musicforthemasses_7_1600Q+A VAULTDEPECHE MODE


Do you have a favourite Anton Corbijn photograph (DM or not)?

Not really – there are many great shots. His famous picture of Miles Davies always springs to mind.

The cover of ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’: who voted for it and who voted against it? I ask because it just eems…well…GHASTLY when compared to other Mode covers (not to mention ‘Unsound Methods’). Also, it’s the only album cover that features a picture of the band (I’m not counting ‘The Singles 81-85’). What made you decide to put yourselves on the cover? I’m assuming it wasn’t vanity.

It was Anton’s concept. I have to agree it wasn’t one of the greats but nobody wanted to hurt Anton’s feelings having given him the job of artistic direction – one of his problems is that he is quite inflexible once he has an idea for something. When it comes to cover art, I always felt that Anton should have really focused exclusively on his photography (which is what he does best) and let others take care of layout and graphics.

When you all got back together to record ‘SOFAD’, what was your first impression of Dave’s new image?

He looked like he’d been living in L.A. for a year.

It would be fun to know your first impressions about DM and how you were received by the guys?

They wore plus-fours, Haircut 100 jumpers, were very shy and sat at the back of the tour bus eating crisps with their girlfriends. I suppose in some ways, they seemed naive on first impression.

What do you consider to have been the greatest, most annoying or hilarious clichés about DM?

We’re all gay.
We’re all from Basildon.
We’re big in Germany.
We used to be big in the eighties.
We’re miserable.
Our music is depressing.

What do you think of Intro’s art for ‘Singles 86>98’ as opposed to their work for ‘Unsound Methods’? Since I’m not asking you to critique DM per se, give us yer answer, c’mon! :->

I thought it was of a generally high standard which I would have expected but as I’ve said before, they were never going to have the same feel as Anton’s work, which for this historical release would have been much more appropriate. I’m not saying that his artwork would have been better but the continuity would have been there. Intro’s ‘token’ rendition of some of the previous symbols (like the rose for example) looked a little ridiculous but some of the main photos look great. I actually prefer the main (red) image as used in the forthcoming re-packaging of ‘Singles 81>85’.

Is that you in the bridegroom gear on the cover of ‘Some Great Reward’?


Do you own any of Anton’s photography?

I’ve got some books of Anton’s work.

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.

Any secrets as to how you or the DM members style their hair? Mine is sadistically disagreeable. I’m using beeswax at the moment.

Speaking for myself, ‘Black and White’ wax although it’s a bastard to wash off your hands.

Who used to do your make-up while in DM?

We used to slap it on ourselves – can’t you tell?

What are your thoughts on DM playing ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ on this tour. Didn’t you guys try FOREVER to shake that synth poppy image?

Well, I wouldn’t have voted for it.

I’d like to thank you personally for not bleaching your hair along with Dave and Fletch back in 1985-ish. Who suggested that?

Nobody. I suppose it was just the ‘in’ thing to do.

I know that you said that DM was never pressured by Mute to be commercial but was the fact the Mute exists (financially) because of DM (and Erasure) ever on the band’s mind?

I think there’s always an underlying pressure felt by DM to come up with hits but, luckily, Martin’s a natural pop songwriter so you couldn’t say it was forced. I do think for balance, Mute could use a few more commercially successful acts on their roster.

In recent Q + A you said that Dave, Andy and yourself tried to dissuade Mart from wearing dresses back in 1984/85, but don’t you think that Martin’s strange clothes minimally made your fortune? In that particular zeitgeist, it wasn’t such a bad thing and considering the cute face of a certain keyboard player, it brought you eternal support and devotion from the gay side of your audience whose screams have always been so loud at every concert….do you agree?

Although his songs certainly can be, I don’t think anything as trite as Martin’s attire can be held responsible for DM’s success. From the very early days, the band attracted a very large gay following (long before Martin ever considered wearing a dress) which has been very supportive. The interesting point however, is that Martin is not gay and it annoys him when people make the assumption that he is. Strangely, he seems oblivious to the fact that many people still associate transvestism with homosexuality………no accusations of homophobia please, you all know exactly what I mean.

I always thought that the graphical work Tamara Capellano did for ‘Shake The Disease’ and ‘It’s Called A Heart’ was great. Who chose her as a collaborator and do you have any information on her “post-Depeche” activities?

I know nothing about her – she was suggested by Dan Miller at the time.

On the cover of the single for’ Stripped’, there is a couple kissing. Am I right in thinking the fella is you?

No, ‘fraid not.

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.

When Anton Corbijn took the pictures you can see on the sleeve of ‘SOFAD’, had he been with you during the whole time of recording or did you (and the band) make a date where he came to photograph you all? Are these pictures shot during a real recording session or did you pose for them? Why isn’t ‘Fletch’ on any of them?

Anton turned up for a few weeks here and there and all the photos were natural. Fletch wasn’t in them because he wasn’t around at the time.

Did it not sometimes concern you that due to the way DM sometimes presented themselves in the mid 80’s (i.e. Martin in leather shorts/skirts/chains and lipstick), some people may have had “misconceptions” about those in the band? More to the point, what did you think about the way Martin presented himself?

We always tried to dissuade Martin from wearing dresses but the more you advised him against it, the more stubborn he would become. Ironnically, he now gets irritated when people bring up the ‘dress’ period – what did he expect?

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.

Was it sexually rewarding shooting the naked woman ‘Personal Jesus’ sleeve photos?

No, it was all a bit embarrassing really. The girl was 17 and very shy.

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.

If an alien civilisation one day picked up TV appearances by you and the boys, how do you think they would react to your ‘finger in electric socket’ look?

Well judging from some of my folic disasters, they’d probably be more alarmed as to why it’s necessary for a humanoid to style his hair so it resembles a loaf of bread…..

Could you please go to Zambak’s Depeche Mode page and enlighten us as to the vinyl scratchings that we don’t understand? Some of them were explained by Martin but some are still a mystery to us.

I visited this page recently and saw the etchings he has listed. I really don’t want to try to explain their meanings. Etchings are invariably ‘in-jokes’ and should probably remain so.

I was looking at my big poster of the ‘SOFAD’ album cover and can’t help but notice that it looks like you’ve got lipstick on. Did you wear lipstick for that pic.?

No – trick of the light.

I wonder who that man is kissing the girl on the single cover of ‘A Question Of Lust’ – is it Dave Gahan or a model?

He’s a model.

What are your favourite shots that have been published?

There have been many but probably one of the Anton sessions. Perhaps something from his ‘Strangers’ book.

Is it true that INTRO are responsible for the design of the new DM single ‘Only When I lose myself’? If so, isn’t it strange that they have done so after all these years with Anton Corbijn?

Yes, Intro have designed all the latest artwork which is great to see in one sense because they did a really good job with Recoil. However in DM’s case, I think that it is a bizarre decision not to use Anton Corbijn whose very unique style represents 10 years of DM imagery – something very closely linked to the singles themselves since 1986. In my opinion, to tie in his album artwork over the years would have been the most cohesive (not to mention loyal) thing to do. As much as I like Intro’s style, I think it’s rather out of sync with a DM greatest hits release – with ‘Singles 86-98’ you’re not just selling the music, you’re selling the image and the memories. There is nothing wrong with change, I just feel the timing is wrong.

Which non-Corbijn DM sleeves (LP and 12″) do you like best?

‘A Broken Frame’.

During the 80’s I remember that on the street (and quite often in the press) DM was regarded as a gay band. Is this something that the band was aware of and was it ever a matter for concern?

Why should it be a matter for concern? Unfortunately, people will always base their opinions of people on how they look and much of the style of the early 80’s was quite effeminate. Martin wearing a skirt didn’t help 😉

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, DM 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.

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.

Looking at live videos, I’ve noticed that Martin only seems to have one pair of trousers (the silver ones with the belt that clips the two legs together at the knee). Did anybody not point this out to him?

Listen, considering some of classic little numbers we’ve sported over the years, I doubt any of us were in any kind of position to be making judgements about anyone else. Memorable combinations include Dave’s ‘Master and Servant’ ‘man at C & A’ jacket and the most monstrous mullet in the history of synth-pop’ and my oxblood red leather trouser suit with the Spandau Ballet lacing up the front ……by the way, I donated it as a prize for some competition in the Bong magazine back in about 1994 – anyone know who won it? Talking of clothes reminds me of my favourite Mode review from back in the early 80’s when the journalist in question pontificated that success could well be achieved for the group simply by pointing us all in the direction of a decent tailor. Headline: “Posh clobber could clinch it for Mode”.

Aside from the original ‘Singles 81-85’, what was the worst cover art or t-shirt DM or Recoil have produced?

The ‘SOFAD’ album cover.

On the cover of the ‘Personal Jesus’ single, was it the same girl with all 4 of you or 4 different girls?

The same girl.

I read in the DM biography, a critic having a very unfair attitude regarding Anton’s work for the band. Did you see him as really innovative or as someone always using the same tricks?

That ‘critic’ doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I always valued Anton’s contribution. His style is very familiar but I wouldn’t call it a bag of tricks, just a little Dutch 😉

I was wondering how long it took to make your hair “just perfect” for the videos ‘Master and Servant’ and ‘Everything Counts’? By the way, I love these 2 videos very much! How old were you then?

HOT HAIR (circa 1983/4)

You will need:

1 STUPID PRATT (preferably aged – about 22 should do it)
1 LARGE MIRROR (doctored to look as flattering as possible)
1 HEAD OF STRAGGLY, UNKEMPT HAIR (do NOT wash thoroughly)
HOVIS BREAD (1 loaf)

Take stupid pratt and stand for half an hour in front of a large mirror. Start by coating straggly hair thoroughly with both tubes of full hold hair gel, being careful to ensure sideburns are not missed. Using comb, scoop upwards to resemble loaf of bread and immediately cover LIBERALLY with hair spray (remembering to save some for the garnish). DO NOT MOVE UNTIL SET. Next, ignore the fact that everyone’s saying “Look at that stupid pratt who looks like he’s got a loaf of bread on his head” and place firmly in an equally badly dressed and follically-disasterous 80’s pop band. Finally, add one more spray of Elnette and serve immediately to gaggle of teenage girls who’ll tell him he looks great……

Can you shed some light on the career of your DM hairdo’s? It seems like you’ve been through a whole bunch of styles. What would motivate you to cut it, grow it, etc.? I noticed from watching videos and stuff that you had some pretty damn long hair during the ‘Violator’ era. Just how much Crisco did you mash into your mane (it did look awfully sharp!)? How on earth did you keep your greasy locks out of your face while performing under the hot lights? Especially when you wore leather on stage – how on earth did you NOT sweat to the point where your quiff sags into a miserable mess? And, have you ever put your hair in a pony tail?

I can honestly say that I have never sported a pony tail and I intend to live out the rest of my life with that record intact (unless I am required to live in a trailer park in Alabama). However, I have grown the odd loaf of bread (Hovis-style) which, rather worryingly, seemed to spark off a whole generation of disaffected German ‘loaf heads’ around 1984. The shocking red was henna – sort of like putting cow dung on your bonce for an entire evening – and seemed perfectly acceptable in the light of punk, new wave and multicoloured vinyl. There has also been the ‘I can’t grow sideburns but I’d really like to look like a rocker’ greasy quiff and ‘strangly bits by the side of the ears’ look, as well as the ‘Happy Mondays / Paul Weller can’t be bothered’ centre parting disaster. I finally settled on the ‘manageable, sensible close crop’ which I’ve been consistently recycling for the last 7 years or so. Products that have been close to my heart: ‘Elnett’ super extra strength hairspray, ‘Stu,Stu,Stu,Studioline’ gel, Black & White wax……

Do you have any idea if Anton Corbijn sells any of his photographic originals or prints? I’ve spoken to Richard Bell at State and he wasn’t much help. Is there any way to contact the ‘mad dutchman’ himself?

I don’t think Anton’s e-mailed up and I don’t make a habit of passing on private phone numbers, but State Films should be able to tell you. I’m pretty sure that Anton does sell selected prints of his work. I know he marketed a collection of his more famous pictures a few years ago but maybe it was only a limited edition. You could also check: <>.

Why was a Russian map used as a background for the cover of ‘Never Let Me Down’? Was there any special meaning or was it just rather popular at the time to use something Russian (perestroika, Gorbachev etc.)?

Nothing to do with me. It was Martyn Atkins’ idea.

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 remember where the b/w cover photo of ‘People Are People’ compilation album was shot?

Not exactly. Somewhere in the dockland area of London, I think.