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Dave Gahan Talks About Depeche Mode’s ‘Delta Machine’

David Gahan is the lead vocalist and co-songwriter for the Alternative Rock and New Wave band Depeche Mode that just released their 13th album Delta Machine.


So why Delta Machine for a title? What’s your association?
Delta being the influence of the blues and Machine obviously, because we use machines to interpret that.

Like a classic genre interpreted in a modern way – using lots of technology?
Yeah, I mean that pretty much sums up Depeche Mode. I think if there was one record that kind of portrayed musically what we’ve been doing for the last 30 years then this is it. It’s kind of: welcome to my world and goodbye. (chuckles)

Turning the blues upside down?
Yeah, I mean, to a certain extent. I mean, I wouldn’t dare to claim that it’s a blues record. But it definitely has those influences – musically for sure and lyrically as well. It’s expressing the way you feel, and removing it from yourself by repeating it. And that’s what the blues is. It’s a riff on top of riff. Just churning. And that’s kind of how this album was built.

With Martin as one of the most underrated blues guitarists or guitarists out there?
I don’t know about under-rated. But he is – I think – a very talented guitar player. And he plays the guitar as a means to get an idea. But I think when it comes to making music, he enjoys the process a lot more than developing that into something kind of extraordinary for him. With using modular electronics you can play the guitar and then send that sound through an amplifier. Then resend that amplified sound through a modular synthesizer and clip it and cut it. And affect the attack of release and maybe take a small part of that guitar riff and sequence it. And run it live and then record it again. So, there’s quite a process that goes on from the moment the idea leaves Martin’s fingers to when it ends up on a record.

How comes this album echoes Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion in at least in two or three songs?
Well, I think it echoes those albums in quite a few ways. Certainly musically and influence wise, being blues and gospel, both the influences on both those records. I think the really only relationship it has is that predominately it’s driven by those influences.

With “Slow” being a song from that era, an unrecorded song from that time?
I think it was a song from even earlier than that maybe. Maybe it was a song that was written for Songs of Faith and Devotion. I don’t really remember. It might be Songs of Faith and Devotion it was written for. But at the time… as soon as I heard it, I said to Martin: That’s an old song. And he said: Yeah, I needed to reinterpret it. He’d kind of reworked it. When Martin was demoing before, I seem to remember sitting in a meeting when we listened to the demos, and Alan kind of not getting it, just kind of… well, out of songs that we were going to record it just wasn’t chosen at that particular time. So I guess Martin put it away, and it fits really well with everything we’re doing now. Because of its blues influence, and I think Martin pulled from that school a lot more on this record. And the same with me as well. It’s not something we talked about, but we were kind of both writing from the same sort of place.

How comes the songs you bring to Depeche Mode are never written by Martin and you, but with an outside person? Are you afraid of working with Mr. Gore, or what is it?
No. (chuckles) There is a song on this album that we wrote together called Long Time Lie, but I like to work with different musicians. The people that I’m not familiar with. Because it challenges me. At the end of this record Martin and I did talk about that. And Ben Hillier brought it up, the producer. And he said to Martin: You know, how would you feel about – like we did with Long Time Lie? Like Martin gave me an idea and I took it away and came back with the lyrics and the vocal melodies written over the top of some of the chords that he had played. And we ended up with Long Time Lie. Ben said: Maybe in the future you guys could do that more. And Martin asked me if I’d be interested in doing that. And I said: Yeah. If I’m writing with anybody, what I say to them is: If you have any ideas, if you have any guitar lines or atmospheric ideas, they don’t have to be formulated, it doesn’t have to be, it just has to provoke an idea in me. And the less you do, the more likely I’ll be excited about doing something to it. Like for instance when I wrote the songs with Rich Machin from Soulsavers, he would send me a guitar line or something he played at the organ or on the piano with a very rough sketch or bass line. And it just provoked me to write words and melodies.

That must have been very refreshing for you. I mean, you didn’t take the holiday you deserved after an 18 month tour, but went straight into recording the Soulsavers album, followed by Delta Machine. So, in what way did this collaboration stimulate you for Depeche Mode then?
Well, it was one led to the other. And then Soulsavers record led me to continue writing with Kurt. Kurt was working with me in the studio, engineering and recording the vocals for me for Soulsavers. Once I’ve written the idea I would go into the studio in New York and Kurt recorded all my vocals for that record. And whilst we were recording, we started to play around with ideas. He said one day: “I have this kind of melody idea”. And I said: “Well, give it to me and let’s see what happens”. And really it was something that he, it was just going to be for himself. He goes under the name Captain Kurt. And it’s instrumental based electronics. And he’s done some remixes – I think – for me in the past and also for the band. We’re friends and he gave me this thing. And I wrote a song to it, and we recorded it. And so in between doing Soulsavers things we began demoing songs. Really after three or four, I said: You know, I think, I know you wanted to maybe use this for your own project. But if you’re interested I’d like to play some of these songs to my band. And so that’s what happened.

There is this line in “Should Be Higher”: your lies were more attractive than the truth. Is that about your drug experiences in the 90s? Is that still haunting you?
Well, it’s really in the present actually. It’s reflecting on my interest quite often initially in something that is not necessarily real. (chuckles) And can quite often get me in trouble. But I’m still quite often attracted to this, the other side of things I think influence the optimistic side of my head. But sometimes I do find that the line is basically, saying initially how you might, something seems more exciting that could be quite dangerous for you. But the truth takes longer to achieve. But it ultimately is more rewarding. Cause the line that follows that line is: you should be higher. I’ll take you higher. And I’m referring to something that I feel quite often in life, which is life itself – which is just a beautiful thing. But you have to work a little harder to be part of it. And I also follow those lines with the line: Love is all I want.

In the sense of stability?
Well, whatever stability is.

Or warmth?
A sense of belonging, you know. Which comes in different forms. Sometimes sense of belonging can come from feeling like needed. And that doesn’t often satisfy what it is you’re really looking for. To be needed is a nice thing, but only initially. Because like everything that’s needed at some point it’s not needed anymore. (chuckles)

Meaning: You ́re still fighting an inner battle or conflict?
I think everybody has that. But I don’t know. Sometimes I need to work it out. And working it out through songs is certainly more healthy than some of the ways I used to.

So what’s your survival strategy then – 17 years after being declared clinically dead for two minutes?
Just one day at a time really.

Can you actually recall that moment in late May 1996 when you overdosed at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in LA? What was being considered dead like?
Well, it ́s nothing to brag about really – in the sense that I ́d be proud of it or anything like that. And it wasn ́t a spiritual experience either. All I can recall, but I recall that vividly, is total blackness. Like diving into black water or paint and feeling a sense of total calmness. But then – all of a sudden – there is all that light, my head aches, I notice my hands are cuffed to the bed that I am in, and a police officer reads me a warrant for illegal substance use. I mean, that is not glamorous at all, is it? It was more like being hit by a hammer.

Have you told your kids about it?
About what?

The guy you used to be.
Oh, my kids are not so much kids anymore anyway. Apart from daughter, but I have a 25 and a 21 year old son. So, they’re young men and they have their own lives to lead. They don’t sit around thinking about their father’s life. I mean, hopefully they learned from the mistakes that I made. That they don’t have to take the same path. But I don’t worry about that. They’re strong in character.

Say, starting out in 1980 where did you think you would be in 2013? And is this what you expected it to be, 33 years later?
I don’t know. When you’re a teenager you don’t think about it much really. You think you’re thinking about a lot of stuff. Everything and nothing is important. And today, for me it’s simpler. I know what’s important to me, and I’m starting to realize what’s not important to me as much anymore. And it’s a nice place to be, it feels good.
I’m asking because Andy McCluskey from OMD said if they had known in ́78 that the future of rock music would be Mumford & Sons they would have quit straight away.
Well, I don’t know why he would say that other than feeling jealous or something that nobody cares about who Andy McCluskey is anymore. (laughs) I don’t know what that really means. I think Mumford & Sons are a great band actually. I think they write great songs together and have a great spirit. I don’t know how that relates at all to me.
It was in the context of starting out as a synthie pop band with the intention to kill Rock ́n ́Roll – which, of course, never happened.
Well, I heard that Andy McCluskey writes really terrible pop songs for real young pop bands that are infiltrating all the radio stations of the world today. So, I would take Mumford & Sons any day over some of the shit that he probably writes.
There’s an interesting development in the perception of Depeche Mode over the years: At first you were regarded as being very un-cool, then you were the band everybody covered, and now you ́re everybody’s role model, it seems. Is that an inspiring, interesting concept?
I don’t know. It’s flattering of course. But I don’t work out of that, it’s not something that you think about when you’re working. When you’re working on new music, you’re trying to challenge yourself and challenge what you’ve done before in the past. And try and create something new. I think if you continue to do that, people will identify with it. You can’t live in the past. You can use it to do something new. But, the past is over and you have to move forward. You can’t live in a sort of envy or jealousy or resentment. Otherwise you are just really pissing all over the present. (chuckles)

What ́s your favorite Depeche Mode cover then?
I know a few. I mean the one that I’ve heard the most was probably Johnny Cash’s “Personal Jesus”. Which I think is probably purest version of that particular song – and pretty much how the song was written with a guitar and a vocal melody.

Which gives you the chills?
Yeah, it’s a great, I mean it’s Johnny Cash. He was giving people the chills from the moment he opened his mouth. (chuckles)

Has the insurance policy for this upcoming tour risen to something astronomical considering all the accidents you had on the last one?
I’ve got no idea. (chuckles) You’d have to talk to my manager about that.

Have tumors, torn calf muscles, and straining vocal chords made you more aware of your own mortality?
Well, I don’t dwell on my health. I do my best to kind of stay in shape and prepare for a tour like this. But you never know what’s around the corner. You kind of have to deal with it. What I’ve learned over the years is: Some things are out of your control. I certainly am not going out of my way to destroy myself these days. Which is a good thing. But sometimes, like before the last tour, just before we were about to begin, it was out of my control. So you have to learn to deal with these things. But I fully intend to get through it and get to the other side. And try and enjoy it as much as I can. But it ́s one gig at a time, one day at a time, one city at a time.

Are you in boot camp right now – preparing for the tour?
Like I said, I take care of myself as much as possible. And I know what is expected from me and from my band. And if you sing for two hours onstage every night, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do that, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Just if I stood still and sang for two hours that would be pretty exhausting within itself. But it ́s a lot of emotions, a lot of feelings, it’s a lot of energy that comes from the stage and comes from the audience. So you got to be in shape.

How are you going to mix the old with the new this time around? What can people expect from this upcoming tour?
Well, we’re obviously promoting a new record, Delta Machine. And we’ll be playing a bunch of songs from that record. And everything is sort of built around that and the guys come to me to try and… We sit down together first of all and we write out maybe like, 100 songs. And from that we have to reduce it to maybe 20, 22, 23, whatever, so two hours of music. And they leave that up to me really, because I understand the flow of a set. So once we’ve got it down to say 30, we rehearse those songs. And so we’re prepared to play any of those songs. But once we lock into a set, what we’re going to try and do on this tour is change up every other night. So, we’ll have one set which we stick to. But then, on alternate nights we’ll be able to maybe switch 5 or 6 songs if we want to. Because we’ve rehearsed other songs as well, and they all kind of fit in the show. The show has to work. It starts and it has to go through a… you know, it’s like when you’re sitting in the movies for two hours. You know, after two hours – I don’t know about you – but I start getting a big fidgety. No matter how good it is.

So your show won ́t be as long as The Hobbit?
No, I haven’t seen The Hobbit, but my son went to see it and my daughter. And they said they were bored. (laughs)

It was just celebrated the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd ́s Dark Side Of The Moon. How important is that album to you? And in what sense?
It’s a great album. I mean, it was quite a record.

Atmosphere wise or how do you mean?
Of the album? Everything about it: The songwriting, the atmosphere, the musicianship, the timelessness.

Nota do blogueiro: Amigos peço desculpas pelos últimos posts não estarem traduzidos, o tempo anda curto assim que possível voltarei a postar traduzido.

Crédito: Static Multimidia

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