I Never Wanted To Destroy Depeche Mode
But he almost did. DEPECHE MODE started life in early 1981 as frilly shirted synthi-popper New Romantics (their electro-beat actually inspired the burgeoning House scenes of Detroit and Chicago). Later that year Vince Clarke left the group to form Yazoo
Document par Jennifer Nine | Melody Maker | 1993 | 8886 caractères. Temps de lecture : 6 min 40 sec
‘Jesus Christ!’ A businesswoman, briefcase in hand, flies into the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel.
‘I was trying to get in the door at the same time as a bunch of fans and some rock star!’ she says, flustered, to her waiting colleague. ‘I didn’t even recognise him,’ she adds, peevishly.
Neither would you, readers. Nor indeed would his bandmates. A slight young man in goatee and leathers, shoulder-length hair and biker vest, strides over to the lift amid a knot of minders and paparazzi. Ladies and grungemeisters, Dave Gahan! Jesus Christ!
Upstairs on the umpteenth floor in the interview suite, you’d call it the same old show. The Depeche Mode singer grabs a quick sarnie as he meets you with a smile. Roger, the artist-relations man who’s strong-armed him through doorways and sobbing girls for a dozen years, smiles a Buddha-like smile and sets his stopwatch.
ACTUALLY, it’s not the same any more, and the goatee’s beside the point. Dave Gahan takes a deep breath, and for 27 minutes in gloriously uncorrupted Essex-speak, punctuated with ‘at the end of the day’ and ‘to be honest’, every 30 seconds, he tells me why.
‘Moving away, it opens your mind,’ he starts, settling into a squashy hotel chair for this half-hour session with a journalist / therapist. ‘I needed to get out. I felt trapped by everything that was around me. The last go round was great, we had a lot of success and ‘Violator’ was huge round the world - and I should have been on top of the world, and I wasn’t.
‘I had everything I could possibly want, but I was really lost,’ he says, his voice suddenly going quiet. ‘I didn’t feel like I even knew myself any more. And I felt like shit, cos I constantly cheated on my wife, and went back home and lied, and my soul needed cleansing badly. I had to figure out why.’
PHEW. Gahan Confesses All shock! Whither the cuddly boy-next-door electro-popper of yore? Read on.
In the wake of the mega-normous ‘Violator’ album and the subsequent Tour of Everywhere, the decision to make 1991 the band’s first-ever year off was long overdue. And, for three members of Depeche Mode, it was more or less what you’d expect: home, wife / girlfriend, kids, more songwriting for Martin Gore, a Recoil album and some Nitzer Ebb production work for the workaholic Alan Wilder.
But it was pain, divorce and ‘go west, young man’ for the Mode singer. Where he ended up - in case you haven’t figured it out from his looks - was Los Angeles.
‘I just packed a case and split,’ he tells me. ‘Went off and rented a place in Los Angeles. During the ‘Violator’ tour, I split from my wife. My year was really spent doing a lot of soul-searching and trying to find out what had gone wrong in my life, and thinking, to be quite honest, about whether I wanted to come back and do the whole thing - records, tours, fame, Depeche Mode - again.
BEFORE I can dispense kind words about it being tough at the top and enquire about silver linings to clouds and stuff, Gahan’s polished off his Cappuccino and started talking about his new American Wife.
I’m halfway into sarky thoughts about successful men dumping their long-suffering partners for exotic foreign babes when this shy beam of a smile melts my right-on severity. F*** it, the guy looks happy for the first time since he started this little narrative - who am I to point fingers?
Pretty soon, I’m doing everything but asking to see the snaps. Where was the wedding? His eyes light up like Glitter Gulch. Appropriately enough.
‘In Las Vegas!’ he exclaims. ‘Fantastic!’
What, with Elvis?
‘Yeah!’ he barrels on, shamelessly. ‘At the Graceland Chapel, and my name’s up on the wall now next to Jon Bon Jovi’s, in big lights outside!’ he adds, cracking up at the wonder of it all. ‘Of course, everything was plastic, you know, false,’ he adds, anticipating my line of questioning. ‘They wouldn’t even light the candles in the chapel cos they were just there for show. We were a little upset! And they had a fake Elvis who we thought was just going to sing one song, but ended up doing about a half-hour set. In the end, I had to say, Will someone get him the f*** out of here? I want to get married! And so Theresa’s mum, Diane, sort of politely said, ‘Um, excuse me, Mr Elvis, do you think you could stop now, cos I think they want to get married.’ And so he says,’ - Gahan does a passable imitation of an imitation of The King - ‘‘We-ell, I’ve just got one more song, darlin’.’ And he leans over to me and asks, ‘Have I offended you in some way?’ And I say, ‘No, just carry on with it, mate, get it done and get out!’’
MAYBE you never really understand a country until you marry into it.
It’s certainly true that you can tour it, even as often as the huge-in-America Mode, without absorbing much more than excess ultraviolet rays and piss-poor beer.
For Gahan (who, in calling himself a rock fan, conjures up visions of Maker colleagues shouting, ‘There’s always been a grunge element to our music’ and falling about laughing), living in America brought him into contact with the music he loves. Listening to ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’, I’m not surprised to read in a Toronto paper this week that Dave’s current favourite records are by Neil Young and Alice In Chains.
‘My wife works in the music business,’ explains Gahan. ‘And at the beginning of the year off, she was out working on the Lollapalooza tour, the first one with Jane’s Addiction. I went out on the tour kind of as a fan, just hanging out. It was different just walking around in the crowd, really not bothered by the fans at all.’
This was no doubt a novel experience, I figure, remembering the millions of kids in leather jackets umpteen floors below.
‘I noticed the audience was the same as the one we have,’ he goes on, ‘or the Cure or lots of other bands, for that matter.
‘Americans really see it all as just new, alternative music,’ he exclaims, and I wonder how many times he’s despaired at being called a ‘Techno-popper’ by the UK press. ‘And Jane’s were just the most incredible thing I’d seen in a long while. Sometimes they were really shit, and sometimes they were just so mountainous and fantastic.
‘I spent the year trying to find the sort of music I wanted to be involved with,’ Gahan continues. ‘There was so much really good new music coming out of the States at the time, much more so than where it usually comes from - Europe or London. I felt that what was happening back home, all that Techno stuff, was really boring.’
WHICH brings us to The Return To The Fold. Depeche Mode headed into the studio in early 1992 to record ‘Songs’, but for Gahan the trip back was from a different place, and I don’t just mean geographically.
‘I came back,’ he says, ‘really inspired by a lot of other bands like Jane’s. Not so much for what they were doing musically, but for the passion that they had. The danger really appealed to me. I’d felt quite safe in the last few years, and maybe I wasn’t trying as hard as I should’ve. So I think when I came back into the studio in January in Madrid, everyone was a little bit afraid of me somehow. I don’t know what they thought I’d been doing.’
Growing your hair, surely? He waves away my quip.
‘It wasn’t even that. I think I was giving off quite a vibe at the time. I was very aggressive about what I wanted and what I felt we should be doing, and how we should, once again, be a band full of spirit!’ he concludes, excited.
This isn’t to say, of course, that the other three Modes were set on merely photocopying past glories. Despite being instantly recognisable, Depeche have somehow always managed to shift the goalposts around deftly enough to keep one step ahead of the rest.
‘There was never anytime that any of us thought we were going to go and do the same things as before,’ Gahan says, fidgeting slightly in his seat. ‘We were conscious that we didn’t want to simply repeat what we’d done before.’