Afternoon, Martin! A couple of years ago I asked your mate Dave what the next Depeche Mode album would sound like. That, he said, was the million-dollar question. Turns out your new album sounds like a Depeche Mode album.
Yes! There are certain things we can’t get away from as a group and we do have our unique sound. Having a singer with a distinctive voice makes songs instantly recognisable — there are so many bands that have interchangeable singers and I never know who they are.
Depeche Mode – Spirit (Official Teaser).
Is there ever a point where you think, “let’s do an acoustic or tropical house album”, or is it always, “let’s do what we do”?
With this album, we followed the demos – we worked with James Ford (1) and he helped mould them into something bigger and better. When we met James one of the first things he said was that he likes to work quick. Well, we’ve heard that a few times in the past. But the whole thing was done in just three months — we managed to cancel a six-week session in New York that we just didn’t need.
Did you get a refund on the studio time?
They were very good about that and yes we did get a refund.
Are there enough artists talking about politics?
I think it’s coming; a lot of artists will release albums over the next six or 12 months and they will be a bit more worldly. It’s just that I had an inclination two years ago that the world was in a terrible place.
I’ve got to be honest, I kind of miss two years ago.
Well, yes. I mean back then I didn’t know we’d be in an even worse situation now. When I started writing the album I did think we were heading down a dangerous path but it’s a fine balancing act – I wasn’t sure if it would be received well, and maybe if Trump hadn’t been elected and Brexit wasn’t under way, we’d be seen as preachy popstars now.
In a strange way, given that it turned out the “alt-right” are big Depeche Mode fans (2), it actually was a bit of a risk. Imagine their little faces when they put on the new album by their favourite band and it told them they were idiots.
Yeah! I mean that statement from Richard Spencer, for us, came at a point where everything in the world seemed so crazy and we felt as if there would be nothing that could come at us from leftfield. And then that happened! I mean where did it come from? We don’t agree on anything they stand for. You could probably pick any one of our albums and there’d be a track with lyrics totally contrary to what they believe. It’s really baffling.
How are you gearing up for the punishing schedule of your forthcoming one-date UK tour? (3)
It will be the first time we’ve played a proper stadium here for a long time. We’re fairly used to doing that in the rest of Europe. Believe it or not, we thought it was a risky undertaking when we first took it on but it sold really quickly – we had to increase the capacity.
Some of the more expensive tickets include a “VIP party package” including a pre-show Indian buffet. Is it a particularly high-end Indian buffet? Surely popadoms are popadoms.
I haven’t actually heard about this, so I don’t know very much about it. But packages like that are a good way of us keeping the touts at bay a bit.
Do you keep your tomato ketchup in the fridge, or in the cupboard?
Well, I don’t actually like ketchup. My family keep it in the fridge.
How about eggs?
I don’t eat eggs either. But my family keep them in the fridge too. (4) When I was at school, I had a job in Tesco – I was the egg man. My job was to go out every 20 minutes and look at all the boxes of eggs and see if there were any broken eggs. And virtually every box on the top had a broken egg in it. It was my job to take the broken ones out, clean the boxes up and put the fresh boxes back out. Then I’d go out 20 minutes later and they’d all be broken again.
During this period did people sing I Am The Walrus at you?
No, but I did like being the egg man.
I don’t know if I actually have one favourite. There are so many songs out there!
I’m going to have to push you. When I asked Dave this question he gave me an answer. It was the wrong answer, but it was still an answer.
How can there be a wrong answer? (5) I mean, you know, I really like this track we put out called Surrender (6) – it was an extra track on Only When I Lose Myself. It really didn’t get a lot of attention but I think the melody and the chords in it are really good.
Have you ever burst into a room and shouted “GORE BLIMEY!”
Have I what? Er… No. I don’t think I have.
Do you not think that would be quite good?
Er. Not really. I think people would think I’d lost the plot. I had many years of being out there and doing weird things — to be honest, I think people would just think I’d just started drinking again.
(1) Noted producer for acts including Florence + The Machine, Arctic Monkeys, Foals and Klaxons.
(2) In February, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer told New York magazine that Depeche Mode are “the official band of the alt-right”. When asked about Spencer’s comments, Dave Gahan told Billboard: “He’s a cunt.”
(3) In fairness it’s a pretty big one date — they’re playing at the London Stadium on June 3.
(4) You thought this line of questioning wasn’t going anywhere, didn’t you? Prepare to be amazed.
(5) Dave chosen Condemnation, from Songs of Faith and Devotion. The correct answer is Enjoy the Silence.