Valentino Frankenstein pre-ordered the Intruder CD from Gary Numan’s site. It’ll ship on May 21. “In 2021, I still play Gary Numan CDs in my Ford minivan,” said the 6’4” musician from Escondido.
Numan, a pioneer of electronic music, is mostly recognized for the “Cars” track that blared on car stereos and boomboxes throughout San Diego County and beyond after its 1979 release.
When we spoke, Valentino requested that the Reader address him by his stage name, which is also his 80s-inspired band’s namesake. We then sang the song in unison.
Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It’s the only way to live in cars
“I used to do Gary Numan tributes at local and Los Angeles venues,” Valentino suddenly said as I kept on with the lyrics.
But unlike his version of Numan’s “Cars,” which peaked at number nine on Billboard’s Hot 100 list in June of 1980, Valentino’s covers of Numan and Numan’s former group Tubeway Army weren’t as “trippendicular.”
“One of my cover concerts was at the Beauty Bar, where nine people attended. Urgh! I could not understand the bad turnouts; it was ruining my rep with local promoters.” The Beauty Bar was located on El Cajon Boulevard in City Heights. It closed down in 2010.
Around nine years later, Valentino got over the bad turnouts from his Numan cover performances and linked up with Atom Troy from Florida to recreate “Cars.” The original 3:58 song from Numan’s first solo album The Pleasure Principle was reportedly inspired by a road rage incident.
“I did the 'Cars' cover to celebrate my adoration for 80s synth music and its foundation. I also cover early Ultravox and Duran Duran songs.”
Valentino used a Korg Triton synthesizer, as opposed to a Minimoog synth used by Numan’s keyboardist. “Atom Troy also played keyboards on the song, and he made the drum sample arrangement. So I took Atom’s raw track and added my guitars, bass, keys, and lead vocals. I then added sound bites from a Japanese sci-fi movie called Invaders From Space, which features Starman, Japan’s knock-off of our Superman.”
The Escondido cover, a slightly sped-up version of Numan’s 128 beats per minute synth-pop classic, gained traction when Australian DJ Susan Lily played it on her WOW FM 100.5 radio broadcast.
“It’s a modernized version of Gary Numan’s hit ....” commented Lily.
“Our version was more for a dance club, so my vocals were more lively, unlike Numan’s stylized monotone vocal delivery on the original. Australian radio stations played our version a lot.”
Valentino Frankenstein almost always wears eyeliner and a full black ensemble, including a boxy shouldered sports coat, a button-up shirt, pleated slacks, and leather dress shoes. His Numan-inspired getup is not exclusive to the stage. He wears it at Comic-Con International: San Diego, where he sets up every year to sell monster and sci-fi memorabilia.
“Numan is a sci-fi fan as well. I met him in 2006 at the Belly Up Tavern. I told him I read his biography Praying to the Aliens, and I related to his music career on a much smaller level. I also mentioned that he and I both have had to deal with the loss of a close friend who was a bass player in our respective bands. Numan’s friend in England, Paul Gardiner, died from a heroin overdose, as so did my bassist and friend from here in Escondido, Tony Davis. Numan was humble and spoke highly of his wife.”
Valentino says that since 1998, he’s attended every concert that the British star performed in San Diego.
“He re-energized his career using a heavier industrial rock style with a harder edge. It has made him popular for the next generation, so I doubt I will ever meet him again.”
“When things hopefully go back to normal, a promoter from Australia said he’s going to fly me out to perform a Numan tribute concert.”