Category Archives: Mutterings

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) 🙂

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 🙂