2015-10-07 - The Interview People (Germany) - Dave Gahan Interview
[This interview was found by vk.com/depechemode_news: http://vk.com/wall-52768949_5860
Peter Reynolds / The Interview People
LENGTH: 5,294 words
In this exclusive interview the 53 year old singer Dave Gahan talks about his 2nd collaboration with British duo Soulsavers, the obvious parallels to Violator and Songs Of Faith And Devotion, the cover artwork shot by his daughter, the meaning of certain songs and the upcoming 6-date-world tour. In addition to that he opens up about the Syrian refugee situation, the economic crisis in Greece, his opinion on Donald Trump and David Cameron, his experiences with Volkswagen, his passion for vinyl and black coffee as well as his admiration for Jack White, David Bowie, Pete Townshend and Neil Young. Comes with great quotes on his son´s Jewish wedding, his daughter´s musical talents and - of course - the next Depeche Mode-Album.
Q: What made you continue collaborating with Rich Machin and Ian Glover - for the second time?
A: Just that, really. It really was a continuation. After we finished “The Light The Dead See”-project, we just continued writing, really, as well. It wasn’t something that just stopped. He continued to send me different bits and pieces, and I would put away ideas, I’d record little ideas, and then – really - it continued right up until the point when I finally flew out to Los Angeles, and then out to Santa Barbara to start working on “Delta Machine” with Depeche. In fact, one of the songs - lyrically and melodically - I came up with the idea for after a concert… yeah, (chuckling) before that, actually… in Berlin, which was during the “Sounds Of The Universe” tour. And in fact, and Soulsavers as well… I think it was during that tour. Well, anyway, there was the song “Shine” - which is the first song on the album - the idea of that, in my head came. And then when Rich finally sent me this guitar line later on - was the slide guitar part that’s in throughout “Shine” - I knew that that idea that I’d remembered would fit perfectly inside this particular piece. So, that was one of the first pieces that was new that came, that was for this record. And then there was a few other bits and pieces: The song “Tempted”, there was parts of that I’d formulated some ideas for, towards the end of “The Light The Dead See”-sessions.
Q: So everybody was working in their own studio, adding to whatever came from the other side?
A: Yeah. I mean, predominantly Rich and myself. I mean, we’d pass ideas back and forth, sort of transatlantically. And then once we’ve formulated an idea, then the musicians are assembled together to record it.
Q: However, there’s a lot of blues and gospel in these songs. Which is reminiscent of the “Violator”- and “Songs Of Faith And Devotion”-era when you were doing a similar thing with Martin.
A: There’s definitely a lot of influences on this album, yeah. There’re very steeped in sort of gospel and blues. And yeah, “Violator” and “Songs Of Faith And Devotion” were definitely influenced by that particular type of music. And really, songwriting is something that… you know, I’ve said this earlier today… if you manage to write a good song with somebody or you write a good song, it should work in any form of musical idea.
Q: That´s exactly what you said in the “making of” for 2013´s Volkswagen campaign that used “People Are People”…
A: What was that?
Q: The ad that used “People Are People”, performed in various styles. You said the exact same thing!
A: Yeah, I don’t quite remember that, but I know what you’re saying, and… yeah, I mean, a good song should work in any way. That particular time, that song for instance, we were messing around with a lot of new ideas that were… there’s sampling, and that’s how we interpreted that song.
Q: Interesting enough, it sounds very organic.
A: Well, but it was kind of organic, because sampling it was organic. You are sampling organic sounds. And then putting them into a computer or into a sequence to create a part. But the actual sound itself is pretty organic.
Q: Same goes for “Angels & Ghosts”, which has sort of a live vibe to it, doesn't it?
A: This album. Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. Well, it is. I mean, all the instrumentation is performed live. There’s very little programming involved.
Q: That’s what I meant comparing it to “Violator” and “Songs Of Faith And Devotion”…
A: Oh, yes, yes. Yeah, and you know, there was a lot of performance actually that went on during the “Songs Of Faith And Devotion”-album. There was a lot of performance, but then of course, you know, with Depeche it has to be… because at the particular time, Alan was the main musician within the band, so Alan would sit there, then putting those ideas into a what was then a very crude version of ProTools, and developing it. But now, this is different in that, you know, a lot of the instrumentation is performed for a specific part and specific reason. But the song itself is first formed together by myself and Rich.
Q: While the artwork is like a collage of various Daves? Impersonating angels and ghosts – or even mad men?
A: Yes, totally! We’ve been talking about this a lot today, actually. Because the cover - yeah, it worked really well because there are - if you really start looking at the imagery on the album cover, you’ll notice that it is in fact many color pictures (chuckles) of me pulling these different expressions, screaming, whatever. And it kind of represents, you know, a lot of those, sort of what I call Angels and Ghosts. You know, to me angels are present day relationships that I have with… close relationships with people. And also my life here in New York City. And ghosts represent to me memories, past and present. This actual - the imagery that was taken, the photographs were all taken by my daughter, my 15 year old daughter at the time. She’s just turned 16, but she was doing something for schoolwork, and she had this idea to use imagery to get her ideas across in her schoolwork. And she asked me to, she said: “Dad, I need to use you to do some work here. Can I take some photographs of you against a wall?” And I was like: “Agh… OK, fine.” It wasn’t for this cover at all, but when she finished it all, months later my manager was with me in my apartment, and he saw some of these images lying around the table. And he said: “What’s this for?” And I said: “It’s actually, it’s Rose’s. It’s a schoolwork.” And he said: “That would make a great album cover.” Cause she’d put it all together. So I asked her, and she was like “(sigh) Oh, if you don’t change my image too much, I don’t mind if you use it.” And I was like: “OK…”
Q: That’s when the trouble starts…
A: Yeah! A true artist, you know, “don’t mess around with my image!” (laughs) So, I was lucky enough to be able to use it. And it works perfectly for the album.
Q: Also it’s Dave Gahan AND Soulsavers now.
Q: Instead of Soulsavers featuring Dave Gahan?
A: Yeah, well it was never “Soulsavers featuring Dave Gahan”, it was just “Soulsavers”. But the album, the last album, was just called “Light The Dead See” and it was just “Soulsavers”. But people, I guess, put that together. This one we just - we were like: “Look, this is…” Soulsavers are a production team - Rich Machin and Ian Glover. And we talked about it, and basically Rich was like: “Maybe this should just be a Dave Gahan solo album.” And I said: “Well, I believe that it’s a collaboration between me and you guys.” So, we decided on “Dave Gahan/Soulsavers”. Also in the hope that more people would get to hear this music, using my name, of course. Made sense. Yeah. I’m going to pour some…
A: Would you like some coffee, too?
Q: Please! Want some milk?
A: Not for me, thank you.
Q: So black coffee still?
A: I like it black! (thinks) I have milk sometimes, depends… A little milk, a little sugar.
Q: As you mentioned “Shine”, the opening track: Any particular reason why you wrote that in Berlin, in the middle of Europe?
A: Well, it was actually inspired by an amazing concert that we did there, in a huge stadium in Berlin. And on that particular night - it was one of those nights where, as a performer, everything just fell into place. There was a fantastic atmosphere, beautiful night. My voice was working, everything was working, I could, you know…
Q: So it was one of those magic moments?
A: Yeah, one of those magic moments that sometimes happen on tour, and everything’s in the right place at the right time. And it’s one of those things, when you look around as well, at each other on stage, you all kind of know that it’s happening. So I went back after that concert and these words just, and a melody line sort of came into my head. So I quickly recorded it into my computer, and put it away. And when Rich sent me a guitar line later on - the slidey sort of blues guitar line - I heard the whole thing kind of in my head. And with this big beat. And it all made sense. It’s very simple, it’s a very simple song with a very simple message. But it fit perfectly after that particular performance.
Q: Is that also a call for more optimism in a pretty dark and grim times? Does it work on a social and political level, too?
A: I hope so. I mean, it’s one of those things that I really felt in that moment, during the concert. Where there was tens of thousands of people all in one particular moment together. Sharing that moment together. And what a wonderful feeling that is.
Q: However, there´s a song called “One Thing”, featuring the line: “It’s a different world today/ no one seems to care much anyway”. Is that – at least subconsciously – social commentary?
A: Yeah. Well, you know what? It kind of goes in the subconscious, but also in the conscious. And I wouldn’t - it would be impossible to not reflect on that stuff. Especially travelling around, seeing the changes, seeing the problems that still exist here in the world. And we still have this incredible problem of not being able to share the same space (chuckle) - the World. And, yeah, it creeps into the work, definitely. You know, I say in that song, “it’s a different world today, no one seems to care much anyway.” And then I immediately follow that with “don’t listen to what they say/ they don’t know what they’re fighting for.”
Q: Are you referring to Mr. Cameron?
A: (laughs) Yeah! So, you know, and also what I do, what happens with me is, quite often what’s going on in my personal life at the time - it creeps in as well. And then I look outside of myself, and I’m part of that. So it, it starts at home. (chuckles)
Q: At home you got a Greek family. They must be discussing what´s going on in their native country quite a bit, or?
A: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, yeah.
Q: Like the economic crisis and the whole refugee situation, which is unbelievable really…
A: Yeah, I mean it’s difficult to watch and difficult to be part of, but it… you realize, you know, how really separate we are. Or how much we try to separate the things that are going on in the world, but really they affect us all. And we hope that the politicians, who are supposed to be doing their job, are able to pull this all together. But I don’t know - I recently spent some time watching the Republican debate, and that was (laughs), that was a lot of fun! Oh boy! It was such a train wreck. But…
Q: The one with Donald Trump?
A: Yeah. But I couldn’t stop watching it. It was best reality TV I’ve ever watched. (chuckles)
Q: Just imagine him or Jeb Bush making it in The White House…
A: Yeah. Yeah. Anyway…
Q: (chuckles) What about “All Of This And Nothing” and that line in there: “I can’t be what you want me to be”. Is that dealing with fan expectations and you not being able nor not being willing to please them?
Q: Is this album a proud refusal in away? Is this you going for something completely different on purpose?
A: Yeah, it’s just a reflection. And sometimes it’s very personal, and then… and then I sort of looked outside of myself. And when I’m writing words, quite often the words appear through me hearing a certain sound that is played to me. Or is in a guitar line or something that Rich or a keyboard line, or whatever’s been sent to me, is the atmosphere that I hear, and I hear a word. And then when I hear that word - like “tempted” for instance - then I build a song around that idea. Now, you refer to me sort of interpreting me not being able to be the person you want me to be. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything to do with the performing side of Dave Gahan. It could also be something that’s personal, going on in my life, that is really just a part of day to day life. But: Again, imagery, and the imagery that pops into my head when I’m actually singing that song, sometimes rolls into also that performing side of myself. So it works on both levels, you know, to be honest. I’m not going to stay in one place. I’m not going to stay put, you know. An artist is an artist - you have to keep growing. And you hope that the people that are enjoying the work that you do move with you. But if they don’t, then there’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t stay in one place, and you can’t continue to go down the same path, without exploring new paths. And there’s some people that’ll be disappointed by that, and other people that are excited by it.
Q: Also you’ve developed something like a signature vocabulary for your songs, haven´t you? I mean, “Angels & Ghosts” is a typical Dave Gahan title. And the imagery used - the crook-y road, the deal with the devil - is almost like a trademark of yours, isn´t it?
A: Yeah, I mean, I’m always sort of… you know… (sighs) using life to my own experience of life. And I try and put that into the songs, because that’s what I have, that’s all I have, so as the album cover kind of shows, there’s many different sides to me. (chuckles)
Q: There’s supposedly a very funny one, as Daniel Miller claims. But there’s also a very dark and moody side, isn’t there?
A: Sure, yeah. I mean, you know, I think we all have that. If we’re honest.
Q: Some people are just more extreme than others.
A: Yeah, I guess.
Q: OK, on a funny note then: Do you regret participating in an advertisement for Volkswagen, now that they've got a severe scandal going on?
A: No, I didn’t regret doing that. They paid me a ridiculous amount of money, so that actually paid the rent on my studio for like, a year. (laughs) So, I don’t regret that at all! I mean, I couldn’t believe it. But I actually think it turned out really well, as well. It could’ve gone a different way, but it was a lot of fun doing it, and - like I said - my manager and I talked about it a lot, and Martin too. They were going to use the song anyway, and Martin would’ve preferred they used a different song - he doesn’t particularly like that song. But he actually asked me, he said: “Could you try and convince them to use a different song?” I was like: “That’s not going to happen, Mart. That’s the whole idea is behind that song!”
But it actually was a lot of fun, doing it. We’d just started recording “Delta Machine”, I think, and I flew off to spend one day recording that, and filming it. And they were very, very generous to me, and - it was something I couldn’t say “no” to in the end. We really weighed it up, and it was like: “Wow. Seriously, dude, this is going to pay the rent on your studio for a year, so…” And the rent on a studio in New York for a year - trust me - it’s not cheap. (laughs)
Q: You should be glad you didn’t take any stocks.
A: No, no. And if the idea wasn’t cool, we wouldn’t’ve done it, but I think it was a cool idea and it actually came off well.
Q: Also you´ve had a traditional Greek wedding when you got married to your third wife Jennifer. Now you went to Israel to take part in a Jewish wedding. What was that like?
A: My son got married in Israel, yeah. He married a Jewish girl, and she wanted to have a big Jewish wedding, so that’s what they got. (chuckles)
Q: Is it true they met at a Depeche Mode concert in 2009?
A: They didn’t meet at a concert, they actually met afterwards at a club somewhere or something. Or a bar or something, afterwards. Yeah.
Q: So you’re not to blame?
A: No, no. And you know what? They spent quite a bit of time together, before they got married. You know, she’s a beautiful girl who he, you know, he’s dearly - they’re obviously in love, and it was nice to be part of the wedding, yeah. It was something going to Israel with my whole family, and meeting her whole family. His mom was there, and - you know, it was nice. It was a nice night.
Q: Did you get to wear a kippa?
A: Oh yeah, you had to do the whole thing. You had to do the whole shebang. It was a very formal Jewish wedding.
Q: And there’s a youtube video of your daughter Stella Rose singing during the Tribeca Film Festival, earlier this year.
Q: Is she in a band?
A: No, she’s not got a band or anything, but she has a beautiful voice. And, you know, I know if she wants to sing, she can. She has this voice inside of her that, when I first heard her sing, I was just kind of like: “Wow! Where did that come from?” Because she’s got one of those kind of voices that - she could be singing along to a Billie Holiday track, and she listens to it once, and then she can completely become that. It’s kind of incredible. And I know she writes songs, and stuff. I’ve heard her in her bedroom. And I tried to have a little listen, but she’s 16 now, so I have to stay out of the way.
Q: In addition to that I found a video of yours talking about your favorite vinyl albums at Amoeba Records in LA. So you still put the needle on – old school style?
A: Yeah, I still play albums. I have a record player.
Q: Because right now the world seems to be divided between streams…
Q: And vinyl…
A: Right, digital and albums. Well, it’s becoming definitely, you know, I think more trendy as well to buy vinyl. And it’s certainly, there’s a quite a huge increase in vinyl sales, compared to what it was say, five years ago. But that increase, don’t forget, is from zero. (laughs) You know? It’s like there, there was zero vinyl sales, and I think it is a great format. I mean, I actually like listening to albums, because when I’m listening to an album, I put it on the record player, I’m sort of sitting - I’m not putting it on as background music. I’m actually, I’ll sit and spend time with that record. And I’ll look at the sleeve, and the artwork, and I enjoy that. You know, to be honest, quite - I still find music digitally. And then if I really like it, I’ll buy the album. But a recent album that I did that with was the Algiers record that I really like - which I think’s a great record. You know, it’s kind of mixture of gospel and electronic music. You know, it’s very cool.
Q: Rumor has it you´re a big fan of Jack White´s and his various band side projects. Is that true?
A: Oh, yeah. I think he’s a great musician and he’s a great songwriter. And I like the way he bounces around, much in the way that like Eric Clapton used to - years ago. You know, from his days with The Yardbirds, Cream, to Clapton on his own - you know, all the different kind of things that he did. He didn’t stay put for long. Because, you come to a point as well where, as an artist, you have to find other things, too, so that you can actually grow as an artist. You know, I’ve talked about this before. You know, you have to work with other musicians to challenge the ideas that you think you have about music. And you learn something new from the different musicians that you work with, so if you just stay put with the same people all the time, and they’re not growing or they refuse to grow, and they want to sit around doing nothing, you can’t learn anything from that. So you know, Martin is a great person to work with because he’s always trying to find new ways to make music. Obviously, he’s a great songwriter, but he’s always playing around with instrumentation and trying new things.
Q: Well, the two of you seem to be a much better team these days than you used to be in the past. Would you agree?
A: Yeah. Oh, definitely. And I think that’s because of us doing things outside of what we do as well, outside of Depeche Mode. And also both of us sharing the songwriting duties, come into the studio together, and then working with interesting people. I mean, in the last couple of albums, working with different programmers, you know, “Delta Machine” was great because we had Ben Hillier and Ferg engineering. But we also worked with Chris Berg, who brought this fresh excitement into the studio. And Martin and he sort of really got on very well, analog electronic wise. Cause they both have that same interest, so they kind of were great at creating these ideas together. And taking the songs that we had demo’d and making them more interesting. That’s really - I mean, that’s what it is. You know Depeche Mode is Martin Gore and Dave Gahan.
Q: How does “Angels & Ghosts” fit into the picture? Is this part of the big journey then?
A: I think so. I think that’s not completely obvious at the time, but I think it’s part of the fabric of what goes onto become whatever the next work is from Depeche Mode. It’s kind of like - you know, Martin just did a solo album. And I know he really enjoyed doing that. I’m sure he’ll do more. And the same goes for me. And I know that we’ll probably get together later this year and talk about making another record together. And I imagine probably sometime next year we’ll be in the studio making a record together. But what’s important with that is what kind of record do we want to make? Who do we want to work with? Who are we going to get to be the programmer on this? Who can we bring in interesting? You know, I think that we still haven’t really explored the idea of bringing our band into the studio, i.e. Christian Eigner, Peter Gordeno. You know, going into the studio with a bunch of songs that we can maybe begin to record together in a different way.
Q: Interesting. And it´s “I still believe in life on Mars” – as quoted in “One Thing”?
Q: Is that referring to the Bowie song?
A: That’s my little… yeah, cause the song is true to me. You know, I still, you know…
Q: Does it stand for an era and for a musical environment that´s close to your heart?
A: Well, it stands for the song. The song is still a song that I can play and listen to, and everything feels OK. I can play “Life On Mars” and to me the world seems a better place.
Q: And I can confirm that the New York Dolls wore on stage what they used to wear in everyday life…
A: Yeah, I know that, yeah. (chuckles)
Q: OK, why is it only six dates on this mini tour of yours? Or are you expanding on that at a later point?
A: There’s a possibility, yeah. I mean, we wanted to just announce these special shows that we took a great time to sort of find some theatres and things that we wanted to - that we felt that the Soulsavers could go into. A group of 10 musicians onstage, including myself, where this would feel like the right place for this music.
Q: Do these songs call for a different performance to what you´d normally do with Depeche Mode?
A: Well, it’s the Soulsavers’ music, so…
Q: Right. But on the last tour, which was just some showcases really, you wore a classic suit and you performed in selected theatres. Now that is in fact a different presentation, isn't it?
A: We just thought that the theatres really fit the music. And they were like kind of a good place for the band to - a more intimate kind of setting in more traditional type theatres like La Cigale in Paris, and Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and here Town Hall in New York, the Ace Theatre, downtown LA. They’re really ornate, beautiful theatres.
Q: And playing intimate venues must be quite a challenge for you, being used to stadium seized gigs with Depeche Mode…
A: Not really. They’re just - to me it’s… look, when you walk onstage, you’re performing songs with a group of musicians. You’ve got to let the songs dictate how you’re going to perform. So, this is a little different because I’ve not been on a stage with most of these musicians - Martyn LeNoble on bass, who’s played bass for me for a long time, you know, in solo stuff as well. You know, I’ve played on a stage with Rich Machin, and Kev Bales, and Sean - keyboards and drums respectively. But some of the other musicians - we have three gospel singers, Duke Garwood’s playing guitar with us onstage - it’s going to be (an) interesting group of musicians.
Q: Would you be tempted to an orchestral performance as well?
A: There’s no plans at the moment to do anything else, at the moment. We´re just going to enjoy the album coming out and these performances that we have in front of us. But, you know, I wouldn’t rule something like that out in the future.
Q: Performing these two albums or are you going to add some covers, too?
A: At the moment, you know, predominantly the main set is made up of, yeah, the two albums. And then there’s a few other songs, couple of surprises that we might add to that as well. Maybe as encores or something.
Q: Had we talked about this in the mid 90s, about you turning into such a prolific singer in your 50s, would you have laughed it off?
A: Ah… probably, yeah. I remember years and years ago, when I was probably in my 20s, sometime in my 20s, late 20s, we were doing some TV show in Germany, and Pete Townsend from The Who was performing on the show. And we had a little chat in the hallway. And I remember thinking afterwards: “Wow. I hope I’m not still doing this when I’m as old as him!” (laughs)
Q: You really thought that?
A: At the time, yeah. When I, you know… so, I had to eat my words, and now I get it. Because this is what we do. We’re musicians. This is what we do. We perform and we enjoy doing that. And hopefully we do other things as we get a bit older, too. But performing onstage is the most natural thing. And The Who are still doing it, The Stones are still doing it, so still got a few years in me yet. (coughs)
Q: So you don´t know any better than The Stones or The Who – you´re all into the same thing, as long as it lasts?
A: Yeah, well. That’s what we do. Yeah. (chuckles)
Q: The last thing I need from you is a few quotes on Neil Young who´s turning 70 next month. Are you a fan of his?
A: Oh, a big Neil Young fan, yeah.
Q: What era? Don´t say the electronic years!
A: Not so much some of the electronic stuff (chuckles…)
Q: Because it was that bad or that weird?
A: Well, I think because I just… I’m not that familiar with a lot of that material, but certainly albums of course like “Harvest”, and “Decade”, and “Tonight’s The Night”. I mean, there’s many Neil Young songs that are just are amazing. And really unique sounding. In fact, I really liked the last couple of records, too. I liked the record he did with Daniel Lanois, which was awesome. Fantastic sound, great idea, great concept to a record. And he continues on, you know. I actually read his book recently, “Waging Heavy Peace”. Which was one of the books I read on the last tour I did with my band. And I thoroughly enjoyed that book so much. In fact, so much so that we were staying in some hotel - I believe somewhere in France - and Neil Young and his team were coming into the hotel a few days after us. And I wrote in the guest book a little note saying: “thank you for the book.” I hope he read it. (chuckles)
Q: Have you ever met the man?
A: I have met him, years ago. He probably won’t remember. I barely remember. I think it was at a Grammy party in Los Angeles, and I met him and his wife in a little booth in some after party. I’m sure I was really drunk and probably made a complete fool of myself, but I seem to remember him smiling at me - probably in that way that someone who’s got a lot more wisdom than you gives you that look, remembering where they were, and thankful for where they are now. (chuckles)