Reprise Records, April 17th 1997
"Listen, if Depeche Mode were a movie, Martin would write
and direct. I'm the actor; I bring life and a heartbeat to his
creations. And Fletch would be the backbone to the whole
The voice of Dave Gahan and the voice of Depeche Mode on the
eve of the release of Ultra, the band's 13th album and their
first new studio set in four years. A period in which group
members Martin Gore, Andy "Fletch" Fletcher, and
especially Gahan himself have been through more dark and dramatic
experiences than most movies would dare to screen.
You would need to have been off the planet to miss the
all-too-colorful details of Gahan's personal decline and rebirth
since Depeche Mode last appeared on record with the worldwide No.
1 album, Songs Of Faith And Devotion, in 1993. This album, the
only British album to go to No. 1 in America between 1993 and the
release of the first Beatles' Anthology, sold 4.5 million copies
worldwide, bringing Depeche Mode's total album sales in excess of
The band's 14-month 'Devotional' world tour of 1993-94, an
exhausting 156 show itinerary, led to severe emotional battering
for Gore and Fletcher, and collective mental wipeout for the
band, and the departure of13-year veteran Alan Wilder.
Such a catalogue of crises should, if the script was followed,
have had an unhappy ending. But then the script of the Depeche
Mode movie was thrown away and the remaining players found the
psychological fortitude to turn the story on its head. Gahan went
into rehab, cleaned up his act and his life, and huddled with
Gore, Fletcher and the kindred spirit of producer Tim Simenon.
The result is an album that no one dared hope for. Ultra is aptly
named: 15 years after they broke out of Basildon and took up a
chart residency that has lasted ever since. All those involved
call it the ultimate Depeche Mode album. The subtitle could
almost be "Songs Of Passion And Perseverance."
The axis, as ever, is the formidable songwriting of Martin
Gore, the "writer/director" of this epic tale of
rock'n'roll survival. While he and Fletcher were recuperating
after the Devotional tour at home in London, Gahan was playing
out his own melodrama in California.
Sessions began in London, then moved via Los Angeles to the
famous Electric Lady Sound Studios in New York, under the
direction of lifelong Mode fan Tim Simenon (the production
mastermind behind Bomb The Bass, who had already crafted a number
of Mode remixes over the years).
No one denies how close the three members of Depeche Mode came
to pulling down the shutters on an association that has lasted
practically their entire adult lives. "After that period in
New York," says Gore, "I have to be honest and say I
did think about the pros and cons of being in this band. I really
seriously felt that maybe it was time to find something else. I
needed time to think about that."
He did, and made the right decision. Recording was ready to
continue at another legendary location, London's Abbey Road.
Gahan was rewarded not only with the joys of contributing fully
to a re-energized band, but with the discovery that his vocal
retraining, necessitated by the excesses of his former life, was
making his voice more powerful than before. "I'm very happy
to be clean and sober," he says. "I have my life
The results of both his and the band's extraordinary spiritual
restoration are introduced on the formidable first single,
"Barrel Of A Gun," a brooding, shadowy and triumphant
Simenon, warmly described by Gore as "a new soul
brother," welcomed the contributions of some intriguing
collaborators on Ultra, in the form of Jaki Liebziet, drummer
with German experimental pioneers Can; former Living Colour
bassist Doug Wimbish; and pedal steel guitarist supreme B.J.
Cole, who adds color to the country canvas of "Bottom
Line," one of two tracks with lead vocals by Gore. As
Simenon enthuses, "Martin's an amazing songwriter, and I
want people to take their hat off to him. Songs, songs, songs,
that's all it's about."
Gore agrees that Ultra is the most uncompromising,
take-no-prisoners sound ever conjured in the name of Depeche
Mode. "It's probably the hardest-sounding record we've ever
made. It's got so many different influences and I think it's one
of the best things we've ever done."
"Barrel Of A Gun," the first single, comes with a
set of remixes, including two by the mighty Underworld. With a
video shot in London and Marrakesh, "Barrel Of A Gun"
is set to add to the band's running total of nine UK Top 10
singles and 200 weeks-plus on the singles chart since
"Dreaming Of Me" marked their first visit there in the
spring of 1981.
On the positive side of these eventful few years in the
group's history, you'd have to say that Gore has not been short
of subject material for his new compositions. So what does he see
as the theme of Ultra? "There's not really a concept or a
theme." he answers, "but quite a lot of the songs deal
with destiny. Religion is probably touched on less on this album
than it has been in the past, but it's still got a quite
The final word on what is shaping up to be one of the great
comebacks from the brink in rock history comes from Andy
Fletcher. "Things have taken their toll," he admits,
"but our situations have brought out the best in us. People
didn't expect us to come back at all, let alone like this. We're
better equipped than we were last time around."
1980 Vince Clarke (born 7/3/61), Martin Gore (7/23/61) and
Andy 'Fletch' Fletcher (7/8/61) form a trio, Composition of
Sound, in Basildon, Essex. Vince is an uncomfortable crooner, so
it's relief all round when they spot Dave Gahan (5/9/62) singing
in a local group. He joins and picks out the name Depeche Mode
("fast fashion") from a French style magazine. First
gig at Basildon, St Nicholas School, on May 31. Group sends out
demo tapes. Amid almost universal disinterest, Mute owner Daniel
Miller spots them at a gig, agrees to produce them and
(eventually) signs them. Later they'd sign to Sire for America.
1981 Singles: "Dreaming Of Me"
"Just Can't Get Enough"
Album: Speak & Spell
Vince Clarke, who wrote the majority of the songs, decides to
leave, and opinion suggests it's all over. Martin Gore takes on
the responsibility of writing material for the band. First
1982 Singles "See You"
"The Meaning Of Love"
"Leave In Silence"
Album: A Broken Frame
Classically trained Alan Wilder (1/5/59) joins in a live
capacity. First American shows.
1983 Singles: "Get The Balance Right"
"Love In Itself"
Album: Construction Time Again
Alan Wilder becomes a full-time member.
1984 Singles: "People Are People"
"Master & Servant"
Albums: People Are People
Some Great Reward
Martin moves to Berlin. Endless recording. Endless touring.
1985 Singles: "Shake The Disease"
"It's Called A Heart"
ALBUM: The Singles 1981-85, In US retitled, Catching Up With
1986 Singles: "Stripped"
"A Question Of Lust"
"A Question Of Time"
Album Black Celebration
Recording in London and Berlin. Acclaimed NME photographer
Anton Corbijn begins to direct the videos. The biggest tour yet.
Afterwards, the group has a big rest, except for Alan, who works
on a solo project, Recoil.
1987 Singles: "Strangelove"
"Never Let Me Down"
Album: Music For The Masses
1988 Singles: "Behind The Wheel/Route 66"
All thoughts of popularity slippage are abandoned as Music For
The Masses sells two million copies and, before playing MTV
Awards, the group climax another tour at the Rose Bowl in
Pasadena on June 18, in front of 75,000 people.
1989 Singles: "Everything Counts Live "Personal
Album: 101 (last year's Rose Bowl show)
Martin releases mini-album, Counterfeit, of cover versions
including Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back On Mother
Earth." D.A. Pennebaker's film 101 of the '88 US tour is
released to universal acclaim. In America, "Personal
Jesus" becomes the biggest selling 12-inch single in Warner
Bros. Records history. World Violation tour starts in May in US
and includes the band's first visit to Australia. The final leg
in Europe ends with three sold-out shows at London's Wembley
1990 Singles: "Enjoy The Silence"
"Policy Of Truth"
"World In My Eyes"
Recording in Milan, London and Denmark.
1991 Violator sells its six-millionth copy. All singles are
re-released in fetching-hessian covered boxes. "Enjoy The
Silence" wins a BRIT Award. Depeche Mode contribute
"Death's Door" to Wim Wenders' film Until The End Of
The World. Band has a rest.
1992 In Madrid, Hamburg and London, working on a new album.
1993 Singles: "I Feel You"
"One Caress/I Feel You"
"Walking In My Shoes"
Albums: Songs Of Faith And Devotion
Songs Of Faith And Devotion Live
1994 Single: "In Your Room"
The never ending tour ends. Songs of Faith And Devotion goes
gold (UK, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Norway,
Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland) and platinum (USA,
1995 Alan Wilder leaves. Martin records "Coming Back To
You" for a tribute album to the song's author, Leonard
1997 Singles: "Barrel Of A Gun"
"It's No Good" "Home"
Back from the brink. New year. New album