Depeche Mode Depeche Mode Magazine - Living In The Machine Age (Mike Martin, 1987) | DMremix

Depeche Mode Depeche Mode Magazine - Living In The Machine Age (Mike Martin, 1987)


Staff member
Depeche Mode Magazine - Living In The Machine Age
[Circuit Communications, 1987. Words: Mike Martin. Pictures: All Action Photographic / Pictorial Press / Rex Features.]
" For the past 7 years, Depeche Mode have continued to conjure up a potent blend of contagious melodies, irresistible rhythms and thought provoking lyrics, despite having been written off as a ‘fad’ group of the early eighties. "
One-off magazine containing a band biography and member profiles. The text is clearly based on this book,
and the author has made a sloppy attempt at updating it by including "Music For The Masses" but virtually ignoring "Black Celebration". Nonetheless it does feature more on the band members and the "human" element behind the music. Another undemanding entry point for the beginner, despite many inaccuracies.

Living In The Machine Age

Formed in Basildon new town during the summer of 1980, the group’s original line-up consisted of just three members – Vince Clarke, Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore. Keen, but lacking in direction, the trio jammed in their spare time under the name Composition Of Sound. Before long, they began to pick up one or two gigs around the neighbouring Southend area.

In those days Vince was acting as a vocalist, though it wasn’t long before Dave Gahan arrived to augment the line-up, bringing with him a new name for the group – Depeche Mode. “It was the title of a French magazine he was reading at the time,” explains Andy. “It means ‘Fast Fashion’, but we didn’t know that then. We just liked the sound of the words. It could just as easily have been Depeche Mud!”

Armed with a bewildering assortment of haircuts and synthesisers, the band played its first date as a four-piece at Andy and Martin’s old school, St Nicholas’ in Basildon, and within three months they’d gained enough confidence – if not the experience – to tackle a short recording session in a nearby studio. “All the songs on that first demo have the same sound to them,” laughs Martin. “I’d had the synth for about a month before I realised that you could change the sound. You know that sound that goes ‘WAAAAAUUUUUGH’? I was stuck on that for ages!!”

After hawking their tape around eleven totally disinterested record companies, Depeche Mode finally got a bite at the twelfth time of asking, from the independent Rough Trade label. “They really liked the demo,” recalls Dave, “though they didn’t think we were really a Rough Trade band. But they did think they knew someone who might like us, so they played the tape to Daniel Miller.” [1]

Miller, the creative force behind Mute Records, was unimpressed at the time, but became increasingly interested after seeing the band supporting Fad Gadget at the old Bridgehouse. Presumably it was their star potential that must have impressed him, since it could hardly have been anything else: “We had a light show, which was a solitary neon bulb stuck inside a wooden box,” laughs Andy. “In those days I used to wear plus-fours, football socks and carpet slippers, Martin would paint his face half white, and Vince just looked like a Vietnamese refugee. He’d tan his face, dye his hair black and put on a head band.”

Whatever the attraction, record companies were suddenly starting to show some enthusiasm and, although Depeche Mode had already made their recording debut as part of a Some Bizzare sampler, they were now having to consider lucrative advances from most of the major labels. “They all came in offering huge amounts of money,” confirms Dave, “but that was all they were offering. They didn’t seem bothered about records or anything, they just wanted to add our name to their roster… And then Daniel came along and said he didn’t have any money, but he could put out a record – and if after that we didn’t want to stay, then we didn’t have to. It was the most honest thing we’d heard… so we went with Mute.”

Depeche Mode’s debut single, “Dreaming Of Me”, was released in February 1981, and eventually reached No. 57 in the UK charts after about ten weeks of trying. Four months later their follow-up, “New Life” peaked at No. 11, the band appeared on Top Of The Pops for the first time, and Martin and Andy both plucked up the courage to pack in their day jobs!

[1] - At this time Rough Trade were providing the distribution for Mute releases.
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Now totally committed to their new career, the boys worked hard together on the live circuit, while still finding time to write and record their first album for Mute. Entitled “Speak And Spell”, the LP was all set for release when the bombshell dropped. Vince Clarke was quitting the band.

“I never expected Depeche to become as popular as they did,” Vince later admitted, “and when they did, I no longer felt happy or fulfilled. All the tings that come with success had suddenly become more important than the music. When we started, we used to get letters from fans saying ‘I like your music,’ then we got letters saying ‘I like your trousers.’ Where do you go from there?!” [2]

Well, Vince went on to form Yazoo with fellow-Basildonian Alison Moyet, while the rest of Depeche Mode must have wondered where on earth their next hit record was going to come from: “It made us all the more determined to keep going,” reckons Dave. “It was a new challenge. When Vince had been with us we were happy to let him do all the writing, because too many songwriters in a band can be a bad thing. But Martin still used to write all the time. He had 20 or 30 songs which went back to when he was 16 or 17.”


“See You” was one of the first songs that Martin had ever written – now it became the band’s only hit single as a three-piece. Within weeks the surviving members were desperately seeking a replacement for Vince and finally, through the classified pages of Melody Maker, they found one. Alan Wilder joined just in time to rehearse for the band’s winter tour of the States, and played his first date with Depeche Mode at Croc’s club in Rayleigh in January ’82. [3]

Initially recruited as a backing musician for live performances, Alan was not featured on the band’s second album, “A Broken Frame”. Indeed, it wasn’t until their first release of ’83, “Get The Balance Right”, that he made his recording debut – though by this time he had more or less become accepted as a full member of the band.


Following spring tours of America, Canada and the Far East, Depeche Mode began to widen their horizons – in more ways than one – with their 3rd album, “Construction Time Again”. “We used so many channels on the recording of that record,” remembers Dave, “that we couldn’t possibly have mixed it at the studio where we recorded it. They only had a 24-track desk… Besides which, we wanted to sample in a different atmosphere. If you work in just the one place it can get quite boring.”

Hansa Studios in West Berlin offered them the world’s first 56-track mixing desk, as well as the opportunity to work in a completely different kind of atmosphere… Depeche Mode enjoyed West Berlin so much that, when it came to recording the next LP, “Some Great Reward”, the boys were quick to book a second trip to Hansa. Again the journey seemed to do them good, and the first fruit of their labour, “People Are People”, not only became their biggest seller yet in Britain, but also provided them with their first US hit, and their first German No. 1.


By 1985 Depeche Mode were already becoming even more popular around Europe than they were at home and, by way of rewarding themselves for all their hard work, the lads did the only sensible thing – they took a break.

Putting out a live video, along with a compilation album to satisfy contractual demands, Depeche didn’t record another LP until the following spring. [4]

Again they recorded it in Berlin, again it preceded a mammoth world tour, and again the audiences went wild – so much so, that they actually started throwing things at the stage! “In America, we got everything thrown at us,” says Dave. “Bras, suspender belts, knickers and even shoes. After one concert we had about 40 shoes on stage, and there weren’t any pairs! Imagine all those people hopping home!”

Some fans had even taken to showering them with money – a curious practice considering that none of the boys were likely to be short of a few pounds. “At the moment we don’t really need any more money,” admits Andy, “because we have earned quite a bit. But in 20, or even 10 years’ time we might. That’s why we’ve decided to invest in pensions, so we’ll get something when we’re 50 or 55. When band earn a lot of money, people resent it… but it does have to sustain you for the rest of your life.”

In the meantime however, the greatest reward for Depeche Mode’s years of honest endeavour, seems to be the relaxed way in which they’re now able to proceed with their work. They’ve clearly been taking things easier of late, and appear to have gone to a good deal of trouble to lighten their routine.

The new album, “Music For The Masses”, was record in Paris and mixed at the lavishly equipped Puk Studios in Denmark, complete with swimming pool, sauna and Jacuzzi. And it certainly seems to have benefited from the experience!

Though still only in their mid-to-late twenties, Depeche Mode have achieved a great deal during the past 7 years and, in times to come, are likely to be remembered as being amongst the foremost exponents of modern, machine-age pop.

[2] - These words are paraphrased from this article in Smash Hits.
[3] - The author seems to have got the order of these three events in a muddle here. "See You" was not their only single as a three-piece, since in the time before Alan was taken on as a full member, they also released "The Meaning Of Love" and "Leave In Silence". The advert was placed in late 1981 ahead of the US tour, Alan responded and accompanied them throughout 1982 as a live musician only, and "See You" was released in late January 1982.
[4] - I'm not sure the release of "Singles 81-85" was a contractual obligation since at this time their agreement with Daniel Miller was purely on the strength of a handshake. They made their first written agreement (regarding the division of costs and profits) in 1987, and were only formally signed to the label in 2000.


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Birthdate: 9th May 1962
Birthplace: Chigwell, Essex

Living in Basildon since his early childhood, Dave’s youthful years were none too auspicious for a man destined towards international fame and fortune: “I was a real wide boy with a chip on my shoulder,” he remembers. “I got done for nicking cars and motorbikes, and setting cars alight, spraying walls, vandalism… A real yob!”

A casual acquaintance of both John Lydon and Boy George, Dave flirted with 20 different jobs during the six month period following his departure from school, and finally settled on a place at Southend Technical College, where he’d planned to study window design.

Seduced by the prospect of stardom, Dave took the chance of committing himself to a career with Depeche Mode – though quickly came to question his decision when the band played its first real gig together. “All I can remember,” recounts the singer, “is saying over and over to myself, ‘I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it.’ I really felt I couldn’t go on.” Apparently it took 10 cans of lager to persuade him otherwise!

Nowadays, the main worry for Dave isn’t so much a fear of audiences, but a problem of weight loss while he’s on the road! “I get soaking wet every night,” he discloses, “and lose about 20 lbs on every tour. I travel with a full medicine bag, vitamins, blood-cell restorers, glycerine and anti-biotics. I tend to get quite ill on tour, and then when I’m home I speed round the house for months trying to adapt to normality.”

Not that Dave Gahan isn’t happy with his job. On the contrary, the 25 year old singer reckons that it has offered him a good few advantages – quite apart from being able to afford a Porsche 911 Targa! “I particularly enjoy going to clubs with a big bunch of friends and getting a lot of attention from the club owner. I can remember being turned away from clubs in London by snotty-nosed people who said ‘No, you’re not dressed right’. Now, they’ve got to let us in!!

Birthdate: 1st June 1959
Birthplace: Acton, West London

Brought in as a replacement for Vince Clarke, Alan adopted the role of backing musician for the first 18 months of his career with Depeche Mode. [1] “Between 1982 and ’83 I was never sure if I was in or out,” he confirms, “until one day Fletch just told me I was a full-time member… They were a very tight-knit bunch, and it took me quite a while to become one of them.”

Once he’d finally settled in however, Alan formed a very strong creative partnership with Martin, and was soon contributing to a fair percentage of Mode’s material. “Generally me and Martin deal with the musical side,” he explains, “and we seem to complement each other quite well. He’s much more involved in songwriting and melody, while I’m more interested in the rhythms and overall production. Martin gets bored with his side of things really fast and, given half a chance, I think he’d like to write, record and put out an album in a week!”

Formerly part of a comparatively unsuccessful combo called The Hitmen, Alan has also managed to put out a solo LP under the name of Recoil.

But it’s as a member of Britain’s foremost synth outfit, that they dedicated vegetarian has his greatest of thrills. “I particularly love it when we play out in Germany,” he enthuses, “we get treated as a big hip band – which certainly makes a change from our British image!”

Like the rest of the band, Alan always looks forward to playing in most countries, though doesn’t seem to enthusiastic about their Italian jaunts. “Oh, anything can happen there!” he exclaims. “It’s renowned for being totally disorganised. We once played there in a tent and it was actually raining with condensation over the keyboards! Another time, the power cord ran through the crowd and, just as we started the last song, someone cut through the cable and everything went off!”

Birthdate: 8th July 1960
Birthplace: Basildon, Essex [2]

A committed Christian, and long-time member of the Boys’ Brigade, Andy “Fletch” Fletcher has always been considered to be the straight man of the band.

On leaving school (he was in the same class as Martin Gore and Alison Moyet), he went to work with an insurance company during the day, while plotting a career in the music business by night.

Now that he’s made it, Andy is perhaps the most settled and satisfied member of Depeche Mode. This may be as a result of his religious beliefs or, quite simply, due to his early recognition that being a pop star is really only a job, just like any other. “Sometimes it’s really boring,” he argues. “Being in the studio can be the most boring thing in the world. Quite honestly I only do it for the money… and the memories.”

One of the occasions that Andy won’t be looking back on with too much affection, however, is the Live Aid event of 1985 – which Depeche Mode weren’t invited to participate in! “Because we’re on an independent label, we just didn’t have the contacts, so we weren’t asked to appear,” he scoffs. “I don’t think Geldof was aware of how many records we actually sell internationally. At the time we were bitter about it, but the whole thing just became so tacky that, in a way, I’m glad we weren’t involved.” [3]

Carrying on regardless, Andy has taken Depeche Mode’s international success in his stride and, perhaps more than any other member of the group, really does seem to enjoy travelling the globe – as well as experiencing so many different cultures.

Birthdate: 23rd July 1961
Birthplace: Basildon, Essex [4]

In the days before he was old enough to know any better, this one-time bank clerk used to play guitar as part of an American-styled rock band. [5] By the time he’d met up with Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke however, Martin was ready and willing to trade in his old guitar for a more progressive sounding Yamaha synthesiser.

Though he was already a fairly experienced songwriter, Martin’s creativity was certainly put to the test when Vince quit the band in 1981. “It was exactly the kick up the arse I needed to start believing in my own songs,” he confesses. “I was like a ‘before and after’ advert!”

Before, Martin had been content to play second fiddle, tending to undersell his ideas for the sake of an easy life. After Vince’s departure however, Martin’s work took on a more abrasive, and sensitive stance.

“I like to make my lyrics interesting by touching on taboo social issues,” he confirms. “It’s very easy to play songs on the radio which nobody takes a blind bit of notice of, yet you only have to stray slightly to shock people.”

To say that Martin has only “strayed slightly” could be regarded as something of an understatement, particularly as far as his image is concerned. After all, dressing up in leather bondage skirts isn’t every young man’s idea of fun – and even Martin seems to have had his doubts as to the wisdom of such a pose. “Yes, there have been times when I thought an audience might react badly to my clothes,” he admits. “I once wore a cowboy hat, dress, stockings and suspenders when we were in Texas, and thought that might provoke them. But in fact it went down really well. They liked it, which only goes to prove you can get away with anything in this game!”

[1] - It was only a year - running from around December 1981 when he was taken on, to December 1982 when "Get The Balance Right" was recorded.
[2] - Both these details are wrong: Andy was born in Nottingham in 1961.
[3] - It may well be true that they were not approached, but the bit about them being bitter about it is new to me. They did, in 1981, play a benefit gig for Amnesty International and Greenpeace, but in later years have consistently stated that they disagree with concerts such as Live Aid on the grounds that many artists use them for self-promotion while twisting people's arms into giving to charity. [continue]
[4] - Martin was born in Dagenham.
[5] - This was Norman And The Worms, with Phil Burdett. The West Coast style of the band might be a clue to why much of "See You", in this author's opinion, whiffs of The Beach Boys. [continue]


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For the past 7 years, Depeche Mode have continued to conjure up a potent blend of contagious melodies, irresistible rhythms and thought provoking lyrics, despite having been written off as a ‘fad’ group of the early eighties. “People thought we were just another futurist band,” complains Dave, “but we never fitted into all that at all. Just because we used synthesisers we got thrown into the same bag.”

Shrugging off the critics’ tag, Depeche dispelled any notions of a creative void by beginning to develop as a musical force faster than any of their contemporaries. “We started taking risks,” muses Martin, “so many risks, in fact, that our singles weren’t even getting played on the radio!” Indeed they weren’t, and by the time Depeche Mode unleashed the sensational “Master And Servant”, they even found themselves running the risk of being banned by the BBC! “It was a song about domination and exploitation,” explains Martin, “and we used a sexual angle to get the song across… There was one guy at the BBC who thought the lyrics were obscene, but he was away on holiday when the final judgement had to be made. The girl who took the decision agreed with us that it was not an indecent song.” [6]

Incorporating the sound of Andy spanking Martin, “Master And Servant” was symptomatic of state-of-the-art technology, as well as being indicative of Depeche Mode’s own stage of development. With the help of computerised samplers, they’d already begun to create music from the sound of running water, and even produced something out of an airline hostess running through her pre-take-off drills! [7]

In terms of content however, Mode music hasn’t been as trivial as some people seem to imagine. “Many of our songs actually deal with communication problems,” comments Martin, “and there really are a lot of recurring themes in them. One thing that always reappears is the subject of disillusionment and lack of contentment. Quite a few numbers also deal with a search for innocence… I’ve got this theory that, as you get older, you get more and more disillusioned, and that your happiness peak is when you’re in your teens.”

A good deal of water has gone under the bridge since these boys were teenagers, of course, yet Depeche Mode still manage to keep enthusiastic about their work – and still seem to harbour ambitions for the years to come. “Hopefully we’re improving all the time,” says Andy, “and although it’s very hard for us to be objective, we’re constantly striving for perfection. Perhaps one day we’ll reach it.”

Andy is firmly of the opinion that Depeche Mode records have systematically improved over the years and, on the further evidence of their latest LP, there can be few fans who’d wish to argue the point.

Nonetheless, when you bear in mind the group’s long term contribution to contemporary music – which is reflected in their considerable sales figures throughout the world it’s curious to note that some of the media still don’t deign to recognise Depeche Mode’s position as flag-bearers of pop’s technological age. Perhaps it’s their own fault for not being “obvious enough”, as Andy puts it. And maybe that’s also why they’ve just named their latest album “Music For The Masses”? “Yes, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek,” confirms Andy. Everyone’s advising us that we should be making more commercial music, so that’s the reason we chose that title!”

It remains to be seen whether or not this ploy will allow the band to broaden their market, but, whatever the effect, you get the impression that in another 7 years’ time there will still be enough loyal fans out there to ensure Depeche Mode’s 14th album of a swift passage to the top of the charts.

[6] - Part of the reason "Master And Servant" was spared was because it was released shortly after Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax", where a radio ban merely made the song more popular and the public sent it defiantly up the charts.
[7] - The running water bit has got me stumped, but the airline hostess can be heard faintly in the bridge of "People Are People" - a snatch of laughter (which sounds more like a gasp of surprise) processed and looped over and over. Apparently the air hostess was startled by a door flying open accidentally.