*Martin Lee Gore*
*Interview #11*
Depeche Mode Construction Time 1997 

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 really positive thanks to the talent of Tim "Bomb the Bass" Simenon who the trio confided the production. Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher, AKA Fletch, explained Jean-Henri Maisonneuve. 

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 , who decided to part six months after the end of the last tour - difficulties that weren't easy to resolve... So a good producer was needed, with a good team to work with. Also Dave had his personal problems, all the stories related in the press. Therefore we had lots of drive to finish the album; Dave arrived at one point that he could no longer sing because his body was so degraded. Happily, after six months, he became clean and sober - now, he doesn't drink at all. From this moment, the work on the album improved. Actually we started conceiving "Ultra" in November 95, but I had nothing written beforehand. I therefore had to compose during the recording sessions. 

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. 
M.G. : There is already a fourth member in Depeche Mode, in Anton Corbijn, who has a very important role : he is charged with the visual aspect. 

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 "Ultra". 
M.G. : The advantage to be at Mute is held in the absence of pressure on the label's part. Daniel is a friend before all else, before being the manager of a record label. I don't believe he is always trying to persuade us to do what we don't really want to. 

What are the new musical directions "Ultra" took ? 

F. : The blues, country... 
M.G. : I think our influences come from everywhere. True we can go with what Fletch said, but it's more a variety of different styles that rejoin in a melting pot, which in the end give Depeche Mode. 
F. : When Martin start to write and we chose to work with Time (one of the reasons of the choice resides in his of slow grooves...), I listened to lots of trip hop and music with slower rhythms. We wanted Tim for these rhythms. 
M.G. : He had to bring these rhythm elements, and give them life. The trip hop scene interests me lots, and the productions that are part of it, to my senses, the best of today. 

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. 
M.G. : Yes, it's true in a sense. We wanted to work with each of them, but each time for different reasons. We were very closed to external collaborations, but today, we can rejoice to the idea of other musicians participating. 

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 experimental group. 
M.G. : We have always had of experimentations, and for me this facet is important since "Construction time again". 
F. " What I particularly appreciate in these little instrumental pieces is that Martin wrote them in very little time. And when I listen to the album, it doesn't seem that they were done so quickly. They sound "fresh". 
M.G. : We have had to go on perhaps a journey to package them. 
F. : Did you here the instrumental at the end, track 12? It's an extract of "Painkiller", the piece chosen for the B side of "Barrel of a gun". It's too bad we didn't put it on the album... 

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 three or four different events simultaneously. We could really talk about teamwork ! 

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, . It's good that certain groups use analog, but they aren't as unique and interesting. 

What is the part of acoustic sounds? 

M.G. : There are real parts of , of guitar, of steel pedal (done by BJ Cole on "Bottom Line", NDLR), of chords. It's all of it, I think. 
F. : We sense above all an acoustic sensation on the group of songs. 

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. 
M.G. : It's agreeable to see that electronic music of today is popular, but it doesn't help us in any way, because this scene is sometimes a little too cliquish ! But undeniably, some strange happens in this time ; from elsewhere, in France, you have huge numbers of good groups: Daft Punk, Motorbass, or Air... 

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 Each time we asked some musicians for a remix, the response was "Yes. We are fans !" It's really sympa... 

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? 
M.G. : It is not like we searched to try to use the most hyped artists of the moment. Almost no one had heard of United or of One Inch Punch who remixed "Barrel of a gun". 
F. : No one can accuse of jumping on the bandwagon. 
M.G. : That's us, the bandwagon! (laugh) 
F. : The remixes of our titles by others, don't date from today: Adrian Sherwood, at the era of "Some great reward"... 

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! 
M.G. : Me, I'm an unconditional Bowie fan, he's someone absolutely brilliant, of great importance. With more than one title, he is cited come an example of success and musical prowess. But I find a little bit sad that he is inspired by the "currant" scene. 
F. : If the songs were good, it would work ! Maybe he thinks he's still underground. 
M.G. : Don't forget that Bowie is fifty ! 
F. : He now lives in Switzerland. It was better that he was connect with Berlin. 

The next singles after "Barrel of a gun"? 

M.G. : The second will be "It's no good". 
F. : The third is still in our spirits, it might be "Useless", or "Home", or "Insight"... 
M.G. "No way of bringing them all out as singles, we don't want a career like Michael of Janet Jackson! 

The scene? 

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.