Depeche Mode are currently holed up in a studio in sunniest California working on their new album. During an interview to talk about ‘The Light The Dead See’, Dave Gahan’s collaboration with Soulsavers, I asked him a few questions about the new album, and how it’s coming along.
Depeche Mode are now into their fourth decade together as a band, though it’s a band that have transformed themselves hugely throughout the years. “We’ve been through so much. My band has been through everything together for thirty years. It’s the one relationship weirdly enough that’s survived,” he cackles. “I think it’s because we have an understanding, myself, Martin and Fletch, We’re like brothers. We have the same quibble fights and the same crap going on that we’ve had for years. It’s definitely a sort of family relationship.”
Turning to the new Depeche Mode album, it’s clear that the process of recording with Soulsavers is helping Gahan in the studio. “It’s definitely given me a lot of food for thought going into another project with Depeche Mode. It’s definitely fed me ideas. I definitely took a lot from what I did with Soulsavers,” he says, going on to explain that they are trying to allow some of the flaws and imperfections space to breathe. “We don’t want to beat the vocals into the ground like we beat the music, where we’ll go over and over and over things with the music. We’ll do different interpretations of songs because with electronics there’s a lot you can do. It’s not like a band jamming together. I come from this corner of the ring where it’s like, don’t fuck with my vocals,” he laughs. “They are what they are. There’s a part of what I’ve learned from Soulsavers that if there’s a few dodgy bits here and there, but you’ve got a great performance, then don’t mess with it. I want to try and keep it so the record’s got a bit more of a rawness about it. Just because it’s another electronic record doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a certain edge to it. That’s what we’re getting with this. That’s what’s exciting with the Depeche record. We’re definitely going down that road, where we’ve got a lot more bluesy influence on it, and we’re trying to retain that more in the recording and not get too over-fussed about details.”
If ‘The Light The Dead See’ has a reference point in the Depeche Mode back catalogue, it would have to be ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’, the 1993 album that saw the band moving in more of a rock direction, though balanced out by subtle use of strings and gospel harmonies. That soulfulness is something that Gahan insists will shine through on the new album. He talks about tracks that sound similar to the the stirring ‘Condemnation’ from that album, but also about a sense of trying to incorporate something more blues-oriented. “I wouldn’t dare to say that this is a blues record,” he insists, “but it’s definitely influenced by the blues and at the same time underlined with a lot of hope within the music, and also lyrically. We get stuck in our ways a bit. I push all the time, much to the annoyance of the other guys sometimes, to keep things as raw as possible. They get a little bit afraid of that, in case we’re all gonna get judged. You’ve kinda got to let go of that. Yes, you are going to get judged, but I’d rather get really shitty reviews than mediocre reviews. I’d rather hear people saying ‘what the fuck’s going on with the band?’ than just “‘yeah, hmmm, it’s an okay record'”.
Gahan advises that the album will probably surface in the spring of 2013, and that the band are trying to get a couple of tracks out before the release, with a possibility of something coming out toward the end of this year. “We’ve recorded probably close to twenty songs so far, and they’re all starting to get in pretty good shape. We’re now starting to whittle that down what’s gonna be the record.”
With Depeche Mode now effectively out of their label, I ask Gahan whether Daniel Miller, whose Mute label released all of the band’s albums in the UK, has been involved in the record. “Daniel’s coming into the studio next week”, he tells me. “We’re not signed to anybody. Daniel of course would love to put this record out on Mute again and of course we’d love that to happen. There’s a number of different ideas on the floor that we’re considering. We go in, we pay for the record, we record it. We’re not asking anybody for any money. We don’t want to have anybody breathing down our necks and we’re lucky to be able to do that. But I would say that whatever happens, Daniel’s definitely involved all the way.”
Somewhat inevitably, Gahan tells me that Depeche Mode will tour the next record, taking them on the road again from some time next year. “We’re doing some great work and I’m really excited about performing these songs,” he gushes. I ask him if the idea of being on the road for such a long time bothers him. “It’s a big thing. It’s a plan that you make for the next few years. It’s not going to be over until the summer of 2014,” he laughs, a slight sense of disbelief creeping in. “That kind of blows me away a bit when I start to think about that. But going on the road and performing is a fantastic thing. It’s entertainment. That’s what we do, and we try and entertain people with the work that we’ve done, and the music that we’ve made. For me, the one place where I feel like music is still the one thing that ties people together somehow, where people can come together from all different religions, walks of life, colours, creeds and enjoy the same song – that’s still the most incredible thing to me about performing live.”
Words by Mat Smith