|Depeche Mode Construction Time
Four years after the monumental
"Songs of Faith and Devotion", the "fab four" from Basildon come back in
force with "Ultra" and without Alan Wilder, who left in 1995. This album
which could have been
Martin, could you give us a summary of different problems that you encountered this last time?
MG: The first problem we faced was
the loss of a member, Alan
Did these troubling times influence "Ultra" ?
M.G. : I believe you are fatally inspired by all that's around in taking elements from your immediate environment. Although, I don't think that this album is marked by a depressive spirit. There is actually a positive note. I don't think that the events from past years have had a net influence. But we don't have enough to back u...
Andy Fletcher, alias Fletch : I don't know... it affected the group in a certain manner, because it pushed in a determinant way to do something good. The events obliged us to concentrate on the music itself before Dave came back to a healthy level. The departure of Alan was also an important factor, plus more, he had to be replaced. It was done with the arrival of Tim Simenon and his team - Dave Clayton on keyboards, a programmer and a Sound Engineer. I think that they played an even larger role than Dave's problems. When it counted he sang even better, therefore the verdict is finally positive, considering all the difficulties.
For this new album, we would have thought of another possible title: "Construction time again part 2"...
F. : Serious and pertinent question... From a certain point of view, it right, "Construction time again" came after "A broken frame" which could probably be our worst album. Instead, this new "Ultra" comes after our two best, "Violator" and "Songs of Faith and Devotion", therefore it's a completely different situation. We couldn't really do worse than "A broken frame" ! Or than "Speak and spell". It's not a good start for a group!
There are many who are quite happy with the beginnings!
M.G. : I believe that there was some not bad confusion at the time of "A broken frame". Vince Clarke had just quit the group, and so I had to take the writing hand. To do so, I used songs that I wrote at age 16, totally produced in the studio. It resulted in a mix : very pop titles from the "Speak and spell" era and others more in line with "Construction time again", who announced the future way of working. It's true, we find ourself today , three, with the same "line up" of that era, but "Ultra" is truly better than "A broken frame" (laugh)!
Could we consider Tim like the fourth member of Depeche Mode?
F. : No. But if we had to choose
someone today, Tim would be absolutely perfect. Plus, he likes particularly
this idea of belonging to a group. But Depeche Mode functions much better
as a trio.
He collaborated with you since "Violator"...
F. : There is also Daniel Miller, who is often called the fifth member of Depeche Mode (laughs) !
With regards to Daniel, does he stay the sympathetic boss when you need three or four years to make an album?
F. : It's not our choice... I believe
he'd like us to make an album each year, but he understands well the creation
process, and knows how it functions. I think he is happy to have obtained
What are the new musical directions "Ultra" took ?
F. : The blues, country...
When we see the names Jaki Liebezeit and that of Tim Simenon in the team that participated in the new album, we can have the sentiment that they represent two extremes that Depeche Mode are trying to reconcile : experimentations and experience for Jaki, against the technique and youngness of Tim. What do you think?
F. : Their meeting was supposed
to bring all that.
Could we say that "Ultra" is more experimental than the rest of your productions? I make allusion to the little instrumental pieces...
F. : On all the albums, we tried
different experiences, but it didn't always succeed : we arenít like an
Technically, have you changed your way of working?
M.G. : At the level of writing,
nothing has changed : I compose principally at the guitar or piano to establish
the base of the piece, then I place the lyrics, the accords... Next, the
work is continued in our studio where I set myself up at the keyboards,
surrounded by synths and computers, for of definitive. But
for "Ultra", this second phase was different because we had a new team
- a programmer, a musician and a sound engineer with whom Tim has always
worked. Sometimes, we could
What equipment did you use ?
M.G. : Dave Clayton has an incredible set of keyboards ! When he arrived, he sometimes disappeared behind his reserves for days, and we didn't even know he was in the studio ! I believe that everyone has a problem in their life, and for Dave, it's that he can't stop himself from buying machines (laugh) !
The Emulator, is it still predominant?
M.G. : No, we don't use it anymore. For the sampling, we work solely on Akai material - only with this brand for the last album. For the concerts, we use Emax because they are still viable, but in the studio...
We hear an analog sound on "Useless"...
M.G. : Yes, Daniel Miller is credited for this title !
What do you think of this return to analog?
F. : If it needs to pass a radical
position like Vince Clark of Erasure who only uses analog sounds - he refuses
to use samples and MIDI -, I say no ! It's like we say, more guitars !
What counts, is to use the appropriate sounds and to profit from all the
elements at our disposition. The method we apply will be the one that corresponds
to the song,
What is the part of acoustic sounds?
M.G. : There are real parts of
How do you react faced with all the artists and DJs from the techno scene who think they invented the recipes that you discovered long before, along with Kraftwerk and others?
F. : In reality, it mocks me.
Why Plastikman, Underworld or DJ Shadow for the remixes?
M.G. : We searched in the interesting
guys that we liked, finally to benefit from a large remix selection. But
from another angle, there is no need to lose the view that a remixer can
have very different perspectives than your own! The work of DJ Shadow is
good, but we can't get it out for the instant: there are too many samples.
There must first be a record label <=E9claircisses> all the problems
that the use of certain samples could cause us. We wish nonetheless to
diffuse by the next. We really wanted Daft Punk as well, but they were
to busy with their album. Too bad, they were
With the remixes by Underworld, Plastikman..., don't you think that certain bad tongues could approach you to find a way to recuperate the actual scene that works well, and to tear apart the normal.
F. : We have just chosen those who
appreciate us, what else could we say? How could we answer? That we should
have chosen guys we didn't like?
You have also worked with John Fryer, Gareth Jones, Rico Conning... The list is long. What do you think of the last Bowie, "Earthling", or does the jungle interest you, the drum'n'bass and where he integrates these elements?
F. : I don't know why he did it?
Inconvenient, it's because we lose sight of the essential, that's to say
the quality of the songs, whether they be rock or drumíníbass. If they
are good then who cares? You see, I detest his last album!
The next singles after "Barrel of a gun"?
M.G. : The second will be "It's
M.G. : The last tour lasted too long, three years between the studio and the tour ! This time we decided to profit from the fact that we finished an album without need to leave just after. We'll play next year, surely. It will be easier and less stressful. Plus, I have already written three titles for a solo album, but it's long and annoying to be in the studio ! For the moment, we will profit from the free time.