a hugely enjoyable experience. I do believe my being a fan when I was growing up, helps me to understand what I think is the Gary Numan sound and how I can try to translate that into a contemporary record.

Do you feel you were fairly represented in Numan’s autobiography ‘(Re)volution’?

Yeah, I think so. Privately and publicly, Gary’s been very kind to me and about me. Like any close relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs, thankfully mostly ups, but during the down period, the important thing is that eventually we were able to sit down, listen to one another’s gripes and settle our differences. We’re way, way past that now and our personal and working relationships are very strong.

Has the COVID pandemic affected how you work?

Not hugely if I’m honest. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve continued to work, but the main difference has been being unable to get in the studio with Gary or with Tim or whoever, and actually work side by side. Even with the new Intruder album, Gary and I only had the chance to get together once and that was really early doors. Even the mixing was done remotely with Nathan Boddy, with Gary stuck in Los Angeles and me stuck in Bath, so we had to do that using Audiomovers, where Nathan would stream the mixes to me and Gary and we’d feed back to Nathan via email. Gary couldn’t attend the mastering session with me at Metropolis with Matt Colton, which was sad and weird in equal measure.

What else have you been doing during lockdown?

Lots of lovely family time, taking the dog out, the usual stuff.

What are your plans for the future when we’re out of lockdown?

Visiting my Mum. Haven’t seen her for months.

As a fan what are your thoughts about ‘Intruder’? 

Crikey, that’s a hard one to answer without sounding like I’m up myself. I believe it’s a very strong album and has an added layer of texture which sets it aside from the previous albums I’ve done with Gary. The use of other musicians like Gorkem Sen and Gazelle Twin has also changed the soundscape to something even more epic. There are nods to Gary’s legacy, but it’s very important that it never sounds pastiche, so yes as a fan, I’m very happy with the album.

What’s next in the schedule?

I’m currently working on music for a film called In The Company Of Kings, which is a documentary about Muhammad Ali’s fall from grace after his fight with Larry Holmes. After that, a few collaborations, then we start another Gary album.


Gary Numan’s ‘Intruder’ will be released on CD, deluxe CD, black heavyweight double-vinyl, picture disc double-vinyl and digital formats on May 21, and is available to pre-order here.

❉ Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry. A prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon) and lifelong lover of music, Ange is also We Are Cult’s Social Media Administrator.

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