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.
What do you consider to have been the greatest, most annoying or hilarious clichés about DM (espcially from the press)?
We’re all gay.
We’re all from Basildon.
We’re big in Germany.
We used to be big in the eighties.
Our music is depressing.
When DM’s ‘contract’ with Mute was still a verbal agreement, did you share both the income and the expenses equally? And how much of a CD sale goes directly to the artists? If I buy an album at £12.99, how much actually goes back to the artists?
The essence of the deal with Mute is based around a 50% shared costs and profits arrangement. The basis for this arrangement has remained unchanged since day one although there is a lot of detail in the small print. I couldn’t honestly tell you exactly what percentage of a CD sale ends up in the artist’s pocket. It depends on many things and I’d need to do quite a bit of research and maths to work it out.
From 1990 onwards it seems like you didn’t do as much promotion as in the old days (like being on TOTP). Was that because you were getting too busy with other things or because you felt you were a big enough name and didn’t need to promote yourselves so much on the telly?
I think it’s perhaps more to do with the image of the band and the fact that Top Of The Pops is, on the whole, geared towards younger and newer bands, and the same kind of audience. For example, there came a particular time when DM wouldn’t appear in Smash Hits magazine or Bravo (Germany) because the band had moved on and was trying to shake the teeny-bopper image.
After seeing DM last night, I was disappointed to read in the Telegraph today that DM are apparently “painfully limited”, they hold a position in the “trashy eighties pop pantheon” (along with ABC and Wham!?) and that musicianship was irrelevant. Seeing as you were largely responsible for the music played, how do you feel about these remarks? It seemed incredibly unfair to me.
Maybe Mr. Journalist could do a stand-up show of his musings to over 10,000 people a night – or maybe not…..
I’ve just watched a videotape from a Spanish televison broadcast in which DM perform’ I Feel You’ “live”. How was your attitude doing these kind of “performances”? Boring but necessary marketing and how would the audience react to this “fraud / deception”?
I don’t really think audiences felt deceived. Everyone’s aware of playback TV. They don’t normally even bother to plug in the instruments or the mics, do they?
Please tell me whose idea it was to do the MTV Music Awards in 1988. You all looked in so much pain. Did you meet any musicians back stage or did most musicians not like you guys?
We were encouraged by our Record Company and independent marketing man, Bruce Kirkland. It was good exposure for us. We were probably just trying to look cool, which can look pretty similar to pain, or needing to go to the toilet…..
I think we met Aerosmith and Guns ‘n’ Roses but I was drunk and don’t remember all that much about it. I do remember upsetting Cindy Lauper. MTV gave each band a video camera but when I stuck it in Cindy’s face, she threw a wobbler….oooooh……….
Do you know exactly what happened with the ‘In Your Room’ video not being played by MTV? I heard it was censored because they said it contained “slavery images”. The same occurred with Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ for other unknown reasons. If all of this is true, what about the ‘Master & Servant’ video that was played on MTV a lot and where the lyrics and images make an ambiguous reference to sado-masochistic sex?
I couldn’t begin to explain what goes on in the censor’s minds. As I’ve said before on Q + A, it’s perfectly acceptable to beat the shit out of people and blow their arms and legs off in TV cop shows but show someone chained to a chair and you’re corrupting innocent youth. The irony of censorship is that in most cases it simply highlights the very thing it’s attempting to suppress. Just look at the notoriety of films such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (banned in England since it’s release) and ‘The Exorcist’ which are now considered tame by comparison to most current box office films.
Do you feel there could have been a bigger push from the publicity side of things, or was it just a case of radio stations sticking to the wanky M-people, Simply Red safe-audience kind of thing?
You can always spend more money on promotion etc. although radio play is largely out of our hands. We did o.k. though – not exactly unpopular.
What’s your opinion of the U.S. compilation ‘People Are People’ ?
It was done out of necessity, without any real continuity. Other than that, I don’t really have any thoughts on it.
I believe your opinion of Dave Thomson was that he was a twat. What about the other Dave (Thomas I think) who put together more of a picture book on the early years of DM? Any comments on that work?
Garbage. Neither of these ‘writers’ ever asked permission to go ahead with these projects and we, as artists, seem to have little or no rights over what a ‘writer’ decides to print. I’ve never understood the copyright laws. Likewise, if a photographer takes a photo of you, it’s their property and it’s very difficult to stop them selling it if they want to.
I work in marketing so I’d love to know your opinion on pop groups/artistes who endorse products and were DM ever approached to endorse anything? Would you do it now?
DM were always very hesitant about directly endorsing any product. It’s tacky and tends to cheapen your image somehow. That doesn’t mean that advertising never took place but it was usually second hand (promoters, local venues etc..) Would I do it now? depends on the cash;-)
How do you feel about the current interest in all things 80’s. Are you happy that Depeche Mode are still revered as an 80’s band despite having commercial success and media interest in the 90’s?
Inevitable. Every decade is reviewed with hindsight and a fair bit of nostalgia before too long. DM was a big part of 80’s pop music history. In fact they are often overlooked because they are still going.
Where did the name ‘Bong’ for your singles catalogue numbers come from?! (MUTE and STUMM speak for themselves, I guess…)
To be honest, I don’t really know. The only ‘Bong’ I’m aware of is a term used for a hash smoking device, which is not something you would readily associate with DM.
Who on earth was responsible for the Japanese releases and their weird and wonderful cover art?!
I was the involved in the compiling and mastering of the music and Martyn Atkins was responsible for the artwork.
You’ve said earlier that for the Japanese releases, Martyn Atkins did the artwork. Is this the same Martyn Atkins from Pigface or is it just some other lad?
No. This is ‘northern, motorbike lad’ Martyn Atkins who has worked on many DM record sleeves (as well as Recoil) from the very early days.
Why were X1 & X2 only released in Japan?
The Japanese originally requested them, as their particular market seems to desire this kind of compilation with extensive artwork etc. – something which traditionally doesn’t do so well in Europe and the U.S. They were expensive to produce necessitating a high retail price – again something not suitable for other markets.
Unlike many electronic acts, DM and Recoil have never really gone along with the current “in thing” in electronic music. Is this a conscious effort to remain different or something that you haven’t really thought about?
The interesting thing is that over the years, we just carried on producing music in our usual way and the band has moved in and out of fashion, depending on what’s trendy at the time. It’s always preferable to remain true to your ideals and maintain one’s integrity rather than jump on the latest bandwagon.
Why wasn’t ‘Little 15’ directed by Anton Corbjin and why it was originally only released in Germany?
It was released only in France and seemed like a good opportunity to try a different director.
Who’s idea was the slightly controversial “Telephone this number for your own Personal jesus” advert/taster for that particular song?
I can’t remember. Not ours. Must have been some wag in the marketing department.
Were you surprised ‘Enjoy The Silence’ won the Brit award for Single Of The Year, voted by Radio 1 listeners and did you ever consider attending the ceremony to accept it?
Yes a little. We were all pretty like-minded about avoiding Industry-based award ceremonies. Best left to Sting and Elton.
Did it ever annoy you or the others that because of DM’s ‘bubblegum pop’ beginnings, the serious UK press couldn’t judge you on the records you were making at the time? I noticed that they always cited New Order as one of the ’80s most important acts, whereas now, DM are getting the recognition they deserved for their body of work. Do you see any parallels between DM and New Order?
The comparison to New Order really only relates to us both being on independent labels, both coming across as slightly miserable and perhaps remaining fairly aloof. Musically, I don’t think there was much similarity. As for the press, the attitude you speak of has only ever, and still does to an certain extent, seem to exist in the U.K. Perhaps this is due to the group’s very early history being centred in the U.K., and lets face it, we were very naive in the early days.
Would you have played Live Aid if you were asked and were you surprised that you weren’t invited?
I doubt very much that we would have accepted the invitation, had we been asked. My personal view is that giving to ‘chariddy’ should be a totally private gesture, out of which no personal gain should be made. Inevitably, nearly all the artists who took part in Live Aid achieved a considerable rise in record sales and being the cynic I am, I wonder just how much of the profit gained from those sales actually ended up going to Ethiopia.
Was there one DM single that you were particularly surprised / disappointed didn’t do as well as you’d hoped?
I hoped that ‘Walking’ would do a bit better than it did.
In a recent interview, Martin said that he always felt, and still feels that Depeche Mode was not a commercial project but you evaluated Depeche Mode (in a couple of Q + A answers) as such. Was the commercial status of Depeche ever a controversial issue for you especially considering Martin’s attitude?
I’m not saying in any way that ‘commercial’ is a dirty word but Depeche Mode has always obviously been a commercial venture amongst other things. Having hit records was, certainly when I was a member, important to the group. Martin’s songs clearly work within the confines of a ‘pop’ format – verse / bridge / chorus / middle 8 etc.
In the latest issue of ‘Q’, they list the 100 richest people in rock from the U. K. Why are you not listed when Dave is supposedly worth 5 million pounds, Fletch 10 million, and Martin 15 million? Roughly how much would you say you are worth?
There are thousands of other people they could (and should) have mentioned in their article which, as with every survey I’ve ever seen on rock stars and their wealth, was WILDLY off the mark. Some of the figures mentioned are laughable. They are based on massive assumptions and almost pure conjecture. I used to quite like ‘Q’ as a magazine but it’s gone rapidly downhill over the last few years. As for my personal wealth – that’s a private matter which I don’t wish to disclose.
Few days ago i find in a news group tirrible message: “Martin die in a car crash last night on M25 Kent, UK” Then I find that it’s not true. How often do you see messages about DM like this in news , radio, tv during DM days and now? I think it’s silly and foolish make the rumours like this, however, they help in next tour make more money, isn’t it?
I think the golden rule is not to believe anything you read on the internet, in the press or hear on the television unless it comes from an official source or directly from the artist themselves.
I find it really annoying when I tell people that I’m into DM and they reply ” They were from the 80’s”. Why do you think the British music press have not given credit for the success the group have achieved?
I think it has something to do with the very British trait of not really appreciating success – to be better off than everyone else just isn’t being a good sport. The British press (music and otherwise) love to build people up just to enjoy knocking them down the next week. Music journalists in particular love this sense of power because most of them are failed (and consequently bitter) musicians themselves. I’ve seen them revere and then quash many bands over the years – Suede comes to mind, with the NME being especially vicious. The problem with DM is that they just refused to go away and, in fact, became more and more popular. The only course of action for the press is to ridicule or ignore them.
Do you remember doing ‘Everything Counts’ at Alton Towers whilst going up and down on moving platforms or did I dream this?
The only thing I remember doing at Alton Towers was ‘Leave In Silence’ – it was possibly the most embarrassing TV show ever.
Has the media always had trouble telling you apart from Fletch? In a recent article about DM, it stated that drummer Alan Fletcher left the band following a nervous breakdown, and Fletch is referred to as Ian Wilder.
I think it’s a mixture of innocent mistakes from some publications and deliberate tactics from tabloid journalists – read my answer to Neil above to see what I mean. I’m not the sort of person that pushes myself forward and as the media tends to focus on the songwriter and / or vocalist in a band, it’s not surprising that they don’t know who I am. There’s no excuse however. It just shows how little research some of these so-called journalists do.
Speaking of media inaccuracies, from listening to your point of view now, it seems that they blew your split with DM completely out of proportion. Given their penchant for sensationalising, do you believe all of Martin’s or Fletch’s printed descriptions of the break-up?
I recognise how easy it is to ‘go with the flow’ in an interview and say things you perhaps don’t really mean. I also understand how journalists can either misunderstand or deliberately twist peoples words, so no, I don’t take too much notice of everything that was said.
At ‘Tommy’s Popshow 1984’ there were two stage performances that impressed me most: You playing Neubauten-instruments and Billy Idol washing his face with spit. Any recollections of ‘Tommy’s Popshow’ (which later became ‘Peter’s Popshow’)?
The only real recollections are that we always took the opportunity to get very drunk backstage – particularly the year when Frankie Goes To Hollywood were also on the show.
Have you seen the ‘GAP’ TV commercial with a few heroine chic models advertising leather pants, leather shirts, jackets and so fourth and singing ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. Aren’t you glad you’re post ‘Speak And Spell’ and don’t have to take any responsibility?
Yes I have seen it – ouch. I’m guilty by association 😉
ASorry to bring up embarrassing TV appearances but did I see you guys on ‘Jim ‘ll Fix It’ a few years ago or was I dreaming?
Well it was certainly a nightmare for me but no, you weren’t dreaming. Anyway, what do you mean “a few years ago” – it was at least 17! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the British institution that is ‘Jim’ll Fix It’, it’s a show hosted by an octogenarian, suspected-paedophile ex-DJ called Jimmy Saville and involves kids writing in to him with their ultimate dreams – in our case:
“Dear Jim, please fix it for me to meet my fave pop group, Depeche Mode. I’ve always liked them, especially that Dave Ga-han, he’s gooooorgeous…..etc. “
Anyway, this girl’s dream came true in the form of performing a song with us. For some reason I was nominated by the others to give her this prize of some cacky little keyboard and the all-important ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ badge. After the song, Jim called me over, saying in his own inimitable style,
“Now then, now then, Mr. Producer man sir, do you or do you not (jewellery, jewellery) have something for this ‘ere young lady what performed so well tonight …there?”
Anyway, I gave her the badge and she looked a bit pissed off that she got a snog from me, not Dave.
I’m lucky to have a copy of this epic somewhere amongst a similar array of embarrassing classics (including ‘Razzamatazz’ and ‘Hold Tight’) in a box marked “Items to be aired ‘just for a laugh’ at dinner parties”. Trouble is, I don’t know where Hep’s hidden the box. If I did, I’d have destroyed the evidence a long time ago.
I’ve been wondering about DM single releases over the years. With the exception of ‘Some Great Reward’ and ‘Black Celebration’, the first song on every studio album has been released as a single. And songs three and six on the last six studio albums have also been released as singles. Was there any logic or superstition involved, or was it just a coincidence?
You’ve got some spare time on your hands haven’t you Misha!? Er, no, it’s a coincidence however, it’s always a shrewd (and logical) move to put your most commercial tracks near the top of an album’s running order – given most people’s attention span.
Talking about the most embarrassing moments in your life, I think I have found one in my collection of DM-TV-appearances. In a German TV-show called “Bananas” (1982), DM performed “See you” in a barn with hens all around them and an extra couple in the back having sex (well, almost!). Some scenes show each band member fumbling with one of the hens. While Dave has to keep himself from grinning all the time, you don’t really seem to be enjoying yourself much. Any recollections of that event?
Thanks Heiko. Thank god there are so many dedicated fans out there who can recall all the wonderful moments over the years. I’d have hated to forget about that one.
Currently, VH1 (MTV’s sister channel in the USA) is working on a biography / history of Depeche Mode for their ‘Behind The Music’ series. Will you be or have you been interviewed for this program?
Yes, the interview was conducted a couple of weeks ago in London. They have also spoken to many of the other people involved with DM over the years. It seemed to go quite well and the producer / interviewer had researched his subject well, asking some intelligent questions. In contrast to the ‘short film’, I’m more confident that this will be a well balanced , insightful piece.
About a week ago I witnessed the VH1 programme about DM and you got VERY little time on camera even though you’d been in the band for over 10 years. Any reason for this? Most angering of all was the fact that no mention of Recoil was made throughout the broadcast. I understand not mentioning Erasure, they are rather high-profile but Recoil is something most people are still in the dark about. All that said, do you feel that you were somewhat leaned on by the network to speak only of DM and not of what you are doing now?
There are a few different factors at work here. For starters I never pushed myself forward as a member of the band and the media tends to concentrate on lead vocalists and songwriters – to a lot of people, the ‘techno-nerd’ in the studio isn’t really that glamorous. I also haven’t been to death’s door and back and more importantly, I committed the heinous crime of leaving the band – so, out of sight, out of mind. I can accept all these things but I was annoyed in particular with the DM Singles E.P.K (a short film) which I thought was extremely imbalanced – to have 10 years of one’s hard and dedicated work represented by about 30 seconds out of a 20 minute piece is pretty insulting. I was also excluded from (and not even advised about) the interview with Anton Corbijn where the other band members discussed his videos for the singles – the same singles that I worked and performed on. As for mentioning Recoil; the interviewer actually asked me a lot about what I was doing now but perhaps he felt it wasn’t appropriate to dwell on outside projects as the programme was specifically about DM – I think that’s fair enough.
What the hell was with all that focus on Gahan? I thought it was supposed to be about the band! Why didn’t they just call it: VH1 ‘Behind the Music: DAVE’?
What did you expect? To follow on from what I said above, the rise, and more specifically the fall of a band or musician, is always going to sell newspapers and T.V. programmes. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll plays a big part in the media attention of any group, with the music often taking a back seat. I’m told that the ‘Behind The Music’ series has a reputation for focusing on scandal so I’m not surprised. I do hope however, that one day we will be able to see a documentary on Depeche Mode that is balanced and shows the REAL truth instead of fuelling tired old cliches, ludicrous inaccuracies and irrelevant gossip.
You must have grown up watching ‘Top Of The Pops’ in the 70’s. How was it to be there for the first time with DM? And do you remember if there were any interesting groups performing on the same show?
My first TOTP’s appearance was in 1982 (performing ‘See You’). It was an all-day affair, mainly spent hanging around in our dressing room while the union-led BBC staff took their various tea, lunch and back-strain breaks. The audience consisted of about 15 people being goaded with cattle-prods to move them swiftly around the studio from stage to stage. We had the dubious honour of appearing on the same show as one-hit-wonder Adrian Gurwitz. If your memory isn’t capable of resurrecting his unforgettable tune, the lyrics were as follows….”gonna write a classic, gonna write it in an attic”…….. er,……yes. He’s still up there apparently.
It always annoys me that Americans seem to get screwed as far as music goes. England always gets more singles, more mixes, more B-sides and other rare recordings while Americans have to pay ridiculous prices to import the stuff. One of the biggest examples that annoys the hell out of me is the ‘Devotional’ video. The US version was cut short by a few songs. Who makes these idiotic decisions?
The U.S. market is completely different to Europe and the rest of the world. I don’t pretend to fully understand it but whenever we ‘deliver’ product, they always want to do things differently to “suit their market”. Their argument is that “we know our own market better than you so let us decide” – perhaps they are right. Certainly, radio in the U.S. is a strange animal which dictates how the companies promote the product. The ‘Devotional’ video was probably due to time-versus-selling price constraints. If they go beyond a certain time limit they then have to move into a more expensive format / catagory which was thought to be too unaffordable for the average DM fan – quite sensible actually.
Which DM singles chart success has surprised you the most over the years?
‘It’s Called A Heart’.
Which DM singles chart failure has disappointed you most over the years?
Probably ‘Walking In My Shoes’ although you couldn’t call it a total failure.
Did you ever feel pressured by the Record Company to make and put out singles? I mean, it seems that when you got to the third or fourth single release from an album, it had to be remixed. Did you feel that they lacked a bit of production or was it Mute that insisted that they should be remixed?
There is always a certain amount of record company pressure – their job is to sell records. The point of singles is to promote albums and the only way to keep an album alive is to try to get a single in the charts. By the third or fourth release, all the hard-core fans have already bought the album so it becomes more difficult to chart a single. The obvious way around this problem is to make the single package appealing to those people who already own the LP – hence:
!!!”New ‘Butch Vig megatastic never-before-heard’ version, extra remixes, live tracks, new extra extra B-side reject track, metal CD box, small Filipino boy and cheap, nasty t-shirt ” !!!!
etc…….. cynical, isn’t it?
Which DM singles chart success has surprised you the most over the years?
‘It’s Called A Heart’.
Which DM singles chart failure has disappointed you most over the years?
Probably ‘Walking In My Shoes’ although you couldn’t call it a total failure.
I always wondered what was the point of wearing sunglasses during TV appearances or photo sessions. Was it the lights or to hide a hangover? 😉
No point whatsoever apart from serious pose factor number 11.
Do you recall playing drums for some television appearances in 1987 /1988? During ‘NLMDA’ you had a bass, snare and crash cymbal with a keyboard next to them.
Vaguely. We were aware that 3 “Walters” (as coined by a journalist) with keyboards looked very boring. 3 Walters with keyboards, a piece of corrugated iron on a stick, a bicycle wheel and a brick + mallet looked a lot better, didn’t it?
What’s your opinion of KROQ 106.7? Have you talked with Richard Blade anytime in the past 4 years?
I haven’t spoken to Richard Blade for 5 years or more. Whatever you think of KROQ, they were very supportive of DM for a long time which helped our career in the U.S.
During the 80’s, one of the major problems for DM was that they had to defend themselves wherever they went. Now, in total contrast, they are seen as the ‘kings’ of the whole electronic movement! Any comment?
These things always go in trends – DM have been in and out of fashion ever since 1980. My golden rule: take it all with a large pinch of salt. Don’t be offended when they hate you and don’t take it too seriously when they love you.
What are the biggest misconceptions about you and your role in DM?
I’m ‘the drummer’.
I’m still in Depeche Mode and ‘Andy Corbijn’ is the one who left…..
I have an original 7″ pressing of ‘A Question Of Time’ in which the second verse has been completely edited out! Yet the version on ‘Singles 86>98’ includes the verse. Did the original release have this verse edited out and can you remember why (censorship)?
I can’t honestly remember – probably. The most likely reason was to bring it down to a ‘radio friendly’ length, hopefully ensuring that dear old Radio1 would be more inclined to play it – such is the wrath of the BBC that they can scare one into butchering one’s own song because they cannot tolerate more than 2 minutes and 43 seconds of any given record before Batesy’s’ Our Tune’ is due.