Halo authors David McElroy and Kevin May have their official biogs here – but how might they respond to some obviously very important Violator and Halo-related questions?
We found out…
(Feel free to agree or disagree with their answers in the comments section below!)…
Q: First of all, tell us about your first Depeche Mode purchase and debut gig?
David: My first purchase was L12BONG18, the limited edition 12inch of Enjoy The Silence (read more about David’s vast Depeche Mode collection here). I’ve bored the planet with this tale before so I’ll keep it brief – we went on a family holiday from Castle Douglas to Italy and, as my Mum won’t fly, we had to do it all by train. Our first stop was London and I bought the 12-inch, which meant I then carried it to Livorno, back to London and finally to Castle Douglas. It’s still my most cherished Depeche record. The first gig I saw was at Crystal Palace in 1993 – not a bad introduction to Depeche Mode life.
Kevin: I bought the 12-inch single of Get The Balance Right in 1983, aged ten. I have no recollection why, especially given that I wasn’t into any particular “scene” at that stage – perhaps it was the, err, quirky, video but hopefully it was just because I thought it was a great song (I still do). And so began a journey… Seven years later, I went to see them live for the first time during the World Violation Tour. I went with two friends on a Monday night at Wembley Arena and immediately after the show decided to try and get a ticket from a tout outside the venue for the following Friday evening. Naughty.
Q: Everyone loves a list, so let’s start with your top five favourite Depeche Mode albums?
D: My top five are Violator, Black Celebration, Songs Of Faith And Devotion, Some Great Reward and Construction Time Again. Ultra deserves a place there but for now, it’s sixth.
K: Given why we’ve written this book, it won’t come as a huge surprise that Violator is my favourite Depeche Mode album. The following four would be, it’s fair to say, a fairly fluid list depending on mood/year etc. Today, it’s Songs Of Faith And Devotion, Black Celebration, Some Great Reward and Ultra.
Q: And now your top five gigs?
D: I’ve kept this quiet, but I saw the band at the Barrowlands in Glasgow in March 2017 so that’s gig number 1 (review here). Number 2 is the July 25, 2018, gig at the Waldbhune in Berlin (review here). I was there for both gigs and was joined for the latter by some of my best mates. The whole Berlin experience was incredible. Number 3 would be Birmingham NEC on the Playing The Angel tour. That whole trip was superb. Number 4 is Belfast on the Delta Machine tour as, again, that was just a cracking trip. Finally, and it’s only number 5 because it was so long ago, I was nervous as I was on my own in London (I come from a small town (not Oberkorn!)): Crystal Palace in 1993. I wish I could remember it in greater detail.
K: This is a little easier to answer… I did two nights in a row (first night standing, second night in the seats on the side) at the Bercy in Paris at the beginning of the Devotional Tour. Obviously, this was long before the days of social media, so there was no sense of what it would sound like, how Anton had designed the stage or what the setlist would be. Needless to say, this was an amazing tour (at least from a fan’s perspective) and they were – to use a cliche – at the peak of their powers (fan video here). The others would be the infamous night at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010, with Alan Wilder returning for a rendition of Somebody (review here), alongside the Glasgow Barrowlands warm-up gig in 2017 (review here), another Devotional show (probably the Crystal Palace or G-Mex shows in London and Manchester respectively) and the Singles Tour at Wembley Arena in 1998.
Q: Not all Depeche Mode gigs are amazing experiences, right?!? So you must’ve had at least one that didn’t match up to the usual standards?
D: The Tour Of The Universe gigs were flat, sadly. including their much-anticipated return to Scotland after 23 years. The pacing was wrong, the song versions were mainly poor and Anton’s visuals were unusually terrible
K: The Tour Of The Universe in late-2009, at London’s O2 – a soulless place, especially if you’re “up in the gods”. Somehow, I just couldn’t connect with what was going on ten miles below me and, sadly, it seemed like many others felt the same. Thankfully, a few months later, the Royal Albert Hall show saved the tour for me!
Q: For some bizarre reason, Violator is now only an EP… What four tracks from the LP would you put in the new format?
D: FFS! World In My Eyes, Halo, Enjoy The Silence, Clean
K: In this order: World In My Eyes, Policy Of Truth, Halo and Clean.
Q: Enough of the lists for now… Tell us what track on the album best captures the Violator era for you?
D: Enjoy The Silence. A world-conquering song by a band on the form of their lives with iconic visuals. Utter perfection
K: World In My Eyes or Enjoy The Silence – the former because it oozes confidence and is a slice of classic electronica, whereas the latter is a perfect illustration of what they were able to do with a new producer and band member (Alan) who inspired and wanted them to try something different.
Q: Do you have a favourite interview from the book?
D: I really enjoyed reading the interviews Kevin carried out. As a Depeche fan, reading them gave me a real buzz and I hope other Depeche fans will feel the same way when they read Halo.
K: I enjoyed all of them but in particular, my discussions with Bruce Kirkland and Richard Smith were enjoyable – for different reasons. I was in Los Angeles for the day job and thought I’d see if Bruce was available during the same week, so I went to his office in the hills above the city and spent a few hours with him. On the Uber ride back downtown, we rode past Dodger Stadium, which was fairly poignant given the discussion we’d had just before and the importance of that venue in the story. Richard Smith was also great, mostly because I probably learned a lot about design agency Area and its work on the cover sleeves during the Violator era (and beyond). I’ve said this a few times already but Richard is an unsung hero of this period.
Q: Any notable memories from writing the book?
D: The whole experience really. Writing a book is far different from writing Almost Predictable Almost, as I need to be serious rather than a smart-arse. That didn’t come naturally.
K: As well as the Los Angeles trip, spending hours chatting with Francois Kevorkian over Skype and visiting Steve Lyon at his recording studio in West London were highlights for me. I’d never been in a studio before, so that was pretty exciting. It was very cool to see his commemorative discs for sales of Violator and Songs Of Faith And Devotion hanging on the wall (assuming he didn’t hang them there just before I arrived)!
Q: If another Depeche Mode album warranted the same treatment as you’ve given Violator through the book, what one would it be?
D: Black Celebration for me given that album’s importance to Depeche Mode fans and to the Depeche Mode story.
K: We’ve been asked this a few times in interviews ahead of the release of Halo, so it’s had quite a lot of thought! An obvious era is Songs And Faith And Devotion, given the turmoil and consequences of the tour, but I also think both Black Celebration and Exciter warrant some deep dives.
Q: Believe it or not, there is life outside of the Depeche Mode bubble, so dig deep and tell us what other bands or artists you hold up in similarly high regard?
D: After Depeche in rough order of preference at the time of writing: Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, REM, The National, Kraftwerk, The Cure, LCD Soundsystem, Erasure, Pixies, Pet Shop Boys.
K: I’m a fellow NIN fan alongside David, as well as The Cure. I’ve had a long adoration of Slowdive, Cocteau Twins and Ride, plus throw in The The and Underworld.