ADE FENTON
Computer Music|September 2021
As Gary Numan’s producer, Ade Fenton can take some credit in the electronic pioneer’s recent return to the top of the album charts. Here, Fenton reveals the process behind this collaboration and the multiple synths in his own setup: “I’m a massive gear whore with a gazillion plugins!”

After what Gary Numan himself calls his wilderness years, he has returned with something of a vengeance in recent years, scoring a hat-trick of top 3 albums – Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind), Savage (Songs From A Broken World) and his most recent release, Intruder. Indeed, Numan now commands the respect of a new generation of musicians and has sealed his status as one of the leading lights and pioneers of electronic music. If there’s one person – aside from Numan himself, of course – who can take some credit for this resurgence, it’s Numan’s right-hand man, Ade Fenton.

Fenton has been Numan’s producer on these recent albums and other releases, and has helped him redefine his previous synth sound to embrace a much rockier edge, albeit one as anthemic and often electronic as any track that Numan released in his 80s heyday. Fenton himself has enjoyed international success as both a solo artist and DJ, but has embraced this more recent production work as the second chapter in his own career. In fact, as Ade reveals, it’s almost destiny that the two started working together in the first place, as Numan influenced him so much in his youth.

“Going right back,” Ade recalls, “Gary Numan was the first music I heard which made me sit up and listen. That must have been when I was around 11 or 12 I think. I saw him on Top Of The Pops and the noises I was hearing were like nothing else. From that point on, all I was interested in was electronic music, even when it went through its rather twee stage in the mid to late 80s.”

The other side of synths

However, the ‘twee’ side of electronic music aside, it would be the second big chapter of electronic music that would really capture Fenton’s imagination.

“I’d heard Joey Beltram’s Mentasm somewhere,” he explains on his introduction to dance music. “I thought ‘what the fuck is this?!’. It was like synthesisers were being pushed to their limits and that feeling I’d had in 1979 when I first heard Are ‘Friends’ Electric? came back with a vengeance. So I started to get into the early rave scene heavily, seeking out techno clubs to go to, and it became an obsession, to be honest.

“Up until the late 90s I had a normal job, but quite by chance, an ex-girlfriend of mine was interested in getting into DJing and I had a mess about on her turntables. I found mixing records easy, so it was a bit of a light-bulb moment, and from then on I decided to try to pursue a career as a DJ. A little later, a friend asked whether I’d like to try making some techno stuff together, and that became my first record which I released on my label, Advanced, in 1998.

“Luckily for me, it did really well and the phone started ringing with DJ bookings from all over the world and it became a career. After that had been established for a few years, I got to know Gary Numan well and we began working together, which kind of kicked off the second phase of my career.”

DJ to desktop

It was at around the same point that Fenton started DJing that he also discovered the route to desktop music production, although his particular path was not perhaps typical.

“It was my friend Tony Thomas who guided me through my first steps in making music with a computer,” he explains. “I started off using Cool Edit Pro, which later became Adobe Audition, but by then I’d decided to switch to Logic at around version 5, I think. As a Logic user now, some 15 or so years later, I obviously know it inside out and sequencing with a computer is all I’ve ever known. I’m now currently running Logic Pro 10.6.2 on an Apple Mac Pro, with a huge selection of plugins from the likes of Spectrasonics, Native Instruments, Waves, Arturia, FXPansion and Soundtoys.”

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