2007-03-16 - Mute - Construction Time Again remaster
[I made a transcript:]
"Teenagers growing up, bad government... and all that stuff."
Depeche Mode: 1983
Andy Franks: ...their plans, because from even then on, the keyboards was virtuoso style, was it?
Daryl Bamonte: No, no. (laughter)
Alan Wilder: I'm sure I had put some pressure on, after I had given them a nick of time, that, "Look, either let me join or I'll just go somewhere else, because I don't wanna be a part-time musician, really."
Daniel Miller: Because it was, like, a one-off single, there wasn't a commitment to doing a whole album. It was kind of, like "Well, let's give it a bit of a trial, see how it goes."
Dave Gahan: We had a hard time recording that song, it was the longest we had spent in the studio doing anything. We tried many different ways to sort of make it work. And that time it was really experimenting, as well, with trying to get as much level on tape as you could, and we always complained to Daniel that our records weren't as loud as anybody else's on the radio.
Daniel Miller: It was very hard to mix, because you're sitting there in front of the mixing desk, and the words keep coming out of the speakers, 'Get the balance right', 'Get the balance right', and you're trying to get the balance right. It was, yeah, the first difficult mix we did, I think.
Dave Gahan: It was weird, I think it got later on picked up by sort of a lot of Detroit underground club people as being a sort of important club song.
Derrick May: I simply thought it was, really, really funky. Maybe someone could laugh at that and say "Well how the hell can a Depeche Mode record be funky?" With that record, Get The Balance Right, we bought two copies, and we used to mix the beginning over and over again on the instrumental side. And it became, like, a big club hit in Detroit with all the kids of our age.
Martin Gore: The 12 inch was just starting out and becoming popular, so we felt that - it was actually quite fun making them anyway - but we felt that we should be making them.
Derrick May: I mean, you had people in the black community that were way down with the music. In the States, we had no image, no marketing, there was no planning for them, so I'm sure it was by accident, other than these white label sort of jackets that came across from Sire Records at the time, so you get no impression, other than the music itself. Nobody knew who these guys were.
Daniel Miller: When you go back and say that people like Derrick May were influenced by or inspired by Get The Balance Right, you'd never have thought it as the time. And I think it's has probably got the band scratching their heads about that.
Dave Gahan: To be honest, answering your question, I have no idea what people like about it. It never really did it for us.
Daniel Miller: It was another one of those interim singles, you know. I think, by the time we got to do Construction Time Again, they had moved on, and it didn't really fit on the album.
Martin Gore: That and It's Called A Heart were the only times where we felt pressured to make a single when we didn't necessarily have material. Again, if you go back and change history, we may not be around today if we hadn't released that single at that point, so whoever was pressurising us to put a single out was probably right.
Alan Wilder: Construction Time Again was a lyric from Pipeline, I believe. And it just seemed to stand out as a good line to sort of sum up what was going on at the time with the group and how it came after A Broken Frame, which was some kind of comment on Vince leaving, and I think Construction Time Again was some kind of comment on the group coming back together and rebuilding, so it seems to suggest this kind of optimistic feeling that everyone had.
Martyn Atkins: The thing is, they're very interesting in [terms of] time and music, because both the way the sound was developing and the technology, and the way the band was developing, they really did go in tango.
Dave Henderson: There was a lot of interest in that area of what was going on, and was it "Are they gonna jump on the bandwagon?" Well actually, no, they're probably driving it.
Neil Ferris: Construction Time Again was absolutely the changing point. When I first heard it, it was like a relief, and I went "Pfff, everything I've said about the band is true, people are gonna believe me now. This is the album that's gonna do it." And it did: it got a lot of people excited, [it got] a lot of people into the band.
Daniel Miller: It was a momentum: the band wanted to get into the studio and do records and move on, and Construction Time Again was a massive, sonic change for the band. We felt we were boundaries definitely, there's no question about that. Not just about the sounds, but it's all about the contexts of how you use them - a popband using those kind of sounds, and nobody had really done that.
Dave Gahan: It was our first combined effort, including Alan that sounded like the real sort of Depeche Mode sound was starting to emerge.
Alan Wilder: I tell ya, I felt like a new member for quite a long time, for many years, really. And, yeah, it did require some diplomacy to try and put my ideas forward without appearing to be too pushy or wanting to take over.
Andy Fletcher: Alan coming into the studio gave us a whole new... Because he is such a fantastic musician, so it meant we could do more.
Martin Gore: He became a very important part of the band, because he was a classically trained musician. None of us were.
Dave Gahan: See, Alan was able to take an idea and exxagerate it and bring some musicianship to it, experiment with different chords, really sort of help us to grow.
Martin Gore: I quite like the fact that he was there, because he was like almost having a teacher checking your work before it goes out.
Alan Wilder: I think that was the first record where you could say that we actually did sit down before we started and really deciding how we were going to utilise the technology that was coming in at that time and really try to do something that was a big step forward from what had gone before. A lot of that was down to bringing in Gareth Jones.
Dave Gahan: Well, Gareth brought an awful lot of energy. He just brought all this enthusiasm to the recording process.
Martin Gore: Gareth is very technical and I think he helped a lot with the sampling. I mean, he was really enthusiastic. It's difficult to - I think it's still to this day - I think it's difficult for Gareth to sit still for more than, like, 20 seconds.
Alan Wilder: I can remember specifically meeting up at Mute offices with Gareth, the first time we met him. He was incredibly excited by the whole prospect of sort of going to record together, and it rubbed off on all of us.
Gareth Jones: What I knew about the band was not very much, but what I knew, I didn't think I really liked. They were on the radio, for a start-off, and I wasn't listening to much music that was on the radio. So, for me, that was like a problem. They was like a popband, that's what I thought about them, a bit kinda lightweight. I missed out on the chance to meet the band initially when they came down to the studio, because of my perception of their reputation. But my mentor and older colleague John Foxx came to me, and kinda had a private word. He said, "Look Gareth, these guys are really interesting, Daniel Miller has done Warm Leatherette". John bought that when it came out and came into the studio when we were making Metamatic and that was kind mindblowing. He said, "Look, that's the guy who made Warm Leatherette, it's really interesting label, get arse down there and meet them! They're looking for an engineer!", basically. So, I was kind of grumbling for a bit, but I thought, "Well, you're probably right." And was the start of a lot set of friendships and creative work.
Alan Wilder: There was a lot of fear that we were gonna be forgotten just around the corner and that we just had to do everything. You know what it's like when you're young, you can take a heavy workload.
Gareth Jones: There was no corner-cutting, there was no "Oh, who cares, let's just shove it out, we've done enough, whatever", there was no question that we were gonna leave the studio until we had made the record that we wanted to make. One of the things I really wanted to do, and I think that's why our first meeting had hit it off, was I wanted to try and help toughen their sound up a bit.
Daniel Miler: I think that's one of the things we were trying to go for, I think of a different kind of spatial feel for the records, and a bit of a harder sound.
Gareth Jones: And one of the ways we did that was by playing all the synthesizers through amplifiers in acoustic spaces, and recording the sound of the space as well as the sound of the synthesizer.
Dave Gahan: We go out sampling, like on construction sites, and recording things.
Gareth Jones: I bought a Stellavox, which is like a classic, analogue, very high-quality, portable battery-operated tape recorder.
Dave Gahan: He was really into experimenting with different microphones, and try and recording in different places.
Gareth Jones: And, we'd all run off with drum sticks and hammers.
Alan Wilder: And just hit every piece of metal and piping and fence that we could find, recorded the trains going past, and then we went back into the studio and started building our songs using these found sounds.
Gareth Jones: The excitement of us of the sampling was that the very fact that you could take any sound and set and make it play in rhythms and melodies.
Alan Wilder: Pipeline springs to mind immediately because that's a track that uses nearly all of the sounds that we found in Shoreditch, all the pipes and the fences being hit, and it's quite radical from that point of view. It doesn't sound radical these days, but at that time, there were not many people doing that kind of thing.
Daniel Miller: We took the samples back to the studio and put them into the sampler and started to manipulate them, and then realised that if we're gonna take the concept to the end, we should record Martin in that space as well. So that's what we did: we made up a backing track using all the samples, took that down, played that back to Martin on one machine, and recorded him with another machine singing in this old building site. It was right by a railway, so that's where all those railway train sounds come from.
Gareth Jones: When we mixed Pipeline as well, we didn't use any artificial equalisation or reverberation or anything, it was like a bit of an audiophile concept. When we came to mixing, we just thought it sounded really good without additional stuff piled on it. So I suggested, "Let's just try and make it work with the balance only."
Daniel Miller: Pipeline is a conceptual piece. For a band in that stage of their career, I thought it was a really great thing to do, and the fact that they wanted to do it, that we managed to do it, and that it worked, I think that was really quite a good achievement.
Dave Henderson: Although that was a very commercial album, there were songs that had much greater width to them, much greater depth as well, so here's a real audio treat where you're getting a much bigger sound and something that's quite dynamic.
Daniel Miller: Usually the messing about with sampling, a lot of things were accidents, really, they didn't really meant to being there. Like the sound at the beginning of Everything Counts, that kind of scraping sound, that was just a complete fluke. Like two sounds being transposed or something. We didn't really know how ot use equipment. We run the sequencer and it started and it made that sound. We thought, "Wow, that sounds great!"
Neil Ferris: I thought that Everything Counts, for me, it wasn't just a great record, a great song, or a great... It was the sound shape and they way that they have made the record. It just took Depeche into another area.
Jürgen Kramar: Everything Counts is one of those real highlights in their single collection. It's got this easy hook, even for folks who don't speak fluently. In Germany, "everything counts", everybody knows what it means. Everything Counts was a smash there.
Alan Wilder: As we recorded it, we realised it was quite strong and lyrically a bit of a move forward and it seemed to be obvious that we should go for that as a single. And it was received very well, probably better than we expected it to be.
Andy Fletcher: That really put us back on the map, in Britain particularly, and it was starting to do really well in other countries with Everything Counts and that was a real turnaround for us.
Daniel Miller: It's a great pop song, Everything Counts, it's got some very unusual pop noises in it. But it's a pop song, and it's very different from anything they've ever done before, sonically. We did all the recording for it at The Garden. And then we had to go to Sarm East Studios, because we needed to make multi-track copies, safety copies, to go to Berlin. And Sarm was quite an expensive, quite cutting-edge studio, and I remember the assistant, who was working there, who helped us do the copies, saying - well we thought we made a good record, quite an interesting record - and he was just saying, "I've never heard anything like this before, this is amazing." He was raving about it. He was just a kid, but you suddenly think, "Oh, maybe there's something more that we've got than we thought here." We were constantly trying to explore new sounds. And certainly, some of the songs really lent themselves to that, some of the lyrics really lent themselves to it. But although the lyrics were written generally before we started sampling, using sampling, I think it was a good kind of coincidence that those two things happened at the same time.
Neil Ferris: I think there was huge pressure on Martin, because here he was effectively delivering a second album, in a very short space of time, and because the band were being hugely successful, there is all that kind of usual worry of the second album syndrome. This is actually the band's third album, but it's Martin second album.
Daniel Miller: The full weight of Martin's kind of responsibility as a songwriter he probably felt more doing the writing for Construction Time Again, so naturally, there's more... Plus the band had a bit more experience, they had been around the world, pretty much, by then.
Alan Wilder: Lyrically, that album sort of stands out from the others, having quite a different slant. Most of Martin's songs are very personal they're not, they're kind of more outward-looking, and I think that came from suddenly being exposed to the world.
Dave Henderson: I think at that time, people were saying, "Well what's going on? We can't be all sweetness and light and parties and..." I mean, maybe it were just people who were becoming aware of the social conditions.
Chris Carr: Dave had already found their voice and had a public that were listening to them. Now the press suddenly realised, "Okay", and they were given their blessing. "You're okay now, we're gonna put you on the front cover. It matters."
Dave Henderson: We had to go beyond the haircut, there had to be more substance and more credibility to what we were writing about. If the people didn't tell us a story, we had to make up - we didn't really make something up. There had to be an angle, and to be honest, I think in those days, NME and Sounds and Melody Maker wrote about a load of rubbish bands, just because they thought it's a good story.
Daryl Bamonte: I recall a journalist, I think he was from the NME, called X Moore, and he said, "Right, Construction Time Again is basically the labour party manifesto, isn't it?" And I don't think they've actually really thought of the political angle.
Dave Gahan: All the subject matter was worldly. I think Martin was writing outside of himself. And, you know, teenagers growing up, bad government, and all that stuff, was suddenly... So yeah, this guy was really into it, and I think we were all a bit scared of him, to be honest.
Daniel Miller: To get X Moore to write about them, if you knew what the NME was like at that time, it's obvious that they're being put in that context. A lot of the lyrics are political, so we are open to an interpretation in that way.
Alan Wilder: When you look back, you can see there is a sort of overall picture and things. Now, how much of that was really Martin's intention to write a collection of songs that all pretty much said the same thing or whether it was just a sort of coincidence that that's how he was feeling?
Gareth Jones: "Grabbing hands grabs all the can", on the lead single of the album: there's clearly some kind of element about business. He was writing, in some way, about money and business.
Andy Fletcher: It's all part of a process where we were starting to grow up and starting to challenge what we had done previously.
Martin Gore: We were getting a bit older and more worldly. We had even been to Asia, and were becoming more aware of the world as a whole. Everything you do during that period reflects the songwriting.
Alan Wilder: I felt at the time that I should be contributing songs. I never felt a natural songwriter, and I never found it easy to come up with words, but I thought, "Well, here I am in a group, surely I should be contributing some songs."
Andy Fletcher: Like, for instance, since Speak And Spell, Martin had been the junior writer, we just said, "Al, if you wanna write some songs, write some songs."
Gareth Jones: On Broken Frame, Martin wrote everything, I believe, so that was obviously a big thing for the group, suddenly to have the "new boy", if you like, to write some songs. But it didn't really mean much to me. I just approached the whole thing as a whole body of work.
Martin Gore: He probably heard some of my demos first and then got a general theme, maybe, and came up with those two songs.
Alan Wilder: And those two songs seem to be the best ones I had come up with, and so it was agreed that we should record those two.
Martin Gore: It definitely helped. I mean, that was two less songs I needed to write for that album.
Daniel Miller: I can't remember when I had the initial sleeve design conversation with Brian, but I'm sure it was at a point where we were already making the record, so I'm sure that the sound of the record informed that discussion.
Alan Wilder: Presumably they kind of listened to what Martin was trying to write about at the time and applied their own ideas to that, which is why you get this kind of socialist look to that early artwork that goes around Construction Time Again and the singles.
Martyn Atkins: The kind of political look of the things was more fashion than a specific statement. If you look back, you'll see a lot of those kind of elements creeping in, of both fascist and communistic kind of iconography. It was exciting looking stuff. And I think that nobody had really plundered it to market an everyday product like a record.
Brian Griffin: I would have worked on it, but I kind of laid claim to the idea that it has to be a combined effort, which it was. But anyway, they said, "We want a worker with a sledgehammer on top of a mountain." I went, "Hmm, right, right, well okay." So what happened was that - again, Stuart Graham was my assistant at the time - flew with me to Switzerland, with now his brother who was an ex-Royal Marine as our assistant. Perfect physique, perfect fitness, to carry all the gear and a real sledgehammer. And, being as keen as mustard a way off, we were the first off the plane, through passport control, and I went down and I remember coming down some steps with Stuart and his brother, and the carousel was below and the police were over near the customs area, and the first thing off the plane was the sledgehammer in the plastic bag. And it banged, crashed, onto the stainless steel of the carousel. I looked across to the police, and the police started walking across. And then they could not believe we had brought a sledgehammer to Switzerland, because they were just, "Can't you just, coming out of the airport, [go] to a hardware store and just get it?" But we were determined to take our own, a real worn one, not a brand new one. And, we did. We got through okay, it was a bit of a laugh, or whatever. And then we set off to the Matterhorn. We took the cable car, and then we had to walk even higher after that so we could get the Matterhorn in the distance. And it's interesting, because I was one of the photographers prior to photoshop, and because of the construction of the image, especially the album cover, it looks like you could have put the Matterhorn in later, and people do comment on that. But it's not at all. We were actually up there. And that is the assistant's brother, ex-Royal Marine, with his sledgehammer. And I never thought any of it being politically powerful or about work or about workers or anything.
Andy Fletcher: In those days especially, we used to really, really work on the singles a lot more. We used to, in advance, we'd be picking out a track and then it would be really, really... with Daniel, and being very focused on it. Too focused, to be honest.
Daniel Miller: Oh, we were very focused on chart positions. Because, they really meant something much more even than they do today. It meant something if you were in the top 10 in the UK, actually. Things happen because of that.
Neil Ferris in 1983: The thing is, there's a difference between people playing your records on the radio and being involved and really getting behind you. That's very important. And you also know the difference between this record and the last record, because the reviews were raving about the last one. It's fine; with Peter Powell, he suddenly started really raving about your record, which he didn't ever do before.
Daniel Miller in 1983: (...) single now?
Neil Ferris in 1983: And Then, Dan.
Dave Gahan in 1983: Huh? Huh? Huh?
Neil Ferris in 1983: Told You So.
Andy Fletcher in 1983: Told You So I think is...
Daniel Miller in 1983: Do you think it will go -
Andy Fletcher in 1983: Can I decide?
Daniel Miller in 1983: Can you guarantee where it will go, Neil?
Neil Ferris in 1983: I can't guarantee anything, but I think it's top 5.
Neil Ferris: Daniel always came to me with a fait accompli. And I think, a part of the reason in terms of choosing singles, I think a part of the reason for that was because he always knew I'd have a opinion, and I would always want to kind of voice my opinion and kind of worry about what we should do and what we shouldn't do. So if he came to me and said, "Right, this is what we're doing", and then I had a view, then it would be easier to discuss it and try and work it out. If it was like, "We have these choices, Neil", I think I would just cause more confusion, because I would get in the middle of it, and it would be difficult for everyone.
Chris Carr: Neil felt that he had to perform. I think it was feeding the beast, feeling awake, "We're gonna be successful, I want more platinum records", etcetera, etcetera. (to the camera:) Hello, Neil. Ballbreaker. (laughs)
Andy Fletcher: I think Love In Itself was one of our strongest singles, but we didn't really have much option. There were really good tracks on the album, but not particularly singles.
Neil Ferris: It didn't perform as well, one of the reasons could be that people were buying the album, which, if that was what was happening, then that's fine.
Martin Gore: Love In Itself was a very strange single anyway, I mean, I don't think it was a great choice as a pop hit. It's quite slow and it's quite odd.
Jürgen Kramar: It definitely was, sort of really, but people were so hungry for new stuff from Depeche Mode, you know, that they didn't mind it, that they accepted whatever single which came out at that time, all mixes, and... you know. So it wasn't a particular problem.
Alan Wilder: Something that comes through on that record is a genuine enthusiasm an excitement. That's why I like the album. We were getting on well, it was my first chance to record an album with them, and we had this new person in the studio so he [Gareth] was kind of pushing everbody to impress, Daniel included, and I think that it was a brand new team, a feeling that it was a brand new team working and we were gonna do something to push us forward.
Daniel Miller: It was definitely like that. I mean, Neil had been the radio promotions guy since day 1, Dan had been the angent, there were others involved as well, Chris Carr. There were only like 3 or 4 people working at Mute at the time. This was the team we'd built, by default or by chance, that had been very, very effective. And yeah, I was very lucky to be around those people, yeah definitely. I got a lot of advice. Because, I was just like seat-of-the-pants completely for me, I didn't have a clue of what I was doing.
Chris Carr: That's the first album that I really kind of... "Um, yeah, okay, I get it. They seem to be a band with purpose."
Daniel Miller: They're quite in their own category by 1983. I don't think people were admittingly comparing them to anybody at that point, or grouping them with anybody. People recognised a big step forward, and recognised that they'd grown - that Martin had grown a lot since A Broken Frame or the nature of what A Broken Frame was about at the time in the history of the band. And this was kind of... I don't wanna say it was Martin's first proper album, as a writer, but it was probably the first fully formed album as a writer.
Neil Ferris: The album I presumed when I first heard it, was gonna be like one of those seminal albums that people look back on and get very excited about. I'm not sure that people, when they look back on Depeche Mode, actually say that now, because I think possibly Violator becomes THE album. But, I think it was a very big changing point.
Dave Henderson: They were producing something musically that was quite different, but melodic and accessible. People were saying they got two good songwriters in the band, and Martin was becoming a writer of note, and Dave seemed to be developing a personality on stage.
Andy Franks: He was always somebody who liked being in the limelight, and liked being sort of out there.
Dan Silver: Dave didn't need any encouragement, because not only was he a good singer, he was also a great dancer. Kids loved that about him, especially the girls, I mean, he used to shake his hips and a lot of girls would scream, and that's just the way it was.
Derrick May: You can't erase your history when it comes to a particular artist or a particular group that you like. You can't just turn off. That was a part of my youth, that was a very important part of my musical growth. Indirectly, subconsciously, Depeche Mode had an impact on how I made music. I didn't copy them, I didn't replicate them, I didn't attempt to be like them, in any form or fashion, neither did Juan Atkins or anybody else from Detroit. But they did have an impact, like it or not. It is a fact.
Andy Franks: The perception of the band in different places were changing because they as people were changing. When they first stanted, as you see from some of the very early photos, they were dressed in a fashionable style or whatever.
Daryl Bamonte: New Romantic, it was called.
Andy Franks: New Romantic.
Daryl Bamonte: I coined that phrase.
Andy Franks: Did you?
Daryl Bamonte: Yeah.
Andy Franks: Well done.
Chris Carr: Everthing was growing, scenes were happening, and Depeche Mode had their own agenda and scene. The Basildon horde multiplied and became the Birmingham hordes, became the Geordie hordes, became everything, into the Depeche horde, and it couldn't be ignored.
Alan Wilder in 1983: Well this is it, this is the end of the tour, the last night in Hammersmith. And we're all a bit knackered, but it's been a successful tour. The least amount of keyboard problems we've ever had, and all in all a great success. Cheers.
[Sleeve notes, scanned by me and transcribed into text using OCR:]
Depeche Mode’s third album broke new ground in a number of ways. It was the first to feature Alan Wilder as a full member and the first time we worked with Gareth Jones, the studio engineer who soon became a close friend and remains a collaborator on a number of projects. It was also the first time we started to experiment with sampling.
Obviously adding a fourth member is bound to change the dynamic in a band and Alan was a very different kind of person to the other three. He was musically educated, had been in other bands and was more middle clsas. He also had different tastes, although as time went on they all kind of merged. He and Dave bonded more in the early days, whilst Fletch and Martin were very close.
Alan was also very keen on working in the studio. He was a perfectionist, whereas the others did not have the same focus when it came to the finer details. He was s very good musician technically, wrote a couple of songs on the album, ‘Landscape is Changing’ and ‘Two Minute Warning’ and brought more of a sense of musicality. He had fairly strong opinions and became a part of the production team with Gareth and myself. Depeche Mode still had a fairly minimal style and didn’t want too much flowery playing but Alan definitely made a contribution to ‘Construction Time Again’.
We recorded the album in ‘The Garden’, John Foxx’s studio in Shoreditch, East London. This was long before it became ‘London’s Fashionable Shoredltch’; it was still London’s Grim Shoreditch. But, it had lots of great Indian restaurants. One of the memorable things about these sessions is that Martin, Alan and I all became vegetarians after being inspired by Gareth, and there was so much great vegetarian Indian food in the district that we just decided we would see what it was like. We stuck with it for some years afterwards and Martin still doesn’t eat meat.
The major technical advance on ‘Construction Time Again’ is that it was the first time we used sampling. Vince Clarke had already bought a Fairlight that he used on the first Yazoo album, Martin bought the first Emulator and I bought this ridiculous system called a Synclavier. We were not sampling from records, we just went out sampling from the world around us and recorded anything that made a sound. Martin brought in all these weird toy instruments and Eastern instruments and we started testing all the possibilities.
The track that epitomised this technique was ‘Pipeline’. The song was already there so we went out to a derelict building site in Shoreditch. We only used sounds from the building site for the backing track but to complete the concept we had to get Martin to sing in the same location. We had two tape recorders, one playing back the track so he could monitor it, and the other recording his vocals, it was right beside the railway line so if you listen tarefully you can hear trains going past and other random noises. For a band with their musical history, it was a very conceptual piece. It is not often appreciated just how much Depeche Mode push boundaries and experiment.
‘Construction Time Again’ has a harder, more metallic sound than previous albums. They were starting to listen to bands like Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department and Martin in particular was really into bands like DAF and Der Plan. I was into a lot of that music anyway and had been working with Neubauten and although I didn’t want to impose that sound on them, they absorbed it naturally, obviously adapting it to their own world.
We went to Berlin to mix the album at the legendary Hansa Ton studio, which was right by The Wall. We were still on a pretty low budget and it was actually cheaper to record there than in London because of the exchange rate and the nature of Berlin at the time. Before the fall of the Wall, ordinary Germans didn’t really want to live in the city so the government offered all these incentives to encourage businesses to move there and recording studios were able to operate without paying tax. We could stay in a posh hotel, work in one of the most high tech studios in Europe and still pay less than we would making an album in London.
For us it was great because Berlin is a 24 hour city. We would finish work late and still be able to go out for a drink or go a club — it was so different from London. I knew a few people there and occasionally Blixa Bargeld from Neubauten and the Bad Seeds, or the guys from DAF would pop into the studio. Martin and Blixa got on very well and Depeche Mode were starting to become popular in Germany so there were already fans hanging around. At one point someone crossed out the street name outside the studio and called it ‘Depeche Mode Strasse’.
‘Everything Counts’ was the first single. It came out just before the album and did well, reaching number six in the British charts, It was very different to their previous hits and was a big step forward sonically, musically and lyrically. I remember NME did a big feature portraying the band as young Marxists after the journalist made the connection from the lyrics and the album sleeve which resembled a Soviet constructivist poster. It wasn’t really accurate — they were heartfelt lyrics but I don’t think the band ever aligned themselves with any political movement.
‘Construction Time Again’ marked another turning point for Depeche Mode as Martin moved to Berlin soon afterwards and I think this had an effect on his songwriting.