1997-04-xx - Arena (UK) - DEAD MAN TALKING
[Taken from the now-defunct website www.sacreddmnet
[Thanks to fatherlesschild
for this scan!]
DEAD MAN TALKING
[Arena, April 1997. Words: Gareth Grundy. Pictures: Jake Chessum / Various.]
" As he begins posing for photos, Jonathan Kessler enters the room, still in trainers and tracksuit bottoms after his morning run. He asks Gahan if he’s OK.
“Yeah!” he declares, loud enough for everyone to hear.
Then he looks at Kessler, smiles weakly and shakes his head."
Summary: An exceptional feature-length piece chronicling, with merciless precision, Dave's fall from grace and rehabilitation. While some articles of this sort milk the salacious details for all they're worth, the writer here has stuck to a relentless, unblinking narrative with very little commentary, not even from Dave himself. The result is harrowing, but just try stopping half way through. [3800 words]
It’s a rock’n’roll cliché: singer finds stardom and descends into drugs hell. It’s also true. Welcome to the world of Dave Gahan.
"Don’t put too much coke in there, man,” says Dave Gahan to the drug dealer loading his syringe with a blend of cocaine and heroine. “I’m not feeling well.” It’s almost 1am on May 28, 1996, and Gahan, lead singer of Depeche Mode, is sitting in his hotel bathroom at the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles. Outside, a girl he’s just met in the hotel bar mills about, oblivious to her new friend’s activities.
Back in the bathroom, Gahan injects the cocktail into his arm and looks into the dealer’s eyes. Immediately he knows that something is wrong. Something is very wrong. He passes out ten minutes later and begins to have a heart attack. The dealer tries to revive him. Failing, he drags Gahan into the bedroom where the girl panics, picks up the phone and dials for an ambulance. Terrified of being arrested, the dealer puts the receiver down and refuses to let her make the call. They struggle. She pushes him over and he runs off, only to return minutes later to collect his syringes and some, but not all, of his merchandise.
With the dealer finally gone, the girl makes the call and waits for the paramedics. She throws water and wet towels on Gahan, without effect. She tries to pick him up. Gahan is only slight but he is still too heavy for her to lift. She notices that his hands are turning blue. The colour is beginning to spread up his forearms.
An ambulance arrives at 1.15am and takes Gahan to LA’s Cedars Sinai hospital where his heart stops beating for two minutes before he is revived by doctors. He is then handcuffed to a policeman who accordingly reads him his rights and arrests him for possession of the cocaine found in his hotel room, and for being under the influence of heroin.
At dawn, Gahan is released from hospital and taken into custody by the LA Sheriff’s department, who lock him in a cell with five other people. Still woozy from the attack and terrified by his new surroundings, Gahan begins banging on his cell door.
“I’m sick,” he shouts. “I’m an addict. I need a doctor.”
A cop gives him a towel and tells him to wipe the sweat off his body. TV crews camp outside the jail and, four hours later, when Gahan is released on $10,000 bail, he’s met by a phalanx of cameras. He uses the opportunity to apologise to his mother.
Dave Gahan was born in Epping on May 9, 1962, but grew up in nearby Basildon. His mother, Sylvia, was in the Salvation Army and sent Gahan to Sunday School every week. He’d play truant and return home lying about what a great time he’d had. His father, Len, left home when he was just six months old. He reappeared when Gahan was five – after his stepfather had died – and stayed for about a year before disappearing again, this time for good.
Gahan was a tearaway as a youngster, notching up juvenile court appearances for stealing cars, vandalism and graffiti. His drug experimentation began as a teenager after thieving some barbiturates which his mother had been prescribed for epilepsy. Soon afterwards he graduated to speed. “A gang of us would go out together and buy a big bag of amphetamines,” he says. “We’d go to a party or club in London and catch the milk train home.” 
He left school in 1978 and went through 20 jobs within six months. The following year, he took heroin for the first time, in a King’s Cross squat, but was too enamoured of speed for it to make a lasting impression. Speed was the punk drug and Gahan was in deep, following the Damned and the Clash around the country.
At the turn of the decade, Gahan began frequenting the nascent London club scene. Although he applied to Southend Art College to study display design, he returned more interested in music and auditioned, in 1980, to be the singer for a Basildon synth band called Composition Of Sound. The group’s members – Vince Clarke (who went on to form Yazoo and then Erasure), Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher, all from the polite side of town – had heard Gahan singing Bowie’s “Heroes” at a jam session with another band in the local scout hut. He passed the audition and even came up with a better name, borrowed from the cover of a French fashion magazine: Depeche Mode.
Gahan was 18. Now he’s 34. In the intervening years Depeche Mode (with Alan Wilder, who replaced Clarke after the first album) conquered the world. Their last album, 1993’s Songs Of Faith And Devotion, went to number one in 17 countries. Today, Dave Gahan will tell you that he’s lucky to be alive. He’s not being melodramatic. For the last two and a half years, during which he was addicted to heroin, he didn’t care whether he lived or died. “I was on a death trip,” he says. “For a very long time”.
By late 1990, the pressures of being in Depeche Mode were affecting Dave Gahan’s personal life. Fans were camped outside his house, some even hired private detectives to follow him around. To cap it all, his five-year-old marriage – to Joanne, one-time head of the Mode fan club and mother of his three-year-old son, Jack – was on the rocks.
He’d fallen in love with Teresa Conway who’d been the band’s publicist on their 1988 US tour. Gahan was obsessed with her and phoned her constantly while he was in Milan recording the Mode’s 1989 album Violator.
In 1991, he divorced Joanne and moved to Los Angeles to live with Teresa. “I was besotted, blinded,” he says. “I was in lust. I cut off everyone who had ever been involved with my life up to that point. I started anew.”
That summer, Teresa took him to see highly fancied (now defunct) cosmic rockers Jane’s Addiction, who were led by chemical dustbin and would-be shaman Perry Farrell. Gahan hadn’t been so excited by a band since he saw The Clash as a teenager.
“They just had this incredible energy,” he says. “I thought if we could combine that with what we were doing, we would become the greatest band in the world.”
From that point Gahan devoted to his life to the pursuit of that objective. Teresa liked men with long hair, so he grew his shoulder-length. He grew a beard. He got tattooed. Heroin, which his new love also used, was simply part of the package.
“I wanted to go all the way, do it rock’n’roll style, y’know, live in Los Angeles, the whole bit,” he says. “I thought it had to involve every aspect of my life, and whoever wanted to tag along with me, that was fine. My ego was way out of control.”
Late in 1991, Gahan’s father died. He hadn’t seen him since he was five and now he had to bury him. “In the space of six months,” says Gahan, “everything just piled on top of me.”
In March 1992, the band reconvened in Madrid to record a new album. The others regarded Gahan’s new image and ideas about abandoning the group’s electronic template for rock’n’roll with a mixture of shock and resistance. They also noticed that he had lost a lot of weight – a consequence of his heroin abuse.
Alan Wilder wanted to call a band meeting and give Gahan an ultimatum to clean himself up. Daniel Miller, head of Mute, the record label Depeche Mode had been with since their inception, flew out to Spain, but even his presence failed to resolve the tension. Recording only became productive when the band, at Miller’s suggestion, moved out of their villa and into less claustrophobic surroundings in Hamburg.
“It was hard for the rest of the group to even be in the same room as me,” says Gahan.
The album recorded. Gahan married Teresa Conway in April 1992, at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The nuptials were witnessed by one of the chapel’s Elvis impersonators. No members of Depeche Mode attended the ceremony.
Following the release of the Songs Of Faith And Devotion album, Gahan was back on tour. The lavish stage production, designed by Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, who had provided the band’s visual image since 1988, was divided into two tiers. Gahan was isolated below, and in front of, the other band members, who watched as he pirouetted, high kicked and lived out his rock’n’roll dream in a purpose-built playpen.
But the fantasy was leaving him scarred. His arms were covered in scratches and marks, both from a stage-diving incident in Manheim and from injecting heroin. He needed cortisonic shots just to perform.
Inter-band relations had disintegrated. Three cars were used on the tour: Gahan rode in one and the increasingly disgruntled Wilde in another, Gore, Fletcher and members of the crew crammed into the third. Manager Jonathan Kessler was forced to communicate between band members. In an attempt to place the band back on speaking terms, a psychiatrist was hired for the tour. Although Gore and Fletcher subjected themselves to the therapy. Gahan didn’t get on the couch.
The tour gave Gore two stress-induced seizures, while the depression Fletcher had been enduring since the album’s completion began to worsen. At one point, Gore was worried that Fletcher was considering suicide. In the summer of 1991 (1994?), prior to the second American leg of the tour, Fletcher had a nervous breakdown and returned to England, where his wife was pregnant with their second child.
“I think even a lot of the crew ended up using the psychiatrist,” says Gahan. “Things were that bad.”
In the autumn of 1994 the Songs Of Faith And Devotion tour ground to a halt after some 14 months and 180-odd shows. “We took on way too much,” admits Gahan. Andy Fletcher is more succinct: “It was just hell”.
Shortly afterwards, Gahan visited his GP. He had broken two ribs and sustained internal haemorrhaging after diving into the crowd in Indiana and landing on a crash barrier. The doctor was worried. Battle wounds aside, Gahan didn’t weight much more than 100 pounds. The doctor wanted him to see a psychiatrist. Gahan ignored his advice and instead went with his wife to a rehab centre in Lake Tahoe, northern California, to relax as much as to get off drugs. Between 8pm and 9pm every day – showtime on tour – he began to feel twitchy and agitated.
“I was fried,” he says. “Completely fried”.
Gahan returned to LA and struggled with his addiction, eventually returning to rehab, this time in Tucson, Arizona. After six weeks he had lunch with his wife and told her he was going to stay clean for good. Then he realised what he’d said. The prospect of a future without heroin spooked him into using again. He was losing control. “My daily routine,” he says, “was finding, getting, and using.”
 - This is the one complaint I have with the article - from how the writer jumps from his mid-1990s drug problems to his early experimenting, and then (as you'll see) misses out the 1980s entirely, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Dave was some hardcore drug fiend all his years. He wasn't - for a large chunk of the 1980s he not only stayed away from the drugs (of any description), but was somewhat prudish in tone, regarding Martin's heavy partying as something he'd long grown out of. It was in 1987 when he started to head downhill again, doing cocaine on the Music For The Masses tour.
[Arena, April 1997. Words: Gareth Grundy. Pictures: Jake Chessum / Various - page 2 of 2]
In July 1995, Alan Wilder called a meeting in London with Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore to tell them he was leaving Depeche Mode. He faxed Gahan in Los Angeles to inform him of his decision. He never received a reply.
Gahan was otherwise occupied. He’d retreated to his bedroom. Stepping into his walk-in closet, he’d lock it from the inside and sit in there injecting heroin. He called it his Blue Room. The longest period he spent in there, moving between bedroom and closet, was three weeks. Teresa’s best friend, Kippy, who lived with the couple, would occasionally knock on the door to see if he wanted anything.
“It was really bizarre,” says Gahan. “We never lived alone. There was always somebody there. I didn’t mind, I liked the company. At the time, I was romanticising about the idea of death and just slipping away. It wasn’t part of the rock’n’roll thing by then. It was just about me. I didn’t like what I’d become and I didn’t know how to end it. But along with this, there was also something in me that wanted to live. I was always very afraid when I was on my own.”
Even so, his habit had ruined his second marriage. Teresa moved out of their million-dollar home in Hollywood, unwilling to stick by the drug-addled Gahan.
“Every time I tried to get sober, she wouldn’t stop her own using to help me,” he says. “That’s when you it’s over. Our marriage was pretty much non-existent anyway. We’d see each other occasionally, that was all.”
In August 1995, Gahan returned from yet another detox attempt to discover that he had been burgled. Everything – his two Harley Davidsons, his home recording studio, even the cutlery – had been taken. “There was nothing left,” he says. “Just wires hanging out of the walls.”
The electronic alarm had been shut down and resent. Only three people had the code: his estranged second wife and two builders who had worked on the house, supplied Gahan with drugs and were users themselves. “The police were convinced it was my wife because we’d separated,” he says.
Gahan reacted by putting the house up for sale and renting a place in Santa Monica. “I thought everyone would be better off if I wasn’t around,” he says, “I was hellbent on destruction.”
Despite having a new apartment, Gahan began to spend a lot of time at the Sunset Marquis hotel. On August 18, 1995 he was on the phone to his mum in England. He was waiting for a friend, a girl who was accompanying him to rehab meetings, to return to the hotel. But he wasn’t really sure if he wanted her to return; the Valium and bottle of wine he’d swallowed were preventing him from thinking clearly. He asked his mum to hold for a moment and went into the bathroom, where he picked up a razor blade and began slashing his forearms, gashing his wrists. He wrapped his arms in towels and returned to the phone, and told his mother he had to go.
“It was definitely a suicide attempt,” says Gahan. “But it was also a cry for help. I made sure there were people who might find me.”
The girl arrived, saw the blood running down Gahan’s arms, and called an ambulance. Gahan was rushed to Cedars-Sinai and – because attempted suicide is a felony offence in California – was put in a psychiatric ward. He was given a padded cell and wrapped in a straitjacket.
Eventually he was released into a room with just a bed in it, nothing else, not even a mirror. If he wanted a cigarette he had to go outside. Denied matches or his Zippo, he had to insert his cigarette into a wall-mounted lighter instead.
After his release Gahan retreated to his Santa Monica apartment. By this time he had become so paranoid that he’d taped his curtains shut and was living in darkness. He never went anywhere without carrying a gun.
“I had lots of guns, a 9mm, a .38 revolver and a 12-gauge shotgun too,” he says. “I just thought they were out to get me. Yeah, it was very much like the bit at the end of Goodfellas with the helicopters. I mean, if there were actually helicopters overhead, or cars going by, I’d freak.”
He was now more worried about the attitude of his drug buddies than being arrested. Dealers were refusing to sell to him. No one wanted the liability of a suicidal, drug-sick celebrity. Especially one who was beginning to overdose regularly.
He remembers the time he woke up on a dealer’s front lawn, wearing only his trousers, shoes and socks. His wallet, shirt, silver watch and jewellery were all missing. He’d overdosed inside the house and been thrown out. He staggered to his feet and began hammering on the front door, shouting that they’d forgotten the $400 that he’d hidden in his sock. The dealer, Maria, opened the door and let him in. She was wearing his watch. The following week, Gahan went back to the same place to score yet again.
“I had to,” he says. “These were my so-called friends.”
It was time for Depeche Mode to go back into the studio. The band, plus Jonathan Kessler, Daniel Miller and producer Tim Simenon arrived in New York in April last year. Gahan flew in from Los Angeles to complete vocals on eight tracks. His voice was so ruined from drug abuse that he managed only one. “And that,” says Andy Fletcher, “was probably luck”. 
Fletcher, Gore and Simenon had crisis meetings in the back of a New York taxi, travelling between the studio and their hotel. On the second day of recording, they delivered an ultimatum to Gahan: he had to sort himself out. This time for good. It was suggested he take on a vocal coach to get his voice back. Gahan knew his bandmates were resentful towards him.
“They were nervous and scared,” he says. “I was a chronic relapser. I was destroying everything. My life and theirs.”
The sessions finished in mid-May. For the last two weeks he was in New York, his new girlfriend told him that she knew he was going to get high again. Gahan told her she was right, he had to, just to see if he’d finally mastered his addiction.
“When I went back to Los Angeles,” he says, “I used like I’d never used before. I went mental.”
That was when Dave Gahan pushed it too far.
“After that big overdose last May, the paramedics told me that I should have been dead,” he says. “They said that I had enough heroin and cocaine in me to kill a horse.”
After his overdose and release on bail, Gahan went back to the Sunset Marquis and continued to use heroin for a couple of weeks. Not that it was having any effect any more.
“In the end, the most exciting part of it was connecting with somebody who had drugs,” he says. “Getting in my car, racing there and having stuff in my hand. It was all downhill from there.”
He phoned his girlfriend in New York, who said she couldn’t have a junkie around her. Then Jonathan Kessler called, telling Gahan he had to attend a meeting with his lawyer concerning the arrest. There was no such meeting. He arrived to find Kessler with Bob Timmons, a professional “intervention specialist” who works with addicts in the entertainment business. They told Gahan he was going to rehab. Right away.
Gahan checked into the Exodus Recovery Centre in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles – the unit that Kurt Cobain escaped from before committing suicide in April 1994. This time he was serious in adhering to the rules. The place was like a minimum security prison. Meals were eaten with plastic cutlery and Gahan was woken at 7am for a morning meeting with his counsellor and recovery group. These sessions would run throughout the day. He was not allowed to leave and for the first few days, while he was in withdrawal, he would have seizures every hour.
The last time he spoke to Teresa Conway was when she phoned him in the Exodus. They’d been separated for a year and were discussing divorce. Shortly afterwards she served Gahan with the requisite papers. The split was sour.
“She’s suing me for a lot of money,” he says. “I felt like I gave up a lot I already had – a wife and son – for something that seemed real at the time, but in retrospect was pretty painful. The first couple of years we were together were pretty good, but after that it started dwindling. A lot of it was based on lust – I could hang out with this girl, party, and get laid.”
In July last year, Gahan pleaded not guilty to cocaine possession charges in the Los Angeles municipal court. Judge Charles Rubin Friday ordered him into an outpatient programme, which would allow him to work with Depeche Mode again. The band had continued working while Gahan was ill. To assist his recovery, he left Los Angeles and moved to New York.
The Leonard Hotel, Marble Arch, London, January 22, 1997. Dave Gahan looks nervous. His pale green suit, jewellery and mid-Atlantic accent provide some superficial rock star swagger, but he seems shaken. As he sits down to have his make-up applied for a photo shoot, he begins to talk. He rambles things you wouldn’t ordinarily tell a photo shoot crew that you’d just met.
He says he’s been on the phone since seven o’clock this morning. His girlfriend phoned him from New York. She found her ex-boyfriend, and father of her son, dead in his apartment last night. He’d hanged himself.
“I just didn’t know what to say to her,” he sighs. She told him they shouldn’t phone each other for a while, that this is an emotionally raw time for both of them. His eyes well up.
You could write to her…
“Maybe I should,” he says, staring off into the distance.
As he begins posing for photos, Jonathan Kessler enters the room, still in trainers and tracksuit bottoms after his morning run. He asks Gahan if he’s OK.
“Yeah!” he declares, loud enough for everyone to hear.
Then he looks at Kessler, smiles weakly and shakes his head.
On February 21 Dave Gahan was given eight months to show that he can keep clean. He will be back in a Los Angeles court on October 21, and, if he’s still drug free then, the charges against him will be dropped. In the meantime, he’s on parole. He provides two urine samples a week and must talk to his Exodus counsellor, and his probation officer, every day. He’s also required to attend AA meetings while he’s in Britain. Gahan’s faith in the rock’n’roll myth has been replaced by belief in his own sobriety.
His relationship with his first wife is now healthier and he’s spending time with Jack again. “I just wasn’t physically able to be around him while I was using drugs,” he says.
“I believe that I can do this: stay sober,” he says. “I’ve got to get humble, real humble. I maybe even need to stop everything before I really work out what I want to do with my life. I’ve been in Depeche Mode for 17 years and in that time I’ve been married twice and divorced twice. That’s a sad state of affairs. I don’t want to make the same mistakes again.”
Depeche Mode release the single “It’s No Good” on March 31 and the album Ultra on April 14.
 - Dave didn't even manage that much, to be honest. The song, Sister Of Night, had to be spliced together from several recordings as Dave's voice was too poor for him to sing the song adequately from start to finish.