2007-03-16 - Mute - Black Celebration Remaster
Typed out by me:
"The songs aren't good enough, there aren't any singles and it'll never get played on the radio"
Depeche Mode: 1985 - 86
Daniel Miller in 1985: April 1985, we're here in Hounslow, and we're doing a video for the new Depeche Mode single, Shake The Disease.
Andy Fletcher in 1985: Quite early in the morning for us. And I'm gonna be attempting to hit a crowbar sort of over here, sort of direction.
Alan Wilder in 1985: Well, good luck.
Andy Fletcher in 1985: Thank you.
Daniel Miller: I think it was felt that there had been a gap and we needed a single. And we didn't really want to wait for the next record, we didn't want to rush to the next record, so we thought we could put a single out, and Martin had a song.
Jacques Attali: You must understand that it was a time [where] they didn't want to take [a] rest. They were very young, still. So at 25 years old, you don't want to go for six months in [the] Bahamas after a tour, you wanna go back to the studio, record things, and that's quite normal.
Daniel Miller: I think they were on tour at the time, they took some time off from touring, and we went into Hansa and did that.
Alan Wilder: I think that there was always an idea that Shake The Disease could somehow appear on an album, but the timing was all wrong.
Martin Gore: I particularly like that track. We've been playing that one acoustically live on this tour and it's one of my favourites.
Dave Gahan: We were still doing that thing where it was always playing catch-up with the album, in between touring or whatever. Maybe sometimes, it was to support a tour.
Daryl Bamonte: I don't think Depeche have ever really been a festival band, but they did those gigs in 1985.
Andy Franks: Where did we play? We played at Torhout and Werchter.
Daryl Bamonte: Yeah. So that's the only time I remember doing festivals, yeah.
Andy Franks: But we did that one in Greece.
Daryl Bamonte: Athens.
Andy Franks: Yeah.
Daryl Bamonte: With the riot.
Andy Franks: With the riot.
Daryl Bamonte: It was 80.000 people and 120.000 turned up, the locals were communist ne'er-do-wells, and came down to stir things up and being agitated and were throwing bricks at the police, so the police were throwing them back, effectively rearming them.
Dave Gahan in 1985: "There's gonna be a revolu-u-tion." Pretty crazy, eh? Anarchy in Greece.
Daryl Bamonte: The Cure had come down to see our show, so Alan Wilder has got some brilliant footage of both bands in the back of a truck, with just silhouettes of them.
Andy Franks: Just hiding in there as the molotov cocktails were coming down.
Daryl Bamonte: Oh, yeah.
Andy Franks: One of the trucks caught fire.
Daryl Bamonte: That was the last festival we did, I think?
Andy Franks: That was really, enough, I think.
Daryl Bamonte: Yeah that was enough!
Andy Franks: When the first singles compilation album came out, that was probably seen as chance to just have a breather, because they had been working pretty solidly, haven't they? From 1980?
Daryl Bamonte: Yeah.
Andy Fletcher: We'd been looking to do it for a while and tried to fit it into the schedule, and so it seemed a natural place, it wasn't... Martin, at that time, hadn't dried up or anything.
Martin Gore: I think we felt that we had enough singles to put out a singles compilation, "So why don't we do it?"
Martyn Atkins: We'd kind of built up this mysterious, moody kind of, but hard-headed electronic band, and then Daniel wants to go ahead and do a kind of "TV advertised" record. On that project, I think Daniel probably had me on one side, saying one thing to him, and then he was kind of ignoring it and going to the band and saying, "We've done all this market research, we're spending all this money on TV and advertising. We gotta go with what, like, the research tells us. Because otherwise it's a waste of money and a waste of time doing a hits record."
Daniel Miller: Yeah, the market research suggested that we should use a picture of the band, and we discussed it, it was a discussion, it wasn't something that I said they had to do, but it was only when we discussed, and they agreed to that.
Martyn Atkins: So that's why that cover is kind of stand-alone. Did they sell more records then, incidentally? [laughs]
Neil Ferris: I was always worried that would be a point in time where people felt that the band were over, they're releasing a Greatest Hits, and they're calling it a day.
Martin Gore: Yeah, we got asked a lot around that time whether it was the end of the band or the end of a chapter.
Neil Ferris: We had so many meetings where we'd sit around the table: the band, Daniel, myself, the agent Dan Silver: We'd sit there and talk about it endlessly, saying, "What are we gonna do? If we put this album out, are we saying, "That's it" or are we saying-
Chris Carr: "This is how far we've come. We've come a lot further than a lot of people thought than we were going to come."
Alan Wilder: So the thinking probably was, "Right, we need a single to go with the Greatest Hits album, a new single to go with the Greatest Hits album". So that's why Shake The Disease probably went in with that. And then, It's Called A Heart didn't deserve to be on any album.
Alan Wilder in 1985: How is the video [It's Called A Heart] going then, Martin?
Martin Gore in 1985: It's going pretty well. It's quite late now, it's about 2 o'clock in the morning or so, and we're intending to go on till about 5, so everyone's a bit tired, especially after last night. But it's looking good, all the shots are good so far, and we're pretty pleased with it.
Martin Gore: We just didn't have a song that was good and suitable to go on that compilation at that time, and we ended up recording It's Called A Heart, which is probably my least favourite track that we ever released.
Alan Wilder in 1985: Anything to add, Fletch?
Andy Fletcher in 1985: He said it all.
Alan Wilder: I remember I was vehemently against it, because I felt it was really going backwards, it was so poppy and trite, and he had other songs that were much better, like Fly On The Windscreen, because that was the B-side. It was a much, much stronger song, and I tried to argue to get it flipped over to become the A-side, but I think the first word is "death", and Neil Ferris said "NO". And I was outvoted, really, but I wasn't happy about it, and I sulked for a long time.
Neil Ferris: Alan and I actually clashed quite a few times over things I wanted the band to do and he didn't feel was the right way to go, so by that time he was very much a part of the band and very vocal.
Martyn Aktins: I think the band, at that stage, weren't that bothered about it, because they just thought it was just a hits record, and I think Martin had bigger fish to fry, he knew that he was gonna be working on the new album and stuff and I think they just wanted to let that go.
Martin Gore: Whenever we decide to make a record, the prospect of ten to twelve good songs does seem like a mountain. I remember having arguments with Daniel and Neil, though. I actually just ran away for a week, because Daniel and Neil were trying to tell me that the songs weren't good enough, there weren't any singles, it would never get played on the radio.
Daniel Miller: That was pretty much well described. It was dark we didn't hear any hit singles on there, but I can't remember which were the first singles that he played us, to be honest. I remember them being quite low-key, dark, darker in some ways than the final tracks even. But, I know I kept saying to the band at the time, "Look, you should make the record you wanna make, but don't make one kind of record and expect a different kind of result." We had kind of those conversations quite a lot.
Martyn Atkins: I think Daniel was at that period where Depeche had got really successful, and he was kind of, like, second guessing how Depeche Mode could move to the next level.
Gareth Jones: It was at that time supposed to be the magnum opus of the Depeche catalogue so far. We were supposed to be scaling a yet higher peak.
Daniel Miller in 1985: Westside, November the first. Setting up Midi: what's a Midi?
Martin Gore in 1985: [corrects Daniel's pronunciation] MIDI.
Daniel Miller in 1985: Midi. There. Nice and lots of colourful Midi. Couches in a democratically elected position. Some claviers over there. Doesn't get Midi yet. Lots of drums in the next room, we're gonna sample some drums. Gareth Jones, back on the project, after a short sojourn. Welcome back, Gareth. Good to be back?
Gareth Jones in 1985: Delighted!
Gareth Jones: Based on Werner Herzog's filmmaking principle of dragging boats through the jungle and things, we had this idea with Black Celebration, or Daniel suggested the idea, that we should so-called "live the album", which meant we met every day in the studio and worked on the album from day 1 till the end of the mixing. I think, unusually, we had a proper meeting before we went into the studio where this was discussed, and everyone was kind of like... It wasn't exactly kind of like a blood oath, but everyone kind of committed to it and said "Okay, fair enough, that sounds like a weird and interesting idea: let's do it."
Daniel Miller in 1985: We're here till the end of December, just before Christmas. Basically, we've got to record all the tracks and we got to record and mix the single before then, and decide on all the artwork for the single before then. Hopefully we'll be well on the way for the album before that. It's quite a lot to do, it's 11 tracks including the B-side, plus the 12 inch, but fortunately everything's programmed, before it'll go worldwide internatiol, by the boys, and so we should no problems at all. Bye!
Gareth Jones: We were 120 days in the studio, at least 14 hours a day, if not longer, so it was very, very intense, kind of claustrophobic atmosphere, everyone was in each other's faces. It got quite stressy at times, but that was all part of the atmosphere we knowingly committed to up front. We didn't know what it was gonna be like, but we all commited to this kind of claustrophobic intensity before we made the album by saying "Yeah, let's do it, let's do it like that, then. Let's so-called "live the album"." So we had peaks and troughs emotionally in making it, more intense probably than on the other albums.
Andy Fletcher: Gareth obviously must have hated it so much, [that's why] he probably remembers it. [laughs]
Alan Wilder: There's an underlying darkness that you don't really hear in the previous albums. Some of that is from Daniel's broodiness, and some of it is from the general situation. Some of it is just from the songwriting. I mean, Black Celebration has that, and I think it's part of its strength.
Daniel Miller: I kind of wanted that feeling of not... I didn't want it to be casual and too easy-going, I think. I suppose that's one thing I tried to change, and I think it turned into a nightmare a bit because of that, but also I think it made the album better for it as well. Who knows? Who knows if they had gone off for tea every day, and had like a holiday after every 5 minutes, maybe it would have turned out exactly the same, I don't know. But it was definitely tension in the studio because of that.
Alan Wilder in 1985: Looking forward to the project?
Daniel Miller in 1985: Of course! Really looking forward to it. Looking forward to a few more grey hairs and a few less of them as well.
Daniel Miller: Yeah, by that time, sampling had kind of established itself much more in the market. When we did Construction Time Again, that was really new, everything was new, and it was very exciting, and virtually anything you sample and put on a record will be a new sound, but by then it was quite a common practice, so it was constantly pushing those boundaries.
Gareth Jones: The other concept was more reverb, because we had the idea that reverb and atmosphere were the same thing, so we figured that to make it more atmospheric, we could yet more reverb and different kinds of reverbs, and different kinds of atmospheres.
Alan Wilder: One of the first tracks we recorded, I think, was Stripped. And that just flowed, probably the only track on the album that did, and it was easy. And I think I have to give credit to Martin's demo, because recorded the demo using the opening sound to that, which is an Emulator sample of a motorbike, ideally. And we said, "Well, let's just replicate that in the studio", and everything else just followed. We recorded Dave's Porsche, if you're trying to be [specific], a Porsche, and we recorded its ignition, which starts the track.
Walter Farber: Ich hatte damals auch, bei dem ich auch Musik gemacht habe, hatte ich praktisch Porsche. Damals ware es noch möglich, da Auto zu fahren, also mit 200 [km/h] oder sache. Heute ist alles Verboten. Und es war einfach so dass die Jungs gesagt haben, "Wir haben später auch eine", und dass war kein Problem, und dann hatten sie auch ein! [Back then, I basically had just Porsches, of which I also made music. At that time it was still possible to drive with 200 kms/h, nowadays that's forbidden. And it was just that the guys told me, "We will have one in the future too", and that wasn't a problem for them, and then they bought one!]
Dave Gahan in 1986: Right, we're on the set for the video of Stripped, and we've just been demolishing a few cars on the snare beat. We wanted to get the image of the impact when the drums come in, like an explosion, in there. I think we pretty much got it - have a look! Dan's old Citroën.
Andy Fletcher: There was a sort of move by critics against electronic music. We had a real mission to prove to people that electronic music was a valid type of music, and really drove us on. Up to this time, we still haven't used a guitar, for instance, properly on a track, apart from And Then. We always use a guitar and then fucked it up.
Alan Wilder: The only one real rule was no guitars, but I don't think there's much, in a way, guitars on Stripped. The one, the very intro, I think, so...
Dave Gahan: The press made a big deal about it, but for us, it was just... We were always looking for a sound.
Gareth Jones: Fireworks on Stripped, as well, is another famous piece. Obviously, on November the 5th, it was.
Daniel Miller: It was rockets that we were doing, so we thought, if we angled them at a fairly low angle, we could set up a series of microphones and we would still be able to pick up the sound as it travelled along. If we straight up, we would have got just one sound, it would just have sort of disappeared, so we did that. We set up a sort of bottle at a very narrow angle and had, like, 5 microphones maybe, at, I don't know, 15 feet apart, something like that.
Alan Wilder in 1985: Anything to say, Jürgen?
Jürgen Kramar in 1985: Eh, I love the rhythm, it's hypnotic to me, it's really... There's some magic about the thing, which I really like from the start of, it starts off like a mystery thing, and then it gets into a rhythmic... That's what I really love about it. It's a change, and I think it's a great change. It's a damn good record. That's what I have to say.
Alan Wilder in 1985: Thank you.
Jürgen Kramar: Haha, not very wrong, but it kind of was a disappointment, obviously, if you couldn't reach into the top ten, top five. On the other hand, it always depended on what else was out on the market at that time, and you couldn't force it.
Dave Gahan: We'd be lying if I said we didn't get disappointed, when you really believe in something, but.. You know, in retrospect it's all... When you actually look at what else is in the charts at that time, in the top 40, to just be able to get in the top 15 was quite an achievement in itself.
Chris Carr: That was very funny, because I was certain that that would be a hit, I don't even know chartwise, but there was apprehension as to whether it would be accepted.
Gareth Jones: I mean, Stripped is not exactly an obvious, commercial [track]. It's not Just Can't Get Enough, is it? It's almost as far away from Just can't Get Enough as - obviously a different writer - the band could get.
Martin Gore: The worst thing about Stripped was the Americans who somehow decided to not release it at all and to put out the B-side But Not Tonight, because they got it in some dodgy film. I told you, Stripped took 9 days mixing and God knows how long recording, and But Not Tonight I think we did in about 3 hours. [laughs] And the Americans, in their wisdom, decided to release that instead.
Alan Wilder: Well that's a classic example of why we would have thought, "America is just a waste of space for us, we're just not suited to America, no one understands us." Because, if you've got people in our own record company suggesting to us that the B-side of Stripped is a better track than Stripped, then what do they know? And at the same time, we've agreed to it, which seems crazy, really, when you look back on it, but we were probably convinced that it was a waste of time that we probably would have said, "Let them do whatever they want. If that's what they want, let them do it, if they think they know better." I think that was always Daniel's argument, "Look, the Americans know their market: if they think that's what they want, who are we to argue with them?"
Dave Gahan: We went along with the idea, I'm not sure if it helped at all, to be honest.
Martin Gore: But Not Tonight wasn't a hit, so Stripped couldn't have done any worse.
Bruce Kirkland: There are some records that are just more conducive to the American market than others, and the American company were trying to go down another road.
Craig Kostich: Sometimes you're right, and sometimes you're wrong. Ultimately, we were always doing what we felt was right for the band. It wasn't this A&R guy or somebody sitting and saying, "I like this song better", it was... We didn't approach their singles like that - getting feedback back from radio, press, it influences the decisions on what to do from time to time, as well.
Daniel Miller: It was one of the few kind of compromising that we made. It don't think it created a guarded feeling, but it definitely reinforced it.
Dave Gahan: Occasionally, we would go along with somebody else's idea, and come back to our own way of working pretty quickly.
Daniel Miller: The B-side thing has changed over time. In the beginning, the very beginning, the Speak and Spell thing, they just had a whole load of songs, and we had to choose what should be A-sides and B-sides. Later on, they did their album, and then they wrote some B-sides.
Gareth Jones in 1985: There's three of them, two samples, one is a sample of Alan playing the Emulator -
Martin Gore in 1985: - One sample is just a [makes noise].
Unknown guy in 1985: And you overdubbed it?
Gareth Jones in 1985: No, it's all live, it's all done live, live on tape. Suddenly, they made it up in the studio.
Martin Gore in 1985: Recording the harmonica, though, it's a tuner, a guitar tuner.
Gareth Jones in 1985: Do you remember those old-fashioned guitar tuners that you blow in?
Unknown guy in 1985: Yeah, yeah, I know it!
Gareth Jones in 1985: Exactly, that's what it is.
Martin Gore in 1985: Who would have thought - I tell you an interesting fact here, Al: that tuner was left in my house by Mr. Lampitt, the previous owner. Who would have thought it would have turned up in a record like that? If he hadn't done it, we would have never had that track!
Gareth Jones in 1985: Thank you Mr. Lampitt!
Martin Gore in 1985: Yeah - Gore, Miller, Wilder, Lampitt.
Gareth Jones: All our B-sides, all Depeche's B-sides and all the B-sides that we made with Depeche were very important to us, though, there was never a sense in which a B-side was a throwaway, even though sometimes they were approached differently and made a bit faster. Sometimes we had like a quite refreshing philosophy where we would say, "You know what? This is a B-side, let's record and mix this song in a day", as opposed to spending a week or something on an album track. I remember doing that once or twice with Depeche and everyone being, like, hugely happy with the result, because it was such change to just go through it really fast and not consider it too much.
That's made by us, isn't it, Breathing In Fumes? I guess that's natural, as well, at that stage, we're partly moving away from just a simple extended version, I suppose, and trying to bring in an added dimension, perhaps inspired by Sherwood's work on the previous album, were you think, "Oh wait a minute, he came in and he changed it a lot, maybe we can change it a lot ourselves as well", although we didn't do it as radically as Sherwood would have done, but as you say, we pushed the envelope a bit more.
Gareth Jones in 1985: It's the 19th of November, and we just started A Question Of Lust.
Daniel Miller: Martin sings the songs which sound better with him singing, and it just so happened that there were four songs that all the band agreed should be on the album where it sounded better with Martin singing. A Question Of Lust was also the first non-Dave single the band released. I seem to remember it was a fairly big deal at the time, yeah. Obviously, if you're the lead singer, and the single is coming out and you're not singing on it, you possible feel a bit funny about that. But, it was 20 years ago, we seem to have got over it.
Dave Gahan in 1985: Look, this is amazing, Gareth, you've got to watch this. We've done it when we was on the train from Osaka to Tokyo, on the bullet train. Martin filled his pockets on the train, on the floor.
Martin Gore in 1985: The end of a tour is always probably twice as rough.
Dave Gahan in 1985: There was scarves, chiffon scarves, general... Stockings, knickers, phone numbers, a pile - it was literally like that. Look, general credit cards out of the pockets, any possible currency in the world probably, all chicks' phone numbers, all over the world, look: Elaine, Suzanne. General keys somewhere, doesn't even know, of some pad, plumber dope. Look, two pairs of matches which was used after a day ago, lots of dodgy mints. Fancy a mint, Gar? Fancy a mint, Gar? Lovely, clean, lovely, extra strong mints, hmm, lovely. Beads.
Gareth Jones in 1985: Mart!
Dave Gahan in 1985: Was that enough, Mart?
Martin Gore in 1985: Yeah, for the moment.
Gareth Jones in 1985: Not bad.
Dave Gahan in 1985: Not bad.
Alan Wilder in 1985: So we're just starting to mix the album opening?
Gareth Jones in 1985: Title track. And we're gonna mix the album in order, going straight through for the next 19 days.
Gareth Jones: Because of mounting stress and craziness, when we got to the mixing, that was very difficult. Partly because we were all burnt out, because we didn't have any time off. Looking back on it, it's just one of these things you do maybe once and then you learn from it and adapt your working methods afterwards. But when we got to the mixing, the pressure was now really on, we had done this huge thing and it was supposed to be genious and was supposed to be the record of any record ever known to have been made, and all this, and so there was a lot of on the mixing, so me and Danny just spent ages and and ages on the first mix. We kept, like, getting the mix up and then listening to it again, "No, that's not right" and taking it down again, and then putting another mix up, same song, trying to get it... "No, that's not right", and the band would come in and say "That sounded pretty good, cut the changes maybe", and we put it all down and throw it away and put it up again... Understandably, the band started to get really freaked out, because they were coming in and hearing pretty reasonable mixes of the song that they perhaps wanted to make a couple of adjustments to and move forward and finish the record and get on with their lives and tour and the million other things they'll had to do.
Alan Wilder in 1985: How's the mix going?
Gareth Jones in 1985: I don't think it sounded dirty enough, it all sounded a bit clean, so I'm trying to dirty it up a bit, trying with the bass drums...
Gareth Jones: And so there was kind of a showdown, really, where they came and had to have a word with us. The band had to have a word with me and Daniel about putting our fingers out and getting down to it and getting some mixes out, otherwise we'd probably still be there to this day.
Daniel Miller in 1986: January the, uh...
Dave Gahan in 1986: ...13th.
Daniel Miller in 1986: January the 13th. 14th. Just come back, me and the boys, the bastards, have just come back from London where we did the Joan Rivers show. We've been here now for about a week, and we've done quite a lot of work actually: we've mixed the B-side, we recorded AND mixed the B-side, 7 and 12 inch. We've, uh... what else have we done? We recorded a track called World Without Nothing, and Martin edited the Breathing In Fumes, there's has been a lot of parallel working, very positive, you know, lots of parallel working. We just got test pressings back from England, we played them to Jürgen and Hans from Intercord and they were very impressed, as you've just seen on the video, I'm sure. The PPG got delivered, Prophet 2000 just got delivered. Pete, Karen and the team are coming over in a few days to start shooting the video. It's all fucking happening, basically.
Gareth Jones: One of the thing about Fly On The Windscreen that really affected me, was just that sheer image of the flies just dying as they hit a fast-moving car.
Andy Fletcher: By now we felt that, if it would just be a B-side of a single, was not good enough for a really good track.
Gareth Jones: The sheer intensity of that image and the bleakness of it and the fact that if you think that, in a way, we're all flies on a windscreen, then it's pretty bleak, and so that bleak intensity made that song kind of really fitting in with the rest of album, even though perhaps in the beginning it was thought of as "only" a B-side.
Neil Ferris: This whole darker side to Depeche Mode was coming out as was the title of the album as was the way that Martin had started to write, and as was the look of the band, the whole thing was becoming a lot darker, a lot deeper, a lot more meaningful. The whole thing about Depeche was that nothing was contrived, it just naturally kind of fell into that order.
Martyn Atkins: I don't wanna sound like a neo-Nazi, but we kind of admired the way that those big banners used to hang on kind of German Nazi-headquarters you see in the '30s and during the war. They'd hang these big banners with a Swastika on them and they'd come down the whole side of the building. Daniel and I talked about doing something like that with these logos, and so I talked to Daniel about doing it with a real building. And the next thing I know, Bryan made this model. I was probably about this big on a table top, and it was supposed to represent this, like, a 30-story Italian, Futurist building. And it had, like, these bits of ribbon hanging down the sides. And I think we had as little fan there to try and blow them, but because of the scale it just looked ridiculous. Yeah, I don't know what he was smoking that day, but I just thought it looked terrible. And it was kind of a bit of a disaster, because, I think, that was a much anticipated record, and the schedules were deadly tight. But I actually went to Hansa, I think, that time, to show them the photographs, and they were pretty disappointed.
Alan Wilder in 1986: What's the verdict?
Dave Gahan in 1986: Pfff, fucking hell. I think the verdict is: we're gonna try and stretch it, we're gonna try moving up the type, make it a bit thinner, and the middle picture is gonna be glossy, for this more distorted upper effect, and the sides matte. I think that would look quite strong. I personally doubt it would look stronger than the last album, but that's a personal opinion, obviously. Then again, we are a democracy.
Daniel Miller in 1986: But as for the video which we're doing it is just fine.
Dave Gahan in 1986: Exactly.
Daniel Miller in 1986: And the schedule is fine, as we've heard.
Martyn Aktins: It was kind of a case of "How can we save this?", so we kind of made a big deal out of the logos. We actually did quite a tasty cover in the end, we embossed - it was probably expensive, but we embossed all of those logos out of the 12 inch package.
Brian Griffin: I think Martyn probably wanted to become a really famous art director now. [laughs] He's got all these symbols and these black drapes.
Martyn Aktins: And the photograph we kind of trimmed really down, so it was more like a strip of colour and it kind of looked almost like a Futurist piece of a building, and you couldn't tell whether it was a model or just a bad, real shot of a real building. [laughs] And so, I think, in the end, the cover was kind of successful.
Brian Griffin: I don't think it was a particularly successful cover at all, actually. When you compared this with, let's say, A Broken Frame, you're sort of like, "Pfff... [shakes head]"
Martyn Aktins: It's not like today, where everything is so overmarketed that they have to kind of line up all these style folders, it was much simpler then. So really, if you fucked up a deadline, you really did fuck up a deadline! We'd literally be finishing album covers off, and I'd be up all night on speed, and then I'd have the artwork strapped on a motorcycle, and I'd be going down the printer's, driving down Marble Arch, like, still high on speed, about, like, 8 in the morning, to get down the printer's after having been up for about 3 days.
Alan Wilder: Recording the video for A Question Of Time would have been quite a significant moment, because it heralded the first collaboration with Anton, and it's quite clear to see that it must have had quite a big effect, because we've been using him ever since.
Anton Corbijn: The only reason I did it was because it had to be done in America, they were on tour in America, and it was a very low-budget video, I have no say, but just the fact that it was in America made me say yes.
Martin Gore in 1986: Hello everybody. In Los Angeles at the moment, and today we're doing a bit of filming for the next video, which is going to A Question Of Time. And there are a few mothers and babies sitting around eveywhere. There's a bit of a false baby over there with one arm, I don't know if you can focus in from where you are. It's pretty horrible. And we're just about to get going in a minute. Anton Corbijn's here, he's the one directing this one.
Alan Wilder: It was easy to work with him, one camera and a producer. maybe one other person doing a bit of lighting, and that is really all there was to it, and we really liked that, we really had been used up until that point of working with big film crews, disinterested sparks in the background taking the piss while you are trying to do something that is not natural to you anyway. And we just hated the whole set up. So when this person came along, it was fresh, it was easy, and he had a good sense of humour.
Anton Corbijn: It was a, actually, turning point for me, because I got much more the idea of moving pictures, but by using a camera myself, it was much more like a photo camera for me, and I was looking around and filming, all kinds of things. So it was a significant video in that sense, for me. They were a little uncooperative, I have to say, because they were told by the record company that they would only have to come up for half a day, that was without me saying anything about the shoot. Anyway, I persuaded Alan to come for another day, so that's how that video got made.
Chris Carr: We were always looking for working with photographers that were doing things slightly different. But he, again, was also, at the time, public enemy number one as a photographer, because Anton would shoot what he wanted to see, so you'd often have a four-man group with only one face recognisable and three blurred. And other people were coming to me, "Carr, there's no way you can use that, that's ridiculous, what is this?" And that was Anton's artistic statement. And I think Dave was very aware and saw that Anton would help them. At that time, the band on the move, internationally. In relative terms, as a PR, I was there for a lot of what was going on with it. So I saw it grow.
Dave Henderson: You mentioned Chris Carr before, Chris Carr was their press officer, and he said, "You kind of like Depeche Mode, I know you like all this sort of stuff, you should come and see them live in its experience." I said, "Oh no, no, no, I've seen them, years ago." He said, "No, no, come see them live, and if you're not sure about them, if you're not sure about what they're doing, meet them and talk to them, because you'll really get on with them." So I thought, "Well, Chris is a great guy, I trust him," so I went along with him and we met on tour. And it was quite joking: here's three mates from school and the new bloke, and they're all really friendly with each other.
Dave Gahan in 1985: [To Alan:] Oh go away, you square! [laughs]
Dave Henderson: It was quite childish and puerile, and we seemed to in really well.
Daniel Miller: The schoolboy humour is still there today, so I would imagine it was going on then as well.
[Footage from 1985 of the band laughing and making fun of Fletch as he defies grafity using a rotating pole for the Shake The Disease video shoot.]
Jonathan Kessler: Yes, I do think that it was quite a bit of a contrast to see the dark, black dress and broody show and the dark music, and then to see them in real life, being very friendly, very warm, very receptive, and very funny, as you say. I think they were that, very down-to-earth people.
Daniel Miller: I wouldn't call them normal exactly, but they were unpretentious, I think that's the point. I think they were really unpretentious.
Dave Henderson: The first day was in Bournemouth, and it was that extreme of football and music, because while the crew was setting up the gear in this huge hall, we decided to have a five-a-side match, becuase the band were bored. So the band were playing against several Germans. They're pretty good, pretty nifty, at football, well some of them were, I would say, yeah. You suddenly realise how big they are, because when the aftershow kind of, "Let's get loads of people around, meet and greet" kind of thing, there're lots of quite important people there was a lot of celebs there from the day, I suppose, so you kind of think, "Well this is quite big news."
Dan Silver: In 1986, they toured longer than they ever toured before. The album was released on the 17th of March. They were in production rehearsals and doing TV immediately after that. They did a very big tour of the UK. Then they took a week's break, after playing two nights at Wembley, and they carried on with a very big European tour. And then, we got the minimum amount of time to clear customs of their equipment between, which went straight from Germany by an airflight to America, and they carried straight on in America. The tour rode all the way through, playing in America for over six weeks, ended up selling out the Forum in LA and adding two nights at Irvine Meadows, which is a fifteenthousand passenger open-air in Orange County, phenomenal success in America, and going straight onto Japan from America. So all that would have been planned before the album came out, and it just gelled, because it was the right time, right place for the band.
Daniel Miller in 1986: Something growing out of your shoulder, Al? [Re: his camera]
Jürgen Kramar in 1986: Should be good pretty soon, you know. Just maybe a couple of album listenings, and, you know, but I think we're gonna do it. If it's not during the tour it should be shortly after the tour, but it's definitely gonna happen with both albums, you see.
Dave Gahan in 1986: Oh really?
Jürgen Kramar in 1986: Yeah.
Dave Gahan in 1986: Great. So there may be a double gold Black Celebration.
Jürgen Kramar in 1986: Yeah.
Dave Gahan in 1986: That would be very good for the party.
Jürgen Kramar in 1986: Yeah, I just thought we would make it in time for the party, but it should be shortly afterwards.
Dave Gahan in 1986: Maybe we can cheat a little.
Jürgen Kramar in 1986: Well...
Jonathan Kessler in 1986: Final word about the tour.
Andy Fletcher in 1986: Eh yeah, at the moment we're in Copenhagen airport. Last night we finished our five month world tour.
Martin Gore in 1986: Yeah, it was good. We finished yesterday and had a party last night, everyone is a bit out of it this morning, as you can see probably. But yeah, it was good. Haven't got any problems.
Dan Silver: You could not ignore the success of that band. I was sitting there, kind of quietly, very happy, because I remember lots of people telling me the band were all over, several years before, and there I was, with one of the biggest contemporary bands on the road.
Andy Franks: I think people were then suddenly sort of sitting up to notice, because those kind of ripples go through the music industry, and people were starting to hear, "Here is a band that actually, even though they might not be down your face all the time and on every radio station, they're certainly a force to be reckoned with."
Bruce Kirkland: See, they started to really build tracks in here with Black Celebration. They were perceived as a live act here, more than a radio act, as opposed to the UK where they had pop singles success. So over there, they were seen as a pop band; here, they were seen as a very credible, alternative touring band that was building a huge live following. This was a lesson for bands today. Their success as a live act preceded their success as a record selling act and a radio-friendly artist.
Chris Carr: And it was happening everywhere: it was happening in places behind the Iron Curtain, where it was happening for other people.
Andy Fletcher: France at this time was coming on board, and Italy, Spain, Scandinavia had always been on board. It's always been the case that, "Yes, the fact that we're not doing so well in our own country is disappointing, but we're lucky that we've got all the rest.
Chris Carr: And within the industry there was, I think, a grudging respect, a lot of people were irked by it, because they could not understand it happening, but it's [because of] all that work.
Daryl Bamonte: After the first few albums and the success they had before it really did go massive globally, I think it's probably my favourite album.
Daniel Miller: I just want you to know, you see a lot of fans going going to the Music For the Masses gigs and later, still wearing Black Celebration T-shirts, and they still used to talk about the Black Celebration tour being the best tour.
Chris Carr: I just thought it was fantastic. It still is, to me, a milestone within their kind of development.
Dave Henderson: For me, it was seeing a band really at their peak. It was that thing that really galvanised all those elements and said, "This is a really serious band", and they've come a long way since the pop songs in Basildon.
Andy Franks: I think the title really sort of sum -
Daryl Bamonte: - Summed it up.
Andy Franks: Let's celebrate the dark.
Dave Gahan: I think, by the end of it, we were really exhausted, and that it was also the last record we did in Berlin, and we'd done, like, three records there, more or less, up until that point. I think we also exhausted the relationship, recording-relationship, with Gareth and Daniel and we were just burnt out.
Martin Gore: When you work together with the same team for too long, it does become claustrophobic, and everything is a bit too familiar.
Dave Gahan: In retrospect, it really worked for the record, because it's got that kind of desparate feeling about it.
Martin Gore: I think probably Daniel, as well, must have realised that he had to do something different the next time, because Mute was quite successful, he was trying to, like produce a record for three months in a studio, and run a record company. It can't have been easy for him.
Daniel Miller: I find it hard to listen to any record that I've been involved with and listen to it completely objectively without remembering the argument about whether that drum part should be like that or if that guitar sound should be like that. It is their darkest album, definitely. But it's good for that. I'm proud of the record.
Gareth Jones: The mood of the album is the mood of the band at that time, and they were becoming more intense - everyone, I suppose, was grappling with deeper, darker issues and maturing, and that's reflected in the way we made it and the way it turned out.
Daniel Miller: It was the end of something, rather than the beginning of something.Or maybe that's just inside my head, because it was the last album that I had worked with them on, but I think it changed after that.
Sleeve notes (scanned by me, and transcribed using OCR):
Black Celebration is an all-time favourite amongst Depeche Mode fans and a very important album in terms of their cult appeal. But, it was also one of the hardest to make. ‘Shake The Disease and ‘It’s Called A Heart’ were recorded separately beforehand and although the latter was a simple song, we just couldn’t nail it and it got us all a bit down. It was done in the middle of touring so the band had to leave before it was ready and I finished it with Gareth Jones. It was a hard experience to get right and although it turned out really well in the end, it set the tone for the making of ‘Black Celebration’.
In late 1985 we had booked a very long recording session in London and Berlin which became increasingly tense and claustrophobic. It was the third album we had worked on together as a team — Gareth, myself and the band — and it began to feet like going to work in the morning. There was not a lot of excitement going in to make the record, It was obvious from early on that we were struggling to get pop singles.
Martin just wanted to write much heavier, darker and bleaker songs and although I don’t think anybody minded much, there were still natural pressures from inside the band. On the one hand, they were saying ‘Fuck it! Let’s make records we want to make’ and on the other they wanted hit singles as well. They were pulling in two directions at once — not just individual members against one another but within themselves.
We actually started off in Westside Studios in London, just off Ladbroke Grove. I tried to suggest doing something different such as setting up all the instruments in the studio, rather than the control room but when I was met with blank expressions, we simply carried an as we always did. But we also tried some interesting things at Westside. For ‘Stripped’, we sampled a total nice sounds from the real world such as the rumble of Dave’s Porsche which you can hear at the beginning. The whole song was based around a slowed- dawn sample of a motorcycle engine which came from the demo and it had so much atmosphere that we used it throughout the recording. When we wanted a drone, we sampled Dave’s car starting up and then idling. We pitched it in a different way in the sampler and it produced that great sound.
Also, it was Guy Fawkes Night when we were doing ‘Stripped’ and if you listen to the 12-inch remix you can hear some fireworks which we recorded outside in Westside’s big car park. In fact, there were several remixes of ‘Stripped’, which was quite a new idea at the time. We sped the track up and reworked it into a B-side. ‘Breathing In Fumes’. I was pleased that Depeche Mode were still experimenting like that.
But there was also tension in the studio, especially once we Left London and got to Hansa in Berlin. It was Depeche Mode’s fifth album and the pressure was on to push themselves sonically again. Sometimes I think that I felt it more than the band, it wasn’t that complacency had set in, I just felt that they were getting slightly world weary. They had mode three albums in a short amount of time, done a lot at touring and needed to be pushed a bit. By this point, Alan Wilder was much more involved in the studio and had the confidence to push his ideas but perhaps in a way that made him more closed to other people’s. Once again we were running incredibly late and it took twice as long as it should have done. As usual, the band had booked their holidays after the date we were supposed to finish and one by one they kind of fell away, except for Alan who stayed until the end.
‘Block Celebration’ marked a slight dip in sales in the UK even though it went to Number Three In the album charts, their highest position at the time. It’s very dark and really on experimental album, not a pop album — it didn’t really hove pop singles. ‘Question Of Time, ‘Stripped’ (which is really anthemic) and ‘Question of Lust’ were oil great songs — but not obvious Depeche Mode singles. But for people who were into Depeche Mode it was this album, more thon any other, that solidified their cult status. Fans felt they had made an album without regard to commercialism, which is partly true. They had made something they wonted to make and people could really relate to it. It was an ‘outsiders’ record.
In the classroom, or amongst your friends, it was the odd people who liked Depeche Mode back then. The mainstream people would like Duran Duran or somebody or other, but this was a record for the weirdo’s at the back who were wearing black eye make-up and planning to assassinate their teacher. For all the problems we had making it, ‘Black Celebration’ became a key record from that point of view.