Interview by JÜRGEN DOBELMAN and
Translated and posted in BONG Thu, 29
Sep 2005 by Rafi
Have you ever asked yourself
whether it is necessary to do all this
promotion? There are so many Depeche Mode fans out there that you'd
probably sell as many albums without it...
Martin Gore: We have a huge fan base, that's true. But it's also nice
to make new people listen to our music.
Andy Fletcher: We want other people to listen to our music, too. You
release an album, and then you want to promote it. It is not the
greatest thing about that job, that's true. The best thing is to
record a new album, to create something new out of nothing. And to
play concerts, of course.
Do you still enjoy to do endless concert trips? Couldn't you just
say: Let's play two gigs in Europe, two in the States, two in Japan...
AF: No, you can't do that. That wouldn't work. To start a live show
costs millions of dollars. You'd lose tons of money if you only
played eight shows or so...
Let's talk about the new album, Playing the Angel. When you listen to
the lyrics, it seems that you, Martin, mainly focus on the dark sides
of relationships this time. Is it easy for you to create these
feelings or do you have to simulate this atmosphere?
MG: I never sit down and write a poem to which I would play the music
afterwards. I always start playing an instrument, and then I sing to
it. The words come directly out of my soul. It wasn't that difficult
to get a sinister feel this time, as I'm right in the middle of a
divorce. And this has been going on for the last fifteen or sixteen
Dave has written three songs for the new album. How big was his input
as a songwriter? Did he just write the songs that were used or more
MG: I think he had about fifteen songs. We gave our producer Ben
Hillier much more competence than we'd ever given any producer
before. It was much easier to let him choose which of Dave's tracks
we should work on. I think it is quite logical that Dave wanted to
write his own songs after the release of his solo album. I just
didn't think that after 25 years together it would have been right to
let him do 50 percent of the album. So we agreed on two or three
songs and let Ben choose.
So Ben Hillier played the role of a "referee". At which point did you
make this selection?
MG: It happened during the making of the album. We started with two
or three of my songs, then we did two of Dave's. For three of mine we
did one of his. So we ended up with twelve out of my hands and three
Was it the first time that he presented his own songs to you?
MG: During the promotion of "Paper Monsters" Dave often said that he
saw me as a totalitarian dictator who wouldn't allow him to make
suggestions. But in reality there was exactly one occasion that he
ever played me one of his own songs. That was during the making
of "Ultra", and this song consisted solely out of Dave's voice
without anything else. He had sung it at the beach. Tim, our
producer, and I didn't think that it fit into the other songs. That
was the only time.
If no "dictator", Martin was always the musical director for Depeche
Mode. Was it difficult for you then to allow someone else to co-
operate in the songwriting?
MG: I simply had to accept that things needed to change if Depeche
wanted to go on. Dave would have felt very unpleasant if he couldn't
have played a role in the songwriting.
AF: But that's the good thing about being in a band! We are a group,
and we can discuss. The best thing about the making of this album was
that we got on really, really well. The atmosphere was actually
fantastic. It was a democracy that worked very well. A couple of
years ago, when we had bad times, each discussion would have ended up
in a dispute. Each time we had a meeting it was like: "Oh no, do we
really need to...?" This time the atmosphere was great, and I hope
you can hear that on the album.
How do we have to imagine the first meeting after Dave's promotion?
Did you meet for a beer and talk?
MG: Well, that would have been difficult as Dave doesn't drink beer
Okay, so what happened?
MG: We arranged a meeting in London, as we all happened to be there
anyway. We discussed some rough ideas. Dave played some of his songs,
I played mine.
AF: Of course we knew what Dave wanted. He was quite frustrated over
the past ten years. In the beginning of our career he had no problem
to sing the lyrics of somone else - which is pretty unusual for a
band. I wouldn't know many examples, maybe The Who or the early
Oasis, where Liam sang what Noel had written... But over the last few
years this situation became increasingly frustrating for Dave, and
then he did his solo album. That's another reason why the atmosphere
has cleared up. Dave feels much more involved now.
And then Fletcher said: Hey boys, I have some songs, too?
MG: Funny enough, but this didn't happen (laughs). We wait until the
next album for that.
AF: I don't write songs. I was lucky to be in a band with two of the
best songwriters of the past 25 years: Vince Clarke and Martin Gore.
Not everyone is able to write songs. You should better be happy with
your own role in the band.
Martin, did you ever think about writing a song together with Dave?
MG: This is a possibility, of course. But I have never written a song
with someone else.
MG: Well, there was one occasion, with Claudia Brücken of Propaganda.
She had this idea and some words. I eliminated the idea and the words
and finished the song.
So the experience wasn't exactly a good one?
MG: I wouldn't say that it was a bad experience. I liked the result.
But the thought to sit in a room with other people and write on songs
is nothing that attracts me.
Your last album was produced by Mark Bell. Why didn't he collaborate
MG: We just like to work with different people. They bring in
something new and give us new directions. I liked our last two
albums, "Ultra" and "Exciter". They definitely belong with our best.
they were both quite calm. This time, we wanted to create more
energy. We wanted to put more pressure into the songs.
As Ben Hillier had the role of a referee - were there situations in
the studio when he was more on the side of one particular band
member? Did you have the feeling that your ideas were in good hands?
MG: It really was a perfect collaboration. And it wasn't just us
three plus Ben. He came up with two programmers, so we had different
work units that could go on independently. We met in the control room
regularly and played the different ideas to hear how they worked in
Could you imagine to work with Ben Hillier again then?
AF: I think it is rather the question whether he would like to work
with us again (laughs). But seriously: We think about the upcoming
tour, not about a future album. But when you ask me, I'd answer: Yes,
I would really appreciate to work with Ben again.
On the last few albums you always changed the producers.
AF: That's true. And Ben would be the first since Flood with whom we
could imagine a long term collaboration. Ben is sort of a protegé of
Flood. He comes from the same side, he's got a similar mentality. He
could work with a rock band as well as with an electronic act, just
like Flood. He doesn't have his own "sound". But he's got the ability
to understand instantly what a band is about and to which direction
he wants to take it.
What do you mean when you say "Flood's protegé"? Is he his mate or
AF: His mate. He has the same management. He's seen as the
upcoming "new" Flood.
How did you pick him?
MG: Strangely not for any of his former albums. It was Daniel Miller
who suggested him to us. He suggested some other producers, too, and
we met them all.
AF: When we met Ben, we simply liked his attitude, his working style.
MG: We believed in his ideas and the way he get things going. And we
thought that we'd get on well with him. The guys he brought into the
studio were also very, very nice people. That created a good
atmosphere in the studio, so it became our easiest production to date.
Was the band in the studio all the time?
Martin Gore: The whole band was there (in the studio) all the time.
Isn't that a difference to former albums? In the past you worked in
shifts, like other electronic bands do.
MG: When Alan Wilder was still in the band, we often came to the
studio with almost complete songs, all basic elements had been given
the right direction. What followed was the "screwdriver's work". That
was pretty boring, but it produces a quite different end result. Andy
and I used to sit outside, playing video games. Inside there were
Flood and Alan, "screwing" everything together. Later, when Dave had
his bad times, there were days when he didn't make it to the studio.
But this time we were there all the time.
(it follows a part about illegal copying - I skip this because it's
Do you talk to your children, in particular to your 14-year-old
daughter, Viva, about illegal downloads?
MG: I'm in the lucky position to have very nice kids. My daughter
buys all of her music legally at iTunes. I think she's never even
given a thought on illegal downloads.
Do you share the music that you like with your children?
MG: I have two daughters, one is 14, one is 10, and a son who's three
years old. I often give cds to my 14-year-old daughter. Last time it
was Iggy Pop and the White Stripes. That's better than before at
least - back then she was listening to Britney Spears.
Your own outfits were copied by many teenagers during the 80's and
90's. What do you think when your daughter now gets influenced by the
outfits of Hip Hop stars or Britney Spears?
MG: I guess you can't stop that.
But through your own profession you know perfectly how those things
are often initiated. Don't you ever feel a need to interfere?
MG: Children have to develop there own style. But there are
situations when I sound like any usual father. There are some
clothes, some jeans for example, which have such tight cuts... Had
the kids in my time been run around like this, they would have been
sent out of school immediately. Now it is simply accepted.
25 years of Depeche Mode: Did you ever expect to reach this mark?
MG: I don't think any band in the world can expect to be in the music
business for so long. Our first goal was to play live, to have a gig.
Then we wanted to release a single. And then an album. That's how it
went for us from album to album.
How often have you thought: That's it. I've had enough?
MG: I can't remember one of us ever saying something like: "That's
it. That's the end of the band." But of course we had hard situations
in which it looked like the end of the band had come. One of those
moments was when Alan left back in 1995. I remember how I thought
Okay, that's probably the end of Depeche Mode. Another situation was
the time of Dave's illness in New York. He just couldn't sing
anymore. I remember a crisis meeting with Tim Simenon when we thought
that there wasn't a possibility to finish the album as a band.
Andy Fletcher: I had only one really bad time in Depeche Mode. But I
never thought about leaving the band. After "Songs of faith and
devotion", I spent six months in the hospital. I suffered from
depression, phases of fear. But I never wanted to be out of the band.
I just didn't feel well.
What was the highlight of your career?
AF: Between "Violator" and "Songs of faith and devotion" the band
reached an absolute climax. In particular with "Violator" we did
almost everything right. Even when we released "Personal Jesus",
which we thought was a very risky single. And then we still
had "Enjoy the silence". It was unbelievable, we even broke into the
American market. It was a fantastic feeling.
That was followed by a period of enormous excess. That turned into
the low point of my life. I thought I'd never get out of this again.
Because of the depressions I started a therapy. But on the other hand
it had its good side to get through all this. I learned a lot during
MG: I can't really say what was my highlight. People always expect
you to say "That was the show at the Rose Bowl", but to me that was
clearly not the highlight of our complete career! When you start as a
band, there are so many things which are far more exciting, simply
because everything is new. When you hear your single in the radio for
the first time, that's a real highlight.
Do you remember this day?
AF: Yes, it was Peter Power on Radio One. When somebody told us that
he would play the song we all went to the small Mute office. There we
all sat around the radio. That was an incredible moment.
Is "growing older" a topic for you? At the moment everybody writes
about the Rolling Stones, the "old men" of Rock 'n Roll. In the
stories about you this doesn't seem to be a subject, maybe beacuse
you're an electronic act. Do you sometimes ask yourself how long you
can go on stage as popstars?
MG: This is something you have to think about. At the time I still
enjoy doing music. And we all have the feeling that we still make
good music. As long as you do that, the question of age doesn't come
to mind. One of the reasons why we carried on for 25 years is that we
were lucky enough never to have a down. Many bands which started at
the same time had to cope with a constant decrease of success. I
guess it can be quite discouraging to see your concerts being only
In contrast to the Stones you still sell many albums - and not only
MG: It would be depressing to go on a sold out tour, and all the
people only came to hear five songs out of the 80s or 90s. I think if
that was the case, we'd stop.
Do you still know anybody of your age in Basildon?
Martin Gore: Yes, there are quite a lot of old school friends - most
of them live in London now. When we come to London we meet quite
Andy Fletcher: I'm in a lucky position. Most of Martin's and my
friends are from Basildon.
Is there anything you envy about their "normal" lives?
MG: I often said that it's not doing you well to be in a band.
Normality is not the worst thing that can happen to you. I wouldn't
like to change places though. It (pop stardom) is a great chance, the
best possibility for global communication. It's simply an exciting
livestyle. In the same amount as their lives are more stable, there
are things about "normality" that I really don't like.
AF: I get on like everybody else at my age. They all have kids, they
have their careers and at least as much stress as I have. I don't see
a difference between what I do and what other people do.
So that means you sit in the pub together and talk about ordinary
things, like that your computer broke down etc.?
AF: Of course they want to know what's going on with Depeche Mode.
Many of them are currently checking out which shows of the upcoming
tour they would like to attend. They really like to come to shows in
Düsseldorf or whereever. Through that they see very different parts
of the world.
They follow your career and what you're doing?
AF: Some do, others don't. Some like our music, some hate it.
Was there, in the Depeche-history, any person who almost became a
member of the band? Kind of a Pete Best?
MG: It's funny, but yes, there was somebody. One of our school mates.
He operated our drum machine.
What does he do today?
MG: Well, how do you call it? He writes online reviews or so.
Unfortunately for him he discovered love and decided that he wanted
to leave the band.
Andrew, a couple of years ago you founded your own label. That
happened relatively late, given that you're in the music business for
AF: You can start a label at any age. You can start it with 55 years,
but it's much more difficult to start a band when you're 55. I don't
see a connection between age and starting a label. I had Depeche for
25 years. We didn't do many side projects. Martin did Counterfeit,
Dave did his solo album, I started my label. Simply because Depeche
Mode was a full time job most of the years.
You also started to deejay. Many people think that's pretty cool.
When did you actually start it?
AF: It started when Client, the band on my label, did it. On one
occasion they asked me: Why don't you try it yourself? So I started
spinning each time Client had a gig, just to support them.
Did you like it?
AF: Oh my god. I don't know... It's a strange life being a DJ, that's
for sure. When you are in a band you always have your mates around,
you are a part of a gang. As a DJ you are on your own. And you play
at very strange times, especially in Spain and Italy where you start
at four in the morning. I enjoyed it though, and I'll do it again.
But I prefer to be in a band.
All band members live in very different parts of the world. Is that
an advantage, because it brings different influences into your music,
or is it rather problematic?
AF: It's no problem. But we don't get different "cultural influences"
just because we live at different places. Earlier in our career this
would have been difficult, of course. Today it doesn't make a
No cultural influences - does that mean you don't go out in London?
AF: I don't think that the question targets me. Dave and Martin have
spent the biggest part of their lives in London. We are still an
English band after all. When Martin tells you how his live in Santa
Barbara looks like then he talks of being in the English pub or
playing football. And Santa Barbara doesn't have a "culture" anyway.
Okay, Dave lives in New York, and New York has its own culture of
course. But I think in our hearts we are still three British kids who
live in different parts of the world. That doesn't cause trouble. And
don't forget: We're going to see each other every day for the next
two years. So you don't mind having a bit of distance between you and
Are you a bit scared sometimes when you think of the tour?
AF: I don't care. It's what we do since 25 years. Since I was 17. To
me this is pretty normal.
Talking about money: You are seen as the business man in the band. I
guess that job costs you a lot of energy. Do you enjoy it?
AF: I think doing all that wasn't just interesting in a business
context. It was also good because of the collaboration with Daniel
Miller. Through him we got to know a lot of aspects of the music
business we would never have encountered being on a major label. That
was an advantage for us. The reasons why we are still around as a
band are: 1) We've written good songs. 2) We've worked very hard. And
there was Daniel Miller + Mute Records. Our career developed on a
longterm level, and that's something Mute is very good in.
Was there a connection between getting a manager and starting your
AF: No, no. When Dave had his low point, after "Ultra", we just
thought we needed someone who cared for him. So Jonathan - he's
American and was busy as our tour accountant for many years - became
our manager at that time. He's a business man first of all. But we
still care for a lot of things ourselves - compared to other bands.
The new album reminds me of Violator and Black Celebration. That's
what Dave says as well. Would you agree to that?
AF: I clearly don't want it to be seen as a retro album. There are
retro elements on it, of course. We used a lot of analogue
synthesizers, ARPs and moogs which we hadn't used in years. So that's
why some of the sounds are similar to "Black Celebration", as we used
the same synths at that time. But it's a new sound, much more organic
and "earthy" than "Exciter". I think the fans will like the new album.
At the first listening session it showed that the new album works
instantly. Many people sang right along to the second
chorus. "Exciter" was quite different - rather "crispy".
AF: It was more a "sound drawing", perfectly structured.
And it came at the perfect time. Do you actually listen to Depeche
Mode albums at home?
To which of them?
AF: To all of them. Not all of the time, of course. Only when I'm in
nostalgic mood. When I'm in my room for work, I sometimes put "Speak
and Spell" into the player - that brings back a lot of memories.
Do you have a favourite song?
AF: There are a lot. But I would say that I like "World in my eyes"
from "Violator" the most. Not that it's the best song in the world,
but there was this very special situation at the time. We had
countless fans all over the world, and "World in my eyes" simply
catches the atmosphere of then perfectly. It says everything - about
our success and what Depeche Mode is all about.
Do you remember how many people attended your first ever show?
AF: Five. And maybe one hundred teddy bears of Martin's sister.
Did you attend a show of Dave's solo tour?
MG: Yes, I was at the gig in Los Angeles.
AF: I was at the London show.
Did you enjoy it?
AF: Difficult to say. I only saw him from behind. Like always.
How did you feel? Him on stage, you not.
MG: Before I thought it would be very, very strange. But then it
wasn't that weird at all. To me it was simply a very different thing.
Even though he played a couple of our songs.
AF: I felt a bit strange somehow.
Did you also attend Martin's solo shows, Andrew?
AF: Yes, even two of them. One in London, one in Milan. I think Dave
did a good job, his "Paper Monsters" was a good solo debut. From
Martin's solo stuff I prefer "Counterfeit I" to "Counterfeit II". I
think the second album is a bit "careless", he didn't risk enough.
The album doesn't reflect his enormous talent. I told him that, too.