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A La Mode

By |2005-11-24T09:00:00-05:00November 24th, 2005|Entertainment|

By Lawrence Ferber
Depeche Mode have put a spring in their step lately, yet the perennial gay favorites still manage to keep it real…ly dark. “Playing The Angel” (Sire/Reprise), released Oct. 18, increases the BPMs compared to their last studio album, 2001’s “Exciter,” yet continues to lyrically scratch at wounds of the soul and skin on songs like “A Pain That I’m Used To,” “The Darkest Star,” and “Damaged People.”
“I think there are definite reference points to older Depeche Mode records,” says primary songwriter Martin Gore. “But I think it’s quite different from the last two in that it’s a little bit more up-tempo.” The band – Gore, main vocalist David Gahan, and keyboardist Andy Fletcher – are currently on a North American tour that features a futuristic stage and multimedia visuals (compliments longtime collaborator Anton Corbijn) and a mix of songs from “Playing the Angel” and their extensive back catalog.
Since the band’s members last convened, they each embarked on solo projects. Gore released his second collection of cover tunes, “Counterfeit2.” Gahan made his songwriting debut with solo disc “Paper Monsters.” And Fletcher launched a record label, Toast Hawaii, and international DJ career. Judging from “Playing The Angel’s” strong, assured (albeit so emotionally vulnerable!) content and sumptuous, innovative electronic melodies (a startling siren-like aural barrage, created by an analog synth filtered through effects, opens the disc), the trio has reassembled with a vengeance. To discuss the album, whether life reflects dark, and super-gay wardrobe, I spoke with Gore by telephone.

This album’s got some groove to it. Were you in a dancing mood this time around?
GORE: [Laughs] I think all that sort of stuff comes out subconsciously. I’ve been DJing a bit over the last couple of years and listening to a lot more dance music. I started DJing at a friend’s bar and Fletcher has also been DJing extensively, traveling all over the world.

What do you like to spin? Any faves?
Quite hard techno, minimal house. Not sure what you call it – too many genres, too many names these days. I like James T. Cotton…

{BOLD} So many of the songs you’ve written have been doomy or gloomy in nature. Do you sabotage your own life to get in that mindset?
No. When people meet me I think they’re surprised to find out I’m not always angst-ridden. But I think anything that I write comes from the soul. I sit down and create atmospheres, start playing guitar or piano and just sing whatever comes out of my mouth. I don’t write poems and put them to music. Just let things flow.

Does a crappy life make a good album?
It’s difficult to say. I think that I’m always more influenced and inspired by the darker side of things. I don’t write too many happy songs.

If you hear that a friend’s got relationship troubles, do you pry for dirt so you can funnel that into your songs?
Well, I don’t need to because I’ve got relationship problems. I’m going through a divorce.

Do you feel this divorce affecting you as an artist?
I think it definitely has affected the album, yeah.

You better not let her take possession of those unreleased Depeche Mode tapes in the settlement, Martin!
That’s the best way you’d hear them – if she got hold of them.

Oh – then I hope you have a crappy lawyer. A couple of numbers, ‘Introspective’ being one, have a creepy Japanese horror movie vibe, like alternative soundtracks for “The Ring” or “Ju-On.” I see Japanese dead people!
You’re the first person to say that! It’s a nice atmospheric piece of music that leads really nicely into ‘Damaged People.’ Generally our music over the years has been very cinematic. It’s surprising we never really got into film soundtracks, but I think it’s probably a lot of work and I’ve heard stories of people doing soundtracks and they think they’ve finished a masterpiece and then ten seconds gets used over dialogue and you can’t even hear it! I suppose that put me off!

Did working on those recent solo projects affect everyone or change the band’s dynamic?
Yeah. I think it gave Dave a lot more confidence. He was writing songs for the first time. Now he feels he should be writing for the band. That’s a natural process really – he’s been in the band for twenty-five years and now he’s writing. It’s not like nobody else ever wrote for the band. [Former members] Vince [Clarke] wrote the first album and Alan [Wilder] used to write. I think Dave feels like a more fulfilled member now. And I think [doing “Counterfeit2″] helped me. I didn’t write songs for a very long time. I wrote the last song for Exciter in 2000. Then I didn’t start again until 2004, so I think I came back to it with a lot more enthusiasm.”

What has been Depeche Mode’s most underrated song in your opinion?
There’s one I particularly like that got lost because it was just an extra track on [the ‘Only When I Lose Myself’] single, called ‘Surrender.’

And most overrated song?
‘People are People.’ It still gets played to death on 80s stations and it was our first big break in America. It’s not exactly my favorite song that we’ve recorded. Another one of my favorites that wasn’t so overlooked was ‘Home.’ I think at the time I was drinking way too much, and it was about accepting that fact.

Speaking of drinking, does Dave’s messy early 90s drug period still come up?
Unfortunately, it comes up all the time. We did a big magazine piece in England. The [writer] was really nice, we gave him access to us for three days; we spent a long time talking about the new album and everything. Then he asked Dave about the whole drug thing and what happens? The article comes out and it’s virtually a diatribe on the whole druggy era. David has not touched any alcohol in…it must be probably like eight or nine years now.”

Let’s move on to the gay thing, then. Which of you has or had the gayest hairstyle?
It’s a close call. (laughs) I suppose I’ve got to take it for the outfits. There was a leather miniskirt. And I think there was one worse than that, actually, where I wore some kind of leather maxi dress. I don’t know why! Temporary insanity. But we saw some pictures recently where Dave looked particularly gay as well with the crop top T-shirt.

Did boys wonder if you were gay in school?
Not as far as I know.

The Rolling Stones are older than Methuselah, and still rocking on the road. Can you see Depeche Mode doing the same, twenty years from now?
I have no idea. I didn’t expect us to be around after twenty-five years. When you start a band I don’t believe you’re thinking long-term. So I would like to think we wouldn’t be up there doing it in twenty years time – but I wouldn’t rule it out.

Depeche Mode will play The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday, Nov. 30. “Playing the Angel” (Sire/Reprise) is in stores now. See http://www.depechemode.com for more information.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.