Mount Union Professor Compiles Tribute Album To His Favorite Musician
April 27, 2010
James Collins is an assistant professor of sociology at Mount Union College. But what many people do not know about Professor Collins is that he is a musician as well. And not only is he a musician, but he currently has his own compact disc, The Church of Gary Numan: A Dark Celebration, selling in stores across the nation and overseas.
Collins has a master's degree in sociology but has been a fan of music his entire life. He began playing percussions in third grade for the school band. He also learned to play the guitar, keyboard, synthesizer, and piano along the way- all but the guitar and percussions are self-taught. He has played in various bands of his own since he was fifteen. Thse were usually punk rock bands that played loud, heavy music, and often played live throughout northeast Ohio.
When Collins was fourteen, he discovered British rock artist Gary Numan's music. Numan is responsible for introducing synthesizer music into popular music and for being one of the few pioneers to release completely electronic albums. According to Collins, he recalls hearing the song "Cars" on the radio in 1979 or 1980 on Hot FM 101.1. "[It] sounded so different from everything else I was listening to," said Collins, who saw Numan perform on Saturday Night Live soon after hearing him for the first time on the radio. He then bought Numan's first three albums that had been released up to that point and became an instant fan.
After following Numan and his music for almost two decades, Collins decided to use his own musical talents to compile a tribute album to the man who had inspired his own music. "Prior to Gary, I was more guitar-oriented and when I heard Gary I thought, 'Wow! This is really different,'" Collins said. Ideas of a tribute album came about in 1997 after Collins and his wife, Anabel, flew to London to see Numan in concert. Although he was unable to meet the British celebrity that night, he was able to talk with Numan's wife, who was amazed that the Collinses had come from the States to see a show. More than a year and a half later, Numan began to tour in North America. Collins and his wife saw concerts in Philadelphia, PA, Greenwich Villiage, NY, Pittsburgh, PA, and Cleveland, OH. After the concert in Philadelphia, Collins had his first opportunity to meet Numan, who left him speechless. "[He was] very humble, very low key," said Collins. He met and talked with Numan and the band members after each of the following concerts he and his wife attended. It was during these conversations that Collins got approval from Numan, himself, for the tribute album.
Work on the tribute album began in August of 1999 after receiving official permission from Numan's management and taking care of the many legal loopholes such as tracking down publishers to obtain rights to the songs and obtaining the legal rights to record and release the album. Collins chose twelve Gary Numan songs off of various albums to remake in his own style. Some of the songs included "Cars"-the first Numan song Collins ever heard, " Down in the Park," and Love is Like Clocklaw"- Numan's personal favorite on the album.
With the legal rights in place and the songs already chosen, Collins began to lay down tracks in his home studio, which has digital equipment. Soon after, he teamed up with Josh Roman at Mind Rocket Studio in Sharon, PA. Together, they recorded most of the CD in this studio with Roman as producer and engineer, while Collins co-produced and co-mixed the album. Collins solely reinterpreted each song, sang all vocals, and played all instruments on the album. "I'm reinterpreting someone else's music but I'm totally recreating it," Collins said. The actual process of putting the album together took eight months and hundreds of hours of work from the very beginning when he was contemplating which songs to remake.
The Church of Gary Numan: A Dark Celebration was released in October of 2000. It is still selling in stores and has received reviews from music magazines throughout the country and overseas. It is sold in stores such as Best Buy and National Record Mart, online at major dot-com music stores, or on Collins' personal website: www.churchofgarynuman.com. In October of 2000, the Chicago Weekly News described the album as "a good example of the irreverent influence that Numan has on both his fans and popular culture." Collins is thrilled to have his tribute album on the market for others to experience, especially other Gary Numan fans, since they make up a majority of the consumers and most of the sales take place in America or England. "The most exciting thing about it is when I get e-mails, letters, or phone call from people who have purchased it," said Collins.
Although Collins is a music fanatic, he is happy to be working in the sociology and gerontology fields. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in sociology and gerontology from Youngstown State University and went on to earn his master's degree in sociology from the University of Akron where he specialized in social gerontology and the psychology of aging. He also received his certificate in life span development of gerontology. Collins began teaching as an adjunct professor at Youngstown State University and also taught at Kent State University and Thiel College before joining Mount Union's faculty. He has been a full-time professor at Mount Union since 1997, but also has pursued other academic endeavors. Throughout most of the 90s, he owned and operated a geropsychiatric clinic called Royal Services from 1991-97. The company specialized in providing psychiatric care to nursing home residents in approximately 70 to 100 nursing homes. It also provided long-term care for nursing home professionals as well. Throughout that time, he was involved in professional speaking on sociology and gerontology topics at large seminars and workshops.
Why sociology and not music? "Because I'm a nerd," Collins said, jokingly. "I love academics and it's extremely stimulating, but in a different way than music." According to Collins, he has a strong passion for sociology and teaching and finds it to be more stable than music. Music is a difficult profession and he felt he got a true taste of that while he was performing in bands. It was tough to deal with band members dropping out or not being able to get gigs. "That whole part of my life wore off as I became more mature," Collins said.
Collins is currently working on his doctorate of philosophy at Kent State University and is unsure where his musical pursuits will lead him. He has thought about creating a Church of Gary Numan Part II, but he has also contemplated developing some original work, which was actually suggested by Numan, himself, during an interview, according to Collins. But no matter what route James Collins takes, it will surely be another fulfilling experience for this musician at heart.