Lovely Things: A Depeche Mode Retrospective.

This blog post is a compilation of the history of Depeche Mode, based on information, stories, articles, and documentaries I have read and watched. Since they’re my favorite band, and as a celebration for their October 11th – 2016 announcement of a new album and tour, I present to you this retrospective of Depeche Mode.

From Essex with electronic love.

Depeche Mode, for those who don’t know, are an English electronic band formed in Basildon, Essex.

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From left, Andrew Fletcher, Vince Clarke, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore. 1981

The origins of the band comes from 1977, when school friends Vince Clarke and Andrew Fletcher formed a band called “No Romance In China” which was inspired by an English rock band “The Cure”
Vince would write the songs and do the vocals, while Fletch was on bass. Obviously, that didn’t work out, and so later on, Vince, Fletcher, and a friend of Fletcher named Martin Gore, who joined in because he was the only one in Basildon who owned a synthesizer, gave it another shot.
They formed a group called “Composition of Sound”. They focused on electronic tunes, and switched completely to Synthesizers. Vince heard Dave Gahan perform David Bowie’s Heroes in a jamming session, and asked him to join them. Dave Agreed, and Depeche Mode were born!

The origin of the name “Depeche Mode” comes from a french fashion magazine, since Dave Gahan studied Fashion, and the magazine was called “Depeche Mode” which meant “Hurried Fashion” or “Fashion Dispatch” and everyone liked how it sounded, and thus, the name was chosen.

First steps: Speak & Spell (1981)

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Depeche Mode’s debut album was written almost entirely by Vince Clarke (Except for the tracks “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “Big Muff”. They were written by Martin Gore) and as a result of that, it’s sound was pretty techno like and light on tone, exactly what Vince likes and does basically.
From here, their first hit single was born “Just Can’t Get Enough” alongside other singles such as “New Life” and “Dreaming Of Me”
The Album got high praise from the European audience almost immediately, as their sound was unique and new.

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Though when often asked, almost the entire band agrees that this was mainly Vince Clarke’s work, and that one of the worst tracks in the band’s history (If not “The” worst) was in this album, titled “What’s Your Name?”
Vince Clarke immediately left after work on the first album wrapped up, marking “Just can’t get enough” as his last work with the band, and giving the writing job to Martin Gore. The band proceeded by getting a new member, Alan Wilder.

Most Notable Tracks:
Just Can’t Get Enough
New Life
Photographics
Dreaming Of Me
Ice Machine

Dawn of the “Dark Phase”: A Broken Frame (1982)

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After Vince’s departure from the band, Martin immediately started writing new material for the band. Alan Wilder is not credited in this Album since he was still not officially a band member at the time, but contributed to the making of the record.
All the materials are entirely written by Martin Gore, giving it a more melancholic sound, while retaining the band’s electro pop sound. A good example of this is “Leave In Silence” A single from the album.
A Broken Frame was often called the beginning of their “Dark Phase”

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Most of the media outlet thought that the band wouldn’t last more than 9 months after Vince’s Departure, but A Broken frame surprised everyone with a strong return, and a lot of good material.
Alan’s knowledge of music was also a huge addition to the band, since Alan was the only one who studied music, and played almost everything flawlessly, making him a very technical guy. Once the Album was released to critical acclaim, Alan became an official member of the band, and they started working on their third album.

Most Notable Tracks:
See You
Leave In Silence
The Meaning Of Love
Nothing To Fear
Shouldn’t Have Done That

An Industrial Touch: Construction of Time again (1983)

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The Band’s third album was the first album to have Alan Wilder as a fully active member of the band, and he even wrote two songs (Two Minutes Warning – The Landscape Is Changing)
It was published by Mute Records, starting a collaboration with them that stands till this day, as their publisher.

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The main idea of the album was to try and give the synth focused sound of the band an industrial flavor, and in it’s lyrical themes, it focused on politics and poverty.
It offered an interesting edgy vibe, while having the usual dance beats but with more of a thrill, and also in some of the songs, it offered a gloomy picture with a very upbeat and sometimes quirky performances. A song that perfectly captures this is “Everything Counts”

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Media outlets heavily praised the album for being completely different, and for Alan’s new additions to the band’s sound.
As a tradition of the band, every single record has to feel completely different in terms of sound and execution.
At this point of their career, Depeche Mode were leaving a mark on the musical scene in europe, and would soon explode worldwide, as Masters of synthesizer sounds.

Most Notable Track:
Everything Counts
Two Minute Warning
Pipeline
Love, in itself
The Landscape Is Changing

Hidden underneath good tunes: Some Great Reward (1984)

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Soon after Construction Of Time Again, the band immediately started working on their next record. By this time, the band has been wildfire in Europe, but have yet to break through in America and have a worldwide global audience.
Some Great Reward was the first step in achieving that point of success.
Martin alongside Alan kept on the industrial vibes from Construction of Time Again, and tried to make a very natural sound by actually recording with real industrial stuff (Metal pieces, fences, etc…)

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Incorporating this with their trademark electronic sound gave off a very natural synthetic vibe that was superb, but was still retained a very programmed pace.
The single “People are People” perfectly showcases that.
The themes of the album were more about society as a whole, and how they act and react to things around them.
The album proved to be extremely successful, and had the first single to top the charts in both America and the UK, with People are People.
Following it’s success, the band went on to make their tour, playing in all kinds of places live.

Most Notable Tracks:
People are People.
Master and Servant.
Blasphemous Rumors.
Somebody.
Stories of Old.

Cementing the darker side: Black Celebration (1986)

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When we start talking about Black Celebration, we must first start talking about a gap. Depeche Mode no loger released albums on a yearly basis, for Black Celebration took two years to make, and before it, the band was just releasing stand alone singles that were nowhere to be found within any of the albums.

After a tour, all band members were burned out, and did not want to take risks on starting the new record, so they released a single by the name of “Shake The Disease”

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Shake The Disease was a love song, but a love song unlike any other, for it’s lyrical structure and context were so different from the usual known love songs. It was a song that truly captured the band’s essence. Alan Wilder stated about the single “There’s a certain edge to what we do that can make people think twice about things. If we’ve got a choice to call it “Understand Me” or “Shake The Disease”, we’ll call it “Shake The Disease”. There’s a lot of perversity and innuendo in our lyrics, but nothing direct.”

Even the music video of the single had a lot of work put on by director Peter Care, who tried to showcase the band members falling through camera tricks, as a symbolism for falling in love.

The band particulary liked this track, but it did not make it through the album, so it stayed off as a stand alone single, just like it’s follow up “It’s Called A Heart”

The problem with “It’s Called A Heart” though is that both Martin and Alan didn’t like it very much, and thought it did not live up to what they did previously with “Shake The Diseas”

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Their original plan was to release a song called “Fly on the Windscreen” as a single instead of “It’s Called A Heart” but their record producer suggested otherwise, since “Fly on the Windscreen” was thematically harsh and dark in nature. The band would release “The Singles 81 – 85” which contained all singles they ever made in one package, including “Shake The Disease” and “It’s Called A Heart”

Not it was time for a proper new record, and here’s where Black Celebration comes in.

Black Celebration is where the band fully embraced their dark tone and tried to stay away from the pop’ish sound of their previous album, and it was mostly Alan Wilder’s music experience that made this work, it was a sound introduced and cemented by him to the band, which can clearly be seen in their follow up records too.

When Martin Gore first played the song demos to producer Daniel Miller, his reaction was not aligned with the band’s vision. He told them “It’s too dark, the songs aren’t good enough, there aren’t any singles, and it would never get played on the radio.”

His fear came from the fact that the songs just felt way too different from before, they’re no longer pop, it was like the band were trying somethimg completely new, and thus he was afraid it would fire back, but at the end, he told them to do what they think is best, and they went through with it.

In order to make sure the album was truly a masterpiece, the band decided to follow something called “Live The Album” which basically was them going to the studio and working on the album every single day from the moment they wake till they sleep, and everyone committed, and it created the perfect working atmosphere for the album, making everyone emotionally engaged in the process. They lived in the studio making that album.

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Part of the artistic aspects that complemented the themes of the album was the participation of Anton Corbijn, who handled the creative direction of the visual outputs of the band, tackling their promotional photography, music videos, and stage designs on their tours. Anton Corbijn contribution to the band would last long, and is found on every single record from this moment inwards.

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The result was breathtaking! Everyone loved the record, every single song felt distrinctive, heavy, dark, and well written. Because at the time there was a move by critics against electronic music. Andrew Fletcher stated that “With this record, we had a mission to prove to people that electronic music was a valid type of music.”

Until now, the band had never used a guitar on any of their tracks, but focused mainly on electronic sounds and synths.

The album wasn’t a commercial success, but is cited as one of the most influential albums of the 1980’s and spin magazine put it in the list of ” The best 25 albums of all time”

The band were extremely happy with the results of the album, and even Daniel who had doubt in the beginning, thought that the band should follow this route.

The Black Celebration tour followed afterwards, and was much bigger than the previous one. At this point, Depeche Mode were no longer a pop’ish boy band who wanted to make dance music, but a group of grown up musicians who truly wanted to push the formula of electronic music.

Most Notable Tracks:

Black Celebration

Stripped

Fly On The Windscreen

Question of Time

Question of Lust

It Doesn’t Matter Two

The Strange Megaphone: Music for the Masses (1987)

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Right after the completion of Black Celebration, producer Daniel Miller has stepped away from producing their next album. His reasons were related to the growing tension that they had experienced in the studio through the production of the previous album, and so, with Daniel’s permission, the band teamed up with David Bascombe to be their new producer for the new album.

Expectations were high, and due to the commercial let down of Black Celebration, the band had to do something that retained their essence, style, and sound, while making something that would succeed commercially. The result is “Music For The Masses”

Andrew Fletcher and Martin Gore both stated that the name of the album was a joke, since everyone was telling them to make more commercial music, so they decided to name it Music For The Masses even though it was anything but for the masses. “The title was a joke on the uncommerciality of the album” Martin Gore stated.

The band were becoming a musical force, more tougher, more older, and more darker. They had established the thing all bands dream of, a huge fanbase, one that understands them completely, devotees or fanatics you might call them, and this album was exactly made to give these “Devotees” what they wanted.

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Though the sounds of the album and it’s melody were uplifting to an extent, the dark themes of the lyrics and vibes were still there. Also, the band tried to experiment with new ways to achieve a more diverse sounds for the album, some of these ways were using a guitar, and trying to work with repetitive chords that kept on playing. A song that showcased this new approach perfectly was one of the album’s singles “Behind The Wheel”

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A shot from the music video of “Behind The Wheel”. Directed by Anton Corbijn.

It was a breath of fresh air for both the band, the production team, and their writing process.

These experimental ways produced some of the band’s most bizzare songs, such as “Pimpf” and “Little15” and it also felt like every song had it’s own theme, instead of a general theme for the entire record.

one of the strongest results of this record is “Never Let Me Down Again” which is one of Depeche Mode’s most legendary songs that they keep playing on almost every single live concert since it was released.

The end result is one of Depeche Mode’s most loved records, filled with strong hits. Ironically to it’s “Joke Name” the album was acclaimed both commercially and critically.

The album was supported by the “Music For The Masses Tour” afterwards, and they released a documented live movie of their tour by the name of “101”. It was a chronicle of the band’s live performances throughout the tour.

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Depeche Mode’s 101

Depeche Mode’s next step would be their most critical, changing them forever.

Most Notable Tracks:

Never Let Me Down Again

Strangelove

Behind The Wheel

Little 15

Sacred

Reach out and touch faith!: Violator (1990)

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Their seventh album, Violator, is where Depeche Mode exploded into worldwide fame. Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andrew Fletcher, and Alan Wilder, were Rock Stars after violator’s release.

They had delivered a classic record at the right time, perfect in every aspect, a complete package of music that was superb. Teaming up with a new producer Mark (Flood) Ellis, him and Alan covered the technical studio work, arrangements, and song textures.

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The band, alongside Flood, decided to follow a new working procedure. Instead of everyone working all together at the same time on everything, they gave each one a sole focused role. Martin and Andrew worked on the writing, Dave worked on the vocals, Alan and Flood on the technical Studio work.

“Uusally we begin the making of a record by having extensive pre-production meetings where we decide what the record will actually sound like, then go into programming in the studio. This time, we decided to keep all pre-prodcution work to a minimum. We were beginning to have a problem with boredom in that we felt we’d reached a certain level of achievement in doing things a certain way” Said Alan Wilder on the production process of the album.

“Over the last five years, I think we’d perfected a formula; my demos, a month in programming studio, etc, etc. We decided that our first record of the 90’s ought to be different” Added Martin.

With this new working system, after the demos were introduced, the band would meet together to throw out ideas at the beginning for each of the tracks, then Flood and Alan would handle the studio work.

Martin also took a different approach in the making of his demos. Instead of making almost finished demos like he did with music for the masses before, he made them less complete and very minimal, with only vocals, backed up by guitar or organs. A perfect example that showcases this approach was their second hit single of Violator “Enjoy The Silence”

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A shot from Enjoy The Silence’s music video. Directed by Anton Corbijn.

In the beginning, the song was a very slow ballad, with organs in the background. Alan and Flood took the demo, and made it a fast up tempo track, while retaining that ballad feeling. The result, alongside Dave’s Vocals, was nothing short of perfection.

The first single “Personal Jesus” was also another big hit for the band, and a huge success. It was playing all over America in the radio, and sold a million copies in a very small time.

It was new, it was different, it had a continuous guitar riff, something that Martin did not do before, but it seems that the band have finally broke the wall, and started welcoming more instruments for more diversity.

With two more hit singles released “Policy of Truth” and “World in my Eyes” the band were getting huge amounts of media exposure, events, magazine front pages, signing sessions, fan riots, news headlines, and it just kept on going, and the album wasn’t even released yet!

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All singles reached the top 10 hit tracks in both the US and UK.

Big part of the album’s success was Flood’s involvement as a producer, he was a miracle falling from the sky to the band, the tour manager would even call him “The world’s greatest producer”. He was very hands on, very knowledgeable, and an expert at his work. Since his past work involved synth heavy bands and rock bands, he wanted to make something that would combine both, and Depeche Mode were the perfect choice to make that vision. He was the one to push them, make them come up with new ideas, and making martin use different instruments, like a guitar.

“If you wanna use a guitar, use a guitar. You should do what sounds good, and stop making rules” Flood would say, regarding their rule to not use the same sounds twice, and the guitar is a sound that they’ve used once before.

The album finally came out, and it was Depeche Mode’s big bang, their magnum opus. It reached the top 10 in the billboards, reviewed like a golden star, and sold like hot cakes.

Every single producer that they’ve worked with previously, and in the future, state that Violator is their favorite album.

This was Depeche Mode at their peak.

The album was supported by the “World Violation Tour” which toured to almost 1.2 million fans.

Violator is considered by most, the band’s best album, and was on countless “Albums you must listen to before you die” lists.

What came after violator though, was a cluster of magic and extremely low moments.

Most Notable Tracks:

Enjoy The Silence.

Personal Jesus.

Policy Of Truth.

The Sweetest Perfection.

World In My Eyes.

Embrace the darkness: Songs Of Faith and Devotion (1993)

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With Violator being the biggest success for the band, and putting them on the spotlight everywhere, it’s not an easy thing to make an album that would actually surpass the success and critical acclaim of Violator. That was the position the band were put into, a huge amount of pressure on every single one of them. But another problem was the fact that each one of them had changed drastically after Violator.

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When the planning for a new album started, Flood suggested to Alan that they could approach a new way of recording the new album, which was renting a villa in Madrid, and all 4 members would live there for a couple of months and the villa would also act as the studio. Alan and Flood went out to Madrid, saw the villa, set things up, and they were ready to roll. But all the members have been away from each other since the completion of the last tour for a long time, everyone was living in a different place in the world, and when they all met together in a bar in london after a long time without meeting, things were very different. Dave was skinny, different, and super influenced by the rock and grunge scene. His appearance was also very different, with long hair, dark clothes, and a very different attitude and vibe. Martin was depressed at that time, and did not appreciate the studio work and was burnt out, Alan wanted a more natural approach with real instruments and experimentation, instead of the usual programmed structure of recording and mixing. And fletcher was not as keen or involved intelluctually in the process of making a new record yet.

So once they settled in that Villa in Madrid, they had one single meeting only, where Martin played the demos, and that was it! No pre production, no programming sessions, no nothing.

The pressure was doubled by the fact that they had to make a record that was better than violator, and also trying to all be on the same page, which they clearly weren’t. The structure of the songs consisted of chunks of performances the band members would “Jam” together in the Villa, which is something thay’ve never done before. Programming sessions were forgotten, and that was going to take some time to get used to, let alone the frustration of it all. A couple of months passed with no real progress, only experimentation for the original demos, and the overall vibes were completely broken.

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There was no cohesion. Dave would go out and disappear for days, and no one knew he had developed a heroin addiction, Martin and Fletcher would sit down on the sofa reading sports papers or something, Alan would be on the drums room just playing for himself, and Flood was just suffering with them and trying to get the right sounds out of synthesizers. It was a breaking point for Flood especially, he would be in tears in order to pull this thing together.

Regardless of the state the band were in, their new approach to take a more natural recording style with chunks of performances was actually a superb thing for them, because it opened up a lot of options.

Flood and Alan took the handle to pick up the pace, and when they did, meators of musical magic started falling.

“In the face of adversity, you often produce your best work and I actually believe during that period, which was the most difficult time I can remmeber in the group, we came up with the strongest things we’ve ever done. Songs like Walking In My Shoes and In Your Room, two of my all time favorite tracks” Alan said on the documentary of the Album.

“Everybody felt comfortable that there was a bulk of good stuff to work from that was really good. I Feel You, and Walking In My Shoes, which everybody felt that it was one of the best songs Martin had ever written.” Flood added.

It seemed that with everyone’s own personal addition to the album, the result was unique, because obviously they were not on the same page. But Martin’s writing, Alan and Flood amazing studio work, and Dave’s best vocal performance ever (Dave claims that he did his best vocal performance in Condemnation) a bigger picture was starting to be revealed, and even though it took a long time and was completely chaotic, here they were, nailing it like never before, without them even knowing.

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“Even though he was on Heroin, or wasn’t even there most of the time, whenever he came in to the studio and did a vocal, it was amazing!” Martin said on Dave’s vocal work on the album.

With Dave’s problems being very clear, and troubling, and not being able to give much input on the record, he still managed to give a lot of positive encouragement, even in his state, and whenever he did his part, it was flawless. That gave them a morale boost to get things working better.

They eventually decided to move to Hamburg for the second part of the album’s recording, and go back to the more personal lifestyles instead of all living in the same Villa, and that helped the process a lot, and even though they weren’t on the same page as individuals, they agreed the material so far was top notch.

The album was released, and it was the first Depeche Mode record to reach the top number 1 in the charts in UK, US, and other countries. Critics loved it, and so did the majority of the audience.

But nothing about the process of making it was smooth, even in the final mixing session of the final track of the album “Judas” Alan and Martin were arguing about it, while the album was technically finished.

Soon after the album was done, the “Devotional” tour started, which is Depeche Mode’s biggest, most ambitious, and largest tour the band had ever undertaken. Due to the huge success of the tour, the band released a documentation of the tour as a film directed by Anton Corbijn

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But after the tour, nothing was ever the same. Alan Wilder departed from the band for good, with goodwill. Dave Gahan attempted suicide, and his heart stopped for two minutes from a heroin overdose a year after the attempt. It seemed that everything was falling apart.

Most Notable Tracks:

Walking In My Shoes.

In Your Room.

Rush.

Higher Love.

I Feel You.

(Seriously though, listen to the entire thing, it’s just mindblowing! My favorite album of all time. I even wrote about it in here!)

Deja Vu: Ultra (1997)

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With Gahan’s 2 minute death, and Alan Wilder’s departure from the band, everyone thought that the band was done for, that they were gonna split for good.

Their publisher “Mute” were receiving countless letters from fans all over the world, asking if the band will continue or not.

Dave Gahan had to go to rehab and get clean first, before they would start working on what’s next, and even some of the band members, including Martin thought that this was the end of the band with Alan’s departure. It was horrible, and hard for everyone, because everyone did appreciate Alan and knew what he did, and without him, his technical touch in the studio would be gone, and they would need to adapt.

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Alan Wilder’s departure statement.

It almost felt like “A Broken Frame” all over again, trying to find themselves, and starting from scratch.

Making an entire new record would have been a tremendous task, and will have just as much pressure as Songs Of Faith And Devotion had, and so the decision from the production team was that they would make an EP instead of a full record, to ease the pressure.

The band needed some outside help,to create some atmospheres, something that Alan would handle, and apparently Flood had enough by Songs Of Faith And Devotion, and so they did get that help, from a new Mute producer who was a fan of the band, which is something that they needed, someone who knew their stuff and understood them. This producer is Tim Simenon.

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Tim Simenon, producer of Ultra.

Problems were still there, before starting, with Dave’s drug addiction, Martin’s drinking problems, and them not having an official meeting with the producer yet.

Fletcher was the only one who was holding it together after Songs Of Faith And Devotion.

Once they got together, recording sessions were taking too long, as long as six weeks for a single song, and part of it was because of Dave’s issues. It reached to a point where some of them started thinking that it was going to be a Martin Gore solo album instead of a Depeche Mode album, because of Dave’s problems. He wasn’t able to sing because of the use of Heroin.

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The track “Sister Of Night” was an example of a track taking an entire week mainly for the vocals, because Dave just couldn’t get it out, even though it still one of the tracks that stands out in terms of vocal performance. There just wasn’t any kind of consistency.

The band even suggested getting a singing teacher to try and make Dave get his voice back.

And then it happened… Dave Gahan died for 2 minutes because of a Heroin overdose.

He got charged with drug offenses afterward, and had to go to prison after recovering. He went to rehab after getting out of prison, and Dave Gahan started seeing things more clearly. He got clean, he got sober, and most importantly, he got back.

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Dave Gahan after leaving prison.

“It was a resurrection!” Fletcher would call it.

He recovered very quickly, and the band started recording on a much more stable pace, and it was great. The demos Martin wrote were all on point, and Tim’s production was superb too, producing some very memorable singles such as “It’s No Good” and “Useless”

It was so influential in terms of style and atmosphere, that an entire music festival was named after the album “Ultra Music Festival”

It was almost tribal, and very foreign. And it focused a lot on electronics, rather than the previous album’s focus on natural instruments.

The album wasn’t as big as Violator and Songs Of Faith And Devotion, but it was still a success both commercially and critically.

And with Ultra bringing back the cohesion and momentum of the band, they were on an entire new start, a new beginning, and it was going to be great.

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Most Notable Tracks:

It’s No Good

Useless

Sister Of Night

– Barrel Of A Gun

The Love Thieves

All about Love: Exciter (2001)

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With Ultra bringing back the cohesion to the band, they still needed time to rest, heal, and get back on their feet again. That lead to Ultra having no tour, which made them irritated, but they knew they just couldn’t handle a tour at the moment.

The 80’s and 90’s were done, and the band needed to adapt, to come up with a new sound, a new rhythm. Though there was a problem… Martin was having a writer’s block, and wasn’t able to write songs. He didn’t like it, and that was pressure that he never had a choice about.

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Daniel Miller suggested to get some people in on the studio, not to be songwriters, but to help Martin with simply being musicians and just being around. So Gareth Jones came by, who helped producer three previous albums, and a musician friend of Martin by the name of Paul Freegard, to both help with the pre-production of the next album.

That had an effect on Martin, making him open up to both of them, and playing unfinished songs, and songs he was stuck on, and with their involvement, the songs actually started progressing.

Daniel Miller said on the documentary in regards to Martin “He keeps his cards very close to his chest, you never hear anything unless he’s absolutely 100% happy about it. So who knows how many great songs got rejected that none of us has ever heard?”

Now more material was on the table, and Martin was getting back to progressing with the songwriting, alongside Gareth and Paul.

So for the first time, there were no demo sessions, but almost immediately a pre-production stage right off the bat.

Dave Gahan around that time was actually writing songs also, and when he came down to the studio, and did some vocal work, everything seemed to work properly. He wanted to get involved into the writing process of the album with the material he wrote, but felt like it wasn’t the time yet.

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With songs almost being half ready, the band still felt like they needed that extra push to make them feel more special and new, and so they brought in a new producer, like they would always do. Mark Bell came in, who had previously produced a Bjork album before.

Things were going great, the mixing and production was going fast, smooth and on time.

Releasing “Dream On” as the first album single, and then followed by “I feel Loved” which became very famous on clubs, “Freelove” and “Goodnight Lovers” which the majority felt were very strong singles.

Martin also wanted the album to represent a positive image this time instead of the usual dark albums, and dark cover arts. The result was a record that felt lightweight, chill, clean, and pop’ish, and it was great. It did well critically, commercially, and topped the charts. Another successful Depeche Mode record.

Most Notable Tracks:

Dream On

Freelove

I Feel Loved

Goodnight Lovers

Breath

Picking up the pace: Playing The Angel (2005)

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The band’s eleventh album took a couple of years to make after the release of Exciter, and this time, just as usual, the band had a new producer, one that would work with them for quite some time after this album. Ben Hillier was the producer of this record.

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Ben Hillier, Producer of Playing the Angel.

It started when Martin and Dave met, and started talking about unused material of some written songs, and since Dave started writing songs at the time of Exciter but never got to use them, he made his own solo album in 2003, showing that he can write some pretty good songs.

And so, for the first time, Dave Gahan co-wrote this album alongside Martin Gore.

The tone of Exciter was pretty lightweight, and this time around, the band wanted to get rid of that, and pursue a more organic feeling, with using analogue synths instead of digital ones. It sounded much more harsher than Exciter was.

Another thing that made this album more personal was the fact that each one of the band members were family men now, and sadly for Martin Gore, he was going through a divorce in that time of his life, making him write a song like “Precious” which was a song he wrote for his kids and how they’re handling the divorce of their parents.

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Despite the personal problems, the vibes in the studio this time were actually pretty energetic and cheerful, especially with the attitude of their new producer, who was naturally a fun guy to be with. Around the first 5 weeks, they already had 11 tracks ready to go into full production.

With singles such as “Suffer Well” written by Dave, and “Precious” written by Martin, the direction was very clear, and everything seemed direct, smooth, and stable.

Another thing that made this record unique, was he fact that Ben Hillier wasn’t a big fan of Depeche Mode, or to be more precise, did not know them that much, so when he approached to work on this record, he had no conception of what their sound is really like, making him adapt and create something that felt new, yet familiar with the band’s involvement in production.

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The result was a much faster album, and a much harsher one, and wasn’t as dark thematically as the band’s previous albums.

Some tracks did not make it to the album, such as “Martyr” which was supposed to be part of the album’s singles, but was eventually released as a standalone single because it felt too “Poppy” for the general sound of the album.

Reviews and critical reception were great, and the album was also a commercial success, pretty much just like every other album they released.

After the album, the band started the “Touring The Angel” tour. Playing 124 live performances all across America and Europe.

Most Notable Tracks:

Precious

John The Revelator

Suffer Well

I Want it All

A Pain That I’m Used To

Productive work: Sounds of the universe (2009)

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After work wrapped up for Playing The Angel, Dave Gahan went back to working on a new solo album called “Hourglass” While Martin was in Santa Barbara demoing new songs he’s written.

In 2008, the band all met up in the studio to start working on their new album, and once again, Ben Hillier took the role of the producer, since the band thought he was great and very easy to work with.

Dave Gahan reprised his role as a co-writer also, getting more involved with the album, and writing songs with Martin. The band decided during the period in the studio that they would record themselves working in the studio, and share these recording on their webpage, as a fun thing to do, and it was quite effective.

Fans got the chance to see their working routines, their funny moments, and just being generally fun to watch and see behind the scenes stuff.

The entire process of writing was very productive and fast, ending up with a total amount of 22 songs!

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It was tough, because the band had to choose specific tracks for the album, since 22 songs would be too much, and so they decided to choose 13 tracks.

“Wrong” was the first single to be released from the album, followed with “ Peace” “Fragile Tension” and “Hole To Feed”

it sounded more sci fi than the previous album, and it tackled each song with a very different and unique style. For an example “In Chains” was a very slow track that takes it’s time to build up and focused on a stretched chorus, while “Wrong” was an ongoing beast of harsh sounds that manages to inserts the word “Wrong” in every verse.

The result was something that felt like a trip back to the band’s past works, striving for a more synth focused sound, but at the same time, trying to do something different with the songs structure.

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It received generally positive reviews, and as always, topped the charts.

The album was supported by a tour called “Tour of the universe” and was also performed for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” TV performances.

During the tour, singer Dave Gahan passed out at a point, and the doctors revealed that he suffered from a tumor in his bladder, and that they had to operate on him fast, which they did, and the tumor was removed, making Gahan survive near death moments 3 times. Once from suicide, once from a drug overdose, and once from cancer. Dave Gahan got the nickname “The Cat” for surviving that many times.

One of the highlights of the tour was that the band played a special show for the Teenage Cancer Trust, where Alan Wilder joined the band once again, to play a special performance of the song “Somebody”

Fans went wild and crazy seeing Alan Wilder stand on a Depeche Mode stage since the days of Songs Of Faith And Devotion.

Most Notable Tracks:

Wrong

Hole To Feed

In Chains

Peace

Fragile Tension

Synth Blues: Delta Machine (2013)

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Once again, the band hit the studio in 2012 to start recording their 13th album, alongside Ben Hillier as the producer once again, but this time, Flood (Who produced Violator and Songs Of And Devotion) came back to mix the album, and his touch truly shines in this one. As for Ben Hillier, Delta Machine was his final collaboration with the band, marking an end of a production trilogy.

The process was pretty much the same as Sounds Of The Universe, with both Martin and Dave writing the songs, but what made the recording of these songs much easier was the direction Martin had in mind. Most of the demos were much more developed. It was still the thematic Depeche Mode dark vibes, but with a touch of blues and gospel aesthetic, something that both Martin and Dave like.

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Followed by Ben Hillier’s use of analogue synths, the songs were very electronic, yet gothic, something that was present in Songs Of Faith And Devotion and some songs in Violator.

A perfect example of that was showcased in the album’s third single “Should Be Higher”

Another aspect that made the album unique was the fact that it was pretty direct, every track works around what’s best in it, for an example, the vocals in “Welcome To My World” had a punch and presence throughout the entire song, something that stood out, and so what they did was to work around that, and the result is a set list of direct and focused tracks, followed by Flood’s master mixing work. Another example is the album’s lead single “Heaven”

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“A song like heaven for instance, was an obvious example of that, where we were very conscious about not overworking the musical elements, so they distracted from the vocals” Dave stated in the making of the album.

With singles “Heaven” “Sooth my soul” and “Should Be Higher” the album was released on march 2013, with positive reviews, and commercial success.

Soon afterwards, the band embarked on the album’s tour, as they tradiotnally do after every album, and they kicked it off in Nice, France. They played live for the first time in some new locations, such as Minsk, Belarus, and Abu Dhabi, UAE. It was the 9th highest grossing tour of 2013.

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Most Notable Tracks:

Welcome To My World

Heaven

Broken

Should Be Higher

Goodbye

Where’s the revolution?: Spirit (2017)

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With making quality music for over 35 years, Depeche Mode are clearly some of the world’s greatest bands, and age hasn’t slowed them yet. What’s next for them?

The answer is “Spirit” their upcoming new album, slated for release on March 2017. The record’s new producer is James Ford, known for his work with Arctic Monkeys.

Supporting the album is the “Global Spirit” tour, which will start on May 2017.

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You can see a teaser of the new album right here.

With this, I end this blog post.

I hope you enjoyed it, and found it informative. I’m gonna go listen to some Depeche Mode now.

Till next time…

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