Earlier this month, the three core members of Depeche Mode — Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher — stepped onto the stage at the Austin Convention Center for their first-ever appearance at the South by Southwest Music Festival. It wasn’t a performance — one would come later in the week, at a club that holds fewer than 1,000 in the audience — but a long discussion of the group’s career with KCRW’s Music Director, Jason Bentley. Still, excitement for the event was high enough that, for the first couple of minutes of the interview, the sound of camera shutters snapping in the audience almost drowned out the band members’ voices.
Jason Bentley: Why South by Southwest? Is it just a matter of timing for this album? Is it the stature of the conference these days?
Andy Fletcher: We were told it was somewhere we had to go. So here we are.
Martin Gore: I think, though, for the first time in our career we actually listened and decided to do promotion maybe in the correct way, like, before the album comes out.
Dave Gahan: We actually rehearsed.
Fletcher: Yeah. We’re actually ready to — we could actually probably go on and play for two hours at the moment but very woefully. But we can play a 45 minute set, you know, fairly well at this point.
Bentley: Now, the show on Friday is considerably smaller in scale from the stadiums that you’ll be playing at across North America and Europe through the springtime. What do you have in store on Friday? Do you enjoy these smaller club shows versus the stadiums?
Fletcher: I always find the smaller the place gets the scarier it is. It’s just, like, you know, the closer people are, it just becomes a little bit more intense. If they’re miles away, you don’t really worry too much about it. They can’t really see what’s going on.
Bentley: Well, since Sounds of the Universe, in 2009, you two took time with other projects — Soulsavers and VCMG — and I wonder how that helped your process as it relates to Depeche Mode.
Gahan: Well, it helps me immensely. I mean, I didn’t expect that project to happen. It wasn’t something that was really planned and it just kind of happened. And I didn’t intend to write nor anything. We finished the Sounds of the Universe tour and, you know, we were all exhausted. Went home. And I’d kind of made a choice, like, I’m not going to do anything work-wise for a long time. And then about a month later I started writing some stuff with Rich [Machin] from Soulsavers. And really, we’d no idea where that was going to go but it definitely, for me, it led me into writing with Kurt, you know, and a friend of mine in New York who had been recording vocals with me for Soulsavers. We started actually collaborating on stuff in between doing Soulsavers stuff. And then those demos became songs that are now on this record. So I find that working with other people is, just for me, outside as well, in between has strengthened my kind of like wanting to come back with Depeche stuff and use my voice in a different way. Or just — it really helps me. I don’t know about Martin.
Bentley: You’re much healthier now. We’re very happy that you survived. But I wonder how you did manage to come back from that point and get away from those demons.
Gahan: Wow. Well, that’s a lot but, you know, I don’t know, really, why. It was quite a whirlwind up until that point, everything in my life, really. So it just kind of — it was an obvious means to end, or something. And as for sort of getting better, it’s just a lot of help and friends and people and support. And it’s slow. You know, you’ve got to want to change, haven’t you, if you’re in a place that’s not working for you, and it certainly wasn’t working for me. I mean, I’m glad you got a thrill out of it. But that particular time I really don’t — I have very little memory, fortunately, of some of those experiences. I really do. But in the last, I don’t know, 15 years or something, my life has just progressively got better. I feel like I participate in it in a very different way. And I love the challenge of working and being a dad and a husband and all the normal stuff that goes along with that. But really, like, this, sitting here, celebrating our 13th record together and, 30-plus years, that in itself is …
Fletcher: And you’ve still got hair as well.
Gahan: Yeah. I’ve still got hair. I’m so surprised. You know, that’s really what it’s all about. And all those experiences as well. Everybody goes through different things, and that record that we managed to finish somehow at that point, which was Ultra, was a very important record to finish in retrospect. You know, we didn’t tour with that record. That was probably the best decision that we made. Probably the only studio record that we ever didn’t tour with, actually.
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