Category Archives: Mutterings

Kanye West and Depeche Mode unite – well, almost…

Kanye West and Depeche Mode – chalk and cheese, polar ends of the musical spectrum, right?

It’s a match made in hell, at least for hordes of devotees who would probably burn a red rose or two in protest if it were true.

Still, some may recall a “mashup” of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus with rapper and R&B megastar Kanye West’s Black Skinhead from 2013.

The Dan Chamberlain creation got a fair amount of buzz on the web at the time but the track was never given any kind of official release or widespread airtime.

Fast forward four years and it’s about to get A Lot Of Exposure, with the track included on the soundtrack and new trailer for Charlize Theron-fronted action movie Atomic Blonde.

The first third of the three-minute showcase features New Order’s Blue Monday, but then it’s time for the fusion of Depeche stomping and Kanye verbal pouting to kick in.

Here is the trailer:

The movie is the first big-ticket outing for director David Leitch, a former stuntman who has stood in for the likes of Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

And if you think Atomic Blonde, a spy thriller set at the end of the Cold War, has a certain Jason Bourne-type vibe about it, then you’d be correct – Leitch starred in both The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy.

Atomic Blonde is due for release in the summer of 2017 and also stars James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones and Bill Skarsgard.

Personal Jesus has previously featured on the soundtrack for Saddam Hussein son Udday biopic, The Devil’s Double, in 2011.

French Canadian movie Le Confessionnal, directed by Robert Lepage, used Waiting For The Night for its theatre trailer.

The award-winning 1995 film starred Kristen Scott Thomas (The English Patient) and Lothaire Bluteau (The Tudors).

Lepage must’ve been a fan of Depeche and Violator as he also had Policy Of Truth included in the main soundtrack for the film.

Barrowlands gig review – Let’s have a mass celebration

You have to feel for seasoned broadcaster and doyenne of BBC 6Music radio station, Lauren Laverne, as she saunters on to the Barrowlands stage to absolute bedlam in front of her.

The 38-year-old has probably seen some sights over the years as both a singer in the band Kenickie back in the mid-1990s and her subsequent radio and TV career – yet the gig in Glasgow is a unique moment for her, for the masses packed in under the ornate ceiling, and for the band she is about to introduce.

The band, obviously, is Depeche Mode – headlining the Sunday and final night of the station’s annual festival, and clearly the most high-profile and eagerly anticipated of the 70 or so acts that are performing over three days in the city.

Laverne has never introduced Depeche on-stage before (perhaps never even a band of their global scale and popularity), and certainly not one within the confines of a venue that by showtime is boiling (literally) over with excitement.

As she works her way through her notes, finally getting to the section where she hints at what is to come, you can see a combination of excitement, amusement and perhaps surprise at the reaction she is getting.

The baked crowd (no official number has been released, but it is probably in the region of 1,750 people, given the capacity is reduced somewhat to accommodate the film crew and tech area at the rear of the former ballroom) are roaring loudly at the end of every sentence.

“Get my boys on, Lauren!” screams a male fan with a thick Scottish accent near the front.

* * * *

Rewind a few hours and you can feel in the bars around the city that fans are preparing for an extravaganza.

This is, as Laverne reminded everyone to more cheers, the first time that Depeche have performed at the famous old venue since 1984 – confining themselves over the last two tours to the SECC and Hydro mega-halls elsewhere in the city, with those being the first Glasgow gigs since the Black Celebration Tour in 1986.

What most fans can sense is that this has all the factors necessary to go down as a landmark event – venue, crowd size, well-rested personnel (none of the late-in-the-tour fatigue having kicked in yet) and their first proper show in three years (the handful of small gigs in the previous week have been shorter and geared solely around to promote the new Spirit album).

Sure, there is a fair amount of anger over the way the tickets for the Barrowlands gig have been sold, with some appearing on re-seller sites before they’ve gone on sale to the devotee-verse.

By Sunday night, however, such irritations have gone and, whilst obviously being on the band’s circuit to push the new long-player, this instead feels like the first night of the forthcoming tour.

There is also no hiding away for a band in a venue such as the Barrowlands – the crowd is barely a few feet away from the performers, rather than the sprawling stages and rigs that will accompany the stadium and arena shows for Depeche in a few months.

Still, very few people in attendance will remember or have seen Depeche in such as setting – thus the raucous noise that erupts as Laverne ends her introduction and the band walk on stage.

I suspect they’ll not forget – or indeed, want to forget – those first few minutes in a hurry.

barrowlands depeche mode 4

If Going Backwards makes it to being the opener on the final setlist for the Spirit Tour, then the trio’s traditional squabbles over track selection and ordering will have paid off – it is a terrific song and has that now-usual Depeche sing-along quality to it and, in this case, sets the scene for what is to follow.

The A Question Of Time-esque So Much Love ignites the first heave of the legendary springy Barrowlands floor, yet perhaps what most people have already noticed and are lapping up is how much fun frontman Dave Gahan is having.

He twirls (nothing unusual there), pirouettes (nor there) and struts (or there), but in between are glimpses of a mischevious, pumped-up and fun singer clearly at ease with the opportunity to do his thing… and more.

He pokes his tongue out at the audience, grins like a giddy love-struck teenager, points at people and laughs his way through the first few tracks as if he’s just been plucked out of the Barras Market next door as a late replacement for the often-brooding, normal Dave Gahan.

Fans talk about the waistcoats and the boots and “guyliner” and (over-)analyse almost every move, yet very few people will disagree that he remains one of music’s best frontmen, having that confident and unique ability to entertain, control and cajole an audience.

barrowlands depeche mode 5

Corrupt comes next, perhaps the only slight low-point of the entire 12-song set, followed by A Pain That I’m Used To, complete with Peter Gordeno on bass guitar.

It’s not a perfect Depeche Mode song, but in this setting, it works, with Gahan prowling around and grinning at his two fellow stage-dwellers.

Arguably the next trio of songs is the first highlight of the set, with huge roars greeting those famous, bass-heavy bars of World In My Eyes (after the reworked, more atmospheric chord opening).

The sound is terrific and the loud synths for the final third of the song reverberate around the venue as Martin Gore, during his only keyboard-bound song, sings the Violator opener out.

The playful Gahan appears to be getting on well with Gore, comforting to those that worry about such things following reports of (but later played down) disagreements during the recording of Spirit.

He waves his towel in front of Gore to cool him down (Gahan himself is sweating profusely within minutes of the gig starting), exchanges a cheeky grin or two, kisses him on the head at the end of a song – antics that fans forget the sometimes serious Depeche Mode are capable of.

Gore himself, whilst appearing nervous at the recent Berlin promo show, looks relaxed as he says a few words or laughs with his guitar tech between songs.

Cover Me is a wonderfully intense song, starting here in a reasonably low-key way before the keyboards hit with a glorious wall of noise as Gore moves the slide up and down the guitar strings.

It is one of the best songs that Depeche have produced in many years. Gahan looks extremely proud of it as he shouts and encourages the crowd to follow his every clap.

After the song’s hypnotic ending, Gahan leaves the stage and the yelling and cheers start again, the crowd knowing it’s Gore’s turn to serenade them.

What comes next is a bit of a surprise, a fully-backed version of Home, sung with a passion and quality that reduces a couple stood nearby  to tears.

Whilst not weep-inducing to the vast majority of fans in attendance in the Barrowlands, it is a very moving moment, triggering the inevitable crowd serenade back to Gore at the end.

Where’s The Revolution and Barrel Of A Gun follow – the former sounding better than it has on the promo shows and Gore’s guitar cranked up a bit higher for the single from Ultra.

The latter will never be a perfect live track, but similar to A Pain That I’m Used To, it works here mainly because of the setting and atmosphere and Gahan’s incessant but appreciated patrolling of the stage.

“He’s absolutely lovin’ it!” laughs a guy to his girlfriend. “Haven’t seen him this animated for years….. COME ON, DAVE!!!!”

barrowlands depeche mode 3

The final three songs (two with a mini-break ahead of the “encore”, Enjoy The Silence) are pure Depeche in crowd-pleasing mode.

The reworked Walking In My Shoes sounds good and fresh, and gone is the almost painfully slow introduction to Personal Jesus from the Delta Machine Tour.

An ear-splitting series of “Reach out and touch faith” that end Personal Jesus are enough to, coining a well-worn cliche, metaphorically take the roof off the venue.

The band look shocked but thrilled at how raucous everything is.

It has turned into a crowd and band-fuelled celebration that many arguably haven’t seen since some of the nights on the Singles Tour in 1998.

Enjoy The Silence concludes the Barrowlands evening, again with a classic fan-led sing-along.

The music ends, the band come forward for their customary bow (Andy Fletcher comes over stage-left to applaud and grin),  and they’re gone.

For a moment there is a glimmer of hope that they will return for another song, perhaps debuting the cover of David Bowie’s Heroes that has been being talked about recently, but the venue music kicks in and the crowd (including Labour Party deputy leader, Tom Watson) are left to look at one another with various interpretations of “Did THAT just happen?”-type expressions.

* * * *

It is easy to get caught up in the hyperbole of such a night – to think it was bigger or better than it really was, just because you were lucky enough be there.

But, equally, Depeche have been around for so long now that many fans will naturally cast their minds back, nostalgically, to what they consider peaks for the band, and refuse to acknowledge that the now-trio (plus Gordeno and Christian Eigner on tours) can still cut it as a live act.

Yet it was, for many there on Sunday night, the pinnacle of their Depeche Mode live experiences.

Bands such as Depeche, with their enormous gigs, entourage and tightly controlled publicity schedule, rarely perform in an environment that feels both “old school” and utterly rapturous.

One fan said to me later that it felt like “his band” had come to perform just for him and his mates (that’s how so-called devotees often verbalise their passion – as if they have some kind of ownership of “my boys”).

The intimacy of the occasion and the passion that flowed between the band (especially Gahan) and the masses was a remarkable one to witness and be a part of.

Sure, there were a few flaws – some off-kilter harmonies during Walking In My Shoes and drummer Eigner continues to irk some fans (head over to the unofficial Eigner Fanclub, Electricity Club, for their valid take on that) – but this gig wasn’t about those individual moments, and certainly did not overshadow in any way the otherwise unique and celebratory night for what it was: an event that many will struggle to forget.

The reaction to the gig, generally, has been extraordinary (even from the sometimes unforgiving British mainstream press) – a prime example being David McElroy’s take on the Almost Predictable… Almost blog.

An “I was there!” moment for so many people.

I saw Depeche Mode on consecutive nights at the Bercy in Paris in 1993, during the Devotional Tour, and was blown away by their sheer power and an overwhelming explosion of colour, noise and swagger from the show.

I was also lucky enough to be at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010 (when Alan Wilder famously returned to play Somebody with Gore) but had consoled myself that I’d probably never experience something like that again (hint-hint, band and manager Jonathan “Baron” Kessler: iconic venues bring out the best in Depeche Mode).

But, 37 years in, they somehow, against all the odds of running a slick, sophisticated, professional and hugely popular Depeche Mode these days (it does almost feel like a “brand” sometimes), managed to inspire what for many will go down as a very special, intimate and one hell of a barnstorming evening at the Barrowlands of Glasgow.

barrowlands depeche mode 7

 

FOOTNOTE:

In the early hours of Monday morning, I found myself – with half a dozen or so friends – dissecting the evening over a few drinks in the bar of a hotel in the north of the city.

We didn’t try to gatecrash but we could see the entire band, entourage and guests at a private party next door. Sometimes it feels better to just let people get on with their lives – in this case, celebrating their evening.

Still, as good fortune has it, I bumped into Fletch outside in the street when I arrived, so we chatted for a while.

I have never sought to contact any band that I have liked (except, in the case of Depeche, when dealing with their management for HALO), so this is a surprise and, after decades of following them, not as intimidating an experience as one might have feared.

Thanks, Fletch.

Later, I also spoke to Eigner outside the hotel as we left at the end of the night. He was on good form and happy to oblige the by-then half a dozen or so people who asked for pictures.

Unusually for me, not wanting to come across as a groupie despite being at the band’s hotel, I thought (presumably by now, simply basking in the adrenalin of the evening) that it was a worth asking.

Oh well 🙂

barrowlands depeche mode christian eigner

Lastly, even the 630am flight that I had to take a few hours later to return to home (and the day job) had its upside.

The fair city of Glasgow certainly knows how to do a sunrise.

barrowlands depeche mode 6

Spirit album review – Depeche Mode find bleak is the new black

It is perhaps an illustration of the passion (devotion) that fans hold for Depeche Mode that everything they create often seems to inspire simple words such as “love” or “hate”.

“I LOVE Ultra…”, “I HATE anything after 2005…”, “I LOVE everything, seriously EVERYTHING, that Depeche Mode do…”, “I HATE live drums…”, etc, etc.

This polarising process of describing their output has intensified as Depeche have got older, perhaps in part because their supposed “glory years” have moved further back in time.

Every single, every album, every video, every tour, every piece of artwork, creates what those in the UK would call the so-called Marmite effect: many fans either love it, or they hate it.

But, still, those that have consistently applied the latter to their beloved band’s output over the years will still buy the records, catch the band on tour and, of course, have an opinion and want to debate it.

It’s how devotees roll.

The well-worn phrase that many fans use to describe their devotion  – “soundtrack to my life” – means they have the right to expect something exciting, perhaps different or something thought-provoking from Depeche Mode, something that will lurk in the background for the next chapter in their lives.

So, therefore, to follow that simplistic narrative to describe Depeche’s 14th studio album: there is helluva lot more to love than hate with Spirit.

spirit 3

Spirit is not an easily accessible album – but one guesses that it is probably not trying to be.

Whereas 1985’s supposed “dark album” Black Celebration retained, in many parts, a pop sensibility to it, Spirit‘s bleakness in terms of songs and atmosphere feels deliberate.

There is a curious contrast between the vast majority of Depeche’s work, where the subject matter was inward-looking and left to the reader’s own interpretation (primary songwriter Martin Gore rarely discusses his lyrics), to Spirit, an album with a sizeable number of tracks where the boys have turned their attention to the world again.

Depeche Mode have talked in interviews about how the album and the world view-type content came about as they saw the “mess” the world was descending into over the last few years – and this was before Donald Trump in the US and issues such as Brexit.

For a band that has spent large swathes of the previous 34 years since their last “political” album, Construction Time Again in 1983, examining life’s extremely personal mysteries such as love, loss, sex and religion, turning to issues that affect everyone else is an interesting move.

Whatever the motives for it, Gore and Gahan ‘s (who pens four of the songs on Spirit, including a co-writing credit with Gore) sudden rise of fury is clearly the most obvious new element to the angry Depeche in 2017.

Interestingly, February’s single Where’s The Revolution is, lyrically, perhaps the weakest of the political tracks on Spirit, almost having a too obvious a flow to the prose.

In fact, Gore’s usual subtlety is missing in a lot of his songs on Spirit – but this is generally not to their detriment, again reflecting the change in emphasis on what is bugging the now-55 year old.

Perhaps finding some personal redemption (the word had to creep in somewhere!), after kicking the booze and having a new, young family again, Gore has now set his sights on other things.

And there is, furthermore, a remarkable intensity to the songs that he sings – remember, this is the same chap who wrote and sang Somebody who is now, in his familiar tone, telling us on Fail:

Our souls are corrupt
Our minds are messed up
Our consciences bankrupt
Oh, we’re fucked

spirit 2

Gahan’s songs, again, continue to show signs of someone who is increasingly comfortable with his new(ish) role of putting pen to paper – a maturity that started with Spirit predecessor Delta Machine, through the bluesy work of mid-Mode project Soulsavers, to now.

Suffer Well (on Playing the Angel) and Should Be Higher (from the aforementioned Delta Machine) had been relative high points – but Gahan has hit a purple patch of sorts on Spirit with Cover Me and Poison Heart.

Whether Gore and Gahan’s ramblings would have worked with Ben Hillier, the studio wonk behind Playing The Angel, Sounds of the Universe and Delta Machine,  is an interesting question around the creation of Spirit.

Hillier’s production (if there’s another Marmite figure in the world of later-year Depeche, Hillier is it) gave Depeche’s songs space, not least because lyrically they needed it, but also possibly due to the collective vibe what they were trying to achieve at the time.

Spirit has a sonic intensity, almost claustrophobic feel to it, even in the musically sparse moments, which clearly comes from the much-anticipated new production team, led by one-half of Simian Mobile Disco, James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Florence & The Machine), with Matrixxman and Kurt Uenala on engineering duties.

Maybe details will emerge as the merry-go-round of promotional interviews take place, but it will be interesting to learn how much direction Ford and co were given, in terms of what atmosphere the band wanted, or whether it was his interpretation of the songs and his own general mood. Or a mixture of both.

Regardless of the motivation, Ford’s involvement has certainly created a very different Depeche, matching the change in lyrical focus.

It’s not an easy album to listen to.

Much has already been made of the album’s first track, Going Backwards, arguably the best opening song to a Depeche long-player since Barrel Of A Gun on Ultra, and certainly a highlight generally of the intervening 20 years.

In a way, Going Backwards is the blueprint for how many of the songs on Spirit work – brooding, initially, with subtle melodies then giving way to a big sound in the final third.

Ford, perhaps with a nod to his dance music routes, understands the need for a slow build, a hesitation, before a final burst of intensity.

On some tracks it is more obvious, such as Going Backwards, Where’s The Revolution and You Move.

There is probably a case to be made for the Gore-Gahan co-penned You Move being one the dirtiest sounding and lyrically suggestive Depeche tracks since World In My Eyes on Violator – a sign that, despite their well-documented differences, there’s potentially more to explore with a direct collaboration.

How much of the final output is down to the production’s team musical ideas or work on atmospheres is, again, rather intriguing.

On some tracks, Ford’s previously mentioned technique saves what could have been fairly straightforward songs musically, such as Poison Heart and the most “synthy” song on the album, No More (This Is The Last Time).

The three tracks that perhaps neither songwriting intensity or studio kung fu come to the fore are The Worst CrimeEternal and Poorman. They are, unfortunately, the Get Right With Me of the Spirit album, in that they stand out for being average, modern Depeche songs.

Still, alongside Going Backwards, two other tracks stand out: So Much Love and Cover Me.

The former is an up-to-date Depeche barnstormer (hey, over 100 bps!) with an obvious raising of the glass to the back catalogue, especially A Question Of Time.

It will no doubt be an even bigger (in all sense of the word) song when the band hit the road in a few months.

Cover Me, written by Gahan and touring musos Peter Gordeno and Christian Eigner, is a standout track on Spirit.

Whoever suggested Ford have a play with a slide guitar and, apparently, teach himself overnight how to master it deserves a pat on the back.

A second pat should also go to the person who came up the chord change on the guitar and the inclusion of strings that gives the song a series of sonically satisfying yet breath-taking moments.

The still much-missed former-bandmate Alan Wilder (the Depeche forums will debate this forever) would surely appreciate the atmosphere that band and Ford have created with this song. It is one of the best in the Depeche arsenal of slow tracks since Home on Ultra.

spirit 4

The new studio squad deserves a lot of credit for what they have managed to create with Spirit.

And so do Gore and Gahan for spreading their wings lyrically.

The album, in some respects, will (inevitably) disappoint some fans because it doesn’t have an inkling of the pop genius of old (Construction Time AgainSome Great Reward, Violator), nor does it have the obvious flow or accessibility of an Ultra or Playing The Angel.

Spirit has a depth and overall moodiness to it that Depeche have not achieved since Songs Of Faith And Devotion.

This is not to say that, as a body of work, Spirit comes close to that 1993 bucketload of dark intensity. It doesn’t.

It is a very grown-up album, both in its outlook and production.

The minimalist nature of many of the songs will put some fans off, yet Ford and his team’s creativity and expertise in gradually layering a song to create something that perhaps would not have been obvious in the first few minutes is clever.

It also means that many people might not “get” Spirit on the first few listens, nor will they truly appreciate the textures (subtle or otherwise) in many of the songs until they play it very loud, alone (in the tub with a glass of wine seems like a perfect spot!).

In places, Spirit literally booms with a force and potency of noise around a room. This is perhaps where Spirit will eventually be appreciated.

Sure, Depeche could always do with writing a few more upbeat, dynamic tunes – something new apart from So Much Love for the tens of thousands of fans to shake their devoted backsides to when they see the band on tour this year.

But this is a different era. This is a more thoughtful and angry and reflective Depeche Mode.

The Exciter album in 2001 was an appreciation of love and a request for longing.

Spirit is the complete opposite, and it is yet probably the best Depeche Mode album since then.

It seems, as the 21st century has developed, Depeche have managed to book-end their role in it perfectly.

Many fans will say Spirit makes them angry for lots of reasons, of course (back to the passion discussion), but the anger that Depeche are trying to create is about their view of the world.

Though far from being a perfect record, Depeche have certainly managed to shift our impressions of them and should be applauded for sharpening our minds a little.

Forget love and lust for a little while – we’ve all got bigger fish to fry, including our perceptions of what Depeche Mode should and can be.

7/10.

Footnote:

Depeche Mode held a launch party in Berlin on 17 March, where they played Going Backwards, So Much Love, Cover Me and Where’s The Revolution from Spirit.

Watch out a slightly reworked and terrific performance of World In My Eyes:

Depeche Mode new single – Where’s The Revolution

After a few days of near-hysteria on social media and the Depeche Mode forums, Where’s The Revolution has finally “dropped”.

The single is the first track to be released from the band’s forthcoming album, Spirit – their 14th studio long-player and the first new material in almost four years.

Official news of Where’s The Revolution‘s impending release hit the web earlier this week, including an image of its front cover (and also that of the album, due for release on March 17), inevitably igniting large swathes of, err, feedback about its design.

Long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn is (thankfully, I believe) still steering Depeche’s artistic direction. Whether his designs please or anger fans, Corbijn always gives the band a theme and a visual narrative to follow through the life-cycle of a project (these days, the singles + album + merchandise + tour are considered “a project”).

Corbijn has also directed the as-yet unreleased video for Where’s The Revolution.

Back to the single…

Where’s The Revolution (and the album) is produced by James Ford, of Simian Mobile Disco fame – the first time in 12 years that the band have had a new producer and studio team (DJ/producer Matrixxman is on engineering duties).

Many fans have argued that Ben Hillier’s time was up, following his trilogy of albums, Playing The Angel (2005), Sounds Of The Universe (2009) and Delta Machine (2013).

Correct or not, rumours that a new studio guru/peacemaker/ideas man was on the way inevitably led to the usual dizzying array of possibilities being suggested (Brian Eno, Flood and Trent Rezor, to name a few – with the usual pleas for Alan Wilder thrown in for good measure).

How much of Ford’s dirty electronic sensibilities from SMD will feed into the rest of Spirit remains to be seen, although the partnership with Depeche is already being touted as one of where his musicianship, as well as production skills, was an important factor in the decision to hire him.

Depeche Mode have had a habit since Violator of hitting the airwaves with a big statement for the first single, often unlike anything else that is on the rest of the subsequent album,  (Personal Jesus, I Feel You, Dream On and Wrong, in particular).

Here we are, back again, ladies and gents.

WTR (as it will eventually be called by fans) is certainly continuing that trend.

The band will probably explain more about the track’s rabble-rousing lyrics during interviews in the coming weeks, but there is little doubt that the timing of its release is impeccable given political and social upheaval in the band’s birthplace (Brexit-bound UK) and where Dave Gahan and Martin Gore now reside (Trump’s USA).

Gore has spent decades as a lyricist agonising over deeply personal issues such as love, loss, religion and sex that a return to the stories of old (sorry!) in the political sphere circa Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward could be seen as a surprise.

Most 55-year-old songwriters have often confined the firebrand days to their youth, so this new, outward-looking perspective is an interesting and perhaps surprising one to experience again.

Gahan, during the Spirit press conference in Milan in October last year, commented on how Ford had taught himself to play Gore’s pedal steel guitar during a studio session, and that it appears on a number of tracks, WTR included, where it signals the end of each segment of the song.

The track is not uptempo by any means but has a pounding groove in parts to match the march-type vibe (a call to arms, even) that Gore is trying to achieve with the lyrics.

One suspects a lot of attention from both hardcore devotees and critics will focus on the “get on board” middle-8, both lyrically and sonically.

Middle-8s are designed as juxtapositions between the flow of verses and chorus, yet WTR‘s effort hangs awkwardly in the air.

It’s not Depeche’s finest hour.

Thankfully the chorus returns for a final outing, with some soaring soundscapes and a full ensemble of voices almost crying out for Gore’s revolution (Andy Fletcher is credited with backing vocals).

It’s worth pointing out that Gahan’s vocal appears to be getting stronger with each “project” (Halo on the last Depeche tour and his work with Soulsavers in 2015, especially live, illustrated what he can really do with his voice).

There are always nods to the past – it’s inevitable with such a vast catalogue of work to refer back to – so early contenders musically are The Sweetest Condition (as Almost Predictable, Almost… points out), Corrupt from Sounds Of The Universe and almost a hint of Violator‘s Sweetest Perfection in parts.

wheres the revolution

Make no mistake, Gahan will be polishing his boots, ready to rouse the masses when Spirit goes on the road from May, with WTR a likely contender for one of his audience singalongs.

As new Depeche era-intros go, WTR will instantly divide opinion amongst stalwarts (first singles always do) but it’s a bold opener from what feels like a band trying to be bolder (and, indeed, older).

Where’s The Revolution will no doubt come in a cascade of different formats, as is Depeche’s way. Details on those shortly.

Words (M L Gore):

You’ve been kept down
You’ve been pushed ’round
You’ve been lied to
You’ve been fed truths
Who’s making your decisions
You or your religion
Your government, your countries
You patriotic junkies

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

You’ve been pissed on
For too long
Your rights abused
Your views refused
They manipulate and threaten
With terror as a weapon
Scare you till you’re stupefied
Wear you down until you’re on their side

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
The train is coming
So get on board
Get on board
Get on board
Get on board
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
The engine’s humming
So get on board
Get on board
Get on board
Get on board

Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down
Where’s the revolution
Come on people
You’re letting me down

Ukrainian orchestra plays Personal Jesus, Enjoy The Silence and other Depeche classics

One of the most popular posts on this website was during the summer, featuring Eric Whitacre’s haunting, choral version of Enjoy The Silence.

And who can forget Michal Matejcik’s versions of Halo, Enjoy The Silence and Clean, performed on the harp?

That attracted a large amount of traffic to the site, too.

Fans seem to like orchestral versions of Depeche Mode songs (also remember the orchestral part of the Quad: Final Mix)…!

One clip that has been doing the rounds in recent weeks features a series of Depeche tracks performed by the Prime Orchestra, filmed during a concert in the Ukraine.

The string arrangements are terrific,  but I’d be curious to know if others feel the same about some of the pieces when the “traditional” rock instruments, saxophone and vocals kick in.

Still, enjoy it…

The track listing:

  • Just Can’t Get Enough
  • Stripped
  • Behind The Wheel
  • Personal Jesus
  • Enjoy The silence
  • Never Let Me Down Again

Here is the clip:

Enjoy The Silence fronts trailer for Scarlett Johansson sci-fi flick Ghost In The Shell

Enjoy The Silence is fast becoming (if not already) the most covered Depeche Mode song in the band’s history.

American rock-electronica fusion artist KI Theory covered it back in 2014, but his version is about to get a lot of attention.

It is being used in the trailer for Ghost In The Shell, an upcoming sci-fiction movie directed by Rupert Sanders (the Brit behind 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman).

The lead role is played by Scarlett Johansson, with support from Juliette Binoche, Pilou Asbæk, Michael Putt and Takeshi Kitano.

When you see the trailer you will immediately realise that Depeche Mode’s original version was clearly nowhere near RAWK enough to be used for what appears to be a full-on action-fest of a movie 🙂

The film is due to be released in March 2017.

Here is the clip:

And KI Theory’s version in full:

Irony factoid: Sanders once directed an award-winning television ad for the computer game series, Halo.

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

Halo

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

Clean

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) 🙂