PART 1: - Jason speaking to Martin Gore
"Depeche Mode Interview", Jason Curtis (South Africa), February, 1st 1997
The past three years have
been sortof a "touch and go" period for the
band....when one reads the media and so on...how have you
kept it all together?...especially with Dave...I mean, I
think from your side a little bit easier..
Well...there were times when
it was very touch and go... but, you know, fortunately ,
Dave has sorted himself out now....he's been clean now
for eight months...and when I say clean,its not only
clean, he's clean and sober, he doesn't even drink any
more....you know...after he made that decision...made
that choice things became a lot easier and a lot more
pleasurable for us.
And in putting the new
material together, did the break that you had...did that
actually...was it actaully harder for you to regroup and
Not really...uhm...i mean i
know its been four years since our last album...but that
time went by very quickly, we spent 14 months of that on
tour....and that really took its toll on all of us, so we
definitely needed a break after that....i only think I
actually had about six months.... five to six months
break before i actaully started writing songs again...so
it doesn't feel like I had years off.... and you
know....it takes us a long time to make a recordthese
days (laugh)....we like to make sure everything is
alright...we were in the studio again...funnily enough
another 14 months....we had a few breaks here and there
for writing....but we have spent quite a lot of the last
14 months in the studio....
And how many songs did you
actually go into the studio with?
Uhm...well there's nine
actual songs on the album with vocals and words....and
there are two instrumental link-pieces...there are a few
other songs that will make it onto future releases as
extra bonus tracks...as 'painkiller' is on the first
release 'Barrel of a gun'...we've already recorded an
extra track for the second single....and i'm sure we will
be doing a few more extra tracks over the course of this
year...i've got a few other songs written...
And...you've used some
interesting people...from 'Underworld' to 'One Inch
Punch'...did these guys actually approach you to do the
remixes or did you ask them?
No...i think we just like to
use people we find interesting...to try and put a new
perspective on what we've recorded in the studio...i'm
really pleased with all the remixes...i think every one
of them is really very special...
Were there any of these
remixes that you actually had to discard?
Uhm...yeah...we got a mix
done by DJ SHADOW.... which is really good but he just
used far too many samples... you know...obvious vocal
samples even......i mean there's half a verse of some old
R&B song happening over the top of 'Painkiller'
Heh-heh-heh!... and uhm.. we just didn't feel that that
was ok for us to put out because i'm sure we would have
been sued to the hill! (laughs)....but i think they're
actually trying to clear all the samples now...and i
think that version of 'Painkiller' done by DJ SHADOW will
come out on a future release...because it is really good.
Going back to the new
material - does it reflect the last four years in between
Uhm...in a way i suppose
so....i suppose, when you write, you write about things
that are happening around you at that time....alot of
people seem to think that i spend all my songwriting
energy trying to imagine what's going on inside Dave's
...and uhm....that really
isn't the case...we obviously have a lot of 'points of
reference' because we've been in a band together for so
long....and we come from a very similar upbringing....i'm
sure that Dave feels the songs very passionately
because...he knows what's going on inside my head as
opposed to me trying to guess what's happening inside
Did anything really change
with the writing of the songs...putting the album
together? Did you feel that you wanted to try something
new ...something a little bit different on a lyric level?
Obviously it has been a big
change for us because...we lost a member in the four
years...and we thought there was a bit of a void
there....and i think by working with Tim Simenon on this
record...we were able to fill that void because he comes
with a team....an engineer...a programmer...and a
keyboard player...and especially the keyboard player was
very important for me...just on a musical
level....because Alan was always the so-called musician
in the band...he was classically trained...I'm sortof
very self-taught...so having the keyboard player there in
Tim's team...and the whole team in itself really helped
us to fill that void...and it was a totally different
experience...and it was a totally different way of
Because you previously
worked with Flood on the last album....
Yeah we recorded our last
two albums with Flood..and it was probably important for
us to move on and try something different..have a totally
And you're still using Anton
Corbijn for the photography and all the videos...what did
he actually contribute this time 'round obviously to the
album artwork and the your videos?
Well...for the first time
ever...apart from the fact that he's done the
video...obviously he's done the sleeve as well...but for
the first time ever he's actually drumming with us!
Yeah (laughs)...he's a
photographer who's a frustrated musician...so...at the
moment we've only got playback-tv to do..so he's been
on...its been quite good fun we've had...we've had Anton
playing drums with us, and we've had Tim playing
keyboards with us...so...its quite a nice little happy
family we've got going up on stage.(laughs)
And is Anton any good as a
good...i dunno if we'll ever use him when it comes to
playing real live tv..(laugh)...but...he's definitely
atleast adequate for playback-tv! Heh-heh-heh!
I'm sure he must have
enjoyed that because that must have been a change for
Well...for Anton i think its
a dream come true..those were actually his words!
Heh-heh! As i said he has been a frustrated
musician...and i think getting up on stage and playing
with a band is something totally different for
Anton...and at the moment he's like a little kid... he's
loving it at the moment! (laughs)
He's probably gonna bug you
should you decide to go on tour (laugh)...
Well the thing that's
worrying me is that...uhm...you know...for the next
video...really...uhm..he starts suggesting that 99% of
the video should focus on the drummer! (laugh)
PART 2: - Jason Curtis speaking to Dave Gahan
Do you see "Barrel of a Gun
Yeah...uhm....I think it was
quite a challenge for us to even put something out like
"Barrel of a gun" really... I think its
probably the most innovative thing we've done in quite a
number of years...uhm...we kinda pushed ourselves to a
different area to where we've ever been before really...
The feedback that I've
had...people say it almost has an industrial edge...and
listening to the album...it doesn't give a true
reflection of the balance of the album, but as a whole is
fits in very nicely though...
Yeah...there were things on
the album that were more typically Depeche Mode...and we
felt that it would be more of a challenge to ourselves
and to fans...and people that were interested...to hear
something completely different...i actually feel that its
more kinda "hip-hoppy" to be quite
Was it difficult for you to
do? ..i mean...obviously having done typically Depeche
Mode sounding songs for so long...
Well...i think it's the
nearest we get to a rap record you know...(laughs)
Well that's good to know!
(laugh). What actually changed when Alan left the
band?...were there any major changes? Did you have to do
a major re-think?
was very much kindof like responsible for the
musicianship within the band i guess... you know...to a
certain extent...and we needed to fulfil that role...and
so, when it was suggested that Tim Simenon come on board
with us...he has a crew of a programmer , a musician ,
and an engineer that he comes with...so really... that
fulfilled that role...we didn't really consider stopping
or anything...because the strength of Depeche Mode is
very much Martin's songs and my voice...and everything
else that goes on around it...can go in any direction
really...we dont really limit ourselves to where its
gonna go...its always gonna have that stamp on
it...uhm...my voice creates a feeling for Martin's songs
And did you approach this
album differently to...say... 'Songs of faith and
on the vocals with a vocal coach with i hadn't done since
very very early on in my career...and i found that it
helped a great deal to kindof expand the use of my voice
, and what i could do with it...what i was capable
of...and i think it gave me alot of confidence...and i
got to know the songs a lot better than i would have if i
had just gone in and try to imitate what Martin was doing
with his demos... so i could really put my feeling into
it...'cos i knew the songs so well...
And do you feel positive
about the future now that you're sort of back on
track?...i mean...i was actually going through the NME
story...a herific time i'm sure for you... How do you see
yourself now? Do you feel confident?
Well i'm very happy to say
that i'm clean and sober today..and i'm very proud of
that...you know...for me its kindof a choice i have to
make every day...and i have to take certain steps to make
sure that i dont fall back into old kindof actions or
feelings...and think... have the misconception that i can
cure those feelings by covering them up with drugs...you
know...it stopped working a long time ago...and i've been
clean and sober now for eight months...
That's great. Do you think
it was actually hurtful to the band..because there was
obviously alot of media hype around it which of course
didn't help you...
Well the bottom line is that
it came to the point where...the next phonecall was gonna
be that i was dead...of course that would be very harmful
to the band but...you know...to be honest, the person i
was harming the most was myself...and when you're in that
situation... really... the only person that you really
get clean for is yourself...because without that, you
have nothing anyway...it doesn't really matter what goes
on around you...because...you're not available...
And all your vocals were
done over a six week period in the States...why did you
actually choose to do them at the Electric Lady studios
in New York?...because you've never worked there before
Well that's where i live
In New York yeah?
Ok, so you're away from LA
which is probably a good thing yeah?
Probably a very good thing
Yeah...i mean i think all
that i have there now...is alot of remiders of people,
places, and things that weren't very good to me at
all...and really...in the last eight months i came to
realize how little i had there, apart from the troubles
i've gotten myself into...because all the people that
were around me, including my wife, were no longer around
me when the drugs went away...
And if you had to classify
ULTRA...or sum it up in a few sentences...how would you
describe the album?
Uhm...I would describe it
as....the NEW and IMPROVED! (laughs)
PART 3: - Jason speaking to Andy Fletcher
The title of the album
ULTRA...who's idea was it? Who came up with it?
That was Martin.
Any particular reason?
I think he just likes the
word...you know...it looks a good word on paper...good
logo...very simple...we don't really like the title of
the last album that much... so it seemed a good title
this time around.
And is there any sortof
common thread throughout the tracks on the new album?
Uhm...i think there is a
general theme that Martin saw after he wrote all the
songs...about destiny and fate... uhm...i think the song
sounds are all different...but they got sortof a common
thread going through them... and its very hard to tell
actually...at the end of the day...we only just finished
it...and its all very fresh and new for us...but i'm sure
our views will change about it in the next six months to
Do you have a favourite
track on the album that sortof sums it up for you?
Yup...i like "Love
Thieves"...its a ballad...but i think its got a
fantastic feel to it...that's the song i'm playing most
at the moment...but...like i say...you know...next
week....it could be another track...i'm playing
"Insight" quite alot at the moment...
Because you and Martin held
everything together for a period it would
seem...obviously with Dave being away... was it a
difficult time for you and Martin? Did you think it was
It was a very weird weird
weird time because...on the other hand we were really
enjoying ourselves...the music was sounding
fantastic...but because of the troubles Dave was going
through it was also a really big struggle you know...but
uhm...i suppose if the music hadn't been going well as
well we would have just said "forget about it".
With that in mind...have you
ever wondered what would happen if the band broke up?
Uhm...i dunno...you sortof
start to formulate your ideas ...it never got to that
real stage...there was alot of "on-the-surface"
stuff but it never was a big thing... so uhm...again its
very hard to contemplate what else you would do if you've
been doing something for so long...its a very addictive
With Alan then leaving the
band...it was probably a very good thing that you and
Martin were still working together...
By the time Alan left we
hadn't actually decided what we were gonna do...Martin
just had a couple of songs... Alan left i believe very
prematurely...he left at a time when we weren't actually
doing anthing...or we hadn't even planned to do
anything...it was a bit odd really... but uhm...he was
very adamant...i dunno if he regrets it now...noone has
heard from him at all...
After the last tour, i mean,
that was 14 months...do you ever see yourself touring
again?...and will it be on the same scale?
I'd like to think that we
would limit the number of shows...i think we might tour
next year...uhm...its a very strange time at the
moment...we're all emotionally very fragile...it would be
a big mistake to tour this year, now, but maybe next
year...you know..if we feel better, we will...
Do you think that your fans
have stuck with you...in the hope that everything would
turn out well?..i mean the album is for me very
reflective of...not a desperation... but just coming out
and saying: "we still have what it takes"
I think alot of fans would
have thought that we weren't gonna release another
record...or certainly people i spoke to...and uhm...alot
of fans would have gone on to other things...but that's
always the case...uhm...when you dont release an album
for 3 or 4 years...alot of people move on...and so in
some ways, its like starting again for Depeche Mode...we
did "Top of the Pops" this week...the audience
were 16 and 17 year old...and none of them have heard of
us...when we last released a record they were 12 you
know...so there's two ways of looking at it
really...there's a whole new audience out there who has
never heard our records...and that's quite exciting...
because they have no preconceptions...but there's alot of
people there that would still be fans... and have been
fans of ours for 15 years...you know... we're finding
this with the media as well...there's alot of supporters
out there...but there's also alot of people that say:
"Not them again!" ...you know...that sortof
attitude you know...but they're after the next big thing
all the time...
True...true...but do you
feel confident with ULTRA? Do you think it will stand out
I dont think you can
tell...we know it's a good album... we know it's a good
Depeche Mode album... but... sometimes you need a bit of
luck for it to get over to the masses as such...uhm...you
want it to be heard by as many
people as possible...you know...if its your time...if you
have that bit of luck to do that..and we hope that at the
end of the year...uhm...you know...we've had 3 albums
that have been successful...and we've enjoyed
ourselves...you know...we can't gaurentee anything...
there has been great albums that have been released in
the past that haven't done anything you know...
As a last question...Martin
was mentioning that Anton was playing some drums...i was
wondering how much he let you get involved with the
making of the videos seeing that he was allowed behind a
drum kit? (laugh)
Well...we were going to put
a sack over his head! (laughs) but he decided against
that...but uhm...its very funny when we have our band
meetings with Anton over the videos...Martin or myself or
Dave would come up with an idea...Anton would sortof
consider it for like...half a second...and then go back
to his own idea...(laughs)...but uhm...he is taking his
drumming very seriously i must say...he told me the other
day he's never been so happy in his life...I think he
wants to take it up as a hobby... because most people
have photography as a hobby dont they?...its actually his
Interview by Jason Curtis for "The Cutting Edge" and "5fm" South