|The Name's The Game by John Kercher
for Zig Zag Magazine (November 1982)
People have always been confused about Depeche Mode. About how many guys were actually in the group for starters. Sometimes it would be David Gahan, Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher that the fans would see posing in photographs, and then suddenly Alan Wilder would join them on stage for live appearances. Just to settle the record...there are now four permanent members, both on and off the record!
"There was a reason for it. After Vince left and went to form Yazoo, we were getting ready to record a new album. Alan started playing with us but we wanted to make certain that any change in direction in our music wasn't attributed to Alan joining. We needed to show we were capable of musical alteration by ourselves.
"So we recorded 'Broken Frame' with that in mind, although Alan will be playing on our tours when we perform songs from the album. Now we feel free for him to be a full time recording member of the group now that the change in pattern has been established!" Alan has been touring with the group anyway, so it makes little difference to relationships within the band.
Martin has now taken on the role of critic himself. He confesses he has no desire to want to go in to the business of producing other groups' albums or singles, which seems to be the track record for many already established musicians. "I find that a bit boring, unless you really have the impetus to do that there isn't really a need, it's not fair on new bands either.
"What I have been doing is reviewing demos sent to our record company by prospective recording bands. It makes a nice change from sitting at home with my feet up. Some of the bands are very professional, although there's fair amount of rubbish too. But if bands don't send in demos, they'll never know. And I'm never discouraging. I like to offer advice where I can. I'll listen to the tapes and select groups I think are worth following up, and make constructive comments about the others. It's very enjoyable really, so long as I don't have to do too many of them!"
Even with creature comforts the guys admit they don't get too much time alone with their girls. "There's just so much going on around us that there's little chance of a tour being for romantic interludes walking along foreign street." laughs Martin.
But occasionally the tours throw up and interesting proposition, as well as a major surprise. Like when the group were touring Europe and had a gig in Belgium to fulfill.
"We rarely bother to look at our schedules and so naturally thought we'd be playing Brussels. But instead we found ourselves pulling into a tiny place called Oberkorn. It was a curious kind of village with a population that would hardly fill the first few rows of any ordinary theatre so it was quite a fascination for us to find out just what was going to happen.
"Instead of our gig being a handful of people, the place was packed as the audience came from all around and even from across the borders. But there was an interesting twist to this concert. When we got back to our hotel our record company told us that whilst the 'A' side of our single was all set, they need a title rapidly for the 'B' side. Like I said," Martin says, "we've never all that good on names and the first thing that sprang to mind was the name of the village, Oberkorn. So that's the title we used!"
Whilst touring is a necessary evil for some bands, Depeche confess that they enjoy it, and when it comes to doing and album they get just as much of a high. "We don't make elaborate preparations with music and lyrics, before going into the studio, says Martin. "Usually we have a loose framework to build upon, although there might be a few songs we've completed, worked and rehearsed. With studio time being so expensive you can't be in there too long.
"What often happens is that whilst the guys are listening to the stuff we've taped, I'll nip into another room and work quickly on an idea and then present it to them. With a bit of juggling we usually come up with something we all like. It's getting the titles that really presents the problem!"
Relaxation, however, for Depeche Mode is a thing they do at home. "We're not the kind who enjoy partying it up every other night or traveling to clubs. Most of the time when we're not working we tend to stay at our parents' places in our home town, which is a fair way from London. We only travel into the capital when we need clothes of have to go to business meetings.
Martin says that books are his favourite pastime. "I collect them from all over the place. Anything, I just enjoy reading, it occupies a lot of my traveling time. None of us are real film freaks, so we rarely get out to the cinema or anything like that. Our film going is usually down in our coach on the video. Alan occasionally nips down the pub for a drink but that's about the limit of our raving it up!
"We all feel that it's essential to have this firm home base, because otherwise you tend to find yourselves leading a rather insular existence, only mixing with people in the music business, and that isn't really good for your mind or your lifestyle, you need outside stimuli, even if other people think it's trivial.
"I can't see us changing. We've no desire to move up to the bright lights of London and become another set of lights or whatever one becomes there. It's nice to visit occasionally, though!"
Depeche Mode are now anxious to show their audiences that their musical ability is not confined to a specific style; that they are capable of a wide range of interpretation. The World tour is a start!