Over the years - alongside artists like Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly - made Canada's west coast prime address for hard industrial electronics, defining to a similar degree the distinguished "Vancouver Sound".
Before starting Numb, at the beginning of the eighties Don was initially playing in Images In Vogue, a Canadian new wave / synth pop six-piece with a major deal, together with Kevin Crompton aka cEvin Key who later went on to form Skinny Puppy.
Also Don at some point drifted out of the band and after four years left IIV in March 1984 to pursue his own musical visions. The interim project Proof By Nine didn't last for long, but finally in 1986 Numb was born as an art project to address issues of social desensitisation and threshold.
Evolving into a more structured form over the ensuing year, Numb released a limited edition cassette entitled "Blue Light" on Burning Records (Canada) in 1987. The line-up at this point consisted of Don Gordon, David Hall and Sean Stubbs.
This release was particularly acclaimed in Europe and so Numb's self-titled debut album, on top of its Canadian release through Edge Records, was also licensed to Lively Art, a sub-label of prominent French label New Rose. Published January 1988, the album comprised the tracks of the "Blue Light" cassette (apart from "Ruby Tuesday?") plus three all-new songs. The missing track however found its way onto the accompanying compilation to Out Of Nowhere magazine's second issue (France). The debut album received more than just appreciative reviews and has since been re-released twice with different bonus tracks. One reviewer accurately described it as "a tortured and trembling offering of confusion and anger, alienation and desensitisation, painted with a nightmarish palette against factory walls".
Due to the wish for a non-static sound which at the time was almost impossible to achieve on the rather primitive hardware (and thus monetary reasons as well), only little sequencing was used during the recording of the album. The actual playing and improvising give a slightly different feel to it than later Numb works.
Meanwhile, Blair Dobson took the place of Sean Stubbs in the line-up and in 1990 "Christmeister", Numb's second longplay effort, was released on Onslot (Canada/USA) with the European license again going to Lively Art (France). The album took a more aggressive stance than the previous release, with augmented harsh guitars on top of the colder electronics slashing into the ears of the emotionally strained listener.
More compilation appearances followed: the unreleased track "Stiff" appearing on Lively Art's "13", as well as a remix of "Eugene" done by Ray Watts (PIG) with Andrew Burton on "Funky Alternatives 6" (Concrete Productions, UK).
Later that year, Onslot released a homonymous collection of "Bliss" remixes in North America that also included "Stiff".
In Europe, it has been released together with the album as "Christmeister/Bliss" on KK Records (Belgium), to be re-released years later by Metropolis (USA).
Almost inevitably, Numb's already very soundtracky sound led to creating music for two cinematic projects in 1991: "A Dream Of Naming" (a German-Canadian co-production) and "Six Hundred Million Breaths" (a Canadian independent short).
In addition, Numb finished a soundtrack for the performance piece "Blood Of The Lambs", which was presented with Madeleine Morris at the Vancouver Fringe Festival the same year.
At this point the structure of Numb as a project changed from a rather band-oriented approach into the sole brainchild of Don Gordon with the help of different vocalists.
In 1992 KK Records, by then Numb's European label, re-released the debut together with two bonus tracks. Also works for the next album began. "Death On The Installment Plan" was recorded over the course of that year (with Conan Hunter now on vocals) and finally released in 1993 with Re-Constriction (USA) being responsible for North America. Delving further into the dark stream-of-consciousness pieces, the album was described as a "high-intensity blast of near madness" (toodarkpark.org), with "guitars and synthetics working in a near-perfect collusion" (Metropolis). The track "Shithammer", with its monotonous rhythm work making it particularly menacing, also appeared on the soundtrack for Gregg Araki's movie "Totally Fucked Up".
Following the release of the album, an eight country European tour was mounted in the spring followed by an appearance at the now discontinued New Music Seminar in New York City.
Around that time Numb also chipped in several contributions of remixes and new unreleased material on international compilations. Many more were to follow on a regular basis in the next years (see discography for comprehensive list).
In the spring of 1994 another full soundtrack was completed for the play "Photographic Messiah" which premiered at the Vancouver New Play Festival. The soundtrack explored new territory for Numb in combining dark electronics with 19th and 20th century chamber music forms and instrumentation.
The mini-album "Fixate" was released by KK Records later that year, containing remixes from "Death On The Installment Plan" as well as an unreleased instrumental and several live tracks. It was preceding same year's release of Numb's next full-length album "Wasted Sky". It constituted yet another step further into the exposed disrupted conditions conjured up by Numb's music, aptly described as "a post-apocalyptic vision where the wreckage of minds, machines, and souls are scattered across a war-zone of manipulation, fear, and loneliness. The title track depicts a world where technology is religion, and truth is only an undo button" (toodarkpark.org).
Another soundtrack project followed in 1995 for the film "155" by Michael Votruba (Czech Republic). Conan Hunter left Numb and David Collings took the place on vocals. They toured the United States extensively, co-headling with Front Line Assembly and Die Krupps, and later went on to Japan where the two December gigs in Tokyo with Richard Hanley on additional percussion and drums were to form Numb's first live record. Released 1996 in a limited edition on Gift Records (Japan), "Koro" today is an extremely sought-after collector's item, capturing Numb's strong, energetic live presence where most songs appear in different, harder versions than the more polished studio works.
In 1997 then, the US-only single "Blind" with three remixes of the title track and an exclusive piece was released as a teaser to the new album "Blood Meridian" that followed later that year both on Metropolis (USA) and KK (Belgium).
"Melding together all of his old trademark musical structures with noise and techno and infusing them into a new caustic Electro hybrid that abuses your ears while it drives your body to flail to the percussion" (Sonic Boom) hits the mark pretty well, with this being an overall more direct albeit still atmospherically very dense record.
1998 started with a European release titled "Desire / Blind Remixes" on KK (Belgium), fusing five different mixes of album track "Desire" together with the "Blind" single. "Suspended", another US-only single on Metropolis (USA), followed with five mixes of the title track.
It preceded the release of Numb's last album "Language Of Silence", this time through Zoth Ommog (Europe) and Metropolis (USA). It has an even more structured and danceable character to it, yet still carrying all the menace and disturbing atmosphere defining all Numb releases, in an even more concentrated form.
"Half-Life", a great track left over from the recording sessions was released the next year on the "Septic" compilation on Dependent (Germany), and a remix for The Klinik surfaced in 2001, but basically 1998 marked the last year of activity for Numb.
Don Gordon relocated to London where he assembled an album under the moniker Halo_Gen in 1999 released by Pendragon (USA), with a purely instrumental and more idm and drum'n'bass influenced vision of his nightmarish soundtrack.
He then later moved on to Vietnam where he is residing until today. Pretty much having withdrawn from the music business he just appeared at Images In Vogue's August 2004 reunion gig in Vancouver.
Over the years, Don Gordon has been doing a lot of production and remix work for other artists including Lung or Esplendor Geométrico (see discography for comprehensive list). He appeared on Dive Vs. Diskonnekted's 2006 Frozen EP with a terrific remix of the title track, marking his return on the musical landscape after several years of complete absence and leaving many fans worldwide hoping for more.
Members throughout Numb's history:
Sean Stubbs (Sean St.Hubbs) – Vocals, Drums, Percussion (1986-1988), Live Drums (1994-1995)
David Hall – Keyboards, Programming (1986-1991)
Blair Dobson – Vocals (1990-1991)
Conan (Colin) Hunter – Vocals (1991-1993)
David Collings – Vocals (1994-2000)