Q+A  :  DEPECHE MODE  :  LIFE IN DEPECHE MODE - group decisions / attitudes / roles


If DM voted on something and the vote was split , who was responsible for shifting the vote to a 3-2 decision?

Our only option in those cases was independent arbitration from those we respect the most, such as Dan Miller, Flood, Jonathan Kessler etc.

Did you enjoy your time throughout your DM years? From the answers I've seen, you give the impression you didn't.

For the most part, I did. There were obviously boring moments like waiting about in airports etc., which reminds me: When Charlie Watts was asked how it felt to be a member of the Rolling Stones for such a long time (25 years) his reply was "I've only actually spent 5 years in the Rolling Stones, and 20 years hanging about..." - that just about sums it up.

In 1989, someone asked you what you thought you'd be doing in ten years time and you said "hopefully making music without compromise and enjoying a relaxed, happy and comfortable existence". Did you know already that you wouldn't be in DM for10 more years?

Well I didn't plan to leave DM in 1989 if that's what you mean but by the same token, I never expected to remain in a band all my life. There's something quite sad about being in a 'pop' group when you hit middle age.

During your involvement in DM - did the royalties from album sales get divided in exactly four ways, percentage wise, among the four members? Or did some get more than others?

Royalties are split equally between the four members.

I know that you said that DM was never pressured by Mute to be commercial but was the fact the Mute exists (financially) because of DM (and Erasure) ever on the band's mind?

I think there's always an underlying pressure felt by DM to come up with hits but, luckily, Martin's a natural pop songwriter so you couldn't say it was forced. I do think for balance, Mute could use a few more commercially successful acts on their roster.

Unlike many electronic acts, DM and Recoil have never really gone along with the current "in thing" in electronic music. Is this a conscious effort to remain different or something that you haven't really thought about?

The interesting thing is that over the years, we just carried on producing music in our usual way and the band has moved in and out of fashion, depending on what's trendy at the time. It's always preferable to remain true to your ideals and maintain uour integrity, rather than jump on the latest bandwagon.

Was it ever the case where Dave almost left and DM were looking for a new lead singer?

No, I don't think so.

Is it slik or slick or silk? I have seen it so many different ways!

It's whatever you want, but I don't like it and nobody has used it for years.

When you were in DM, apart from recording sessions and being on tour, would the four of you ever decide to meet and socialise together as mates?

As a complete group, never. You have to remember that we were working for most of the year together, so any period of 'downtime' would have invariably been used for holidays and private times with our families.

Could you please go to Zambak's Depeche Mode page and enlighten us as to the scratchings on Mode vinyl that we don't understand? Some of them were explained by Martin but some are still a mystery to us.

I visited this page recently and saw the etchings he has listed. I really don't want to try to explain their meanings. Etchings are invariably 'in-jokes' and should probably remain so.

In a recent interview, Martin said that he always felt, and still feels that Depeche Mode was not a commercial project but you evaluated Depeche Mode (in a couple of Q + A answers) as such. Was the commercial status of Depeche ever a controversial issue for you especially considering Martin's attitude?

I'm not saying in any way that 'commercial' is a dirty word but Depeche Mode has always obviously been a commercial venture amongst other things. Having hit records was, certainly when I was a member, important to the group. Martin's songs clearly work within the confines of a 'pop' format - verse / bridge / chorus / middle 8 etc.

We all now know that you like to take into account what your fans say and suggest etc. but did DM actually this into account or were all decisions and activities a result of the four of you doing what you all felt was the right thing, regardless of what your fans wanted?

We would always try to consider the fan's although when making the actual music it is dangerous to try to gear it towards a particular market or listener. When considering things like stage shows, ticket prices, t-shirts etc., we would definitely try to predict what fans would want.

I work in marketing so I'd love to know your opinion on pop groups/artistes who endorse products and were DM ever approached to endorse anything? Would you do it now?

DM were always very hesitant about directly endorsing any product. It's tacky and tends to cheapen your image somehow. That doesn't mean that advertising never took place but it was usually second hand (promoters, local venues etc.) Would I do it now? Depends on the cash ;-)

The years from 1988 - 1990 looked very 'American' to me and we (the fans in Europe) were very disappointed during this time. Was this a decision of the record companies to promote DM in the states or was it yours? And if so, why?

The band had toured constantly in America and battled against a radio-play brick wall for many years until suddenly things started to happen. We hadn't forgotten about Europe (we played many concerts there), it's just that it was an important and exciting time for us in the U.S. and we wanted to concentrate on this territory.

How much influence did you really have on the ever increasing ticket prices for DM's concerts?

Our policy was to make ticket prices come in line with average prices at the time.

At concerts (DM or otherwise), T-shirts and other merchandise is sold. Does the band commission a company to make it and if I wanted to sell my product to them what process would I have to go through? Do I have to contact Warner or Mute or Depeche Mode?

In the past we used a professional merchandising company called Bravado who would pay an advance for the exclusive right to provide products (on our approval) for either retail and / or tour. They would receive a commission. I've no idea what DM's current deal is.

Few days ago i find in a news group tirrible message: "Martin die in a car crash last night on M25 Kent, UK" Then I find that it's not true. How often do you see messages about DM like this in news , radio, tv during DM days and now? I think it's silly and foolish make the rumours like this, however, they help in next tour make more money, isn't it?

I think the golden rule is not to believe anything you read on the internet, in the press or hear on the television unless it comes from an official source or directly from the artist themselves.

Did DM ever have any secret former rivalries with certain other bands (like Duran Duran or U2)?

We used to bump into Spandau and Duran all the time in the early 80's. I think there probably was some rivalry. The friendliest lot were actually the lads from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who we managed to drink under the table in a competition in Dortmund. They were a good laugh. Their drummer, Ped, now designs websites.

I was just noticing that (unless my memory has failed me) there isn't a single obscenity in the entire Depeche catalogue. I understand that you can't speak for Martin but was there a group decision to avoid obscenities? Was the subject ever even brought up? I'm not complaining, mind you. I think lesser songwriting talents often fall back on swearing when unable to express frustration or anger through more traditional channels. Any thoughts? Just fuckin' wondering...

It's not big and it's not clever but Martin did say "bugger" once...oohhh ;-)

Do you remember the "Black Monument Association" (first official DM fan club for Germany, Austria and Switzerland)? How did you get along with Sebastian Koch and Co.?

Yes, I remember Sebastian well, he used to turn up all over the place.

The drummer from the Pixies said his dream job was drumming in Depeche Mode. With this in mind, was he ever considered for the job?

No. We never considered taking on a drummer at any point while I was in the group.

Ten years from now would you do a Depeche Mode reunion if there was call for such a happening?

Don't start.....

Also, how come you guys always had such a low "Hi, I'm God but my voice is shaky cause I've just recovered from a bout of the flu because I didn't wear my wellies" tone of voice when you performed?

English eccentrics. We like our wellies, not least to protect our tootsies from the inclement weather but also for somewhere convenient to stick the hind legs of a............. no, I can't go on, my mother reads this site ;-)

Someone I met on IRC is always saying that you let down Depeche Mode, not only by leaving the band but on many occasions when you still were part of it. One of his "proofs" is an article published in a Spanish music magazine - a "rough" translation would be:

"... another long and tiring tour........with continuous confrontations, desertions which raised a lot of bad feeling within the band (Alan allowed himself not to turn up to more than one concert)...."

I keep on telling this person that it couldn't be possible for you not to turn up to a concert because without the main keyboardist and drummer, it is hard to do a live performance - without you the concert would have had to be cancelled. I also don't remember any of the 'Devotional' Tour's concerts being cancelled because of you (apart from the one in Steve Malin's book, when you suffered from a kidney stone). So I told him I would ask you directly to find out who is right. :)

Tell your friend that the real truth is that I was never in Depeche Mode, in fact I don't even exist. The band just used a holographic image for 14 years of some bloke they met down the pub.

I've read in the archives that you have this room with DM records and memorabilia of all types and formats. What are you planning on doing with it all? Also, since you have this stash of stuff, is there anything I can do to receive '1+2' (non 'Hydrology' version) on vinyl? I can't seem to find it anywhere. I would be very grateful for anything you could do.

I plan to just keep these things for the record and pass them onto Paris when I pop me clogs. I'm afraid I only have one copy of '1+2' on vinyl so I can't help you but I can tell you that the Mute mail order shop is about to be radically updated with fresh supplies of stock becoming available. It's all part of their new Internet emphasis including a re-designed Mute website. Not sure yet when it will be on-line.

I've heard a rumour that you released a notebook containing notes for some/all of the songs you wrote during your time as a member of DM. Is this true? If this book really exists, where could I possibly find it?

It's not true.

What do you think of the new Depeche Mode book by Steve Malins? Were you allowed to read the book before it was published? Is there anything you would like to correct?

No, I didn't read it before publication. It's no literary masterpiece but I think it's a pretty entertaining (and amusing) read all-round. On the whole it's accurate (barr one or two glaring mistakes like the spelling of Daryl BALMONTE). However, there are a couple of things that I can only describe as utter bollocks.... such as the claim that I got the band together after the end of the 'Devotional' tour and said that for the next DM album noone was allowed to be in the studio except me and that I wanted total control. There was no such meeting about a new LP and I've certainly never said this - the only meeting we had after the end of the tour was a year later when I told the others about my intentions to leave. There was also a suggestion that I tried to split the band by leaving. I certainly didn't do it to break up DM, nor did I think this would happen. I have also never once regretted my decision to quit. It was the best move I could have made for many reasons.

Whilst Steve Malin's book probably offers the most comprehensive insight so far into the much-hyped subject of 'roles', it is still essentially a third-party take on what was (and remains) a very private environment and shouldn't be interpreted as the definitive record of what went on in DM.

I read in the new biog. about Hawaiian Toast. Would there ever be a possibility of its release and also what was it like?

For those of you who are confused, what Ken is referring to is 'Toast Hawaii' - a dish from Hansa Studio's cafeteria that a particular DM band member was rather partial to. It was also the name of a joke album made during an early recording session where said band member sang his favourite songs such as 'When The Saints Go Marching In'. I probably have a cassette of this epic somewhere but I doubt whether it will ever see the light of day. I know I still have the photo from the front cover - think 'Plug' from 'The Bash Street Kids' ;-)

If you had known what you know now, would you ever have become a musician, and would you ever have joined Depeche Mode?

If I had to do it all over again, I don't think I'd change much, apart from some of the hair styles and those daft boots I wore in '101'. Oh, and I'd also make sure that I missed my wake-up call on the day we made the video for 'It's Called A Heart'.

Did Depeche Mode ever experience any problems with Depeche Mode the fashion magazine over the fact that you 'borrowed' their name, and did you have to pay for this copyright violation?

Well they weren't too happy in the early days but obviously, as the band became more successful, they quickly changed their tune. I don't think it was a copyright issue.

I vaguely remember a discussion from the mid-eighties (it must have been around the time of 'Blasphemous Rumours') where DM were told to put secret evil messages in their songs. Some church-related or simply weird people out there occupy themselves with listening to music backwards and try to hear all kinds of things. In the DM case, you were said to have sold your souls to the devil in return for success. Do you remember anything about this subject?

Em ot skcollob fo daol a ekil sdnuos.

Dave Thompson, who wrote the literary masterpiece 'Some Great Reward', has been described as a close friend of DM. Was he?

Was he fuck....

Mr Thompson also writes that 'The Great Outdoors' was actually an attempt by the group to appease you because they had left you out of the recording of 'A Broken Frame' and you would probably have left the group if they had not done it. Any comment?


Mr Thompson also writes that upon entering the group you announced yourself as a songwriter.


Did you have songwriting ambitions upon entering DM or were your ambitions strictly as a musician / technician?

My short-lived songwriting ambitions emerged after I had joined the group. I never had any songs when I auditioned and I expressed no desire to write any at that time either.

Who managed DM before Jonathan Kessler and why the need for change in respect of this?

We all 'sort of' managed with the help of many people over the years (not least Daniel Miller). Jonathan's position evolved initially from tour accountant until he was virtually performing the management role.

What are the biggest misconceptions about you and your role in DM?

I'm 'the drummer'.
I'm antisocial.
I'm still in Depeche Mode and 'Andy Corbijn' is the one who left.....

I remember reading a DM special in the mid-80's about going out with other groups and having drinking contests. You were mentioned as DM's secret weapon so I guess you hold your liquor best out of the bunch? But who would you try to drink under the table in those wild days of your youth?

The only real contest we had was with Frankie Goes To Hollywood in Dortmund. There was a lot of tequila involved and we won.

What do you consider to have been the greatest, most annoying or hilarious clichés about DM?

We're all gay.
We're all from Basildon.
We're big in Germany.
We used to be big in the eighties.
We're miserable.
Our music is depressing.

What was so "hellish" about the 'SOFAD' era for the band?

I can't speak for other band members but I wouldn't say it was hell. There were difficulties which are quite well-documented but I also feel that some of the Mode's best music was created at this time and I also enjoyed the tour. You can read more about the recording and the tour by going to Report - editorial / November.

Listening to the many DM albums and then hearing any one of you (especially Dave or Martin) talk, there seems to be some subversive discrepancy: the innate, thick cockney accent happily spewing forth during the interviews is absent in the vocals. Most apparent are the strikingly (and disappointing since we Yanks aren't worth the trouble) American inflexions of Dave singing "just CAAN't get enough" instead of a soothing "cauhn't." Had there always been an unconscious urge to find this happy medium of a lightened British accent?

You have too much time on your hands, if you're troubled by this kind of thing Michael ;-) Dave sings the way he sings. That's it. You'll have to ask him if you want further phonetic analysis. I actually think most of the vocals sound very 'English' and there were certainly a few occasions where we discussed the pronunciation of certain words. On these occasions, English pronunciation always won out.

Depeche Mode has written some very socially conscious songs. Martin Gore said he was a socialist. Being from the middle class, what are your views on socialism? Did you find that the working class background of the other three Moders affected their political outlook?

I think the politically conscious aspects of DM's early songs were more to do with age than any great desire to make a statement - we were hardly Billy Bragg. We never had a collective political view. We all had different ideas on most things (despite our backgrounds) and apart from the tracks on 'Construction Time Again', I think you'd be hard pressed to find anything else that was directly politically motivated. I can't speak for the other members but I have mixed views myself - like most people.

Was there a point in time where you began to feel like less of an 'employee' of DM and more like an integral, equal 'partner'?

I stopped being an employee and became a full time member during 1982 but it was a gradual process integrating myself fully into what was (and still is) a very tight unit.

What did you detest the most about being in Depeche Mode and what did you adore?

Photo sessions, interviews and making videos can sometimes be gruelling and in recent years I've come to hate flying so all the travelling during the last tour wasn't pleasant but I think the worse part by far is all the hanging around......waiting in airports, waiting in hotel lobbies, waiting for soundchecks, waiting, waiting, waiting..........

What did I like? Oh, lots of things - have a look through the personal archives like public life and Food and Drink. Also Depeche Mode - touring.

Okay, so a favourite DM song of yours is 'In Your Room'. How about your top 10 or 15 (not excluding b-sides)? I wanna make an official' Alan Wilder favourite Depeche Mode songs' tape for the car. I've played my Recoil tape to death already (not a bad thing).

O.K. - off the top of my head (in no particular order):

In Your Room
Never Let Me Down
Fly On The Windscreen
Black Celebration
I Feel You
Higher Love
World In My Eyes

Try throwing in a few 12" versions like the extended 'I Feel You'.

About 'Some Great Reward' - the book. What a dickhead the author must be. Have you ever bothered to read the book?

I skimmed through it really quickly on the toilet (the only place to read trash) when it first came out.

What Martin`s lyric made a deepest impression on you?

"Promises us we're as safe as houses, as long as I remember who's wearing the trousers." Pure genius.

If Depeche Mode were ever elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, would the group consider it an honour and make an appearance at the induction ceremony or would it be one of those industry recognition things that don't mean much? The whole thing seems like it's just another way for a lot of snobs to get their egos stroked. If the group did decide to go, would you hop up onstage with them?

I can't speak for my former collegues now but as a general rule none of us liked award ceremonies and I haven't changed my tune. I certainly wouldn't jump up on stage if I hadn't been invited.

I have read about the great drinking competitions with 'Frankie Goes To Hollywood' and about the time you played cricket and won the match against Mr. Andy McCluskey and co. Pete Trewavas of Marillion says in the 'Misplaced Childhood' booklet that he met you in Hansa Studios and Depeche Mode won a pool game against Marillion. Can you please tell us more about the competitions you have won (or lost)?

There have been various competitions with different people over the years. I remember we played football, and won convincingly, against the German record company in about 1985 and to top off our victory, someone from our camp succeeded in breaking one of their players legs. By way of apology we couldn't resist sending a 'Get Well Soon' card that simply said:


Herr Hans Derrer (the hapless victim) got his own back by releasing a book of all the snapshots he had taken of the Mode over the years. Nice, eh? He's kept a very low profile since he received the letter from our solicitor.

I was really wondering what cologne David wears?

I should probably know this but I can't remember - I think it might be 'Hunk' by Faberge or possibly 'Hi Karate' or 'Beast' but I'm not sure...................

I was reading the latest Q + A and one of the questions stated that your face had been used on the video screen at the singles show. If you had been consulted about this would you have given DM permission to do so?

It's not really a question of whether or not I'd have given permission (which I would), it's more about whether anyone thought to ask for it (which they didn't).

I have a Q Magazine interview with DM issued just before the 'Ultra' album and it mentions that Dave was using hard drugs during the recording of 'SOFAD'. Taking this into account (and the sensationalist stories concerning that tour), was the decision to tour the album ever questioned at the time? In your opinion, should it have been?

We had a couple of meetings where the question of Dave's drug usage was addressed. It was put to Dave that if he didn't clean up his act, we wouldn't make it through such a long tour. He agreed.

You mentioned that there are a few inaccuracies in Steve Malins Biography. As far as the quotations from you are concerned, are these correct? In particular, did Martin really drink those 67 beers?

For the most part I'm happy with the majority of the quotes although there are one or two times where I definitely didn't, or wouldn't have phrased something the way it appears in print - either because it's tactless or just encorporates words that I don't use. The bit about the beers is true.

While surfing some FTP sites, I came across an MP3 called 'Yesterday' by Martin Gore. Downloaded it and it sounds like him, drunk off his arse, singing with a few other drunks in a bar. I was just curious if you recall this event?

We had hundreds of imprompu sessions around bar-room pianos the world over so it's quite possibly authentic. Let me know if you come across a version of an extremely drunken Hep and Martin singing 'Strawberry Fields' - now that's one for the dedicated collector, not to mention someone who doesn't mind a really serious assault on the ears ;-)

What kind of person is Dave? Was he your biggest friend in the band? What about his sense of humour?

He has a very sharp and wicked sense of humour. Hep always laughs when you read some of the comments (especially from women) on the DM mailing lists where he's sort of thought of as this poor little fluffy bunny-wunny who needs to be protected all the time. If these girls ever met Dave for more than 2 minutes after a show, or if they came on with this attitude, he'd eat them alive with a few chosen words.

I know there's a great chance that you will not want to answer this but ask I must. Why do you think some people are so resentful of you? I can hear it in their voices, whether I'm watching them interviewed or reading their comments - it really pisses me off! My guess is that they are very, very jealous. Now a biography has been written about DM and the truth comes out for all to know. Was there any satisfaction for you in that? You're obviously not at all bitter (unlike some) but was it nice for you to know that people were finally getting the facts about things as they really were? I know it filled me with pride. It was nice to 'hear' others praise you the way I always have. You come out of that bio looking damn good, as you damn well should.

Of course there's nothing more upsetting than seeing things written about you that are completely untrue - especially if they become the standard and accepted view over the years.......and naturally it's always satisfying when wrongs are righted and one can feel vindicated. Then again, as I've said before, you shouldn't take Steve Malin's book as the absolute authority on DM - there's loads of stuff that DIDN'T come out that people don't know about. I think it was interestng however, that the same comments about the parties involved, including me, came up again and again from all sorts of different people.

I have read that when DM were in Madrid during the making of 'SOFAD', one night a motorbiker wanted to kick Dave because he laughed at his tattoos and his aspect of neo-easy rider. What really happened and who calmed the angry biker? After all this, did he want an autograph from Dave?

There were in fact many bikers but I think Dave's words to one of them were "What are you looking at, you fat c**t?". About 10 minutes later, all hell broke loose with several resulting 'autographs' in the form of bruises and black eyes - none received by the bikers though. Miraculously, none were received by me either. I have an uncanny knack of making myself invisible during times of extreme violence.


Q+A  :  DEPECHE MODE  :  LIFE IN DEPECHE MODE - group decisions / attitudes / roles