Q&A: Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan
Depeche Mode have been together for more than 30 years. How does the group operate nowadays?
I would say that you spend the first 10 years in a band chasing something, and then you spend the next 10 years trying to hold on to it. We’ve spent the last 10 years just kind of doing our own thing, really. We’ve still somehow retained this weird electronic-alternative, left-field-type band that makes popular music for some reason. Martin [Gore, the band’s multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter] is out in California now and I’m here in New York, but there’s a feeling between us that we’ve come a long way together; we see our strengths, and we’ve come to this place where we have a very strong musical bond. This record was really a pleasure to make with him — we’re as positive as we get, I think.
Is it flattering or maddening to see a classic song of yours like ”Just Can’t Get Enough” covered on Glee?
I think it has to be flattering. We recorded that in, like, 1980 — it’s one of the first things we did, really. It’s more than half my life ago, so it’s kind of wild that there still seems to be a great deal of interest in what we do, and I feel very grateful for that. There are so many different versions of our songs out there. I mean, the Johnny Cash version of ”Personal Jesus” to me is like the ultimate, probably even truer than our own.
You do seem to speak to artists in different genres.
We were in the studio in New York doing some sessions [for Delta Machine], and Frank Ocean was there and really wanted to meet us. I wouldn’t have thought he would have even known who we are, but it turns out he’s a big fan. Martin and [DM collaborator] Chris [Berg] actually ended up doing a track with him, which I think is going to be a part of his new record. I also read that Jay-Z said he was influenced by Depeche Mode. Now, that’s not necessarily the songs or my voice; I think it’s about the way that we’ve built something.
There’s always been a lot of sacred imagery in DM songs, a lot of talk of angels and divine intervention…
Well, I know for sure that it interests Martin as much as it interests me, that yearning to feel whole with yourself and the world. I mean, I have youngish kids — they’re 25, 20, and 13 — and they’ve all talked to me about that: ”I don’t fit in.”And music is an art form that actually transcends that feeling. Both Martin and I have tried different angles, we’ve both had our fair share of drinking and going down those roads of different girls in different places. You have to choose at some point; it’s like, ”I can’t do this anymore.” And in a way, it’s a blessing when that happens.