Depeche Mode in concert, 2006.
Additional musicians Peter Gordeno (far left) and Christian Eigner (centre-left), with original members Dave Gahan (centre), Martin Gore (centre-right) and Andy Fletcher (far right).
Origin: Basildon, Essex, England
Genres: Synthpop new wave electronic rock dance-rock alternative rock
Years active: 1980–present
Labels: Mute Sire Reprise Capitol Virgin Columbia
Discography at Wikipedia
Dave Gahan – lead vocals (1980–present)
Martin Gore – keyboards, guitars, backing and lead vocals (1980–present)
Andy Fletcher – keyboards, backing vocals (1980–present)
Christian Eigner – drums, keyboards (1997–present)
Peter Gordeno – keyboards, piano, bass guitar, backing vocals (1998–present)
Vince Clarke – keyboards, lead and backing vocals, guitars (1980–1981)
Alan Wilder – keyboards, piano, backing vocals, drums (1982–1995)
Depeche Mode /dᵻˌpɛʃˈmoʊd/ is an English electronic band formed in 1980 in Basildon, Essex. The group's original line-up consisted of Dave Gahan (lead vocals, occasional songwriter since 2005), Martin Gore (keyboards, guitar, vocals, chief songwriter after 1981), Andy Fletcher (keyboards), and Vince Clarke (keyboards, chief songwriter from 1980 until 1981). Depeche Mode released their debut record in 1981, Speak & Spell, bringing the band onto the British new wave scene. Clarke left the band after the release of the album, leaving the band as a trio to record A Broken Frame, released the following year. Gore took over lead songwriting duties and, later in 1982, Alan Wilder (keyboards, drums, occasional songwriter) officially joined the band to fill Clarke's spot, establishing a line up that would continue for the next thirteen years.
The band's last albums of the 1980s, Black Celebration and Music for the Masses, established them as a dominant force on the mainstream electronic music scene. A highlight of this era was the band's concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, where they drew a crowd in excess of 60,000 people. In the new decade, Depeche Mode released Violator, a mainstream success. The subsequent album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, and the supporting Devotional Tour exacerbated tensions within the band to the point where Alan Wilder quit in 1995, leading to intense media and fan speculation that the band would split. Now a trio once again, the band released Ultra in 1997, recorded at the height of Gahan's near-fatal drug abuse, Gore's alcoholism and seizures and Fletcher's depression. The release of Exciter confirmed Depeche Mode's willingness to remain together, the subsequent, and very successful, Exciter Tour being their first tour in support of an original album in eight years since the Devotional Tour, although the band had toured in 1998 to support The Singles 86–98 compilation album.
Depeche Mode have had fifty songs in the UK Singles Chart and thirteen top 10 albums in the UK charts. Depeche Mode have sold over 100 million records worldwide. Q magazine calls Depeche Mode "the most popular electronic band the world has ever known" and included the band in the list of the "50 Bands That Changed the World!". Depeche Mode also rank number 98 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists Of All Time".
Formation and debut album (1977–1981)
Depeche Mode's origins date to 1977, when schoolmates Vince Clarke and Andy Fletcher formed a Cure-influenced band called No Romance In China, with Clarke on vocals and guitar and Fletcher on bass. Fletcher would later recall, "Why am I in the band? It was accidental right from the beginning. I was actually forced to be in the band. I played the guitar and I had a bass; it was a question of them roping me in." In 1979, Clarke played guitar in an "Ultravox rip-off band", the Plan, with friends Robert Marlow and Paul Langwith. In 1978–79, Martin Gore played guitar in an acoustic duo, Norman and the Worms, with school friend Phil Burdett on vocals. In 1979, Marlow, Gore and friend Paul Redmond formed a band called the French Look, with Marlow on vocals/keyboards, Gore on guitar and Redmond on keyboards. In March 1980, Clarke, Gore and Fletcher formed a band called Composition of Sound, with Clarke on vocals/guitar, Gore on keyboards and Fletcher on bass.
Soon after the formation of Composition of Sound, Clarke heard "Electricity", the debut single by Wirral electronic duo Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). He said of the song: "It sounded so different from anything I'd heard; that really made me want to make electronic music, 'cause it was so unique." Along with OMD, other early influences included the Human League, Daniel Miller and Fad Gadget. Clarke and Fletcher switched to synthesisers, working odd jobs in order to buy or borrow the instruments from friends. Dave Gahan joined the band in 1980 after Clarke heard him perform at a local scout hut jam session, singing a rendition of David Bowie's "Heroes", and Depeche Mode were born. When explaining the choice for the new name taken from a French fashion magazine, Dépêche mode (from French dépêche that means here "dispatch" (from Old French despesche/despeche) or "news report", and mode that means "fashion"), Gore said, "It means hurried fashion or fashion dispatch. I like the sound of that." But, in French, the real and only meaning of the magazine's name (and hence the band's) is "Fashion News" or "Fashion Update". Gore recollects that the first time the band played as Depeche Mode was a school gig in May 1980. There is a plaque commemorating the gig at the James Hornsby School in Basildon, where Gore and Fletcher were pupils. The band made their recording debut in 1980 on the Some Bizzare Album with the song "Photographic", which was later re-recorded for their debut album Speak & Spell.
The band made a demo tape but, instead of mailing the tape to record companies, they would go in and personally deliver it. They would demand the companies play it; according to Dave Gahan, "most of them would tell us to fuck off. They'd say 'leave the tape with us' and we'd say 'it's our only one'. Then we'd say goodbye and go somewhere else."
According to Gahan, prior to securing their record contract, they were receiving offers from all the major labels. Phonogram offered them "money you could never have imagined and all sorts of crazy things like clothes allowances".
While playing a live gig at the Bridge House in Canning Town, the band were approached by Daniel Miller, an electronic musician and founder of Mute Records, who was interested in their recording a single for his burgeoning label. The result of this verbal contract was their first single, "Dreaming of Me", recorded in December 1980 and released in February 1981. It reached number 57 in the UK charts. Encouraged by this, the band recorded their second single, "New Life", which climbed to number 11 in the UK charts and got them an appearance on Top of the Pops. The band actually went to London by train, dragging their synthesisers all the way to the BBC's studios.
The band's next single was "Just Can't Get Enough". This relentlessly upbeat piece of synthpop became the band's first UK top ten hit and it remains one of their best known songs. It was also the first Depeche Mode song to get a music video and is the only one of the band's videos to feature Vince Clarke. Depeche Mode's debut album, Speak & Spell, was released in October 1981 and peaked at number ten on the UK album charts. Critical reviews were mixed; Melody Maker described it as a "great album ... one they had to make to conquer fresh audiences and please the fans who just can't get enough", while Rolling Stone was more critical, calling the album "PG-rated fluff".
Clarke departs, Wilder joins (1981–1982)
During the touring and promotion for Speak & Spell, Clarke privately began to voice his discomfort at the direction the band was taking. He later expressed his dissatisfaction, saying "there was never enough time to do anything. Not with all the interviews and photo sessions". In November 1981, Clarke publicly announced that he was leaving Depeche Mode. It was also claimed that Clarke was sick of touring, which Gahan said years later was "bullshit to be quite honest". Gahan went on to say he "suddenly lost interest in it and he started getting letters from fans asking what kind of socks he wore".
Soon afterwards, Clarke joined up with blues singer Alison Moyet to form Yazoo (Yaz in the US) and later, the duo Erasure with Andy Bell. Initial talk of Clarke's continuing to write material for the group ultimately amounted to nothing. According to third-party sources, Clarke offered the remaining members of Depeche Mode the track "Only You", but they declined. Clarke, however, denied in an interview that such an offer ever took place saying, "I don't know where that came from. That's not true." The song went on to become a UK Top 3 hit for Yazoo. Gore, who had written "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and the instrumental "Big Muff" for Speak & Spell, was forced to become the band's new songwriter.
In late 1981, the band placed an anonymous ad in Melody Maker looking for another musician; it said "Name band, synthesise, must be under twenty-one." Alan Wilder, a keyboardist from West London, responded and, after two auditions and despite being 22 years old, he was hired in early 1982, initially on a trial basis as a touring member. Wilder would later be called the "Musical Director" of the band, responsible for the band's sound until his departure in 1995. As producer Flood would later say, "[Alan] is sort of the craftsman, Martin's the idea man and [Dave] is the attitude."
In January 1982, the band released "See You", their first single without Clarke, which managed to beat all three Clarke-penned singles in the UK charts, reaching number six. The tour that followed the release of the single saw the band playing their first shows in North America. Two more singles, "The Meaning of Love", and "Leave in Silence", were released ahead of the band's second studio album. Depeche Mode began work on their second album in July 1982. Daniel Miller informed Wilder that he was not needed for the recording of the album, as the band wanted to prove that they could succeed without Vince Clarke. A Broken Frame was released that September and the following month the band set off on their second tour of 1982. A non-album single, "Get the Balance Right!", was released in January 1983, and was the first Depeche Mode track to be recorded with Wilder.
Construction Time Again (1983)
For their third LP Construction Time Again, Depeche Mode worked with producer Gareth Jones, at John Foxx's Garden Studios and at Hansa Studios in West Berlin (where much of David Bowie's trilogy of seminal electronic albums featuring Brian Eno had been produced). The album saw a dramatic shift in the group's sound, due in part to Wilder's introduction of the Synclavier and E-mu Emulator samplers. By sampling the noises of everyday objects, the band created an eclectic, industrial-influenced sound, with similarities to groups such as the Art of Noise and Einstürzende Neubauten, the latter having subsequently released work on the Mute label as well.
Along with the music, Gore's songwriting was also rapidly evolving, focusing increasingly on political and social issues. A good example of the new sound was on the first single from the album "Everything Counts", a commentary on the perceived greed of multinational corporations. In a retrospective review of the single, AllMusic journalist Ned Raggett wrote that the song marked a change in the band "with Martin Gore's songwriting abilities matched with an increasing ambition of the band as a whole."
"Everything Counts" got to number six in the UK, also reaching the top 30 in Ireland, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and West Germany. Wilder also contributed two songs to the album, "The Landscape Is Changing" and "Two Minute Warning". In September 1983, to promote Construction Time Again the band launched Construction Time Again Tour, a concert tour all over Europe.
Some Great Reward (1984) and increasing international success
In their early years, Depeche Mode had only really attained success in Europe and Australia. However this changed in March 1984 when they released the single "People Are People". The song became a big hit, reaching No. 2 in Ireland and Poland, No. 4 in UK and Switzerland and No. 1 in West Germany — the first time a DM single topped a country's singles chart — where it was used as the theme to West German TV's coverage of the 1984 Olympics. But, beyond this European success, the song also reached No. 13 on the US charts in mid-1985, which was the first appearance of a DM single on the Billboard Hot 100 (this song was a Top 20 hit in Canada at the same period too). "People Are People" has since become an anthem for the LGBT community and was regularly played at gay establishments and gay pride festivals in the late 1980s. Sire, the band's North American record label, released a compilation of the same name which included tracks from A Broken Frame and Construction Time Again as well as several b-sides.
It was the tour in America that year where the band noticed things were changing. They were, according to Gore, "shocked by the way the fans were turning up in droves at the concerts". He said that although the concerts were selling well, they were still struggling to sell records.
In September 1984, Some Great Reward was released. Melody Maker claimed that the album made one "sit up and take notice of what is happening here, right under your nose." In contrast to the political and environmental subjects addressed on the previous album, the songs on Some Great Reward were mostly concerned with more personal themes such as sexual politics ("Master and Servant"), adulterous relationships ("Lie to Me"), and arbitrary divine justice ("Blasphemous Rumours"). Also included was the first Martin Gore ballad ("Somebody") — such songs would become a feature of all following albums. "Somebody" was released as a double a-side with "Blasphemous Rumours" and was the first single with Gore on lead vocals. Some Great Reward was the first Depeche Mode album to enter the US album charts, and it made the Top 10 in several European countries.
The World We Live In and Live in Hamburg was the band's first video release. It is an almost complete film of a concert from their 1984 Some Great Reward Tour, in Hamburg, Germany. In July 1985, the band played their first-ever concerts behind the Iron Curtain, in Budapest and Warsaw. In October 1985, Mute Records released a compilation, The Singles 81→85 (Catching Up with Depeche Mode in the US), which included the two non-album hit-singles "Shake the Disease" and "It's Called a Heart".
During this period, in some circles, the band became associated with the goth subculture, which had begun in Britain in the early-1980s, and was now slowly gaining popularity in the United States. There, the band's music had first gained prominence on college radio and modern rock stations such as KROQ in Los Angeles, KQAK ("The Quake") in San Francisco, WFNX in Boston and WLIR on Long Island, New York, and hence they appealed primarily to an alternative audience who were disenfranchised with the predominance of "soft rock and 'disco hell'" on the radio. This view of the band was in sharp contrast to how the band was perceived in Europe, despite the increasingly dark and serious tone in their songs. In Germany, France and other European countries, Depeche Mode were considered teen idols and were regularly featured in European teen magazines, becoming one of the most famous synthpop bands in the mid-80's.
Black Celebration (1986)
Depeche Mode's musical style shifted slightly again in 1986 with the release of their fifteenth single "Stripped", and its accompanying album Black Celebration. Retaining their often imaginative sampling and beginning to move away from the "industrial pop" sound that had characterised their previous two LPs, the band introduced an ominous, highly atmospheric and textured sound. Gore's lyrics also took on a darker tone and became even more pessimistic.
The music video for "A Question of Time" was the first to be directed by Anton Corbijn, beginning a working relationship that continues to the present day. Corbijn has directed a further 19 of the band's videos (the latest being 2006's "Suffer Well"). He has also filmed some of their live performances and designed stage sets and album and single covers.
Music for the Masses and 101 (1987–1988)
1987's Music for the Masses saw further alterations in the band's sound and working methods. For the first time a producer not related to Mute, Dave Bascombe, was called to assist with the recording sessions (although, according to Alan Wilder, his role ended up being more that of an engineer). In making the album the band largely eschewed sampling in favour of more synth experimentation. While the chart performance of the singles "Strangelove", "Never Let Me Down Again" and "Behind the Wheel" proved to be disappointing in the UK, they performed well in countries such as Canada, Brazil, West Germany, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland, often reaching the top 10. Record Mirror described Music for the Masses as "the most accomplished and sexy Mode album to date" and it made a breakthrough in the American market, something which the band had failed to achieve with their previous albums.
The Music for the Masses Tour followed the release of the album. On 7 March 1988 they played an unofficial gig (as it was not officially announced that Depeche Mode were the band performing that night) in the Werner-Seelenbinder-Halle, East Berlin. At that time East Germany still had a Communist Government with limited Western contact and Depeche Mode were among the very few western bands that ever played in the former GDR. Around the same period, they also gave concerts in Budapest and Prague (1988) in the then still communist Hungary and Czechoslovakia respectively.
The world tour ended on 18 June 1988 with a concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl with paid attendance of 60,453 (the highest in eight years for the venue). The tour was a breakthrough for the band and a massive success in the United States. It was documented in 101 – a concert film by D. A. Pennebaker and its accompanying soundtrack album. The film is notable for its portrayal of fan interaction. Alan Wilder is credited with coming up with the name; the performance was the 101st and final performance of the tour. On 7 September 1988, Depeche Mode performed "Strangelove" at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
Violator and worldwide fame (1989–1991)
In mid-1989, the band began recording in Milan with producer Flood and engineer François Kevorkian. The initial result of this session was the single "Personal Jesus". Prior to its release, a marketing campaign was launched with advertisements placed in the personal columns of UK regional newspapers with the words "Your own personal Jesus." Later, the ads included a phone number one could dial to hear the song. The resulting furore helped propel the single to number 13 on the UK charts, becoming one of their biggest sellers to date; in the US, it was their first gold single and their first Top 40 hit since "People Are People", eventually becoming the biggest-selling 12-inch single in Warner Bros. Records' history up to that point.
"I think in a way we've been at the forefront of new music; sort of chipping away at the standard rock format stations."
Martin Gore, stated to NME – July 1990.
Released in January 1990, "Enjoy the Silence" became one of Depeche Mode's most successful singles to date, reaching number six in the UK (the first Top 10 hit in that country since "Master And Servant"). A few months later it became Depeche Mode's biggest hit in the US, reaching number eight and earning the band a second gold single. It won 'Best British single' at the 1991 Brit Awards. To promote their new album Violator, the band held an in-store autograph signing at Wherehouse Entertainment in Los Angeles. The event attracted approximately 20,000 fans and turned into a near riot. Some of those who attended were injured by being pressed against the store's glass by the crowd. As an apology to the fans who were injured, the band released a limited edition cassette tape to fans living in Los Angeles, which was distributed through radio station KROQ (the sponsor of the Wherehouse event). Violator went on to reach Top 10 in the UK and US. Violator was the first of the band's albums to enter the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 — reaching No. 7 and staying 74 weeks in the chart. It has also been certified triple platinum in America, selling over 4.5 million units there. It remains the band's best selling album worldwide. Two more singles from the album "Policy of Truth" and "World in My Eyes" were hits in the UK with the former also charting in the US.
"I remember going to see them in Giants Stadium, and they broke the merchandising record; of Bon Jovi, U2 — all these bands — Depeche Mode were the biggest!."
The World Violation Tour marked another high point in Depeche Mode's popularity and saw the band play several stadium shows in the US. 42,000 tickets were sold within four hours for a show at Giants Stadium and 48,000 tickets were sold within half-an-hour of going on sale for a show at Dodger Stadium. It was estimated that 1.2 million fans saw this tour worldwide.
In 1991, Depeche Mode contribution, "Death's Door" was released on the accompanying Warner Brothers album, Until the End of the World: original motion picture soundtrack for the film Until the End of the World. Musical artists were challenged by film director Wim Wenders to write music the way they imagined they would in the year 2000, the setting of the movie.
Songs of Faith and Devotion and Wilder's departure (1992–1996)
The members of Depeche Mode regrouped in Madrid in January 1992, Dave Gahan had become interested in the new grunge scene sweeping the U.S. and was influenced by the likes of Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden and Nirvana.
In 1993, Songs of Faith and Devotion, again with producer Flood, saw them experimenting with more organic arrangements, based as much on heavily distorted electric guitars and live drums (played by Alan Wilder, whose debut as a studio drummer had come on the Violator track "Clean") as synthesisers. Live strings, uilleann pipes and female gospel vocals were other new additions to the band's sound. The album debuted at number one in both the UK and the US, only the sixth British act to achieve such a distinction to date. The first single from the album was the grunge-influenced "I Feel You". The gospel influences are most noticeable on the album's third single, "Condemnation". A symptom of the slow fracturing of the band, interviews given by the band during this period tended to be conducted separately, unlike earlier albums, where the band was interviewed as a group.
The Devotional world tour followed. It was documented by a concert film of the same name. The film was directed by Anton Corbijn and in 1995 earned the band their first Grammy nomination. The band's second live album, Songs of Faith and Devotion Live, was released in December 1993.
The tour continued into 1994 with the Exotic Tour, which began in February 1994 in South Africa and ended in April in Mexico. The final leg of the tour, consisting of more North American dates, followed shortly thereafter and ran until July. As a whole, the Devotional Tour is to date the longest and most geographically diverse Depeche Mode tour, spanning fourteen months and 159 individual performances. Q magazine listed 1993 Devotional Tour as "The Most Debauched Rock'n'Roll Tour Ever".
Dave Gahan's heroin addiction was starting to affect his behaviour, causing him to become more erratic and introverted. Martin Gore experienced seizures and Andy Fletcher declined to participate in the second half of the Exotic Tour due to "mental instability". During that period, he was replaced on-stage by Daryl Bamonte, who had worked with the band as a personal assistant for many years.
In June 1995, Alan Wilder announced that he was leaving Depeche Mode, explaining :
"Since joining in 1982, I have continually striven to give total energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the furthering of the group's success and in spite of a consistent imbalance in the distribution of the workload, willingly offered this. Unfortunately, within the group, this level of input never received the respect and acknowledgement that it warrants."
He continued to work on his personal project Recoil, releasing a fourth album (Unsound Methods) in 1997. Following Wilder's departure, many were sceptical of whether Depeche Mode would ever record again. Gahan's mental state and drug habit became a major source of concern, with a near-fatal overdose at a hotel in Los Angeles.
Despite Gahan's increasingly severe personal problems, Gore tried repeatedly during 1995 and 1996 to get the band recording again. However, Gahan would rarely turn up to scheduled sessions, and when he did, it would take weeks to get any vocals recorded. One six-week session at Electric Lady in New York produced just one usable vocal (for "Sister of Night"), and even that was pieced together from multiple takes. Gore was forced to contemplate breaking the band up, and releasing the songs he had written as a solo album. In mid-1996, Gahan entered a court ordered drug rehabilitation program to battle his cocaine-heroin addiction after his near fatal overdose. With Gahan out of rehab in 1996, Depeche Mode held recording sessions with producer Tim Simenon. The album Ultra was released in April 1997, its release was preceded by two singles, "Barrel of a Gun" and "It's No Good". The album debuted at No. 1 in the UK (as well as Germany), and No. 5 in the US. The band did not tour in support of the album, with Fletcher quoted as saying "We're not fit enough. Dave's only eight months into his sobriety, and our bodies are telling us to spend time with our families." However, as part of the promotion for its release they did perform two short concerts in London and Los Angeles called Ultra Parties. Ultra spawned two further singles, "Home" and "Useless".
A second singles compilation The Singles 86–98 was released in 1998, preceded by the new single "Only When I Lose Myself", which had been recorded during the Ultra sessions. In April 1998 Depeche Mode held a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Cologne to announce The Singles Tour. The tour was the first one to feature two backing musicians in place of Alan Wilder — Austrian drummer Christian Eigner and British keyboardist Peter Gordeno.