1983-08-20 - Sounds (UK) - UP FOR GRABS
[Taken from the now-defunct website www.sacreddm.net
UP FOR GRABS
[Sounds, 20th August 1983. Words: Johnny Waller. Picture: Carole Segal.]
“ Whatever we say always gets distorted, so what people are reading about us is often incorrect. In a way, being misinterpreted is worse than being misquoted because misinterpretation can destroy your whole point of view! ”
Summary: Imaginatively-arranged interview, focussing if anything on the band's mistrust of the press and the pop music merry-go-round, with the conversation sliced into brief soundbites for each subject. The writer seems genuinely interested in each band member's point of view, striving to understand their points and present them fairly. While the writer is upbeat about Construction Time Again, this doesn't drown out other aspects. A recommended piece. [2648 words]
FIERCE WORDS I: Depeche Mode stand by their ideals.
“The grabbing hands / grab all they can / all for themselves / after all / it’s a competitive world / everything counts in large amounts.” – from “Everything Counts”.
ANONYMITY I: the little girls (don’t) understand.
We’re walking through the streets of Bayswater, the six of us – the four fun-loving Depeche Mode lads, photographer Carole and myself – when we come across a playground that would be ideal for taking some pictures.
No sooner than the band have started posing, we are surrounded by a gaggle of giggling youngsters, nervously edging closer, coyly hoping to speak to the stars in front of them.
Eventually one of the older girls – a precocious 13 maybe – steps out of the blushing throng and asks for David Gahan’s signature. As he scribbles his name he playfully enquires as to whether she knows who he is, and she immediately replies “of course, you’re Kajagoogoo!” 
“Christ Kaja-bloody-googoo!” explodes the singer in mock disgust, “why couldn’t it be someone really good like The Birthday Party?”
DEPECHE AND THE PRESS: an (unfortunately) necessary evil:
How do you regard the press?
Martin: “Not too highly.”
Would you rather not have done this interview?
Fletch: “Yeah, ‘cos I’m lazy!”
Martin: “ANY interview really!”
Alan: “Also it’s only the journalist’s view of us, so whatever we say always gets distorted, so what people are reading about us is often incorrect. In a way, being misinterpreted is worse than being misquoted because misinterpretation can destroy your whole point of view!”
So what’s the main thing you’ve always wanted to convey?
Alan: “No, there’s no ONE message to Depeche Mode and I’m not saying it’s only us who get misinterpreted, I’m sure it happens to all bands.”
Martin: “We haven’t really got a message. We only talk to the press when we’ve got a new single or album coming out or when we’re going on tour – That’s our message really!”
Last week, Depeche Mode’s forceful new single “Everything Counts” jumped to number ten in the charts. This week their third LP, “Construction Time Again” – a startling, mature culmination of innovation and melodicism – is released. Next month, they launch themselves on an extensive tour.
This is indeed a message worth heeding.
PHOTOGRAPHS: just one more please – look this way!
Fletch: “I hate having my picture taken – I’m totally unphotogenic. I really don’t like seeing my photo in magazines, I’d just as rather not have my photo taken when we do interviews.”
Do you find them an intrusion?
“To a certain extent, yeah.” 
ROCK’N’ROLL: where do Depeche fit in with the Police and Rod Stewart?
Fletch: “When the band first started, we had a very anti-rock’n’roll attitude, things like we didn’t want to tour, we didn’t want to get involved with limousines or anything like that, the whole rock’n’roll syndrome.
“And to a certain extent, we’ve carried those ideals through… and we still haven’t got a record contract at all, we’re really proud that our deal with Mute is based on trust, we’re proud of the fact that we could go out tomorrow and sign to EMI!
“And we haven’t got a manager either, which is another achievement we’re proud of. It’s funny really, we’ve no manager or anything but no other labels have ever contacted us, nor Yazoo either. I don’t know why, maybe it’s like football managers, they’re not allowed to approach players!”
Would you ever consider leaving Mute?
Alan: “In certain situations – if there wasn’t a proper working relationship. But although we could always sign to Virgin or something, we’re doing as well on Mute as we could with any major label.”
Fletch: “We’ve had to do certain things that – at the time – we didn’t want to do and I agree that IS a compromise… like our agent is always telling us we have to play more and he wanted us to do a few festivals this summer, so he booked us to do 15!
“But we just don’t want to do those sort of things, so we cut it back a bit… down to one, in fact! And that’s enjoyable, it was good, and we didn’t have time to do any more.”
PUBLIC IMAGE / PRIVATE PEOPLE: this is off the record for a moment
Fletch: “When we first started to get success, the problem was that we were really splattered over every paper and we over-exposed ourselves… we were young and naïve and that was the image that kept with us for quite a while.”
Off-stage, off the record, Depeche Mode are surprisingly eager, chatty and enthusiastic. David, the ex-punk, is full of himself and full of jokes, the most obviously affable and talkative member: he laughs a lot but takes Depeche Mode seriously: “This is a job,” he reminds me at one point.
Alan, the new boy, has amazing confidence and authority – you’d think he was a founder-member. Articulate and understanding, he takes time to explain the reasons behind actions, the motives under ambitions.
Fletch seems initially gawky and ill at ease, almost as though he’s too anxious to please. He needn’t worry… down-to-earth concern and doubt make people warm to him.
Songwriter Martin Gore is the mystery man. He hates talking about his lyrics, though he’s nowhere near as sullen and withdrawn as I’d been led to expect. Mostly he lets the other three dominate the interview but was always willing to pursue a point where necessary.
And so – contrary to the popular press myth – Depeche Mode have quite a lot to say for themselves: two sides of a C90 cassette in fact, plus a meandering discussion that spilled over into the meal we had afterwards. Where do Depeche Mode fit in among other young bands I’ve talked to? One of the least boring ever, I’m glad to say.
FIERCE WORDS II: David rises to the bait.
In his review of your single “Everything Counts”, Garry Bushell said you were “stupefyingly predictable”.
“He’s an arsehole” spits David.
He is not smiling when he says this. 
LOYALTY AND APPREHENSION: the fickleness of pop fans.
When you haven’t had a new record out for a while, do you ever wonder if your fans will have forgotten you?
David: “Oh yeah – I think that all the time! Every single for me is a real worry because I wonder if those people still want to know us. There are ten bands I could name who have become really successful in the last year, and we’ve hardly had anything out.
“But I think if your records get played on the radio, you can make NEW fans as well. From the mail we get, we’ve obviously got a very strong following who buy our records in the first week – sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t… but they still buy it!”
Why do you inspire such loyalty?
“I dunno, hopefully they really like us!”
Do you think they trust you?
“I don’t think TRUST comes into it.”
Martin: “It’s usual practice that fans trust bands that give away stuff like THIS.” He picks up a Belle Stars sweatband given away with some product or other.
“That’s what people generally think is honest – but is that honest? That’s what I want to know.
“We’d never do anything like that, but at least those fans are getting a free sweatband, so they’re probably happy.” 
Did it worry you when Tears For Fears and Kajagoogoo stole your audience?
David: “Not really, because we saw what happened to us, and we saw exactly the same thing happening to them – over-exposure! We toured with Blancmange twice and we get on really well with them and we were very happy for their success and we saw what they were going through. They were in the papers all the time – and you can’t sustain that sort of public image.”
At the height of your own success, did it seem like a kind of madness, with everything going too fast?
David: “I suppose it was, but I don’t think we noticed it that much.”
Martin: “We were probably enjoying it too much! We used to do interviews every day, it was ridiculous! We didn’t really think about it, we just did it.”
David: “We didn’t really take it in until later when we realised there was no point in doing it at all, there’s no point in doing an interview if you’ve got nothing to talk about.”
 - Try this article, which shows that even in 2001 the band members were still not only largely unrecognised as individuals, but not particularly wanting it any other way.
 - It's a dislike that has stayed with him - in Bong 42 in 1999 he stated that photo shoots were his least favourite aspect of being in the band.
 - Dave is quoted elaborating on that review in Steve Malins' biography: "Garry Bushell didn't like it, but he's a 40-year-old skinhead - what can you say? We find him quite amusing." (p. 70)
 - Overall, the band's releases have been remarkably low on out-and-out freebies. But some of the more arcane merchandise for the Singles 86>98 album included: a Depeche Mode coffee-mug, Depeche Mode dog-tags, a Depeche Mode wristwatch and Depeche Mode nail-varnish.
FIERCE ACTION: Depeche take it into their own hands.
David: “We’ve done some interviews that have been pretty revealing – even to ourselves – but there are others that have been so dreadful that we’ve just got up and walked out! There was one where we even took the tape! It was a complete idiot in Belgium and we just took the tape back off him… he was quite shocked, but we felt a lot better because we didn’t have a stupid interview going out on the radio.”
Fletch: “We’re going to try to be a lot harder on journalists in the future…”
This new Depeche resolve – they keep using the words “hard” and “tough” throughout the interview – is more than welcome and long overdue. They should become as arrogantly boastful as people like Dexys: the stunning, exciting music on “Construction Time Again” warrants it.
David: “I’m definitely disillusioned with journalists in general though. It’s the same all over the world – we’ve just done some interviews in Germany and I just couldn’t be bothered… you know what they’re going to ask – how the name is pronounced.
“We’ve been together three years now – I’d like to think people don’t really care how the name’s pronounced and that they’d be more interested in listening to the songs.”
When “Construction Time Again” is released, they will be, David, they will be.
LOVE LOVE LOVE: Depeche Mode open their hearts.
I’ve always found the music of Depeche Mode too cold by far, it definitely didn’t have a sexual edge… but that’s changing. More recent songs like “Get The Balance Right”, “Everything Counts” and one superb new track “Love In Itself” hint at a new wistful softness at the centre of the recently discovered toughness.
You almost seem prepared to admit more now.
David: “I think that’s probably true in a way, and we want to be more open to touch people’s imaginations. We’ve progressed naturally, developing through what we’ve seen and heard.”
But what’s meant by the lyric “Love’s not enough in itself”?
Martin: “I think that’s true – it’s not!”
But that sounds quite pessimistic, saying love can’t conquer!
Martin: “But it’s true, though I still think love is important.”
So what else do you crave apart from love?
Martin: “Ah, I haven’t quite worked that one out yet.”
David: “I think there’s a lot of personal things in that song that you wouldn’t want to talk about in an interview – maybe Martin’s trying to find out what else there is to life.”
Do you feel more able to reveal your emotions in songs than interviews?
Martin: “Definitely – because I haven’t quite worked out yet what I want in life, I don’t think anyone has.”
CONSTRUCTION TIME AGAIN: maturity and progression
David: “We feel a lot more confident now – and I think it shows in the new album, it comes across more. I feel a lot more confident in doing my vocals now, we’ve moved on s far from our first album, I just hope people give us a chance. What we can give them is what we think is a 100 per cent good album.”
Fletch: “We’ve got a really unique sound now, no-one else sounds like us – especially our latest stuff – and we’re vastly improving. This album should be the one really, it’ll be one of the albums of the year, I think.”
It almost seems like a coming of age, why is that?
David: “It’s just a different mood – the second album was quite depressive because that’s the mood we were in at the time… but the mood in the studio this time was definitely up! So it’s an up album.”
Alan: “We’ve been making this album – including writing the songs and doing demos – since the beginning of the year, so that’s eight months of our lives… and you’ve just got to have the confidence that what you release is actually what you heard in your head when you first thought of the song.”
David: “We want a lot more people to listen to our music because I think it’s really good… as Martin said before, we do this because we really enjoy it, we think the music is great.”
Alan: “And the motivation of enjoyment is now stronger than ever! The more success you have, the less you have to compromise – so then you can channel your music in EXACTLY the direction you want it to go.”
One of the songs, “Pipeline”, seems to hark back to the Kraftwerk-inspired idea of using technology both as a musical and lyrical base.
David: “Well “Pipeline” was very experimental in that every sound on there has been made from us just out on the street hitting things, recording it and playing it back in different ways – like, even the vocal was recorded in a tunnel!”
ANONYMITY II: fame has its advantages
David: “We don’t tend to exploit fame in that way, although obviously we could if we wanted. Sometimes it’s easier to get into clubs after a gig.”
Fletch: “But on my birthday in Basildon, there wasn’t one club we could get into – they wouldn’t let us in, even though they knew who we were!”
Alan: “Yeah, but it WAS over-25s night!”
GUILT: the price of fame.
Do you ever feel you should help those who are less fortunate than you?
Alan: “It’s difficult, because who do you help? How many millions of people are there who really need help?”
Fletch: “Sometimes you feel guilty that you’re earning a lot more money than someone who’s on the dole – and I feel really guilty when I ask my friends for a drink and they say they can’t afford it. I feel for them, but I dunno what I can do about it really…”
Do you think you deserve all the money you get?
Fletch: “I don’t know, I’m not sure… no, I don’t think I do really!”
David: “But it’s a job and you get paid very well for doing it, but you have to work hard in all sorts of ways – it’s not an easy job… but the reward is very large if you do it well. But the cost is very big as well, you sometimes have to sacrifice things like friendship.  But your real friends always stick by you.”
NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST, CAPITALISM AND SUBVERSION: something lurks beneath the surface.
Tell me about “Two Minute Warning”.
Alan: “It’s almost surreal – the possibility of a nuclear holocaust is so terrifying, but to actually turn it round and try to make it beautiful – and the tune is very light and bouncy – is more of a challenge than making it doomy. I really like the idea of people humming “Two Minute Warning” without realising what it’s about.”
David: “And I think the same applies to “The grabbing hands grab all they can”. They might suddenly think “well, what does all this mean?” Admittedly a lot of people will just hum the tune and never think about it, just cos it’s a good beat – that’s exactly what my mum does.”
Although they deny any overt sympathies with communism or even a democratic kind of socialism , Depeche Mode write lyrics such as “taking from the greedy / giving to the needy” (“Pipeline”), while the new LP sleeve depicts a man wielding a hammer. The previous one showed a woman with a sickle. The connection can be made.
AND FINALLY: the last words.
David: “I think it’s quite funny – people shouldn’t take us THAT seriously!”
 - This theme was to surface again five years later, when in the film 101 Dave comments that although he's making more money than when he was stacking shelves in a supermarket, he was in a sense happier then, because the touring life means losing friends.
 - Overt sympathies there may not be, but it seems as if they'd become the subject of some wearing down from journalists eager to pin the left-wing political activist tag on them. Try this article from the following month: it seems as if they were insufficiently clear on what their views boiled down to so that after repeated suggestions from the press they briefly believed it themselves.