(1997) Catching Up With Martin

Q: How do you feel about the past two years? Have you been doing much?

We've spent a large portion of the last two years making the record we are working on at the moment and before we started the actua recording, I was writing the songs. But I probably started writing the new songs earlier than two years ago.

Q: How long did it take you to adapt to a normal day-to-day life after coming back from such an extensive Devotional Tour?

I actually think it didn't take me very long. I got into some very bad habits on that tour. I was taking sleeping tablets every day and when I got home from the tour, I still had a couple left and so it gave me a few days of good sleep....sleep is a key to happiness (laughs). After that I ran out of those tablets and I was totally back to normal

Q: Have you kept in touch with one another since the end of the Devotional Tour or just wanted to break and forget about DM for some time?

Because Dave went back to America, we didn't see him very often and we didn't speak on the phone very much, maybe not as much as we should have. We didn't speak to Alan at all, even though he was living in London, which we felt was quite strange and we totally prepared for his decision to leave the band. We actually predicted that months and months before it happened. Andy, I see all the time because we have the same group of friends and so if I'm in London, I'm almost bound to bump into Andy at some point.

Q: Do you think that Dave being in L.A. and the rest of the band being in London affected your relationship?

I think the fact that there is such a great distance between us sometimes raises more communication problems and even though it is so easy to pick up the telephone and speak to somebody, it's just something people don't do as often as they should. We are realizing that we should keep in touch more often, especially when decisions are to be made, if we are on different sides of the Atlantic...

Q: Have you found it difficult to settle down in the studio again after the time off you had?

This record has been really easy for us to make. There is such an easy going atmosphere in the studio, and the team we are working with are all such nice people. So compared to the pressure of making the last few albums, this is totally enjoyable. I knew Tim before and we actually met quite a lot over the years, but I've never spent a lot of time with him, and he's such a lovely person. It feels like I have discovered a new soul brother. When you have to be in a studio with four or five different people all the time, it always helps if you have that bond with them.

Q: When did it come about to start working on the new album?

I suppose it's always down to how many songs I have ready, and demo'd, up to a stage where I think they're ready to go into the studio, and start experimenting with. So I think when I had about six or seven songs we had a meeting, and we talked about future plans and when we should start recording, when would be a good time to release something, in theory, and that's when we had those preliminary meetings.

Q: Have you been listening to a lot of music lately? Has anything inspired or influenced you in your current work?

I have always liked to listen to all kinds of music. I just came from the record shop and when I analyzed what I've just bought, none of it is actually current. I got one CD that might have been released during the last three months, but the rest of it is really old stuff. It's not any particular genre of music.

Q: What gigs have you been to lately?

I don't particularly like live music very much. I went to see Oasis at Knebworth, but more for the event really, and I found it quite interesting. I always found it very bland watching bands on stage unless there is something really special happening. Just watching people play instruments has never really appealed to me.

Q: How has the current music, including electronic forms like techno and dance floor, affected the recording of the new album? Especially since Tim Simenon is one of the representatives of such a flow?

I'm really into slow dance music and anything over about 100 beats a minute is a bit too fast for me, and that's really slow. The tempos on this album range from 69 up to about 100 and that's my perfect range. But going back to the music I like, I do generally like a lot of the trip-hop stuff, for want of a better term, I hate the term trip-hop, but it doesn't actually sum up a certain sort of music.

Q: Tim Simenon is known among the fans for his remixes of your songs such as "Everything Counts", "Strangelove"... Why did you choose him particularly?

We all really liked the last Bomb the Bass album and I particularly liked the Gavin Friday album that came out just a couple of months before we started working with Tim. I think the stuff he's worked on with Sinead O'Connor in the past is her best stuff, for me. Tim does have a good ear for dance music. Tim can make something that's 69 beats a minute quite groovy and that's quite important to us because we are in such a slow territory. In the past we have gone much faster than 100 bpm, but when I try writing anything faster that that now it always sounds silly to me, it just loses atmosphere. For me, this record is all about atmosphere.

Q: What is the main difference in the work approach between Tim Simenon and Flood?

One of the main differences is that there is a lot less performance, but that's also probably dictated by the songs more. There's a lot less guitar on this record than on the last one, and probably less than on "Violator" as well. Tim also has a strange set-up and he works with the same team. So in the studio we have a programmer, a musician, an engineer, and Tim, and all four work together all the time, and they have a really good working relationship. With Flood, it was just Flood there throwing ideas at us and saying, "why don't you try this?, get on with this and see if it works" or suggesting something and trying it out himself. Now, sometimes there's two or three different things going on at once...me and Tim might talk to Dave Clayton, the keyboard player, and say, maybe we should try this on this song and he'd put his headphones on and go off and work for a few hours, while maybe we're trying something else out, on a different song. And sometimes, like in New York, I had a set-up in the live room, to write as well. So sometimes there's three different things going on at once. Parallel working, they call it (laughs).

Q: Does it mean that you are involved in the production a bit more than you used to be?

In the past, Alan was almost a control freak. I think he'd even admit he's a bit of a control freak. He tended to really focus on the production and it's something that didn't really interest me as much. Obviously, I cared about what was going on and what the end result was. If I liked what he was doing then I would let him get on with it. If it came to a point where I really didn't like something, then I would say I don't think that works, maybe try something else, which is like you're sort of a background producer. Now I definitely have to be slightly more involved than that.

Q: Did you discuss with Daniel Miller the directions you want to take on this album?

I always play Daniel the demos as soon as they are finished and he generally likes them. I can't remember a time when he said "I really hate this song". We didn't have a big concept before we started this album. I did say to him that I like the idea of it being quite hip-hop based in a certain way. That's why we started thinking about the dance angle and I think it was Daniel who first suggested Tim. He said "what about Tim, he's a nice bloke, you know him already, he's produced a few good records". So we listened to the stuff Tim had been doing and thought, what a brilliant idea. We'd already met him and liked him. If you like people, it's one of the important things in life and everything falls into place.

Q: How many new songs have you written and how many of them will make in onto the album?

At the moment there are nine actual songs with words and there's an instrumental, that will be the first B-side, but we like it so much we might end up putting it on the album as well. We also want to try and do some atmospheric instrumental link pieces. We've got the ideas there but we haven't actually physically done them yet. We don't know how long they are going to end up and if they end up having titles, then there could be like 11 or 12 tracks. If they end up being so short that they are really just link pieces, then we probably won't even name them.

Q: Do you write when you're happy or unhappy?

I don't know if I am ever really happy or really unhappy. I think I always have a certain level and because I am always at that level, that's how I always write. That's always the emotional state I am in when I write. I don't have like massive peaks and troughs of happiness.

Q: What do you do with the songs that don't make it to the album?

Some of them will end up on B-sides and there is probably one or two that I'll end up rejecting, just because I am not sure about them.

Q: Musically and lyrically, does this new album mean any profound change from the previous ones?

I think in some ways, it's very different to the last album and it would probably have made more sense as a follow-up to "Violator". For me, the last album was a bit of a quirk, our pseudo-rock album. This one's far more heavily electronic based, which is where are true roots are.

Q: How long does it usually take to write and then record a song?

To write and demo a song could take a day if I do it all really quickly. But sometimes....there's one song on the album which I kept trying to do a demo of but it just never worked and I kept thinking why doesn't it work? I liked the basic song and I went back to it five or six times and spent like a week each time on it, and in the end I got it to work. But that's just the demoing of the song. When we get in to the studio, some songs fall into place quite quickly and some don't.

Q: Would you say the majority of the new songs are slow emotional ballads or rocky pieces?

There aren't many "rock" songs on the album. There are about three or four that are possible to dance to in a conventional dance sense. Most of the tracks are quite slow, but I think they're slow, but really groovy, they're not un-danceable. There are about four that are fairly up-tempo.

Q: Do you write ideas down when they occur to you? Are they visual?

They are usually visual, but I wish I did write ideas down more often because I believe that my memory is a lot better than it is. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I have a brilliant idea for a song and I remember a couple of cases when I virtually had a whole song written and I think "shall I get up and write that down - no, there's no way that I am going to forget that". I wake up the next day and I can't remember one line and that's really depressing in a way.

Q: What subjects do you touch on in your lyrics on this album?

I think religion is probably touched on less on this album than it has been in the past because I think I've overdone religion. But because it is still a major fascination, every time I pick up a pen, there's going to be a few words in there somewhere. It's probably less religious than previously. I think it's got quite a spiritual feel. There's not really a concept or a theme to the album, but quite a lot of the songs deal with destiny.

Q: Have you ever worried about becoming creatively bankrupt?

I worry all the time about that. I am never convinced that I'm not doing something good until the record is out, it's been reviewed and people are buying it. With the last seven studio albums, I've never been happy until the records have been out, and people are buying them, but maybe there's something interesting happening here. I remember with the last record, I was really unsure playing it to people before it's release, because when you've been working on something for so long that you have absolutely no perspective on what's good or bad anymore. You just hope by trusting your judgment that you haven't gone astray somewhere.

Q: You introduced the guitar on "Violator", drums on "SoFaD", what are you going to surprise us with this time?

I don't think we've had Bob Dylan style ranting before. We have never used a pedal steel guitar in the conventional way before. One of the tracks has quite a country flavor to it. We got a pedal steel player, called B.J. Cole in, and that worked really well.

Q: Have you invited any other outside musicians or special guests to collaborate with you on this album?

We used quite a few different people and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. We got Jaki Liebezeit from Can to come in and play some drums on one of the tracks. We used another drummer from London, a Japanese guy called Gota Yashiki. We got Doug Wimbish, who played bass for us on one of the tracks and we had Keith LeBlanc doing some drum programming for us.

Q: Have you used any new equipment or new ways of recording, technology-wise?

We have never worked with a programmer before, we've always done it ourselves. I really enjoy having a programmer there, because even though Alan did a lot of it on the last record, you still felt really involved, whereas now it's much easier to just step back and listen to what's happening. It's also a lot quicker working with somebody who knows how to work everything perfectly. He also uses a lot of things like hard disc recording, which we've never used before and which gives you a lot of freedom. You don't have to tape everything you do all the time. We've never had

Martin Gore's interview with Michaela Olexova from October of 1996.

(1997) Catching Up With Dave

Q: What have you been doing in the past two years?

Generally, I've been really ill. At the moment I live in Los Angeles in a sober living house that's full of addicts like myself. I came out of a de-tox place, a rehab, that I went into in June after getting really sick. I overdosed on heroin, and I actually flat-lined for a couple of minutes and I was revived, and after that I found myself still using heroin for a couple of days after I came out of jail. Then I decided to try and do something about it again. I've been in and out of these sort of places for the last couple of years. I got really lost in the whole thing and spend the last five months just really trying to concentrate on getting my life back together. And during all this time, for the last year or so, we've been trying to make this record, and my work was really suffering. I was having problems even singing, and one the thins that I really love to do, that's been a big part of my life, was being taken away from me. It was my own doing, but I couldn't stop, and needed help, and that's what I've been doing really. But it's really good now, on a positive side and I feel really good about what I am doing. I am very happy to be clean and sober and living my life again.....I have my life back.

Q: How long did it take you to adapt to a normal day-to-day life after coming back from the Devotional Tour?

I didn't. I was functioning only with the use of drugs, without them I couldn't even move. I came back from the tour and I wasn't playing music and singing anymore but I really threw myself into using drugs.

Q: Have you kept in touch with one another since the end of the Devotional Tour?

Not really. But no-one is to blame really, because the phone rings both ways. The only time that I heard anything from anyone was really if I was kind of hurting myself and it got in the press. Then I got a call from somebody, usually Martin or I'd call him. I got a call from Alan at one point when he decided he wanted to leave. But I really didn't react in any way to that because I was deeply into using drugs by then.

Q: Do you think that you being in LA and the rest of the Band being in London affected your relationship a lot?

I don't really have much of a relationship with the others outside of the band. When you're on the road for that long, and that was nearly two years, I think the last thing you want to do is hang out together (laughs).

Q: Have you found it difficult to settle down in the studio again after the time off you had?

Yes, it has taken a long while. But I'd say we've done our best work in the last few months. It progressively gets more and more difficult because when you know each other so well, little things become really big things. There is a lot of outside things now.....everyone's got families and they've got other interests outside of the band. A lot of time and energy is spent on those things and so less and less time really gets spent on making music together. I think when things go well it's really good but there's a lot of sitting around and waiting. The roles are very defined, Martin writes the songs and I sing them. We have tim Simenon working with us on this record and a number of other people playing music, programming and stuff like that. Tim is playing a really big role in it. I wouldn't say that he replaced Alan because it's completely different thing but he fulfills that role. I think Martin is working a little bit harder in putting himself forward and working in the studio because there's nobody else to do it.

Q: Were you ready to go into the studio after you heard Martin had been working on the new songs?

Yeah, we got back together and listened to some songs. We had a meeting and decided whether we wanted to even make another record together. It was very unsure at first because everyone had a lot of time being involved in interests outside of the band. I think that if you're going to be in a band it's important that you are fulfilling a role within that band. As I said, the creative side of the writing is down to Martin, and I sing. If we were making film, Martin is the director and I am the actor following the orders (laughs).

Q: What was your initial reaction after the first listen to Martin's demo?

I really wanted to record them. I really wanted to do the songs. A lot of the lyrical content, the feeling in the melodies really fitted with the way that I was feeling and the stuff I was personally going through. It seemed like it would be a really good thing for me to do at that time because it was a way of me kind of working through my own personal problems. In retrospect, I wasn't ready and it was more important for me to take heroin than being in the band but I think that in the last few months I feel like I've done some of my best work. I've thrown myself into it, I've been working with a vocal coach, Evelyn, and we were also working with her in Los Angeles. We recorded vocals for some of the songs in LA. It's a long process and I am trying to put all my energy into doing that.

Q: Were you as passionate about the new material that Martin presented you with as you were last time with the songs Martin wrote for "SOFAD"?

I always am and we've all had our favorites, but what struck me the most with a lot of these songs were Martin's lyrics. For me personally, I could really relate to a lot of his writings....I am looking at myself with the words I sing.

Q: Musically and lyrically, does this new album mean any profound change from the previous ones?

Yeah, I think so. I think it's gone back more to a similar vein to "Violator" really. The songs are shorter and more compact and I think the melodies are much stronger.

Q: Are there any particular songs on this album that you feel closer to or emotional about than the others?

There's a song on the album called "Sister Of Night" which is my personal favorite song on the album by far, but I think the most innovative thing on the record, in terms of what Depeche Mode have done over the years is "Barrel Of A Gun" which is going to be the first single. I think that's the most exciting song on the album. It's the least like anything we've ever done before and it kind of stretched us quite a bit - it stretched me vocally - and I am really pleased with what I've done now.

Q: Do you find it easy to sing the new songs?

I never find it easy to sing. It is a very emotional thing to do. It's the icing on the cake if you like. Everything else is pretty much programmed and it's all what I call "head-work". When I sing I sing from my heart and it's the human element in Depeche Mode, especially so with this album.

Q: Is there another "Condemnation" on this album, a song you feel strongly about?

No, there'll never be another "Condemnation" but I would say "Sister of Night" moves me in the same way that "Condemnation" did.

Q: You have always wanted to play the guitar. Did you get a chance to play it or any other instrument on this album?

I've been playing the guitar quite a bit, but no, not with Depeche Mode. Years ago, we used to be very snobby about other bands that used guitars. That's all they did and they didn't try any other experimentation. To be quite honest, we've come full circle with that now. It seems the easy option now is to do what we've done on a great number of albums, which is programming, rather than trying to physically do something. As I said, we're a "head-band". I personally still need very much to fulfill my own ambitions musically, and I am beginning that process now. I have been working with some other people on some different things and finding I get great enjoyment out of it .....different people coming together with different ideas and putting them together and creating something. It's really exciting and it's spontaneous and I think Depeche Mode are anything but spontaneous.

Q: What's the best thing about this album?

Getting it finished.

Q: Has "SOFAD" turned out the way you envisaged it?

Nearly. I think we did the best that we could. We pushed a lot harder to actually create something more as a group effort, and it was really hard at times. I don't think we really fulfilled that as much as we could have it we had put personal things aside, but they are always there, the problems, the personal things and the outside interests. They are always in the studio, with us, if you like, and as you get older the chance to do that seems to get further and further away. I think it's probably an impossible task for the band to make a group album.

Q: Is one of the 1993 interviews, you said that after some strange and painful time you'd been through, working on the "SOFAD" was a therapy for you. Would this be the case with this album, after overcoming your recent personal problems?

Yeah, definitely. What's great about this record, for me personally, is that I've been through a lot of stuff emotionally, and I think musician's ego can get out of control, so I have always, in the past, liked to put myself in a real painful place to do what I do, and it was killing me so I had to change something, and I wasn't sure whether I could, but it's something I have so much experience of now that I can tap into it at any time.

Q: Do you find the recording process of the new album a happy and enjoyable one?

It's rewarding and it's enjoyable when I get to sing and hear something back that I'm pleased with, 'cause I've worked really hard on this album, with my vocals, in the last few months, and really the only person that I have to please is myself. If I am really happy with it I know a lot of other people will be. I can't really fool myself anymore. I would say that on this record there will be probably the best vocal tracks I've ever done . . . we're spending a lot of time getting them right.

Q: Working in the London studios most of the time, is it difficult for you to travel from LA to London all the time?

Yeah, very difficult. It's emotionally and physically really hard to communicate that far all the time and it's something I'm looking forward to not having to do so much anymore.

Q: Would you consider moving back to England permanently?


Q: What is the main difference between recording the album in a rented villa in Madrid, and in various studios? Did you find working in Spain more comfortable?

In theory, it was a really good idea but we found that our personalities clashed incredibly when living together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I didn't mind it so much but Alan detested it and I thing Fletch had a hard time with it. I think Fletch has a hard time being anywhere but home, in his home environment, with his things, his friends, his family, his restaurant . . . that's where Fletch is comfortable. Whereas I haven't really had a home base for a long while so I don't mind so much, but it is something that I am really striving to achieve over the next couple of years.

Q: What is, in your opinion, the main difference in work approach between Tim Simenon and Flood?

The difference is that Tim has got kind of a little team. We have a programmer, a keyboard player and he uses the same engineer all the time. He has a little team whereas Flood pretty much works on his own . . . Flood works in a very different way. I think Martin really enjoys working with Tim because Tim likes to work in the same sort of process as Martin, so they get on really well. I think Flood was a little bit more experimental, and I don't mean that in a bad way to Tim, but Flood was willing to try a lot more stuff musically and dig deeper than sort of going with the same format of just programming everything, every song.

Q: Do you think the reaction to the new record might be rather different in America and Europe, considering the music orientation on both continents?

That's really difficult to answer. Things have changed a lot over the last few years, especially in America. There's a lot more radio stations and they play a big variety of music. I think a "fan" would really love this record. Whether we make any new fans at all . . . that's not for me to say, really (laughs).

Q: When you go on tour again, would you prefer to go with a big production as you did during the Devotional Tour or would you rather play smaller venues?

I'd rather take a smaller production and use a band, have some playing musicians with us on stage. I certainly don't want to go out on tour again in the same kind of format that we did last time where the whole show is pretty much on my shoulders, in terms of responsibility.

Q: So what do you prefer more, the studio work or touring?

I prefer touring but it's something that I would have to think very carefully about doing again.

Q: Have you ever thought of doing or recording an unplugged sessions?

I think that we are totally capable of doing it. I think all the songs stand up acoustically, most of them anyway. But possible for other people in the band it's just too much of an effort to have to think about. Personally, I think it would be kind of a cool think to do, and I think the people who enjoy our music would like to see that, but the rest of the band seem to be very much happy to just repeat what we've done before and stick to that format . . . that's kind of a very English thing. . . Whereas I would rather that we branched out a bit and stretched ourselves and try to do something a bit different.

Q: During the Devotional Tour, there was an occasion when you had a chance to communicate with yours fans directly via computer. Do you find the use of the Internet important in respect of what business you are in?

I think it's a great medium and it's really opened up a lot. I think it's cool that the fans can communicate together on the hot-line. It's like sending a letter and getting an instant reply.

Q: Have you ever thought of releasing your own CD-Rom?

Yes, we have and I believe that's something we're looking into but we haven't actually made any plans yet.

Q: What music have you been listening to lately? Has anything inspired or influenced you in your current work?

I wouldn't say that any band influences us at all. We don't really discuss other records or other artists that may or may not influence us. I am sure, individually we are very influenced by what we hear, especially Martin when it come to writing. My favorite records of last year were . . . Gavin Friday's album . . . there's a lot of records . . . I listened a lot to a band called Filter, a band called Local H from Chicago . . . I really liked the Smashing Pumpkins album and I think that was a great album . . . Flood did that.

Q: Looking back at the 80's, do you see many changes in music?

I think this is a really awful time for music. I prefer 60's and 70's. I am a big David Bowie fan and T-Rex and The Rolling Stones.

Q: Did you ever get to the point you couldn't handle the fame anymore?

I am having a hard time with it now. The thing I am most proud of, in the last year, is the fact that I've cleaned up, because I did it for myself, and what I realized during that, was that I had to do it in public. Most people, when they get a chance to clean up from addiction, get to do it with the support of other people, fellowships and programs. Everything that I did or said, was always in the press, so it just made it a lot harder for me, I had to hide away a lot.

Q: Have you ever felt like quitting?

Yeah, lots of times. I think about it every day.

Q: Does it bother you being recognized on the street?

It's very flattering, but sometimes it's hard. Not so much in England, but in other places, especially Los Angeles, my private life is pretty non-existent. I've had press following me around a lot everywhere for a long time. They'd be outside my house and stuff like that.

Q: Have you had any new tattoos done recently?

Yes, the one on my left forearm but it's a few years old. It's dedicated to my wife that I am divorcing now.

Q: Does your passion for painting still persist? Have you had a chance to do some more painting recently?

Yeah, I have painted a lot during the last few years. There are paintings all around my house. I paint on the walls, I paint on the floor, I paint on pieces of cardboard. I had a lot of my paintings stolen from my house. I've been invited to do an exhibition of paintings in New York, in a gallery there, so it's something I might do in the future.

Q: Do you like to take control of your visual side?

Anton pretty much comes up with the ideas, but I find myself being the one who approves lots of the photographs and stuff like that. Alan used to do it a lot in the past as well. Fletch and Mart look through everything as well but they are usually quite happy with it. I like checking out the photos and picking some stuff out and the same with the videos stuff as well.

Q: What kind of future do you envisage for Depeche Mode?

I am not sure really, I think it's important to just focus as much as you can on what you're doing at the moment. It's impossible for me to predict what's going to happen in the future, it's not in my hands . . . thank God (laughs).

David Gahan's interview with Michaela Olexova from October of 1996

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