Tag Archives: martin gore

Faithful And Devoted book review – Depeche Mode, the world we live(d) in, and life in general

Faithful And Devoted could be about any band, not just Depeche Mode.

The book’s author, Jenna Rose Robbins, could have been a Nirvana fan (another of 1993’s high-profile acts), or a follower of Smashing Pumpkins, Blur or Pearl Jam.

The premise could also be the same – young, slightly obsessive fan heads off to Europe to follow her chosen idols for a few weeks; gets into a few scrapes; learns a lot about herself along the way; and, for the most part, has a great time.

This is the scenario that many of us have either dreamed of or have experienced in some way over the years.

(I caught four gigs in seven days during the chilly UK December of the Devotional Tour in 1993. Rather disappointingly, they were nowhere near as incident-packed as the trio of gigs in the earlier scorching Spanish summer for Robbins)

Still, Faithful And Devoted is centred on Depeche Mode and one fan’s wonderful recollection of a jaunt across the Iberian peninsula.

The fact that the American author’s trip coincides with the infamous Songs of Faith and Devotion-era Depeche Mode, rather than, say, Delta Machine-era Depeche Mode, gives you a bit of an idea as to where some of her adventures go.

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As Johnny Black later wrote in Q magazine in 1998, Depeche Mode, in 1993 and 1994, were spearheading the “most debauched tour ever”.

But a note of warning: readers who are expecting a warts-and-all exposé of the shenanigans that went on should put their desire for gossip to one side – Robbins has penned a much more important and heartfelt piece of work than that.

Sure, you’ll read about her alcohol-fuelled exchanges with Alan Wilder (her youthful adoration increases with each gig and meeting), Dave Gahan’s champagne-swilling and Martin Gore’s hypnotic dancing at techno clubs.

But this isn’t really a book about how she plotted and contrived (with her Spanish pen-pal) to meet Depeche at their notorious after-show parties (with one being a particularly wild and memorable night at a nightclub in Madrid following their gig at the city’s bullring).

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Instead, Robbins has cleverly used Depeche Mode and the three gigs in Spain (starting at Pontevedra, ending five days later in Barcelona) to be the background narrative for other things.

She covers growing up, leaving home, the relationship with her parents (in particular, her father), the expectations and experimental phases of being young, travelling and being in a new country, and of course, being a fan of a band.

Robbins is a terrific storyteller (as well as a shining example of why keeping a detailed journal can be so rewarding, especially at that age) and manages to balance the Depeche Mode elements with the personal elements of her tale extremely well, alongside being funny, nostalgic and poignant in equal measures throughout.

Some fans will read Faithful And Devoted through rose-tinted spectacles, perhaps remembering fondly the era when Depeche Mode were certainly wilder, infinitely more accessible and, well, young (the third item on this link is TimeOut’s review of the same gig in Madrid).

Yet everyone grows up (including Robbins and her idols).

Her book is a snapshot of a young person’s life – when we begin to understand what matters and what doesn’t, with Depeche Mode being a soundtrack to it all.

  • Many thanks to Robbins for the advance review copy of her book.
  • Faithful And Devoted is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats.

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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 Corbijn, 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, halfway 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…

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 be played now, in 2021, 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.

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Before anyone asks… In an ideal world, the Halo book would’ve been published by now.

But, unfortunately, a thing called “real life” – health, pandemics and the day jobs – continue to conspire.

Sorry about that.

Apologies again x

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

Inside the complex mind of Anton Corbijn

It seemed unfathomable that, after years of enjoying his work and that of many of his collaborators, Anton Corbijn biopic Inside Out had passed me by.

But, finally, a copy of the Klaartje Quirijns-directed documentary arrived via Amazon last week.

Here is the trailer:

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Anton Corbijn is not an easy guy to understand.

To put the 60-year-old Dutchman into some kind of context for Depeche Mode fans, Corbijn is the man who – in Dave Gahan’s words – “visually saved” the band.

After over half a decade of videos of questionable quality, many of which you could almost sense that the band were massively out of their comfort zone, Corbijn was hired to direct the clip accompanying the release of A Question Of Time.

His efforts with the third single from Black Celebration ensured that both he and the band would work together again.

By the time of Violator and Songs Of Faith and Devotion he was all-in with Depeche, directing videos, creating gig stages and backdrops, official photos and record sleeves.

That relationship lasts to this day, with Corbijn most recently directing the Live In Berlin concert DVD (just don’t ask fans about the lack of a Blu-Ray version) in 2014.

He has, lest we forget, photographed countless music acts, actors, politicians and other high profile figures.

Corbijn’s head

Any Depeche fans who are eagerly expecting to hear lots of commentary from Corbijn about the band in the 84-minute documentary should look elsewhere – Inside Out feels more like GoPro strapped to the head of a psychiatrist as they interview the extremely complex Corbijn.

That’s not to say Depeche and some of the other acts who have received the Corbijn treatment fail to feature in the film.

George Clooney, Lou Reed, Metallica and U2 are shown acting, posing for photographs or larking about with the director.

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Inside Out, however, is not a conventional look at the life and times of a well known character – like its subject matter, Quirijns’s film is a lot more complex than that.

Corbijn’s childhood features prominently in the narrative running through Inside Out, in what looks like a deliberate (and successful) tactic by Quirijns to establish a link between his work and his experiences as a human being.

As many a Depeche fan will now, religious iconography and themes have often been at the centre of so much Corbijn’s work with the band.

And so there is a sizeable section of the film where Quirijns talks to Corbijn about his years growing up on the Dutch coast, the son of a preacher.

Those years appear, as far as Corbijn is willing to share, reasonably unremarkable in terms of major, life-affirming events.

But as is with so much of Corbijn’s later work, whether it is photography, music videos or films, there are multiple layers involved to the story.

Corbijn admits to being lonely – a feeling that cleverly manages to run throughout the pace and style of the documentary, and one which Corbijn himself tries to explain.

It would be fair to say that the varying degrees of loneliness (even in his latter years), combined with a religious upbringing and an obsession with how visuals – especially light – make people feel, may have contributed to some of the darker or unconventional interpretations of human emotion within his work.

Outside in

Inside Out is not a particularly uplifting piece of work, nor is it really meant to be.

Quirijns’s skill rests in creating a rather sad yet absorbing portrait of a man who appears to be torn between hiding in his own, shy world but being reasonably happy to fulfil the needs of those who want to learn more about him.

The film hints at a fair amount of conflict (not of the aggressive kind) in Corbijn’s world – but also shows perhaps how he manages to escape from it all: his family.

In fact, the segments featuring his sister and mother are calm, sometimes funny and yet still rather melancholic, especially with Marietje (who passed away in 2011 at the age of 86) when they talk about his father (also named Anton).

Quirijns manages to extract plenty from Corbijn’s head, but still leaves it up to the viewer to come to their own conclusions about him and his legacy (so far).

And this, ironically, is also a trademark of Corbijn’s work – don’t seek to explain everything, let the person experiencing that work do the hard work and interpret it themselves.

For most of us who have watched and admired his work for many years, there are three elements which would undoubtedly ring true about Corbijn: depth, darkness and an ability to give an edge to his collaborators.

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Martin Gore is the only member of Depeche Mode to be featured in the film.

He is seen playing pool and joking with Corbijn, before being asked by Quirijns about the band’s close and long-term collaboration with the Dutchman over the years.

“We really struggled early on with an image problem. We were seen really as just a pop band. So we felt Anton has a certain seriousness and a certain gravity to his work that would help us get away from that. It helped us to create a kind of cult status.”

Incidentally, Quirijns was also interviewed about her role in making Inside Out:

Martin Gore backs Ebola relief effort

Nothing to do with the HALO book or Violator, but certainly worth re-posting here.

Martin Gore has lent his support to Direct Relief, the California-based humanitarian organisation.

Direct Relief is raising money for those affected by the Ebola virus in West Africa.

Watch Martin’s message below and learn more about the campaign.

And in a wonderful touch from Martin, for every dollar donated using THIS LINK he will match the donation, up to $50,000.