|Martin's 1993 RS Interview by Marvin
Depeche Mode's impact on alternative
music is incalculable. Despite very little overt working of the media,
their last release, Violator, sold over three million copies in the U.S.
alone. With minimal advertising, they packed 65,000 people into the Pasadena
Rose Bowl. And thousands of fans caused a riot at a L.A. record signing
that dominated local news for days afterwards. Ironically, this success
has triggered an often automatic and unfair backlash against the band.
As this interview, which was conducted over the course of several days
at the Four Seasons Hotel while they were shooting a video for their new
album, "Songs of Faith and Devotion", prove they continue to define the
alternative wing of music. In its best tradition. They not only retain
control over every aspect of their careers, but remain loyal to their original
indie roots as well. Surprisingly, for a band of their stature, they have
also managed to stay polite, down-to-earth, and humble.
RS: A lot of Depeche Mode fans take your lyrics quite seriously. Do you feel any responsibility for the effect your words might have?
MG: When I sit down to write, I don't know exactly what my goal is. It's just something that I enjoy doing. The main responsibility is to produce something good.
RS: Do you ever sit down and talk to fans who relate what various lyrics meant to them?
MG: Yes. There was one instance regarding "Never Let Me Down Again" when two separate people came up to me after a show one night and said "I really like that song." One of them thought it was a gay anthem and other one thought it was a drug anthem. They both loved the song, so that's fine by me.
RS: Why do you think Depeche Mode has such a strong fan base in Southern California?
MG: I think it's mainly of radio support, as boring an answer that may be. Every time I come to L.A. it seems you can't go for more than half an hour without hearing one of our records on K-ROQ, even when we haven't had a release out in three years! I guess there are quite a few alternative stations. You know, the alternative scene in America is quite weird to me. I was listening to the alternative station up in Seattle and it just seemed to cover such a broad spectrum. It's unfortunate because I think at one point, alternative music was really alternative. Now it seems that so much of it is just bad. It also means bad music.
RS: What are some of your musical inspirations?
MG: Over the last few years, I've really got into Leonard Cohen. I like John Lennon, Kurt Weill. The Velvet Underground were probably the best band that ever existed. Sparks were one of my influences when I was growing up. Propaganda is probably my favorite band of all time. Another one of my major songwriting influences was Neil Young.
RS: "I Feel You" is the first single from the record. What track would you like to see as the follow-up?"
MG: I think "In Your Room" could be potentially bigger, but it's six and a half minutes long. It could be edited down, but I think part of its beauty is its length. It'll be difficult to work with it.
RS: It's interesting that Brian Eno did the remix for "I Feel You". What sort of working relationship did you have with him? Did you just sort of turn over the tapes?
MG: We basically just sent him the tapes. Flood knows him from his relationship with U2, so he just called him and he was keen to do it. His mixes have this really strange atmosphere to them. Every time I play it, no matter what time of the day it is, it almost puts me to sleep. It's really weird. We had to take it off when we were driving in the car because my girlfriend was falling asleep.
RS: Although Depeche Mode is considered a keyboard-based band, you often write the songs on guitar...
MG: Yes, often. I usually work on the chord structure on guitar, then the words, then I move on to my studio at home, then do a basic demo with keyboards or whatever, and then present it to the band. I've been trying to keep the demos more open. If the demo is too finished, you tend to have that in your head as the final picture.
RS: Do you have much interest in production?
MG: I've really never been very interested in production. Obviously production can do a lot, but I like to place more importance on the song. If the song is good enough in the first place you can pretty much get away with anything.
RS: As the main songwriter you must make a lot more money than the rest of the band...
MG: (nodding his head and laughing) Can't you tell I stand out?
RS: Have you ever kept contact with Vince Clarke?
MG: We see more of him now, but that's not much. Maybe once or twice a year. We get on really well. They (Erasure) actually played in Hamburg while we were recording there and he came out drinking with us one night. I'd never seen him do that with us before! I was surprised. He actually came out with us and had a good time. (laughs)
RS: How do you handle the impact of a tour? Is life on the road difficult for you to adjust to?
MG: It's actually more difficult adjusting back to normal life after the tour. When we are on the road we have about five people looking after us. Anything that you want all day long is at your feet. Suddenly you have to go home after the tour and adjust to normality. The first grocery trip is very weird. (laughs)
RS: How hard is it for you to connect with the audience in a large arena?
MG: I've got terrible eyesight so if there's more than 10 people it doesn't make a difference to me.
RS: How involved are you with the visual marketing of the band?
MG: We have big meetings with Anton (Corbijn). We trust him a lot. He comes up with most of the ideas. He does all of our videos now, our sleeves, photographs, and we're also getting him involved in the stage set design this time.
RS: Do you read a lot on spirituality?
MG: Over the last couple of years I haven't really done any reading at all. Unfortunately, I've really got into Sega and Super Nintendo. (laughs) So there's a few worrying pointers. The other worry is that I've got an 18-month-old daughter and we've just got into Disney sing-a-long tunes and they've really started to get ingrained in my head! It's quite a worry for the next album...