Category Archives: Mutterings

Dangerous – B-side brilliance by Depeche Mode… to jazz funksters Level 42

One of the really heartwarming parts of writing this biography has been how frequently fans of the band have got in touch to offer a nugget or two (or ten!) of detail.

Luckily for me, there is a wonderful and extremely genuine passion amongst the Devotistas for sharing memories and useful bits of information.

(thank you, very much!) x

Many of these will end up in the book, but some are worth sharing here as they do not have a particular place in the story or, as in the case of this post, require some listening.

Step forward diehard Depeche Mode fan Andy McMinn, who many of you will know from his terrific efforts as one of the admins on the consistently brilliant (and, frankly, extremely useful!) Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Fans fan page on Facebook.

McMinn got in touch recently to point out that he’d remembered – years after letting some of his vinyl go – that, rather randomly, another of his favourite bands had used a sample from the well-liked Personal Jesus b-side, Dangerous.

The somewhat unlikely scenario of a sampled part from the extremely electronic Dangerous ending up on a track by Level 42 is, indeed, surprising.

level 42

Level 42 are best known for their successful career as a technically superb jazz funk outfit that produced a string of chart hits (such as Lessons In Love and Something About You) throughout the 1980s and early-1990s.

The 1991 release of the band’s ninth album, Guaranteed, coincided with a single of the same name.

Tucked away on the 12-inch version of Guaranteed was the “New Avengers Mix”.

The remix was pulled together by Peter Lorimer (aka 29 Palms), who at the time was also working with the Happy Mondays, Yello, INXS and Electronic, and in later years collaborated with dance artists such as Dido, Tall Paul and Paul Oakenfold.

Here is the original Depeche Mode version of Dangerous:

Despite their peak years (in terms of mainstream chart success) now being a few decades behind them, Level 42 still regularly tour and record new music.

Guaranteed has been played on the band’s most recent flurry of gigs around the UK, sadly minus the Dangerous sample at the beginning of the track.

NB: Thanks, Andy, for (re)discovering this rather improbable mixture of classic Depeche and hard-slap bass 🙂

NB2: Level 42 photo by Linda McCartney.

Violator – acoustic and alternative live versions from over the years

There have been plenty of official remixes of the singles from Violator (and countless unofficial ones).

World In My Eyes, Personal Jesus, Enjoy The Silence and Policy Of Truth have also been reworked slightly for their respective live outings over the years, since first being aired on the World Violation Tour in 1990.

Most of the remaining tracks from Violator have all featured on-the-road, too, with Halo and Waiting For The Night in particular both being played during tours in the 2000 and 2010s.

But it is worth remembering that, despite being an “electronic band”, Depeche have also stripped down many songs from Violator over the years into acoustic or bare versions.

Some have made their way onto tours, others re-recorded for live special studio clips.

So, here is a collection of different versions of almost every song from Violator.

World In My Eyes

*** if someone can point us in the direction of an acoustic or fundamentally different live version of World In My Eyes, we’d be very grateful 🙂 ***

Sweetest Perfection

World Violation Tour, 1990

Personal Jesus

Violator recording sessions, 1989

KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas, 2005


Delta Machine Tour, Bilbao, 2013

Waiting For The Night

Playing The Angel recording sessions, 2005

Tour Of The Universe, 2009 (watch out for Martin’s slip-up and his trademark giggle as a result)

Enjoy The Silence

KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas, 1998

Policy Of Truth

Dave Gahan’s Paper Monsters Tour, 2003

Blue Dress

World Violation Tour, 1990


Playing The Angel recording sessions, 2005

And, for their sheer brilliance on the World Violation Tour in 1990, Martin’s acoustic guitar versions of I Want You Now and Little 15 (from Music For The Masses), and World Full Of Nothing and Here Is The House (from Black Celebration).

Spending an evening with… Francois Kevorkian

Before any big interview, writers and journalists often ask around to find out if anyone has any tips about what to expect from the interviewee.

This is usually done not in the hope of learning what they are likely to say ahead of the interview, but mostly to discover what they are like as a person.

Perhaps they are a bit prickly on certain subjects. Or they take some time to warm up. Maybe they are rather erratic with their answers and need keeping on track.

Such a tactic is as important as the research you may spend weeks doing beforehand.

I did this for most of the people featured in HALO – but with Francois Kevorkian, the legendary DJ/producer who mixed all but one of the tracks on Violator and created many of the famed remixes of the singles from that period, I was arguably more curious than any other interviewee.

In the official 30-minute Violator documentary from the mid-2000s, Kevorkian is praised (in particular, by Dave Gahan) for his creativity with the mixing yet labelled “pedantic” and “a stickler” by Martin Gore and Alan Wilder respectively.

When he does eventually appear in the same documentary, Kevorkian comes across as gentle, thoughtful and, of course, extremely focused.

After exchanging a few emails, Kevorkian and I spoke for nearly three hours about his time with Depeche, mixing Violator and the incredible work he did with his extended versions of Personal Jesus, Enjoy The Silence, Policy Of Truth and World In My Eyes.

The interview came in at a mammoth 25,000 words (thank you, my trusty transcriber, Nabaa!) and will eventually be included in HALO.

Kevorkian is articulate, measured, expansive and, interestingly, I found perhaps less interested in the technical aspects of what he did (and still does) and, instead, more comfortable to discuss the aesthetics of it all and what it all meant to him, the band and the fans.

The only disappointing aspect of the time I spent talking to Kevorkian was that the interview was carried out over the chat platform Skype – him at home in New York City, me in Bishops Stortford (an infinitely less exciting town than the Big Apple, located just north of London).

Yet we agreed that if he ever came over to London – or me to New York City – that we would say hi…

Fast forward to September this year and the wonderful Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy, the DJ behind the Classic Album Sundays project that I took part in last year, was conducting a Q&A with Kevorkian at an arty venue in the trendy Whitechapel area of London’s East End.

This was an ideal opportunity to fulfil our promise but, for me, to learn a lot more about Kevorkian’s career outside of the Depeche bubble of 1989 and 1990.

(Kevorkian’s work with Depeche Mode came up briefly towards the end of the discussion when he recalled how he was mixing Personal Jesus in Milan at the same time as the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China, in June 1989.)

Here are my rough notes from Kevorkian’s chat with Murphy:

  • He was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix and was amazed at what the legendary guitarist could do with sound.
  • If he had not carved out his own role in music as a DJ in the mid-1970s, Kevorkian was destined to be a bio-chemist or engineer.
  • The club scene in New York City, where he moved to from France in his early-20s, “felt like science fiction”, such was its “revolutionary” impact on the alternative and dance music scene at the time.
  • It wasn’t particularly glamorous at times, with him struggling to make enough money to pay his NYC rent.
  • The craft of the modern-day DJ was born in the clubs of NYC in the mid to late-1970s, with turntable “battles” often a highlight of a club night.
  • Up-and-coming producers would often deliver acetate records to the DJs so that they could hear how their work sounds in a club.
  • Working at the legendary Loft nightclub, opened in 1970 by David Mancuso, was an important moment in Kevorkian’s career as it exposed him to other well-known DJs and made him appreciate the mechanics behind sound and atmosphere (from an acoustics perspective, “there was really nowhere else like it”).

  • Kevorkian is a firm believer in the concept of the studio “console desk being an instrument”, where a track can be taken in a different direction purely from how it is manipulated and massaged during the mixing phase in the control room.
  • He is NOT a fan of one of Daniel Miller’s favourite bands, the pioneering “krautrock” ensemble, Can (“crap rock!”).
  • The best nightclubs are those that consider the audio as an “acoustics system, not a sound system”. Designers should consider every aspect of a room, even where walls and pillars are placed as these are disruptive to the “laws of nature” around the movement of sound.
  • One of his favourite nightclubs in the UK is the Ministry of Sound in London – the closest he has known from a sonic perspective to the famous Loft club (and, later, Paradise) in NYC.
  • CDs sounds “awful” in clubs as the sound is often heavily compressed, meaning the frequency ranges are not as wide as on vinyl.
  • On the controversial and vast subject of modern music distribution on streaming sites (an area that admittedly requires an entire discussion in its own right), Kevorkian says at the most basic level, services such as Spotify et al are great for consumers of music but not so for those making it.
  • One of the “exciting” new forms of dance/electronic music for Kevorkian has been the emergence of the dubstep genre.

Thanks to Murphy for organising and moderating the event – a fascinating dive into the world of one of the key figures in the creation of the Violator sound.

There’s a lot more from Kevorkian to come…

francois kevorkian halo

Personal Jesus – World Violation Tour screen projections

The lack of a bona fide, official video from the World Violation Tour means many fans have forgotten about (or never even seen) the visual elements.

Although the stage design didn’t reach the creative heights of the Devotional Tour period a few years later, Violator‘s accompanying tour did hint at what was to come.

In particular, was the introduction of screens and video projections for the first time.

Illustrating how Depeche Mode’s artwork and visual design had finally been coordinated into an overall theme (roses, typefaces, style and overall aesthetic across sleeves, merchandise and the tour materials), collaborator Anton Corbijn created a series of projections to run behind the chaps as they performed some of the songs during the set.

Some of the films were basic but effective – Waiting For The Night‘s sparklers or Clean‘s hand brush painting of words, for example.

But Personal Jesus once again employed the cowboy theme from the video for the single release in the summer of 1989 (August 29, to be precise).

Rather than directly re-use the seedy bordello scenario from the Spanish desert, Corbijn re-shot the band in the US, essentially messing about with a few (cow)girls.

Whilst the full effect of the backdrops (each of the screens were at least 20-feet tall) can never be obtained by watching a clip online, languishing in a corner of the web is this apparent “rough cut” of the tour projections from Personal Jesus (including a pretty decent recording of the song).

Here it is:

And here is the official Depeche website’s tribute video, including Fletch about talking the “horse prank” from the original video for the single (poor fella) 🙂

Pasadena Rose Bowl is an important moment in the story behind Violator

June 18th 1988 – a date that features massively in the now three-decade-plus history of Depeche Mode.

The band had decided to cap the hugely successful tour to support the release of Music For The Masses with a massive gig – their 101st – at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in Southern California.

It was a triumphant night for Depeche, captured by film maker D A Pennebaker for the 101 movie, and proving wrong the many critics who didn’t believe the band could pull off such a momentous event (others on the bill included Wire, Thomas Dolby and OMD).

SoCal had become the heartland of Depeche’s fan base in the US, driven in part by the loyal support of local radio station KROQ.

It was why the band felt they could put on a gig of such size and draw other fans from all across the country (including those on the infamous bus, filmed by Pennebaker for the movie).

But for all the deserved celebration in the Depeche camp following the concert (“for the Masses”), Pasadena did something else – it set a benchmark for which band were expected to follow.

The footage from 101 captures the band at a turning point in their history.

The delirium of the fans. The financial scale at which they were now operating (a young Jonathan Kessler – now the band’s manager – shouting “a lot of money”, stands out). The logistics required to  keep a band of Depeche’s size on the road.

Depeche could’ve ended it all there, in mid-1988, and critics could’ve easily congratulated them on a great career.

But they didn’t. Obviously.

That Saturday in Pasadena actually triggered the start of a slow yet fundamental change in Depeche – musically,  personally, arguably perhaps in almost every facet of what they did.

The fruits of those changes started coming to the fore just 15 months later, when the first single – Personal Jesus – from an as-yet untitled new album was released.

And it’s why the first chapter of the HALO book is titled “102” 🙂

Check out the montage of footage pulled together by the band’s website a few years back:

Read this great interview with Alan Wilder by The Electricity Club about the film and gig.

And this “making of” documentary which aired on UK’s BBC a year later:

NB: Photo by Anton Corbijn

Andy Fletcher and Daniel Miller on the music industry, Depeche Mode and crisps

It’s extremely rare to hear both Daniel Miller of Mute Records and Andy Fletcher discuss together the state of the music industry.

In a long and fascinating interview which took place at the Audi-O-Rama music industry festival in Switzerland last year, Miller and Fletch rattled off their opinions about a wide range of issues.

They cover music distribution, marketing, studio work, fans, multi-formats, instruments, labels, their respective DJ careers, as well as plenty of anecdotes about Depeche (“dancing girls and cocaine” get a mention).

The interview also includes a “world exclusive”: Fletch has never eaten a bag of crisps in any of his now almost 55 years 🙂

Here is the full interview (a hefty 1 hour and 18 minutes but worth it):

NB: Pictures from the discussion and elsewhere during the event are available on the Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Videos page on Facebook.

Personal Jesus – like you’ve never heard it before, lounge-style

Personal Jesus has been covered or mixed in plenty of musical genres – perhaps more than any other Depeche Mode song.

From Marilyn Manson’s rawk-out, Johnny Cash’s haunting acoustic version, the weird Hilary Duff take known as Reach Out or the, err, Nintendo Mix.

Throw in some techno edits from Eric Prydz and there’s even been a jazz cover by Karen Souza.

But few will beat for sheer amusement and creativity the version by American cover maestro Richard Cheese and his fabulously named band, Lounge Against The Machine.

Cheese does lounge music, funnily enough.

And his take on Personal Jesus is guaranteed to raise a chuckle or two.

In particular, listen out for the wonderful and extremely fast “ooh-ooh-ah-ah-ooh-ooh-ah” line.

Brilliant 🙂

Eric Whitacre creates beautiful choral version of Enjoy The Silence

Fans will remember how in 1990 one part of the Quad: Final Mix tried to reimagine Enjoy The Silence in a classical style.

It was pretty good.

But then American composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre, one of those rare, modern classical composers who can reinterpret contemporary songs and seemingly create something new, also decided to have a go.

A recorded version of the song was first released in 2014, performed by the Eric Whitacre Singers in London.

In this clip, Whitacre conducts a performance of the song with the Rezonans, a Turkish choral group, at a concert in Istanbul in November 2014.

And here is Whitacre talking about why he picked ETS and the process he went through to create the record (yes, vinyl, ladies and gents).

Black Celebration – The perfect dress rehearsal for Violator

The Almost Predictable, Almost blog asked us to write an article to coincide with its series about Black Celebration. The blog’s creator, David McElroy, kindly gave permission for us to also re-publish the article here.

Scroll to the foot of the page below for the full list of articles from his month-long extravaganza.

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Depeche Mode fans are genetically hard-wired to love an intense debate about their favourite band.

In fact, some would argue that – perhaps ranking alongside actually listening to the music or seeing them at gigs – having the opportunity AND need to regularly discuss all things Depeche is actually one of the vital bits of glue that binds the band’s fiercely loyal fans together.

Best B-side? That would be My Joy (we’ve had this debate before). Favourite post-Alan Wilder album? Probably Ultra. Least likeable video? Quite a few, but It’s Called A Heart. Most memorable concert? Paris Bercy, 1993.

Assuming you’ve got this far into the article, I am guessing that many of you are already formulating your own answers… We all, let’s face it, have a point of view when it comes to Depeche.

My second favourite album by Depeche Mode is Black Celebration. That obviously goes against the grain of what David McElroy’s excellent, month-long series is all about – but it’s a now-unshakable opinion.

Black Celebration may have found itself one rung higher up my ladder of favourites if it wasn’t for the masterpiece that came along four years later in the shape of Violator.

Whilst that point-of-view is certainly up for debate (and, yes, it has been a central and regular argument in my world over the past 18 months), very few fans could argue that both Black Celebration and Violator do not deserve the accolade of being the two most important albums in the career of the band.

Neil Ferris, Depeche Mode’s radio and TV plugger throughout the 1980s, is right when he says that Violator eventually became the “seminal” album for the band.

He says this in the context of how important Construction Time Again was in the making of the Depeche sound, and the reception it subsequently received from fans and critics.

But any seminal-like status heading the way of Construction Time Again was later overtaken when Violator was released in 1990.

But why?

Analyse a little further, add some other pivotal moments into the mix, and you start to see a pattern: the debut album Speak & Spell, 1983’s Construction Time Again, Black Celebration in 1986, Violator, Ultra in 1997 and Playing The Angel in 2005.

Every two “eras”, Depeche create something new… something that changes how they work, or how they are perceived and received, all with lasting consequences.

This simple calculation makes sense: Speak & Spell put the band on the map; Construction Time Again saw the emergence of the “Depeche sound” (not least with the studio and musical influences of Gareth Jones and Alan Wilder respectively); Ultra showed that band could reconvene successfully despite their well-documented personal issues; and Playing The Angel set the modern strategy in place (production-promotion-tour time-line, structure and style) which pretty much continues to this day.

But it is arguably the two long-players in the middle of that aforementioned collection of pivotal moments, Black Celebration and Violator, that have the most cause to be celebrated (no pun intended).

If Black Celebration gave rise to a certain depth and sonic to Depeche’s music, Violator brought that same intensity alongside a pop accessibility to the masses (again, no pun intended).

If Black Celebration allowed the band to start to create a certain style and culture around their image (later mirrored by legions of their fans), Violator gave artistic collaborator Anton Corbijn the opportunity – with the band’s universal blessing – to finally unleash his creativity across the album, videos, photography and merchandise.

If Black Celebration illustrated that there was a world for Depeche beyond their European heartland, as until-then relatively unknown audiences in the US suddenly flocked to see them on the album’s tour, 1990’s World Violation Tour saw the band accelerate their status as genuine stadium and arena act to extraordinary heights, at a global scale.

Breathing in fumes (of motivation)

It is perhaps easy to reflect on two landmark periods in the history of Depeche Mode through rose-tinted spectacles.

Do we, as fans, end up placing these eras on musical pedestals because we now have the benefit of 30 years to reflect on Black Celebration and 25 years for Violator?

The answer is a bit of no, and a fair amount of yes.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that fans have told me that they can remember where they were when they first heard Personal Jesus or A Question of Time.

Or how they felt when seeing the band on the tours that accompanied albums (a thunderous Halo during the World Violation Tour remains reasonably indescribable for me, 25 years on).

These are all influential and valid moments, for us as fans.

But it would be optimistic to suggest that fans and critics genuinely realised the career-defining qualities of either Black Celebration or Violator in the immediate aftermath of their respective releases.

They were obviously both special albums at the outset, but for reasons that were more to do with the quality of Martin Gore’s songs and how each album made people feel.

But we can now see how Black Celebration and Violator – a quarter of a century later – are intertwined in a unique and hugely important way.

The experience of creating Black Celebration in late-1985 and early-1986, paved the way for how the band would consider working in the studio by the time they got to Milan in the spring of 1989.

Producers Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones had pushed the band during the recording of Black Celebration, using the so-called “live the album” idea.

The result was an intense experience that caused obvious tensions in the studio, but helped shape the mood of the album.

It was this concept, of testing themselves as creative artists, which ignited something exciting within the team that later saw them appoint Flood (Mark Ellis), a figure that most within the camp considered the best person at the time to really take Depeche to a new level.

Flood was considered much more of a collaborator than a producer by the time that Depeche Mode had got to the recording sessions for Violator – someone who knew which buttons to push (both literally and figuratively) in the studio to get the very best out the songs and the production.

But that having someone alongside them to not only help but challenge their preconceived ideas of “how it should be done” was born during Black Celebration.

gareth jones
Gareth Jones and HALO author Kevin May at the Strongroom Studios in East London, 2015

A lot of the credit for this should go to Gareth Jones, the co-producer of Black Celebration who had started work with the band as an engineer on Construction Time Again and whose open-minded style and approach (especially to emerging concepts back in 1983 as sampling) unlocked their confidence – not least Alan Wilder’s musical prowess – to try new things.

Jones knew that in the right atmosphere, despite the tensions that ensued during the recording, he and Miller could inspire the band to dig deeper into their creative arsenal to produce a series of songs that were unsurpassed in their depth and intensity at that point.

Experimentation and “getting out of your own way” (a phrase that was mentioned fairly frequently in the interviews for HALO) always seems to trigger the best from Depeche Mode.

Interestingly, talking to me in 2015, I learned that Jones was disappointed to have been “abandoned” after Black Celebration when he learned he would not be asked to work with the band again for the follow-up album, Music For The Masses.

In some respects, it is easy to sympathise with Jones, having completed a “trilogy” with Depeche (including Some Great Reward in 1984), but those who have met him or listened to and read his interviews realise that there is now, with age, an enormous respect he has for the band and how they engineered their way through the late-1980s.

As a younger man, he says:

“I was a bit prejudiced about Music For The Masses and didn’t realise it to be the good album that it was, perhaps”.

“But anyway, by the time Violator came along, enough water had passed under the bridge that I was able to embrace it and listen to it, and enjoy it.

“Visually saved us”

Of zero influence to the sonic contained on Black Celebration, but of equal importance to the style that emerged during Black Celebration, was the arrival of Anton Corbijn.

Plenty has been noted on previous occasions about the Dutchman’s role in the history of Depeche Mode – a relationship that has now spanned three decades, yet began with an unpretentious, unusual (for a synth band) and fun video for A Question Of Time.

But given the creative partnership (as arty-types would call it) they now have, it’s easy to forget – or difficult to comprehend – that the collaboration started off in as low-key a way as possible.

Richard Bell, Corbijn’s official producer on the Depeche videos from Stangelove until the turn of the century, told me last year that as young system producer at product company Vivid, he was unable to travel to Los Angeles to help with A Question Of Time.

The band was on tour at the time, budgets were tight, so Corbijn handled much of the video’s on-site work himself, with a few helpers for the equipment.

Bell did all the setting up of the video’s production remotely, from a facility in London, whilst the band (not least Alan Wilder, who did an extra day’s filming) worked with Corbijn at various locations in California.

Fast forward a few years and the Corbijn team was “all in” with Depeche Mode.

After the trademark, grainy, black and white style that was used on most of the Music For The Masses videos, Corbijn was given full reign to create some of Depeche’s most iconic visual work, such as Enjoy The Silence.

It is reasonably safe to say that if Corbijn had not gained the confidence of the band during the creation of that simple video for A Question Of Time, during that scorching summer of 1986 in the US, Depeche’s history may have taken an entirely different path.

Poor ol’ Music For the Masses

It is worth noting briefly the album in the middle of Black Celebration and Violator, 1987’s Music For The Masses, which has its own special place in the story of Depeche Mode, but for wholly different reasons.

It doesn’t sound or feel as “seminal” as Violator, nor is it anywhere near pioneering as its predecessor.

Lest we forget, Music For The Masses is a great album (as we all know, spawning Never Let Me Down Again, Strangelove, Behind The Wheel and – for me – the hugely underrated Nothing), but it doesn’t quite create the same frisson amongst fans that Black Celebration and Violator somehow manage to do.

In fact, strangely, and with the benefit of hindsight again, Music For The Masses now feels like a stepping stone between those two albums.

Yes, it has some classic Depeche Mode songs; yes, it inspired a pivotal moment in the shape of the Pasadena Rose Bowl gig in 1988; and , yes, it stands proudly alongside Songs Of Faith And Devotion as an important and great album.

But it doesn’t have the same place in the history of the band as Black Celebration or Violator.

If the former and latter didn’t exist, Music For The Masses would perhaps be up there as the iconic album from the band.

But Black Celebration‘s depth, tone and overall feel was only matched (improved on, some argue) with Violator.

Yet what we should all recognise now, and appreciate, is that without Black Celebration setting a standard for process and focus, some of it subconsciously, some of it due to the decisions that were made as a band about things other than their visual output, Violator may never have become the seminal moment in the band’s career that it did.

I’ll happily “drink to that”.

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Many thanks to David for the opportunity to contribute to his Black Celebration, err, celebration.

In case you’re wondering what his thoughts are with regards to Violator (his favourite Depeche album, it turns out, rather than Black Celebration!), you’ll be able to read his contribution in HALO 😉

Here are the rest of the entries from the series:

Ten reasons to celebrate Violator

We share ten reasons why the Violator period is worth celebrating 🙂

1) The songs

Whilst Martin Gore had written many fantastic songs up until this point, many would agree that even the two previous albums – Black Celebration and Music For The Masses – had contained a few weaker tracks. Violator was arguably the first long player to have a full complement of wonderful songs, illustrating a maturing in his writing which probably helped inspire the later studio production on the demos.


2) Production dream team

The appointment of Mark “Flood” Ellis to produce the album is now considered an inspired move, not least because he was personally keen to marry the electronic background of Depeche with more natural instruments. But he was not instrumental in pushing this change and creating the Violator (and Songs of Faith and Devotion) sound – his ideas, coupled with working closely alongside Alan Wilder, gave Violator a depth and texture which both surprised and excited the critics but captured a legion of new fans.


3) Vocal performance(s)

Dave Gahan turned in a string of brilliant lead vocals, especially on the low-key Waiting For The Night and the powerful closer, Clean. But elsewhere the harmonies and backing vocals were more intricate than ever before, such as Gore’s on the WFTN and the chorus for Halo (listen closely!).


4) Inspired bravery

Depeche had always taken risks with their music (the heavy sampling on Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward), but with Violator they were pushed creatively by a combination of Flood’s enthusiasm and because Gore’s demos were deliberately stripped down to the bare bones. This gave Flood and Wilder the opportunity to shape the songs in different ways and push the boundaries of the Depeche sound. Turning Enjoy The Silence from what was already a great ballad on the demo into a dance track is a prime example.


5) Anton Corbijn’s handiwork

A look and feel which the band had wanted for years finally came together across all the output associated with Violator. Spearheaded by Dutch photographer Anton Cobijn, Violator‘s famous rose encapsulates the entire period, but it is just one of many symbolic visual moments. Take your pick – the cheeky video for Personal Jesus; monarch-like Gahan’s trudge across various landscapes with a deckchair for Enjoy The Silence; and countless black and white, grainy photos.


6) Francois Kevorkian’s magic

Wilder’s urging that the record be remixed by one of world’s premier dance DJs and producers added yet another layer to the overall sound of Violator.  Francois Kevorkian’s approach may have frustrated some of the band members (“pedantic”), but his work on all but one of the songs (Enjoy The Silence was mixed by Daniel Miller) cleverly managed to retain the electronic heartbeat of the band but without losing the newly introduced rockier elements (Personal Jesus‘s guitar, Halo‘s beat). Listen carefully (perhaps loudly, if you can) to the percussion on World In My Eyes to get a sense of his intricate work.


7) Singles selection

Many have argued that at Halo, Waiting For The Night and Clean could easily have been granted single status on Violator, but the eventual four that were released illustrates a deft understanding by the band and MUTE boss Daniel Miller for what would work at the time. Personal Jesus was an obvious first single, announcing to the world that Depeche was back – and with a bang. Releasing Enjoy The Silence just six weeks ahead of the album served to further heighten expectations. Policy Of Truth is simply a great and catchy song and World In My Eyes (the latter with a concert-filmed video) came just at the right time, half way through the tour.


8) Global domination via World Violation

The tour that followed the release of Violator, like the Devotional Tour of 1993, has achieved a certain hallowed status over the years – but for different reasons. Whilst Devotional was debauched and chaotic, World Violation was both a glorious celebration of a decade for the band but also the chance to air the tracks from Violator, many of which were reworked from the album versions to great effect (the extended version Enjoy The Silence in particular). But the main reason the tour has become somewhat legendary with fans is because of “I was there” factor, triggered in part because no full concert video was ever released.


9) Marketing muscle

The release of Violator came with a series of events that can only have helped to attract wider attention to the band. To some degree was the activity around the release of Personal Jesus in September 1989 (“pick up the receiver”, dial a number to hear the song), but the now legendary in-store signing in Los Angeles on the eve of the album’s release, which triggered a “riot” outside amongst fans, could not have been engineered any better. Or maybe it was part of the strategy all along 😉


10) Positively uplifting

Flood later said the mood around the Depeche camp can be felt throughout Violator, in the same way that the problems that materialised within the band during the making of Songs of Faith and Devotion created a dark, brooding, downbeat record. The uplifting opener of World In My Eyes sets the scene for the rest of the record. Violator has a wonderfully optimistic feel about it – sonically showcasing a band who probably realised very early on in the process of making Violator that they were creating something special and unique.


11) … and one extra, final thought, 25 years on

What is remarkable about Violator is how fresh it sounds, even a quarter of a century later. Classic albums are lauded for numerous reasons, but often the music has not stood the test of time – many records just happened to be important at a particular period in the evolution of music. Violator is different because it can played now, in 2015, and still feel like it was recorded yesterday. The songs are wonderfully timeless and the quality of the arrangements and production unsurpassed.

Let’s face it – very few bands, both then and now, have managed to create something that sounds as relevant and brimming with quality as Violator.

+ + + +

Before anyone asks… In an ideal world, the Halo book would’ve been published in Violator‘s 25th year.

But, unfortunately, a thing called “real life” – health and the day job – conspired against me.

The former, courtesy of an operation and the subsequent recovery period over the course of the first few months of 2016, meant that its release was pushed back again.

I am extremely sorry about that.

Apologies again x

NB: All pictures are from the official Depeche Mode wallpaper page.