by Robert L. Doerschuk
Q: The new twelve-year compilation of Depeche Mode singles (Mute/Reprise) proves that your band was way ahead of the electronica curve. This gives you a rare perspective on the question of whether electronic music has fulfilled it's potential over all these past fifteen years.
A: Well, it hasn't taken over, but nobody really expected that. Electronic technology is pretty much accepted, though, so in that sense it's lived up to it's potential. And there are bands out there that use electronics and samples in a good way--Massive Attack for instance, is special. But it is hard to find special bands these days, although that's not just an electronic thing; that goes for guitar music as well.
Q: Why is that?
A: Maybe it's just so easy to form bands these days and get a record out. A lot of bands will have one hit single and disappear.
Q: Is that partly because recording technology has become accessible to nearly everybody who wants to use it?
A: That does mean that a lot of people are making a lot of bad records. Years back you needed to get a recording deal to get into a studio, but now you can get a small studio into your bedroom. In fact, "studio" is the wrong term now, isn't it? All you need is a sequencer, a sampler, and a few keyboards.
Q: You've never jumped on the trendy electronic bandwagons. Through techno and spin-off styles, you've always kept your own distinctive sound.
A: Well, we're lucky in that we have two very distinctive elements: My songwriting is one, but the most recognizable thing is Dave [Gahan]. He's on e of those singers you can identify on anything, whereas a lot of bands could exchange their singers quite easily. But I do like techno music, so there will possibly be a reference to it in our music. And I like country music as much as I like techno, so those reference points are in there as well.
Q: One thing that hasn't changed since Black Celebration is your fixation with minor keys.
A: That's when we really started getting things right; I like everything we've put out since then. And in any case, I'm happy writing in minor keys. I mean, life is in a minor key, so why bother with the major keys?
Q: What changes would you like to see in music technology?
A: I don't know why people aren't making old style analog keyboards. They're so great. They wouldn't have to be exactly the same as the old ones, but why not invent new analog synthesizers? Everything is so digital these days!
Q: Are you using vintage analog gear on the current tour?
A: No, although we use quite a lot of it in the studio. I like the ARP 2600 and the MIDIed version of the Minimoog.
Q: How has Depeche Mode managed to stay together for eighteen years?
A: I don't really know. We all still feel that we have something to offer; maybe that's the most important thing. A lot of bands might make their masterpiece with their first album, and it's all downhill from there. But we're just now making the best records of our career.
Q: Is the next album already taking shape in your head?
A: Not yet, I don't think we'll have a record out before the year 2000. With the new millennium, we'll need to do something different--a folk album, maybe. [laughs]