Would you ever consider joining DM on stage in some capacity one last time?
I can’t see them ever asking me to. It’s a bit ‘Spinal’ isn’t it?
What are the differences in your approach to producing a track for live performance, as opposed to an album version?
There are many subtle differences one would apply depending on the nature of the track, what you’re trying to achieve with it, and where it comes in the set etc. Generally, live versions can take more dynamic contrast, longer dance sections and a big ending!
I’ve just come back from Berlin, where I saw DM 2 days in a row. I was disappointed that they didn’t change the set list for the second night so I was wondering if it was your idea to change the set list when you played the same place twice? And how did you go about it? Did you have different tapes with the entire sets, or could you pick out one song that you wished to play on the night?
When I was in the group, it was standard practice to change the set if we were playing one venue over 2 or more nights or if we were revisiting an area already played on the tour. We had 8 separate tapes – basically 4 different set-lists (red, green, blue and yellow I think) which were each split into two halves and broken up by an acoustic song somewhere in the middle – which allowed for the tape change. Effectively therefore, we could mix and match any combination of Ist and 2nd half tapes. Along with a few different alternatives for Martin’s acoustic songs, this gave us the opportunity to perform many different running orders although all of them had the same overall shape and structure. So, for example, a quick chat beforehand might result in “let’s play the blue / red set tonight with ‘Somebody’ instead of ‘I Want You Now’ in the middle.” We could also change tapes for the encores, if necessary.
Depeche Mode will be taking a drummer with them on the forthcoming tour which I think is a mistake. It worked fine on selected tracks for the ‘Devotional’ tour with you on drums but I really can’t imagine songs like ‘Stripped’, ‘World In My Eyes’ and ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with live drums. What is your opinion?
I’ve have no idea what the live versions of the songs will be like or whether they will work. I’m sure it’s possible to interpret the songs in many different ways.
On the ‘Devotional’ Tour you played a conventional drumkit. Did DM ever consider dropping most of the drum machines and perhaps use an electronic drumkit which could produce the same sounds but was played by a drummer? And do you think it could have worked just as well?
Well, the main pleasure gained from drumming is the response you get from real drums and at the time a lot of the ‘SOFAD’ songs were recorded with real drums. To have played the older songs on an electronic drum kit would have been very difficult since many of the parts are unplayable (I’m thinking of the fast hi-hats etc.). I also don’t think it would have been as much fun. I did have a couple of electronic pads which were incorporated into the kit for triggering samples – ‘Personal Jesus’ for example. That’s the nearest we got.
You mentioned that originally DM didn’t want to use a guitar on stage, for fear of looking like every other band. So, what was it that eventually changed your minds, especially to the extent where you eventually began to use a drum kit on stage?
It was simply that the music dictated it. We couldn’t reproduce the sound of the records faithfully (particularly ‘SOFAD’) without incorporating drums and guitars. We also thought it would add to the dynamics of the show as well as giving Martin and myself an opportunity to move away from standing behind keyboards all the time. As DM’s popularity increased, it was necessary for the music and shows to grow – it would have looked pretty ridiculous to have 4 blokes bleeping away on little synthesisers in a massive stadium. Visual dynamics and depth are important considerations too.
Are there any DM songs you would prefer to never hear again? Does playing a song several hundred times live make you grow weary of it?
My least favourite DM song is ‘It’s Called A Heart’. There are some other very poppy ones like ‘But Not Tonight’, ‘Meaning Of Love’ and ‘Photograph Of You’ which all come pretty low down on my list. It’s unfortunate but it is true that playing the same thing over and over again makes you tired of it.
I also wanted to know why the band stopped performing ‘Strangelove’ after the ‘World Violation’ tour. They’re not performing it this time around either. I think this is a favourite track amongst many fans.
You can’t please everybody otherwise you’d have to play every song ever recorded. It’s never been one of my favourites so I probably wouldn’t have voted to play it either.
I notice that in ‘101’, none of Depeche are wearing in-ear monitors. Playing arena gigs like those, how were you able to hear yourself – it must be thunderously loud on-stage? If you were to venture out live today, do you think you would choose stage monitors or something more controlled?
The ‘SOFAD’ tour was the first where I could actually hear what I was doing. This was down to the in-ear monitoring which is the most controlled form of foldback available. The main advantage for me was the fact that it blocked out Dave’s side fills which throw out his vocals at ball-busting decibel levels. The volume of his voice used to be so loud that it could sometimes obliterate all the rhythm tracks as well as our keyboards and vocals. In my headphones, I would only listen to a mix of certain tape channels and my own keyboards, drums and vocals. I didn’t need to hear anyone else’s performance or any other vocals. I also had a floor monitor for low bass frequencies. Even though it takes a few gigs to get used to this enclosed listening environment, the headphone route is easily the most accurate monitoring set up you can get.
‘Little 15’ has always been one of my favourite DM tracks. As far as I know, it has never been performed live. Is this true and why?
To date, DM haven’t performed ‘Little 15’ live. We never thought it would come across particularly well in that context.
Well, first of all, I’d like to correct you (and Nicky’s message). ‘Little 15’ was indeed played (at least once) during the ‘World Violation’ tour in Paris on 23.10.90. It was an acoustic version sung by Martin.
I stand corrected Javier..
I have been searching endlessly for the version of ‘Somebody’ you always seemed to play live (namely on the ‘101’ tour). I can’t seem to learn it by ear quite yet but hopefully I will someday. If you can give me a transcription of it, I would be very grateful.
I don’t have it transcribed I’m afraid. It was slightly different every time I played it. I just played whatever version came out within it’s chord structure.
What were you doing during ‘Clean’ on the World Violation tour? I’ve heard like 500 different things, from bongos to dancing! 😉
I used to breakdance at the side of the stage in an all-in-one, leopard-skin leotard.
If you had to, what would you choose: playing in a massive stadium or in a cosy night club?
I’m curious to know what the Roland product was that gave out during the ‘SOFAD’ backing tape programming sessions and what was the result of the lawsuit?
The name escapes me for the moment. After a long battle, they refunded the purchase price of the two machines. I can’t remember the exact price but it was a lot (possibly £20,000). The problem was that we had also invested in loads of Data Dat back-up equipment which became redundant. Also, at the last minute, we had to aquire two digital multitrack machines to take on the road instead – so we still lost out financially.
To follow on an earlier question regarding playing electronics live, do you find it important to be able to play as much as possible live? In your earlier days (’83-’88), the answer would seem to be yes but ‘Devotional’ must have had quite a bit of pre-recorded music in order for you and Mart to take on more organic instruments.
DM always used a certain amount of pre-recorded music during their live shows. From a personal point of view, I like to have something to do on stage although in the end I don’t think it really matters as long as people go home having experienced a good time.
I think that ‘Higher Love’ is a superb opening track for a live show and the way the song was rearranged at the beginning made it even better. Was this due to you and was it your choice as the opening song on the ‘Devotional’ tour?
All the live tracks on that tour were re-structured by myself although the running order for the show was a collective decision.
I always thought ‘Higher Love’ was one of the stronger tracks on ‘SOFAD’ and was an incredible opening song during the ‘Devotional’ tour. Why wasn’t it released or played during the summer `94 show?
For the European and 1st leg of the American tour, in Spring and Autumn respectively, we knew it would be twilight when the show kicked off so it seemed a good idea to capitalise on this. I think the resulting opening sequence of thunder and lightening preceding ‘Higher Love’ and accompanied by the huge curtains, appropriate light show and the magic hour itself, was one of the most dramatic moments of the whole tour. For the 2nd U.S. leg, the show needed to be different from the first, primarily because many people would have attended both shows but also because the dates coincided with lighter months of the year and the ‘Higher Love’ introduction wouldn’t have been as effective -hence the second leg opening with an upbeat version of ‘Rush’ with live drums etc.
How long did it take Daryl Bamonte to learn Fletch’s keyboard parts when he took over during the second leg of the ‘Devotional’ tour?
While everyone else was sunning themselves on the beach and enjoying a well-earned rest, Daryl and I spent a week cooped up in a hotel room in Hawaii where I taught him the entire set. He subsequently played it perfectly for the rest of the tour – pretty good eh, considering he’d hardly ever played a keyboard before in his life.
I’ve lent out my video of ‘Devotional’ to many of my friends (most are DM sceptics) and they are really surprised with just how professional and slick the show is. How much time went into the planning of the shows?
Check out the singles feature in Report – editorial / August – November and ALL will be revealed.
What percentage of music was in fact played ‘live’ during a DM concert?
Don’t you think that DM could have played much more “live” during a gig than 50%? I’ve always had the impression that especially Martin was somewhat underemployed (let alone Andy but that seems to be a different matter.)
Our policy was to always play as much as we could manage (without bringing in lots of extra musicians).
Can you describe how different it is to play at the Rosebowl in front of 75,000 people compared to a European hall with 8000. Is the atmosphere more intimate in the smaller places?
There’s not actually a great deal of difference between 8000 and 75,000 from our perspective. 8000 people is still a large audience and you can only see so far back into the crowd from the stage.
Were you nervous before ‘101’?
Do you remember a special gig in Denmark?
I remember one particular outdoor festival where Talk Talk were also on the bill.
During a concert in Tokyo (1985) you started to play ‘Somebody’ but Martin begun singing ‘It Doesn’t Matter’. What happened? Were there any more such mistakes?
I’m sure there were but I’m afraid I can’t remember all the individual shows over the years – you view a DM performance from a completely different perspective to me. Each show becomes part of one massive tour experience when you play the same thing night after night over such a long period.
It’s said that in 1989 there was a DM secret show. Is this true and if so, in which town or country was it?
I’ve got a feeling we played a low key show at Universal Amphitheatre in L.A at that time but don’t quote me on that. I could be mixed up with my dates.
On the ‘Devotional’ tour, you used two visible keyboards. What kind of machines were they?
They were E-max ll Turbos.
Can you amuse us with an embarrassing / strange moment or story you may have experienced while performing on-stage?
There are many. In particular, an early Belgian show where all the tape machines failed invoking chants of “rubbish” from the audience – to which Dave’s witty repost was “Fuck off, four eyes” to the bespectacled man in the front row. And then there was the unforgettable moment on a live English T.V. show called ‘The Tube’ where absolutely everything failed apart from Fletch’s keyboard.
Did DM ever consider playing ‘The Sun And The Rainfall’ in the 90’s?
I did put a vote in for it on a more recent tour- with a view to a new version of course but noone else was interested.
You once said that you thought it would be wrong to play any Recoil tracks on the ‘SOFAD’ tour. Why did DM play ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ then?
Martin wanted to sing that song, on occasion, during his vocal spot. I had no problem with that.
Did you like the video footage more for the ‘World Violation’ tour or the ‘Devotional’ tour?
I think I preferred the work for the last tour best, although I liked aspects of both. I wasn’t too keen on the images for ‘Enjoy The Silence’ (‘Devotional’) however.
Is it true that someone was inside your piano in Indianapolis (last gig of the ‘Devotional’ tour)? Any funny memories about that special gig?
Jez Webb – the guitar tech. – emerged, to my surprise, from the shell of the piano during ‘Somebody’ I think. This is a typical last-date-of-the-tour prank as has become tradition amongst the rock ‘n’ roll touring fraternity. We also experienced tour managers-turned-backing vocalists in drag (Andy Franks etc.). Other favourites include talcum powder on the drum skins, Mrs. Mop coming on with a broom to sweep the stage during Dave’s finest moment and exposed arses at the side of the stage…ooh, how we laughed.
On 1/7/98 you answered to Giuntia Tonino about your funny memories from the ‘Devotional’ Tour. What did you mean by ‘Dave’s finest moment’?
I was actually asked about funny memories from the last show of the tour and my reference to Dave’s finest moment was used hypothetically. I simply meant that at an important or perhaps dramatic point in the show, someone dressed as a cleaner would come on stage and start sweeping the floor.
I believe a lot of fans really like the way many of the songs have been reworked for the live shows (e.g. ‘Fly on the Windscreen’, ‘Everything Counts’ etc.) We all know you are to thank for this. Looking back, are there any other songs you would have like to have reworked / remixed for a live performance?
Well, it would have been interesting to have attacked some of the earlier Mode songs from say, ‘Construction Time Again’ – songs like ‘Shame’, ‘And Then’
and maybe a few others.
About halfway through the 1993 – ’94 tour, you started playing the drums on even more songs like ‘Stripped’ and ‘Halo’. Why the switch?
It was just more fun to play the drums and by that stage, I had built up enough stamina to play them for a longer period of the show.
I remember reading that on ‘Walking In My Shoes’ there is a sample of a whale. I thought I heard this sound on the ‘Devotional’ tour and it looked like Martin was playing it on his guitar. Was he playing it with a processor or was it pre-recorded?
If I remember correctly, the whale sound was generated from a keyboard.
What did you think of the great performance DM did of ‘A Question Of Time’ on the last tour? It, by far, had the most energy of the whole show and must have been a joy for you to play.
Yes, it was fun to play. There was a lot of new energy in that version.
You said in a previous answer that on the ‘Devotional’ tour, the top keyboards on all your racks were only used as backup but in the video Fletch uses the top one quite frequently. What’s the deal with that?
He’s six foot four 😉
Until ‘Music for the masses’ tour, Martin used some kind of toy instrument towards the end of ‘Everything Counts’. Was his mic turned on whilst playing this, i.e., were the tunes audible for everyone?
Yes, it was a melodica.
On the ‘SOFAD’ tour you used a different Emulator to Martin and Andy. I am curious as to why you did this and in how far it differed from Mart’s and Andy’s?
The difference in keyboards was due to the fact that my particular selection of musical parts required more physical keys on the keyboard than those parts played by Martin and Fletch.
With DM on tour, was there any criteria as to which musical parts were played by you on the keyboard and which by Martin?
There were no special rules. It was a question of logistics. I would just spread the sounds over the two keyboards as conveniently as possible.
Is it true that on the ‘101’ album, some of Dave’s vocals were re-recorded in the studio?
Put it this way, I doubt there’s ever been a live album in the history of pop music that hasn’t been touched up here and there.
I would like to ask you why DM released so many live songs during the ‘Devotional’ tour (live singles, ‘SOFAD’ live, ‘Devotional’ video) and yet there was nothing released during the ‘World Violation’ tour? Are there at least some 1990 tour audio/video recordings in your archives so we can hope for their later release?
The ‘World Violation’ tour was too soon after the ‘MFTM’ tour to warrant a live LP. By the time ‘Devotional’ came along it was felt that enough time had passed to release another one. I’m sure there are some recordings from ‘World Violation’ but I don’t know if they will ever be released.
I’ve always thought that the making of the backing tracks for a tour is as much work as an album – you have some songs, then you have to rework them completely. What is your point of view on this?
Yes, it’s a lot of hard work and involves imagining the songs in a different way from the album versions.
If it’s the case, I can’t understand why so few live versions are officially released?
People generally don’t like live albums – they feel they’re being ripped off.
Did you ever encourage Dave to be more talkative to the audience or were you happy with his football hooligan approach to stage craft?
It’s not something we ever really discussed. None of us would ever have presumed to have the authority to tell Dave how to handle the audience.
Did Dave ever do an ‘introducing the band’ type cliche? For example: “On drums, Alan Wilder!…On guitar, Martin Gore…On the stage, Fletch..!”
No, I think that would have been one rock cliche too far….
Did Martin play the melodica on the ‘Violation’ or “Devotional” tours
I can’t remember about ‘World Violation’ but he definitely didn’t play it for the ‘Devotional’ tour.
Did you ever think about playing drums live ( on the ‘Devotional’ tour) for other songs like ‘Enjoy the silence’, ‘Everything Counts’ etc.?
I chose to play drums only on the tracks I felt they would work best.
What was your reaction when you saw more then 70,000 people at the Rosebowl in ’88 or when there were 20,000 at the Wherehouse signing?
Both these occasions were obviously high-points in my career and both somewhat unexpected in their turnout. The Rosebowl performance wasn’t actually one of our best, due to monitoring problems, but it certainly gave us a lot of credibility back in Europe where nobody could quite believe our popularity in the States.
Do you remember any mistakes you made playing keyboards / drums during DM live shows?
I can’t remember individual errors – there was nothing major.
You’ve answered questions regarding the ‘World Violation’ tour backing tapes before but what has always puzzled me was how / why they made available to the public. I know they weren’t officially released, so how were they ‘leaked’ to whoever distributes them? Even *I* have a copy! 😉
I have absolutely no idea. It is usually necessary for a few cassettes or Dats of the backing tapes to be made for various people to listen to (same applies to demos etc.). These inevitably get left lying around before falling into the wrong hands.
Did you and the others (in Depeche) take care with your appearance before going on stage? Was this your own choice if it was the case?
Yes, the stage outfits were down to individual choice and in my case, Paula Bradley and later Karen Dusenbury, designed and made them. Each band member had a travelling wardrobe and a wardrobe person was responsible for making sure everybody’s stage gear was washed and ready to wear etc.
In the ‘Devotional’ video, for ‘Everything Counts’, you and Andrew, and in ‘Judus’, just yourself, move to single deck keyboards at the lower level of the stage where Dave sings. Is this because these keyboards had sounds allocated to them that the others did not?
No, it was purely a visual consideration for the encores, to try to create less of a detached feeling and more of a group atmosphere.
I was wondering if you used to personally set-up and tear down the keyboards etc. for the DM shows. I find that if I let someone else do it, there are always problems and I ultimately end up doing it myself. Did you ever experience the same problems?
I’ve done my fair share of humping gear over the years but without meaning to sound arrogant, at DM’s level, one doesn’t set up ones own gear. One has a crew of a couple of hundred people to take care of that kind of thing…. 😉
On the ‘World Violation’ backing tapes, one can hear drums on ‘Clean’ and a guitar on ‘Personal Jesus’ mixed very low. Were they there for back-up or to flesh out the live sound or have I been imagining things?
The extra sounds you heard were never audible through the P.A. system. They were back-up sounds in case of breakdown.
I know from watching ‘101’ that there were tape machines on the side of the stage. Who started them for each song and/or were there sequencers, and who was the master and slave?
The machines would be started by the keyboard tech., Wob Roberts, at the beginning of the set and were only stopped and re-started inbetween encores. There were two identical machines which ran in sync – one was purely a back-up to the other in case of breakdown.
I also noticed on the ‘SOFTD’, that the laserdisc sounds much more sonic, so it sounds like there was a sequencer sending all the information instead of tape.
Do you mean a laserdisc of ‘SOFAD’ Live? If so, there is no difference between the sound recording of that, compared to the recording on any other format.
How involved were you with the live sounds while playing drums? Did you mix the kit yourself and what sort of monitor mix did you have?
I used to play to a ‘headphone-only’ sequencer part which would feed to one ear only. On the other side I would have a floor monitor with the drums and selected sounds from the rest of the balance (without vocals). The mix was provided by the monitor engineer although I could adjust the level of the headphones myself.
Was there any particular significance behind the astronaut and the mummy images used during ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ on ‘Devotional’ or was this just deliberately ambiguous?
Ask Anton – you’re dealing with the mind of a strange Dutchman.
I think it’s a shame that all those live-tracks you brilliantly reworked for various tours, won’t be released (‘I Want You Now’ comes to my mind but also ‘Everything Counts’ – both from the ‘SOFAD’ tour). As a fan, it’s really frustrating to be forced to buy bootlegs of bad quality to have them. Any plans to release at least some of them?
I wouldn’t think that any live versions from my time with Depeche Mode will now be released.
I was lucky enough to see you perform in Dallas on the last leg of the ‘Devotional’ tour and loved the different mixes of ‘I Want You Now’ and ‘A Question Of Time’. Were you responsible for these new mixes?
My boyfriend and I were watching ‘Devotional’ last night and though the performance is haunting indeed and quite powerful, it really made us cringe to see the way Dave carried on. I mean, stage diving?! What goes through your mind when you look back at him during that period of time?
It’s hard to say. Looking back with the aid of hindsight, there are good and bad elements of the any stage show and we were all responsible for them. I think Dave had a very demanding job to go out there every night and engage the audience so it would be unfair to criticise him for a particular move, no matter how much of a rock cliché it was.
I read and watched that in the tours ‘101’ – ‘SOFAD’, Depeche Mode used the E- II Turbo. Did this sampler have any advantage compared to the others in those days?
There were a few around that would have done a similar job but the Emax seemed to be more robust for on-the-road use.
From 1984 -1993, the only period that there weren’t any sort of live releases was around ‘Violator’. Was that because there were enough B-sides for the singles? And did you record the ‘Violator’ tour but just decided not to release any live material?
After ‘101’, to have released another live record or even live B-sides would have been milking it too much. The ‘101’ LP + film seemed to sum up DM live very well and we felt it was time to give the live tracks a rest. I can’t remember whether we recorded any shows. We probably did.
Has there ever been a time that you or any other members of Depeche were so intoxicated (alcohol…whatever) that you weren’t able to play?
Actually, as a band we were pretty conscientious. On the last two tours, Fletch and Mart used to have a few glasses of wine to relax but on the whole noone indulged in anything much pre-show. I don’t really know about Dave’s exact pre-show condition on the ‘SOFAD’ tour but he always seemed to me like he was going to be able to perform ok.
Did you see the one-hour live special of DM’s Singles Tour on MTV? Apart from the fact you could see that everybody seemed to have fun and Dave partly sang very well, I was disappointed by the dull sound compared to earlier years and the fact that they didn’t manage to program / arrange ‘new’ versions of the songs – almost all of them were clones / copies of the great stuff you did for the ‘World Violation’ and ‘Devotional’ Tours. Do you agree or do you take it as a compliment that they did the same versions?
It’s very difficult for me to comment as I haven’t seen the show and I didn’t see the MTV thing. The TV sound may be out of their control and, from what I can gather, it seems that they took a view to focus their live versions very much around the original singles. Make of that what you will.
Was it fun revising songs like ‘Fly On The Windscreen’ and ‘Everything Counts’ for the ‘Devotional’ tour? You did a killer job! (I did think ‘EC’ was too short though)
It was fun. The motivation was that if I was going to play those older songs for 18 months on the road, then they had to be revitalised to make it an enjoyable task.
During the ‘SOFAD’ tour, as most keyboard parts were played on your Akai Mx1000 (connected to different Akai samplers), what did you play on your Emax II?
Trainspotter corner (for those that want to skip) 😉
You are about to tax my memory with all these questions but if I remember correctly, the Akai keyboard was used as a ‘mother’ keyboard because it had more keys on it’s board than the Emax ( and I needed as many keys as I could get). It was still, however, triggering Emax sounds via midi. The Emax keyboard itself was for back-up only which, when needed, would still have been accessed through the mother keyboard. Confused? I think the Akai samplers were used for percussion triggered sounds only.
Who was involved in the making of the live song versions in 1993 (and previous tours)? What did you use for backing tapes in 1993 – multitrack analogue Tascam or Fostex, or Direct to Disc?
For the ‘World Violation’ tour, the tapes were prepared at Worldwide International (Mute’s studio) mainly by myself, with Steve Lyon (engineer). For the ‘Devotional tour’, the tapes were prepared by myself with Steve at Olympic studios and completed at my own ‘Thin Line’ studio.
During my time with the group we always used tapes (they inevitably proved the most reliable) although we almost switched to a Roland hard disc system for the ‘Devotional’ tour (you can read more about that particular disaster by going to Report – editorial / November). We ended up running two Sony digital multitracks in sync (the second purely as back-up). I think we used two 16- track Tascams for ‘World Violation’, having progressed from 4 to 8 track during previous tours.
Have you ever heard or played early DM tracks such as ‘Tomorrow’s Dance’ and ‘TV Set’?
I have had the dubious pleasure of actually performing ‘TV Set’ which was part of the Mode live set when I first joined the group. I’m also familiar with ‘Tomorrow’s Dance’ although I’ve never played or heard an actual performance of the song. Dave’s rendition / impersonation of the embryonic DM performances were enough to have left an indelible imprint on my musical memory.
When did the swinging of arms at the end of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ start – was it at the Rosebowl or earlier on the ‘Masses’ tour? Did Dave initiate it or did the crowd spontaneously start to do it? Were DM surprised that it caught on with fans all over the world or did you expect it after seeing ‘101’?
I can’t really remember when. I’m sure Dave encouraged it and I suppose it became something of a live trademark after the ‘101’ film.
I noticed the other night that Dave has a teleprompter on this tour – is it harder to remember the words when you’re sober?
Probably. Luckily, I’ve never had to do it so I don’t really know.
Did Dave’s shouts ever annoy you? i.e. you spend months putting together a fantastic, almost subliminal swell to bring the drums in and it’s all obscured by some lout in a vest going “WAY-HAYEEEEEE”.
They weren’t the most subtle of guttural enhancements but perhaps they were apt for the occasion. It was the sheer volume that was the main problem. I shut them out with headphones on the last tour so it didn’t bother me so much. My favourite of his was “Zaagaabooo!!!”
Where were the monitors on the ‘Devotional ‘ tour? Was this in anyway connected to the round things (almost like manhole covers) that you can see in the overhead shots?
Yes, there was a series of concealed floor monitors at the front as well as two sets of side-fills with separate mixes. The front pair were primarily for Dave’s preferred balance and the back pair for the musicians.
When DM played live were all the composite tracks mixed individually? If so did this not mean that the guy at the front of house desk was actually more important than any of you?
Each tape track, instrument and vocal had separate designated channels on the mixing desk for complete control although the tapes were balanced in such a way so that you could pretty much leave the faders set from song to song. Same thing applied to the internal balance of the keyboard sounds.
Did Dave get chewed out when he stage dived?
Chewed out? Is this a sexual thing? If so, not the most comfortable way to do it, I imagine.
When DM were on tour, who chose the tapes that were played after the doors opened and before DM started their live show? I’m asking because I found most of the stuff pretty crap apart from the current tour where they play some Trip-Hop.
There was a selection of about 5 or 6 compilation tapes which were rotated from night to night. I made 2, Martin made a couple I think and the sound crew provided the others.
Were you more nervous when playing a TV gig? Dave sure seems to be.
Actually it is a bit nerve wracking. I can sympathise if Dave felt nervous – you’re usually on a hiding to nothing. There’s no vibe, the lights are too bright, the studio sound is nearly as bad as the sound that goes out over the air, there’s no room for error and they usually edit you down or ham-fistedly fade you out.
Are you yourself prohibited from performing DM tracks live? What if Dave stopped by your chateau one day and said: “Al, I’d like to record a few tracks with you, and while we’re at it, let’s perform a few gigs at the local clubs……” It’s not that ridiculous a concept.
Mmmm….I shouldn’t think it’s that feasible either Scott. For a start, Dave couldn’t possibly just swing by my house uninvited because I have a bloody great padlock round the gates at the entrance to my estate to keep the riff raff out. If he attempted to by-pass the main drive way, the security cameras would pick him up and either the man-traps or the doberman’s would get him, or worse, my groundsman Ron would most likely shoot him (he doesn’t like people trespassing – rock god or no rock god). Thirdly, judging by the ‘young people’ who hang around the shopping precinct in my local town, a slimmed down version of the Mode featuring just me and Dave wouldn’t really go down that well. It would have to be slimmed down to nothing and replaced by 4 members who looked and sounded exactly like The Manic Street Preachers before they’d take any notice. Finally, I think that the mental strain of coming to the realisation, midway through ‘Personal Jesus’ , that both of us had once performed the song in front of 70,000 screaming fans in the Pasadena Rosebowl and were now standing before a gaggle of spotty teenagers in the Dog And Duck, would probably be too much to bear. Then again, it could be fun. We’ll let you know if we have any plans and you can hand some flyers out for us…….
DAVE AND AL’S DM REVIVAL TOUR……with special guests:
The Sunday School Choir of St. Bartholemew’s and ‘Somebody’s brother on Bontempi keyboard plays the tunes you love from ‘Cats’
7:30 pm, Little Shiton-in-the-Mire Town Hall.
£3 adults / 50p concessions
Does the audience react and respond to the music exactly the same around the world, singing in the right places and so on?
There are small differences between countries but mostly they react in all the expected places.
How does it feel when thousands of people sing the final words to ‘Everything Counts’ or something, over and over again? Any special memories?
It’s great of course. I think the fact that fans continue to enjoy ‘Everything Counts’, 15 years after its release, is testament to what a good song it is.
If you were still with the band would you vote to play any of these songs again: ‘People Are People’, ‘Master And Servant’, ‘Shake The Disease’, ‘Everything Counts’, ‘Route 66’ / ‘Behind The Wheel’, ‘Blasphemous Rumours’, ‘Black Celebration’, ‘Get The Balance Right’, ‘Love In itself’, ‘Leave In Silence’ or ANY of Vince’s songs?
I always thought ‘Shake The Disease’ was a good song but I never found it much fun to play, From your list, ‘Black Celebration’ would be a great track to play again, maybe updated a bit.
For the ‘Devotional’ tour version, where did you get that weird voice that says “let me take you on a trip” ?
The sound is achieved by using a Vocoder – a machine that allows you to manipulate your voice using both a mic signal and a keyboard at the same time. Think: ‘Mr Blue Sky’ by The Electric Light Orchestra.
The intro for the 87-88 tour live version of ‘Shake The Disease’ was Martin’s “oooh-hoooh”. Without any other sound before his own line, what was his cue to start with the right note?
I can’t remember exactly. We used to have various guide sounds in our monitors which came from tape but weren’t audible to the audience.
Why was ‘SOFAD’ (live) released? Why not a full ‘Devotional’ live album?
SOFAD (live) was released primarily as a marketing tool to sustain the life of the studio LP. In order for it to have the same catalogue number as the studio version, it needed to contain the same songs.
I’m still a bit curious about how you produced the back-up tapes. Did you make them all over for each tour or could you pull specific sounds or the whole track from previous tours?
The earlier tours included some tracks that were recycled to some extent, butfor the last couple of tours (‘Violator’ and ‘Devotional’) they were re-worked from scratch.
It’s 1995 and you’re still with DM. You’ve just released the ‘Singles 86-95’ and are getting ready to gear up for a tour to promote the release (Yes, I know you wouldn’t be touring so soon but for the sake of the question). You’ve got to pick 15 songs for the set list, which would you pick?
It’s not something I can just reel off that quickly – I’d need to consider many different factors and it’s something that takes time to get right. However, there would be no ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ of course and I would probably vote for including some non-singles as well.
I always appreciated your attempt to play as many synth parts as possible to make the machines effectively work on stage. Was it more fun than difficult?
For me, I can’t stand being on stage with nothing to do. I would feel uncomfortable, so I always gave myself plenty of parts to play. I liked the challenge of having to remember lots of things.
When DM was planning to go on tour, where did you have your rehearsal sessions? Does Mute have a rehearsal place in London? And how were these sessions?
We rehearsed at Nomis studios in Shepherds Bush, London. Mute doesn’t have it’s own rehearsal space. Much like any other band, we would convene for about 2-3 weeks before going off for maybe a week of full production rehearsals in a proper venue.
During the ‘Some Great Reward’ tour, you had a hitting pad which had the word ‘Pus’ written on it. What’s the message behind this?
Ha! No idea. I do remember it though. Probably something to do with Daryl Bamonte.
As far as I know, DM has performed ‘Something To Do’ once during the ‘Devotional’ tour (in Brussels). Why did you decide to play this song? Had it been planned during the set-list compilation before the tour and why didn’t you perform it on the next gigs of the tour?
If I remember correctly, one or two extra tracks were prepared and rehearsed for the tour but when we tried them out, they either weren’t much fun to play or they didn’t go down well so they were dropped.
Who was the main creative impetus behind the reworked ‘I Want You Now’ on the ’94 tour?
It was recorded in a Milan studio during a 3 week session in January ’94, just before the start of the R.O.W. leg of the ‘Devotional’ tour. The only people present were myself, Steve Lyon and Daryl Bamonte. This is also where the techno ‘Rush’ introduction and various other bits and pieces were done. The remaining members of the band didn’t hear ‘I Want You Now’ or any of the other music until it was played on stage. You should be able to glean the answer from that…….
Who mixed the Crystal Palace ’93 broadcast? What did you think of the broadcasted show?
Has anybody told you that during the 1998 DM tour, the band used projections of old videos with you all over them? It was certainly strange seeing your face on a massive video screen and yet being absent from the stage.
Yes, I know about this. I wasn’t consulted about whether I wanted my image to be associated with a tour I wasn’t involved in.
Is there any truth to a claim that while performing ‘One Caress’, three of you played acoustic strings on stage?
Of course. I was on the Hungarian Zither, Dave played harp and Fletch stole the show on mandolin.
I noticed in the archives that you mention how loud it is on stage during concerts. After playing live for so many years do you have any residual hearing problems?
About quarter past four.
After buying and listening to ‘SOFAD Live’ a lot of times, I still don’t understand why you didn’t do it better – as the main producer for this album, you’re responsible for it, aren’t you? Putting the songs in the same order as in the studio album totally kills the ‘live’ feeling and I can’t understand why you used the ‘One Caress’ version with sampled strings instead of the ones with a *real* string orchestra. I also don’t understand why you kept this album to 52:54 – that leaves more than 20 minutes which you could have filled with ‘bonus’ tracks. I think that a double CD with a full concert or a mix of various cities, like ‘101’ would have been a hit!
The ‘SOFAD live’ CD with it’s particular running order was a marketing tool instigated by the record company as a deliberate (some might say cynical) attempt to prolong sales of the studio album of the same name. Having the identical running order meant that it could be given the same catalogue number – hence the elongated chart position. I also think that the general consensus was that it was too soon after ‘101’ to do another similar live album and anyway, we were putting together a ‘Devotional’ video that would give an even greater feeling of a live DM show. As for the choice of performances; there are many considerations as to what can be used, the most obvious being the best vocal performance. We couldn’t find a decent version of ‘One Caress’ using the various ‘real’ string quartets which accounts for the sampled one. Most of the hired musicians played astonishingly poorly.
Out of all your years touring with DM, do you ever recall a time when you where just sick or monstrously tired during a performance – I mean wanting to puke between songs or letting the sequence go on without you while you sneak off stage? I once did a gig in a women’s prison in Stockton, CA. and I was sick-as-a-dog. Got it on tape too!
Anyone for front row tickets to the next Sandbox Trio extravaganza? 😉
6 years ago on your birthday, you and DM performed at the ‘Ahoy’ in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. We all (the crowd) sang Happy Birthday to you and it seemed to make you a little uncomfortable. If you can even remember this, didn’t it make you feel good having thousands of people singing this to you? Or would you rather have been somewhere else at the time?
It was very touching 🙂
As you may know, during ‘The Singles Tour’, projections of Dave, Martin & Fletch disguised as their “idols” were shown during ‘Walking In My Shoes’. I was just wondering how we could have seen you if you were still in the band?
Probably Ziggy Stardust.
Did Depeche Mode ever toy with the idea of, or were you ever asked to play any of the UK Music festivals? Would you consider it now or is it not your cup of tea?
Mmmmm festivals. I don’t think so. I prefer an indoor toilet personally, not a hole in the ground. Being backstage is no different you know, except they provide the toilet paper and you’re less likely to pay 15 quid for a laxative…….
If we were to place a small inconspicuous microphone on you while you were at the drum kit during the ‘Devotional’ tour, what would we hear besides the obligatory grunts and shrieks of intense concentration?
Over the weekend I attended the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas which DM played. During the encore, Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins joined the band for ‘Never Let Me Down Again’. I was wondering if, during your tenure with the band, any other notable musicians ever joined the band on stage?
Not really. Primal Scream (apparently) stumbled onto the stage at the end of the ‘SOFAD’ tour but none of the respective band members actually remember anything about it. Apart from that, I can’t think of another occasion (although I can’t believe there aren’t any).
About ‘SOFAD’ live, I find the songs’ endings much more gratifying than the L.P. versions (for example, ‘Walking In My Shoes’ with the nice Portishead-tremolo-orchestra-sample or ‘In Your Room’s grand finale). What was the impetus to simply fade nearly every song out on the studio album? Was it a lack of time or perhaps an aesthetic?
The live endings would have sounded a little bombastic on the record I think. Also, you can get away with a lot more within the live context. The fade out isn’t the most inspired way to end a song I agree, although it does have a way of leaving you with the feeling that the track hasn’t really ended at all but just put itself on hold until the next listen. Also, sometimes you just run out of energy at the end of a mix. Intros and endings can be the very last, and most difficult thing to come up with.
When preparing for a tour did you, Martin and Andy get to pick where you’d be on the stage (or at least which side)?
Being short with a bizarre appearance, Martin always seemed to look better in the middle. I always chose the position nearest the monitor desk for communication with the sound engineer.
What was the most difficult DM song or synth part to play and what was the most enjoyable to play live?
The most difficult were the tracks I was drumming on but if we’re talking keyboards, then probably ‘Walking’. None of the individual parts were tough but I had many different bits to play in quick succession that occasionally led to having to cross hands to play a part (with my left hand) at the top of the keyboard, whilst also playing a part with my right hand as well as changing a preset with a foot pedal.
I noticed that the live versions of both ‘I Feel You’ and ‘Condemnation’ are half a note lower than the studio originals. Did you send the whole songs through a pitching module or did you pitch every single sample for itself?
Well spotted. They were pitched down to help Dave sing them live. The only way to do this successfully was to adjust each sound individually. The tempo remained the same so any non-musical part didn’t need to be changed.
As the ‘Amyl Nitrate Mix’ of ‘Rush’ is faster than the album version, how did you adapt its speed when using parts of it for the ’94 live intro.?
There are various methods for adjusting tempo without adjusting pitch. Most samplers have a ‘time stretch’ facility or an eventide harmonizer will also do the job. How successful the end result sounds depends on the nature of the original sound and also how far you are stretching it.
When Martin played his live guitar solos during ‘Walking’ and ‘I Feel You’, where did the second guitar come from? Backing tape or keyboard?
For ‘Walking’, the double track guitar sound was played on a keyboard – it had been originally processed through a synth for the original recording anyway so perhaps that was appropriate. The second guitar on ‘I Feel You’ came from tape.
Why did Martin only play a guitar-ish keyboard sound during the live version of ‘Rush’ rather than real guitar?
The sound was always a sample of a guitar, even on the studio version.
Back in ’90, Depeche played ‘Behind The Wheel’ and ‘Route 66’ during the ‘Violation’ tour. Are they considered one song or two songs? Most bootlegs have them labelled as 2.
I’d consider them as two separate songs although we did play them (in true cabaret style) as a medley.
My favourite part of ‘Strangelove’ had always been the layered piano sound for the main riff……until I saw and heard the ‘101’ live version. Why did this part end up sounding so wimpy live when you played it?
Just sheer incompetence.
Did DM record all their live shows and then listen to them afterwards for improvement matters?
I used to get our sound engineer to record tapes (directly from the mixing board) of rehearsals and the first few shows of a tour. These don’t always give you an accurate balance but are good for checking performance etc. Apart from that, we only recorded certain shows (using a mobile) if we were intending a live LP or something.
Where did the backing tapes go after the tour, in Daniel Millers office? The reason I ask is because it seems like DM now is just re-using the old ‘SOFAD’ tapes…..sad….
They would have been stored in a lock-up along with all DM’s equipment. I’m fairly sure they’re not being used on the current tour.
In 1994, during the American leg of the ‘Devotional’ tour, DM played a totally incredible version of ‘I want You Now’. The first time I heard it, I have to admit that tears came to my eyes, something that never happened with the album version. It seems that you put in some samples from ‘Walking In My Shoes’ (guitar solo), which was an excellent choice. How did this idea come about? Did you try several samples from other DM songs until it sounded good?
I probably tried one or two other things as well – I can’t really remember. The sound for ‘Walking’ was originally played on the guitar using an Ebo (a device which you hold against the strings to create sustain). The signal was then split, with one half fed through various filters on Flood’s Arp which was also distorted. The programming for the live version of ‘I Want You Now’ was done quite quickly in Milan during a break in the tour. I just tried sampling the Ebo guitar sound which proved particularly good for manipulating into something else due to the smooth pitch bend within the original performance.
Did Fletch actually play keyboards when on tour? The reason I ask is that he always seemed to have in hands in the air at some live shows.
“You put your left arm in, your left arm out, in out, in out, you shake it all about”
Whose idea was it to drag the old Vince Clarke number ‘Boys Say Go’ out of the closet for the ‘Black Celebration’ tour?
I don’t even remember playing it, let alone deciding to.
Which DM concert intro over the years do you like the best?
Probably the swampy Eno ‘I Feel You’ / ‘Higher Love’ hybrid from ‘Devotional’.