Things Must Change
SEE YOU - released January 29, 1982
"Vince splits, world gasps, Depeche Mode fade, No? No!"
Melody Maker, 30th January, 1982
"Light years ahead of the rest. Listening to this you can hardly believe that – even a year back – the mention of "synthesised pop" conjured up images of doomy one-dimensional treks to the space-lab in even the most light-hearted of listeners. "See You" sounds warm, colourful and surprisingly durable and even has a few Beach Boys harmonies thrown in. If it doesn’t make Number One, I’ll write and complain."
Smash Hits, 21st January-3rd February, 1982
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
"Their last single was trying and now this is insipid."
New Musical Express, 30th January, 1982
Smash Hits 'See You' lyric sheet
A CLEAN BREAK
by Mark Ellen
Smash Hits, 21st January - 3rd February 1982
"It’s a Him And Us situation," according to Depeche Mode. The Him (songwriter Vince Clarke) has gone off on his own. The Us (Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher) fearlessly face the future.
Mark Ellen buys omelettes and alcohol. Eric Watson provides the longer-lasting snap.
"I never expected the band to be this successful. I didn’t feel happy. Or contented. Or fulfilled. And that’s why I left."
Vince Clarke prods at an almost forgotten chicken omelette and then resumes his tale of woe.
"All the things that come with success had suddenly become more important than the music. We used to get letters from fans saying: "I really like your songs"; then we got letters saying: "Where do you buy your trousers from?" Where do you go from there? There was never enough time to do anything," he adds, mournfully. "Not with all the interviews and photo sessions."
The obvious reaction to all this would seem to be: what did he expect? By way of reply, Vince embarks on a succession of old music biz chestnuts about "wanting more control" and wanting to "keep playing small venues", the kind of things The Police were always rabbiting on about ’til they found they could fill Wembley Arena three nights running.
The reason’s obvious. When the time came to cross that crucial bridge between Basildon cult heroes and British public property, Vince simply decided he wasn’t the man for the job after all. And left. Contrary to the statement by Mute Records, he won’t even contribute songs anymore.
He’s now devoting his time to recording with a 20-year-old blues singer called Genevieve Alison Moyet in their new electronic duo named Yazoo.
"I met her," he recalls, wistfully, "as she floated ashore on a boat from Afghanistan, heard her singing and formed the band…"
I’m not so sure about this.
"Oh, alright then – she comes from Basildon," he grins.
If it’s any help, the rest of the band call her "Alf".
Success, on the other hand, seems to settle on the three remaining sets of shoulders with all the ease of a tailor-made suit. They’re just off for a brief club tour of the States, their LP’s just charted there before even being officially released, they’ve signed distribution deals just about everywhere bar Japan, they’ve a new UK single out – "the band’s best ever", Vince modestly claims – they’ve secured his replacement, Alan Wilde [sic], for stage work, they haven’t got a single day’s holiday in the next five months and – frankly – they’re loving it. Who’s complaining?
Over a couple of glasses of lager in a pub in South London, they don’t appear to regard those early amateurish days in the band’s career with quite the same nostalgia as Vince: "Remember when the ‘light show’ was one neon bulb in a wooden box?" Peals of laughter rise above the blaring juke-box.
A mention of Vince’s departure and silence is swiftly restored. "There’s a bit of a block between us … It’s a Him And Us situation".
It soon transpires that they’ve seen or heard little of the errant Vince since he opted to leave at the close of the last British tour. Even that was after a European tour on which he’d tended to "sit up the front of the van, saying nothing". Noting these early warning signs, Martin began to take on the lion’s share of the song-writing which, Andy claims, "has brought us together much more as a band. Before we used to rely on Vince; now we’ve got to try a lot harder. And it’ll be different," he adds. "Martin writes music around his words, whereas Vince used to write the tunes first and then fit the lyrics to them."
No bad thing, I suggest. After all, the words to "New Life" were a little on the ‘twee’ side.
Andy can’t suppress a smile. "Words," he declares, "were never Vince’s strong point. As a matter of fact, we were sometimes quite, er, embarrassed by his stuff! We didn’t understand a lot of his songs. He’d never tell us what they were about!"
"I remember," says Dave, with a distinctly pained expression, "walking through town in Basildon one night and I saw these two girls following along behind me. I knew they’d recognised me. And they start singing, y’know, (high-pitched squeak) ‘I stand still stepping on a shady street’. And I start walking a bit faster," he laughs, "turns me collar up like this! And then… (wails) ‘And I watch that man to a stranger.’ And I’m thinking: ‘oh no, this is embarrassing! Do they understand these lyrics?! Perhaps they do and we don’t!"
"After ‘New Life’," Andy takes over, "a lot of people thought Depeche Mode were ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’ and everything, and we wanted to show them we could be a lot of other things as well. On the new B-side, "Reason To Be", we tried to …" pause while they all burst out laughing again … "we tried to sound … really…mean! Didn’t work though," he admits.
Perhaps part of the blame for the band’s slightly self-conscious image could be placed on their lack of on-stage visuals. Rocketed from virtual obscurity to three fair-sized hit singles in a matter of months, they readily admit they hadn’t had the time to adjust the live act accordingly. One minute, Croc’s in Basildon; the next, the Lyceum Ballroom in London. Six times as big and no way to fill up the vast empty space behind them. No film, no slides, no backdrops. A couple of straw hats, a few suits and that was your lot. It speaks reams for the quality of their music that they still set the whole place on its feet.
"Better than fifteen months ago," says Dave defiantly. "You should have seen us then! Andy used to wear these plus-fours, football socks and slippers. It was so funny!" He waves an arm to silence the protesting Andy. "And Martin had half his face painted white. And Vince looked like this Vietnam refugee – he’d tanned his face, had black hair and a headband!"
"We’ve had loads of ideas since then, but ended up using none of them. One idea was to have these drum majorettes on stage. Another was to have someone up top operating these life-sized puppets. The thing is," he points out, faced with the eternal problem that tends to afflict motionless synthesiser bands, "you can’t have films and slides and things like that because it’s all been done before and people’ll say: ‘oh it’s not as good as The Human League’ or whoever!"
Still, nothing’s proved quite as strenuous as shaking off the dreaded "New Romantic" tag. Dave puts it this way: "Obviously the sort of people who buy Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet records might buy ours as well, but I think we’re in a slightly different market. A slightly older market. There’s not so many New Romantics in our audience as there used to be. Not so many frilly shirts. I mean we’ve done about thirty interviews – mostly in Europe – where they say (hack German accent): ‘are you zese Bleetz Keedz [Blitz Kids] please?’ Or ‘Are you zis Futurist scene?’ and getting the cameras to focus on my ‘nose earring’ as they call it. And all we can do is deny it and then they go and print this right next to these awful photos of us in frilly shirts! That was from the first photo session we ever had done and they were so bad! They keep turning up all over the place."
"That," asserts Martin, "is why we’ll never be like Duran Duran. ’Cos our photos are so awful!"
These minor hurdles aside, they’re doing alright for a band who agree they were "in the right place at the right time," though Andy’s approaching the new year with caution.
"We realise 1982’s the most important year for us. We either establish ourselves or go to pot. What do I hope I’ll achieve?" he ponders. "A couple more hit singles in the bag and a copy of the album that doesn’t jump."
"We just want our fans to stay with us," Dave decides. "Because we’ll deliver the goods, don’t you worry. Here… that might get into ‘Quotes Of The Year’ next Christmas!"
Well, ‘Quotes Of January’ at very least.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
NO TIME TO EVEN THINK
by Mike Stand
New Sounds New Styles, March 1982
Mike Stand meets Britain’s brightest, youngest, most successful independent popsters to discuss Vince, fame, songwriting, money and flexible response under stress.
Photography by Iain McKell
"Hello Martin," I said to the spikey redhead peering round the door.
"Andy," said Andy, smiling nonetheless.
I abandoned the cup of well-stewed tea I’d been contemplating while I waited for Depeche Mode’s return from some location snaps and we walked round the corner to Iain McKell’s studio to do some fast talking before they caught the 5.30 from Fenchurch Street home to Basildon to watch themselves at 6.30 on Southern TV (which you can’t pick up in London). Timetables and schedules are a big part of their lives these days.
Andy Fletcher muttered on a bit about how difficult it had been not to look Bleak and Industrial, the loathed antitheses of Depeche’s Mode, while posing around the scruffy old district of Shoreditch – and at the same time how difficult it was to smile naturally.
Then, in the Depeche East of London twang, he asked, "Are you going to talk to Vince too?" and the interview had begun. Very direct in their mild way, these Depeches. They let you know what’s on their minds.
Vince was the blond one with the face that came out all white in pictures – no lines, no shadows, a spectral presence – to the camera’s eye, he all but disappeared. An appealing symbol. I suggested to the others that their former colleague might be shaping up as another Syd Barrett.
"Who?" they said, and having exposed my generation gap I shan’t trouble you with a lengthy history of Pink Floyd either.
Well then, to abstract it, wouldn’t they agree that young Vince is an intriguing enigma? "No, he ain’t that interesting," said Andy and oddly enough he didn’t seem to mean it as a put-down. Martin Gore tried to enlarge, "He presents you with riddles, things you can’t explain."
Andy: "The impression he likes to give is that no-one knows him."
Dave Gahan: "We thought we knew him, but we discovered we didn’t."
So you see Vince isn’t an enigma, it’s just that nobody understands him. Take one of those blonded-out photos of him, paint it over in gray and the colourful truth will emerge (a riddle).
The news stories said that Vince had quit because he didn’t like the single/album/tour business process, but that he would continue to write for the band. As you might imagine, that doesn’t tell it all from the other three’s point of view.
Andy: "Vince always wanted to do a lot in the studio and the rest of us would feel restricted. If we had an idea we’d be frightened to say anything."
"No, not frightened," Dave insisted. "We were uncomfortable."
Presumably Vince was uncomfortable too when the responsibility of achievement in writing the three escalating Depeche hits – and all of "Speak And Spell" apart from "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Big Muff" – bore down on him. He became a "recluse" within the group, they say. They anticipated his leaving and prepared for it some six weeks before he told them, so the effect wasn’t as devastating as outsiders might have thought.
I said it was nice that he’d done the honourable thing by staying on until the end of their last national tour, but they were ready with another shade of grey: Vince had been promoting his own publishing royalties on the LP too.
Dave, Andy and Martin accept that they have "a lot to prove" in absence of Vince and they have set about providing the evidence. Exhibit A is four tracks written by Martin and leading off with Depeche’s new single, "See You", which should be on the airwaves as you read nsnS.
Martin – he of the face so gentle that snowbound farmers could employ him to melt the blizzard and save their flocks – thought the difference wouldn’t be noticed so much in the sound as in the lyrics. "Vince was more interested in the flow of the words and rhymes than in the meaning," he said. "I care a lot about what I’m saying. If I had a good tune and I didn’t like the lyrics, I’d drop the song."
Quietly expressed, but an astonishing priority for a popster. Seeking a soupcon sample of what he was on about I asked for a quote or two: "The middle eight goes ‘Well I know that five years is a long time and that times change/But I think you’ll find people are basically the same’." I think I looked blank and the other two urged him to give me more. They could see it wouldn’t mean a light to me or anyone else as it stood, but Martin refused.
"It’s good," he said. "Serious. But funny. I like it because those words aren’t used much in songs. It’s just the things people say. I can’t tell the story behind it. It’s private. I wrote it when I was 18."
So we didn’t get anywhere on that one. However, it was clear that Martin had earned quite enough of their faith to shuffle Vince down the composers’ queue despite earlier announcements.
Martin: "We don’t have any contact with him now except through other people. He may be writing for us, we don’t know. We have to treat him as "another songwriter" now."
For his part Vince has amiably sent a message through that he thinks "See You" is the best single Depeche Mode have ever done. It’s assumed that he’s working on his own Mute debut featuring a lady R&B singer from Basildon called Alf. Very likely his association with the group is over.
On stage only, for the present, their new man is Alan Wilder of Hampstead. They say he’s a good musician, though they’re not certain that’s what they needed. He played his first gig at the old Modish haunt Rayleigh Crocs in January and was somewhat shaken by the mayhem surrounding Depeche as crushed kids in the front row were plucked out of their very shoes to save them from severe damage.
Of course, Alan will only experience the second phase of fame. For the others the helter-skelter force of change can’t be overlooked and mostly they don’t like what they see. There is the possibility that they will never be happier than they were last summer travelling to gigs on the train with their synthesisers tucked underneath their arms and making a decent living out of £250 a night including all their costs. Now they are big business.
Having settled for Daniel Miller’s offer of a 50/50 profit-sharing deal rather than the massive advance/low royalty set-up the major labels stick to, they are taking home cheques for thousands of pounds earned by their hits. But expenses have multiplied so that cash doesn’t burden their pockets for long. For instance, they were guaranteed £22,000 for their 10-date February British tour (more, now that Hammersmith Odeon has sold out giving them £5,000 for one show) – and they’d spent every penny on equipment, lights, travel and hotels before they set one foot on "the road". It’s a far cry, etc…
And they regret:
How their audience has ceased to listen. "Even when you make a lot of mistakes and think you’ve been terrible they don’t seem to care," said Andy. "They don’t come up and say ‘Great gig’ any more either. The music aspect has gone. At Crocs they didn’t even clap for us to come back, just stood there and waited. All they want to do is watch you. We’ve become an event."
And these days their faithful "Basildon Patriots" whoop it up for them as if they were a soccer team. Not really the Depeche style, grateful as the band are for their support.
That they’ve lost their "portability" which often saw them taking the same train home as their fans. No more bug-eyed recognition and "Cor blimey, it’s them!"
That time is tight. Martin: "Last summer we could sort things out from week to week. It’s horrible now to look in your diary and see that every day for the next six months is planned." Andy: "No time to even think! What’s happened is we’ve become more and more busy and less and less involved with all the small decisions which affect us. When you’ve got enough money you end up giving it to someone else and saying ‘Do this for us’."
That their independent-label idea has been compromised by their international deals – especially a five-album contract in America with Sire, a branch of Warners. It’s true that there isn’t a nationwide Indie distribution network over there, so their options were to take it or leave it. But every complication seems to weaken the band’s position as people, although it may strengthen Depeche Mode as a brand name. Sharp as they are, they’re beginning to get confused.
Dave: "We still haven’t signed a formal contract with Mute."
Martin: "I think we did when we accepted the deal with Sire through Mute."
Dave: "No, we didn’t. Did we?"
Andy: "This sort of thing is what we used to be really up on!"
As former bank and insurance clerks respectively neither Martin nor Andy are daft about figures, but it’s all well outside their range now. They have to place their complete trust in Mute boss Daniel Miller and their publisher, Rod Buckle of Sonet. Only those two weathered backwoodmen stand between them and the wolf pack.
With slightly forlorn humour they spoke about putting their money into something more permanent, namely houses. Andy: "It’s the sensible thing to do isn’t it?" Martin: "Everybody advises us to do it – publishers, accountants – and who are we to argue? We’re only 20."
They laughed heartily, just to remind all concerned that success isn’t a total downer. It’s no wonder the hard-bitten burghers (hold the relish) of the music press have been so smitten with them, regarding Depeche with the same simple enthusiasm as their most doting fans.
"Hardly a bad write-up," said Andy almost ruefully. "We’re always ‘cuddly’. They don’t take us as intelligent at all. They fix on our ‘naïve charm’. We’re not treated seriously." Hang about though, are you sure you want to be?
"Dunno really," he said finally.
The paradox is that by such open uncertainty they only increase their reputation for candour, charm, cuddliness and so on. For example, as a little journalistic provocation I told them that because they’re only 20 it’s automatically assumed they haven’t "lived" and Andy said: "We haven’t! We haven’t experienced much of life. We haven’t travelled much outside Basildon. It’s weird meeting these people in the business who are older than us and have all their stories to tell. I’m just starting to live now, through being in a band."
If there were momentous incidents in their youth they aren’t telling. The highlights seem to have been Andy and Vince’s annual pilgrimages to the Greenbelt Christian youth festival, usually with Cliff Richard topping the bill. Then they came of age to drink and the pub became the focus of their spiritual life. Meanwhile Martin was passing his A-levels, but turning down the chance to go to university because he didn’t feel ready to leave home.
Considering their seven-league strides in recent months it’s barely credible that their steps should have been so halting and timorous only a couple of years ago while they apparently prepared themselves for careers of mundane boredom mildly alleviated by moderate intakes of alcohol. But now it’s that domestic stability they’re having to struggle for.
No problem about staying on at their parents’ council houses, but Dave and Martin’s girlfriends, Jo and Anne, have borne the social brunt of Depeche’s violent change of status.
Dave: "It’s pretty hard for them. They see girls coming up to us all the time after gigs. Jo used to feel very uncomfortable with the rest of the band too, as if she was in the way. We thought it might split us up and we decided we had to do something about it."
Jo gave up her job as a nurse to share running the fan club with Anne, who’d just left school. They go on tour too, very rare for band girlfriends, and help with the inevitable "merchandising". For Depeche it’s a flexible response under stress, the sort of thing which hopefully will preserve them intact amid all the business machinations.
Although we closed on this rather personal topic, my last impression is of the strange setting in which we finished the interview, rather than what was being said. We were on the train to Basildon, talking across the aisle between the briefcases and brollies of sardined commuters. Gradually silence fell, as it tends to among British travellers, and there we were, our conversation naked to every ear.
Well, imagine hearing Parkinson doing a celebrity chat-up on your bus to work in the morning – the cogs of reality screeched!
Even my old-pro brain seized up so that all I could hear was the other passengers listening. But Dave Gahan talked on, easy and unselfconscious, not even lowering his voice, perfectly composed. Perhaps that naturalness is the crucial quality Depeche Mode have going for them. Now I understand why features about them start or end by calling them "the band it’s impossible to dislike". But I wouldn’t dream of concluding on such a cliché, so I added another sentence.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photos by Iain McKell reproduced without permission.
THE MEANING OF LOVE - released April 26, 1982
"Full of the joys of spring."
Mercury and Herald, 6th May, 1982
"The lead melody line is musically identical to their last hit."
Valac Van De Veen
Sounds, 8th May, 1982
"Elegant. When Vince Clarke left, it seemed Depeche Mode would be without a melody maker but 'See You' proved otherwise. This confirms that and is nearly perfect, as damn near perfect as a record can be. I too have pondered upon the meaning of love. Have you? David Gahan's in an academic mood on this one and yet still can't find a solution. Brilliant disc, what else is there to say except truly scrumptious."
Smash Hits, 29th April, 1982
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
By the time of this single's release Depeche Mode had already been profiled in Record Collector. Click here to read this item
"Some people think you're cute, but other people think you're slightly vile..."
It’s difficult to know what to expect from Depeche Mode. Last year they were a four-piece band of serious young men making happy pop records. Now they’re three happy people making more serious records!
If you’ve seen them on TV you will probably have noticed a change in the line-up. Vince Clarke, the very quiet member of the band who wrote their first three hits, left earlier this year. So that’s why Depeche Mode are now a three-piece band. However if you’ve seen them you will have still counted four. That’s because they’ve drafted in Alan Wilder for live and TV appearances. But in the studio, and therefore on record, Depeche Mode are Dave Gahan, Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore.
It all seems a bit confusing, so in their studio, a converted church near London Bridge would you believe, we asked the full-time Depeches to clear things up a little.
First of all, what about Vince’s departure? Dave explained what had happened. "When we did our European tour he just sat in the front of the van and didn’t talk. He only spoke when he was spoken to.
"We knew he wanted to leave a while before that. Then when we came back, he came round all of our houses and just said he wanted to leave. He didn’t like touring or the way Depeche Mode were becoming public property.
"He just wanted to do things on his own, but he could have done that anyway, that’s what I don’t understand. He could have done something and still been in Depeche Mode."
"But when would he have had the time?" chipped in Mart (as the others call him). "He wouldn’t have had any time this year to do anything." So it looks as though he probably wouldn’t have had any time to give to his current group Yazoo.
Vince wrote most of Depeche’s songs so his departure could have meant the end of the road for the band. "It put us out on a limb really, but luckily we thought he was going to leave a few months before he did so we’d been planning, sort of thing. He’d been getting more distant from the group," said Andy.
Martin Gore had written two tracks for their debut album Speak And Spell so he took over and wrote the smash hit See You and their latest single The Meaning Of Love.
"We weren’t worried about Mart’s song writing capabilities," said Dave. "In a way it was less poppy," said Mart. "There was quite a long gap between Just Can’t Get Enough and See You, and we didn’t release a single with the album," commented Andy. "We were just generally worried!" joked Dave.
No one could deny that Mart is now a successful songwriter, but he’s very modest about it. He told us how he sets about it. "My style of writing has changed since I started writing more seriously. I’ve always written songs, but I don’t really keep to the format. Sometimes I write the words first, sometimes the music, sometimes both together.
"I have to lock myself away. The thing is a lot of ideas I come up with are embarrassing so you have to be on your own when you come up with them!"
It could seem unfair that the responsibility for writing hit material should lie solely with Mart. What about Dave and Andy?
"Sometimes I think of a tune in my head. But I can never remember it the next day," said Dave. "I always try," said Andy defensively. "It’s hard for me, I’ve never really written before and I’d have to come up with a song that’s possibly going to go in the English top ten or something. It might take me years to get up to that writing ability.
"I can’t write any lyrics at all. They just sound stupid: I couldn’t imagine anyone singing them. My opening line to every song is ‘I was walking down the road the other day.’ Imagine that as the opening line to a musical, it would really set people alight!"
The New Boy
Apart from songwriting, Vince’s departure left another hole in the band: it is filled by Alan Wilder. "At the moment he’s a live session man. He just plays live for us, not in the studio, but that might change," said Andy.
"I don’t think it’s right really, not yet, it’s just like someone jumping in after you’ve been together for two years. And if he came in the studio now it would be hard for him to fit in," added Dave. "Especially when we’re doing things like finishing off tracks," confirmed Andy.
But there will be plenty of work for Alan. Depeche Mode are off to promote their first single in America with a tour and there are numerous appearances to be made on TV in this country to promote The Meaning Of Love.
Despite all the weird and wonderful things that have happened to them, Depeche Mode aren’t letting success go to their heads. In fact, some fans stop them getting too big headed. Andy explained: "A lot of people might like us, but a lot of other people really dislike us. They think we’re vile."
"Vile? That’s a bit strong! I’ve never heard that one!" chortled Dave. "A girl came up to us once and said, ‘Some people think you’re cute, but some people think you’re slightly vile," said Andy.
And while we’re on the subject of critics, let’s not forget the Depeche Mums.
"Oh yes, my mum still listens to our work," said Dave. "We recorded a slow track, more like See You. I played it to my mum and she said, ‘I like it, love, but I don’t think you should have it as the next single. It’s a bit too slow."
"Andy’s mum’s description was the best," said Mart. "What was it? She said she liked it but that it was like an Egyptian death march!"
"Mart’s mum is a heavy critic," Andy retorted. "She doesn’t like any of it, she likes Motorhead!" Mart joked.
They all fell about laughing at the thought of Mart’s mum as a rocker. So you can see there’s no need to worry about these Basildon boys. Maybe they did lose their songwriter, get called vile by their fans and their mums don’t like some of their work. But despite all that they’re a happy bunch. And successful too: The Meaning Of Love proves it!
Look In, 22nd May 1982
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
by Simon Tebbutt
Record Mirror, 21st August 1982
Simon Tebbutt makes the right connections with electro-pop cuties Depeche Mode
At last, I can exclusively reveal the truth about the famous Blancmange versus Depeche Mode swimming contest.
Blancmange won the battle but Depeche Mode won the war.
Mystified readers might recall last week’s Blancmange feature in this very rag where the electronic duo, who’ve been supporting Depeche Mode on tour, claimed to have beaten the Basildon boys fair and square during a swimming race in Jersey. Here’s the Mode side of the tale.
‘Nah, they didn’t win,’ they all scoff in unison. ‘Well, they won the swimming…’ ‘That was only because I got cramp,’ protests Andy Fletcher, the tall goodlooking one with the spiky fair hair.
‘No, you didn’t,’ corrects singer Dave Gahan, the almost as tall goodlooking one with the dark hair. ‘You just dived in and because everyone was in front of you thought, ah I’ve got cramp.
‘But after the swimming,’ he continues, ‘everyone was in the pool with dinghies. It was like an Armada, and we had a battle against Blancmange in which we had to try and turn each other over. We beat them loads of times.’
So now we know. But enough of these fripperies. Depeche Mode, now shrunk to a three piece since the departure of Vince Clarke to Yazoo type pastures, have been busy these past few months down in the depths of London Bridge with maestro Daniel Miller recording a new album and single in a studio that’s a converted church.
‘It’s a really strange place,’ says Dave. ‘There’s a statue of Christ on the cross that someone’s painted with blood outside in the garden. We had a load of photos down there, but none of those came out. It’s really weird.’
Curiouser and curiouser. Still that hasn’t stopped the lads taking the train down from Essex every morning and getting down to work. And after a hearty and affable, if somewhat greasy, breakfast in the café across the road, we settle down to the business of discussing exactly what they’ve been up to.
‘Well, we’ve done eight tracks now and we’re in the middle of the ninth with one more to go,’ explains Dave, who doubles up with Andy as band spokesman most of the time, while Martin Gore – that’s the slightly smaller one with the fluffy blonde hair who writes the songs – comes in when he feels he’s needed. ‘We’ve done the new single, ‘Leave In Silence’ which we’re very pleased with.’
‘It’s getting away from dance music,’ says Martin feeling needed. ‘It’s not that you can’t dance to it – it’s just that the charts are getting too dance orientated. Our publishers advise us to write dance hits. In America they tell us we won’t have a hit if we don’t do a dance number, because the only way they can break a record through there is through the discos.’
‘Whereas the stuff on the last album was Euro macho dance music really, beaty synthesizer music, this album’s a lot weightier. It’s got a lot more in it,’ Dave elaborates.
‘There are real extremes. We’ve only got working titles at the moment, ‘Meaning Of Love’, ‘Photo You’ and ‘You Shouldn’t Have Done That’, which is like a nursery rhyme, a folky old English song with four harmonies all working together. A bit of a monk’s chant.’
Nice clean lads, but not in the phoney Osmonds denture cream advertisement way. Depeche Mode don’t seem unduly affected by Vince Clarke’s departure. He penned last year’s smash ‘New Life’ before leaving.
When Depeche Mode tell you they’re happy for the success of his duo, Yazoo, you believe them.
‘We’re really pleased, especially for Alison,’ says Andy. ‘She’s got a great voice. Martin was at school with her and we’ve known her for ages. She’s been working hard for years. A long time before we started.’
‘I used to go and see her when she was in a band called the Vicars,’ says Dave. ‘They were a rhythm and blues punky band. And now she’s got the break she needed. We still see Vince quite a lot. He pops in when we’re recording.’
‘But we don’t go out with him,’ adds Martin. ‘We don’t get the time. We don’t go out with anybody.’
‘We don’t see main groups socially really,’ says Dave, ‘Soft Cell we see occasionally. And ABC. Steve tried to get me to go out with him and Marc one night. He said, Soft Cell and Depeche Mode have got this barrier. Come out with me and Marc. But I was too tired.’
‘Sometimes we wonder how bands do it,’ says Andy. ‘You read in all the gossip columns that so and so was seen here, there and everywhere. At the end of the day we feel whacked. We couldn’t go out. Even when we’re not recording, we’re rehearsing. We’ve lost a lot of friends that we used to go out with. You lose touch.
‘When we first started, it was our friends who helped a lot. We had a big local following. I think they still like us.’
‘You know who your real friends are though,’ adds Dave. ‘They haven’t changed from the beginning. You know when you talk to them and when you’re out with them, they don’t see you as a different person.
‘But then you get some of them who weren’t really your proper friends when you began and then they become your real big friends when you’re successful.’
‘I think there were about 10,000 people who used to go to school with you,’ Andy tells him.
‘Yeah, the class must have about 1,000 people in it according to some people,’ laughs Dave. ‘There were only 40. You think you’re going mad when people say they were at school with you and you can’t remember them.’
Ah, the price of fame that brings out not only the adulation in some, but the mindless aggression in others. Have Depeche Mode fallen foul to much of this?
‘People are quite friendly in Basildon,’ answers Dave, ‘but we’ve had a few hassles on the train,’ says Andy. ‘We had a big bunch of commuters. There was a bit of trouble with some bloke recently. But I don’t think he knew who we were. He just didn’t like the look of us.’
‘A lot of people are surprised to meet you on the train,’ says Andy. ‘We had a big bunch of kids jump in our carriage the other day and someone says ooh, it’s Depeche Mode and someone else says no, it isn’t. But they all get in and you have a nice chat.’
‘Recently we’ve had a lot of letters,’ says Dave. ‘At one point it seemed to be just girls, but now it’s evened out. Now we seem to be getting a lot of letters from blokes as well.’
"It’s a healthy sign really," adds Andy, "because we want to get away from the teenybop image."
"We’re growing up and we want our fans to grow up with us," says Dave.
Like most of their contemporaries, Depeche Mode started off firmly in the pretty boy pop tradition, but as the others develop a certain musical credibility, they obviously don’t want to become just pretty faces left behind. So if they pushed, where would they bracket themselves?
"It’s much better that people associate us with the Human League and Soft Cell rather than Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet," admits Dave. "I hope gradually people will stop associating us with others and we will get our own name and identity."
And that’s just what Depeche Mode are getting, if the sounds Daniel Miller has been twiddling around with in the studio while we’ve been talking are anything to go by. A new single and album followed by a nationwide tour in October, I predict a lease of new life for Depeche Mode in 1982.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
LEAVE IN SILENCE - released August 16, 1982
"A tower of glory. This pounds with atmosphere, creating a dramatic soundtrack for a film which is created in your minds eye."
Record Mirror, 21st August, 1982
"I've heard more melody coming out of Kenny Wheeler's arsehole."
Melody Maker, 21st August, 1982
Click here to read an interview with the group at the time of this single's release
The expanding market for music produced by synthesizer based bands has finally crossed the Atlantic. Following hits by Soft Cell and The Human League (who achieved No 1 with 'Don't You Want Me') such groups must be all contemplating making a trip in person. Depeche Mode, however, caught most of the others off guard and have already been on a short visit with isolated engagements [the US and Canada leg of the 'See You' tour, May 7-16, 1982 - BB]. We asked Dave how they were received.
"Very well actually. We were really surprised, the audiences were very attentive, nothing like England where they know the songs already. The gigs weren't too big - about the size of the average Lyceum gig or a bit smaller, but the atmosphere was great. I don't know if we were quite what they expected, we're about the first to go out there you know, out of the batch of electronic groups like Soft Cell and the others."
What about the records, how are they doing out there?
"The album was released about the same time as it was here, it went into the charts and hung about for a while [I assume Dave is referring to the 'Speak And Spell' LP - BB]... It sold quite well but never enough in one week to make it go very high. Now that Soft Cell have charted perhaps we might get another chance with the new stuff. We got lots of time on tele and on radio doing interviews and had pictures in the pop mags, so, promotionally it was well worth it, even though we only had two weeks out there."
Will you be going back?
"Hopefully, but I'm not greatly impressed musically by most things that come out of America - you know ... west coast rock and all that. But there are a lot of what they call 'New Wave' bands out there that are sort of electronic. As for general US rock I don't think much of it. I didn't really know if our sort of music would really do anything over there. To be honest I was very surprised the whole time we were out there."
Now that you are back and the single's in the charts what are your hopes and plans for the rest of the year?
"Well, the single ('Leave In Silence') is different you know, I think it will probably take a little longer to do anything than the previous singles. The last one went in too high anyway ... We're pretty busy rehearsing now 'cos we go on the road in October, about twenty dates, then we go to Germany and from there to Japan so it's pretty hectic at the moment. The Japan trip has really come out of the blue. We've never been before but we sell loads of records over there so we thought it would be best to go over there and do some gigs.
They've used our records on a couple of commercials there and that sort of thing. English music's really become big in Japan, even songs that die here tend to do well. The record market in that corner of the world is really healthy. We've got to go to Australia as well because both 'Just Can't Get Enough' and 'New Life' have been top ten hits."
Since their formation two and a half years ago in Basildon, Depeche Mode have been one of the premier electronic bands in the country. Why did they decide to make the kind of music they do, rather than use the conventional bass, lead, drum, vocal set up?
"Equipment was the biggest headache. We knew what kind of songs we wanted to play, but good equipment, amps and guitars and what have you, can set you back one thousand pounds or so. Synthesizers were just cheaper and less bulky, plus which you can plug them straight into the PA."
What do you think about the Music Unions attempts to ban the use of synthesizers?
"It's all a bit old fashioned really, isn't it? I can understand the ban, if someone like Barry Manilow changed his 30 piece orchestra for five synths. But when a band has become successful using synthesizers and they have never used anything else then no-one can realistically knock it because that's what's made them successful. People like Thomas Dolby or Kraftwerk for example."
Have you been influenced by any of the seminal synthesizer bands?
"Not really. Personally my favourite band is Simple Minds and I like David Bowie. I don't really think they influence us as such, you see, we've all got different tastes. For example, Martin likes Jonathan Richman, and Andy likes everything, like me. We don't listen to just one thing, we tend to switch about a lot - in the old days it was different, you know, all Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop - now we like listening to whatever's on the radio."
Having broken through in America and with a new album and single beginning to climb the charts we might have been excused for expecting Depeche Mode to pre-suppose success, but this could not be further from the truth. True to their clean, youthful image, they are wary of the pitfalls of nonchalance.
"As for the future we don't really know, I think it's best to let the public decide ... The highest chart single we've had got to number six. We've got a long time and loads of songs in us. It's dangerous getting to number one because it's happened to too many people. Once you get a number one it's very difficult to follow it up and very easy to disappear without a trace.
It's great that we're going to Japan because we are all ambitious and we're all looking forward to it enormously."
Dave appears very relaxed and confident, chatty and exuberant. What does he do in his spare time?
"Well, I've got a motorbike and I like riding around on that. I go fishing, or out with my friends to clubs in Southend."
And the others?
"Martin doesn't go out much. Andy likes to go out as much as he can but just with his mates up to the pub."
So socially you don't really mix?
No, I wouldn't say that, but we find it works much better if we're not in each others pockets all the time, especially after tours or being in the studio for months ... It's easy to split up for a week or two and come back refreshed and pleased to see each other."
Despite their youth, Depeche Mode are coping excellently with the pressure of near stardom and if Dave's attitude is anything to go by they will be excellently prepared when it finally arrives which, with their more romantic style of silicon-chip musicianship, should be assured.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Colour photo of the group by unknown photographer. Black and white photo by Eric Watson. Reproduced without permission.