Dave Gahan Real Gahan Kid (Sky, 1990) | dmremix.pro

Dave Gahan Real Gahan Kid (Sky, 1990)


Staff member
Real Gahan Kid
[Sky, March 1990. Words: Paul Lester. Pictures: Kevin Westenberg.]
Engaging, detailed interview with Dave in the light of the impending release of Violator. One of the clutch of articles that came out at this time pleasantly surprised by the maturity and sultry style of the album, and heading a reappraisal of the band as dance pioneers. Unfortunately the author has fallen into the usual temptation of describing the band's career as if they spent the Eighties stuck as synth nancies before suddenly waking up one morning to find themselves synth gods. Nonetheless a thorough and intelligent article.

Dave Gahan is sitting in the hi-tech backroom of the Depeche Mode fan club offices in North London, having just parked his metallic silver Porsche outside. He sports a face full of black stubble, and looks very different to when he sang Just Can't Get Enough on Top Of The Pops in 1981. And those new romantic-style white frilly shirts or baggy pants so beloved of bands of that time have been gone a long time. Now he's dressed in regulation hard times chic - worn-in Levi's, hooded black sweatshirt, black leather jacket and black, calf-high boots. Fashion-wise he could have stepped out of any era of the last eight years.

Gahan does or says very little to reveal his enormous wealth and the quite considerable success that Depeche Mode have enjoyed since their formation in Basildon exactly 10 years ago. A broad Essex accent, a rapid-fire delivery and self-deprecating sense of humour all serve to disguise the fact that, in reality, Dave Gahan has moved far beyond his roots to front, and sing in, one of the world's most durable and consistently popular groups.

Still only 27, he has added his distinctively sombre vocals to 22 Depeche Mode singles, from 1981's number 11 hit, New Life, to 1989's controversial Personal Jesus, which reached number 13. [1] Their six studio albums have ranged from the pioneering electro-pop ditties of Speak And Spell, to the darker electronic investigations of 1987's Music For The Masses. Today Depeche Mode are huge in Europe, both East and West, as well as Britain and, more recently, America. In June 1988 75,000 people turned out to see the band play the last concert of a world tour at the Pasadena Rose Bowl stadium. [2]

Depeche Mode have come a long way since their days supporting Fad Gadget at the Bridge House pub in London's East End. What has never changed, however - despite the departure in the early 80s of founder member Vince Clarke to form Yazoo - is the great respect that the group command from their peers and juniors. Recent years have seen Depeche Mode become recognised as a direct influence on the house scenes of New York, Detroit and Chicago.

"We've always played around with dance", says Gahan. "Especially on our 12-inch mixes, which a lot of people now say were influential on the House and Techno stuff coming out of America. All of a sudden it's cool to like Depeche Mode. I think the people in Detroit and Chicago, like Derrick May [the brains behind The Strings Of Life Orchestra's monster club hit, Rhythim Is Rhythim], have learned mostly from the kind of technology we use, the way you can do things with computers and drum machines without being a great musician. I'm not saying that we can't play our instruments - Martin [Gore, 28] is a great guitarist, Andy [Fletcher, 28] plays keyboards really well and Alan [Wilder, 31] is good on just about anything - but it's good that kids today can do a lot with the minimum equipment.

"We don't consider our earlier stuff pioneering, at all - we just did what we did and that was that. You can't deliberately make a record that you think will have a big impact on the future. It was purely an accident that what we did seems to have been picked up by the acid and house scenes."

For a band with such a bright future, Depeche Mode understandably dislike talking about the past and the reasons for their continued success over the last 10 years. They don't see why they should have to justify their presence in today's pop market, nor do they find it easy to explain why they have appealed to generations of pop consumers.

"God knows why", Dave says before nervily drawing on a cigarette and sipping his coffee. "But I really don't care - as long as people like us. It's just down to the songs, and the care we take with them. We've never jumped on any bandwagons or tried to go along with the trendies. Even though we're into our second decade, it still seems very fresh. We never wanted to be big for five minutes and that's it. Plus, we've changed, and all the changes have been natural. No one has ever pushed us in any direction - we do exactly what we want, the way we want. There's still that naivety of learning, of trying to better ourselves, and it's all done with an intense energy, a power and urgency that's lacking in so many other bands around. We're off in our own little world, really."

This is true. Despite huge sales and worldwide popularity, little is known about the four Depeche boys. They shy away from the press, rarely make TV appearances and generally refuse to do the media rounds that are part and parcel of the pop circus. Notwithstanding the platinum albums and legions of fans, Dave, Martin, Alan and Andy are relatively anonymous characters.

"That's the way we like it, really. We're the Pink Floyd of the eighties and nineties", he jokes. "A lot of people wouldn't recognise us by our faces at all, but if you were to ask them whether they'd heard of Depeche Mode, they'd say, 'Oh, yeah'. Mind you, some people probably think we're some kind if disinfectant. But we wouldn't have it any other way - we like our music to do the talking.

"We don't get hassled that much. I get a bit of bother sometimes, being the lead singer, and people automatically associate me with the group more than the others. Andy and Alan can pretty much go about their business without too much trouble, but Martin [the group's blonde, angelic-faced pretty-boy songwriter] probably gets his fair share of bother. It's all a matter of attitude, though. As long as we don't go around with a neon light above our heads saying 'DEPECHE MODE', we're all right! Unlike some bands nowadays - they make me sick, complaining in the tabloids that they can't go anywhere, and then splashing themselves all over every single paper and magazine every week."

Yet in spite of Depeche Mode's determination to withdraw from pop's centre stage, and despite their increasingly fierce-sounding electronic noise, they still attract a hardcore following of extremely devout fans. So many, in fact, that Dave was recently forced to leave his Essex home and move south of the river.

[1] - Their first single was in fact 'Dreaming Of Me', in February 1981.
[2] - This figure is somewhat exaggerated. Steve Malins in his band biography gives a figure for ticket sales of 66,233, whereas tour accountant Jonathan Kessler states on the '101' video that "the paid attendance was 60,452 people". Obviously the 5781 people who bought a ticket but never went need their heads checking...


Staff member
"I used to get a lot of fans outside my house," he explains. "That's why I had to move with my wife, Joanne, and Jack, my son. They are fans from all over, from Germany, France, America, everywhere. They write to each other, word gets around and when I open up my door in the morning there are all these people on my doorstep. Sometimes I open the curtains, pull the blinds and there's somebody standing there snapping away with a camera!

"They're not all teenage girls, though," he continues. "There was this bloke who hired a private detective to follow me home from London to find out where I lived! I remember seeing this car parked across the road a few weekends later, and it turned out to be full of fans. They were all looking through my window, and they'd always be there and, one day, they finally plucked up enough courage to come and see me. So they knocked on the door - and I went mad. But I apologised later. I sent the guy a letter telling him I didn't want him coming round any more, and that I felt my only privacy had been invaded - as well as the fact that my wife was pregnant at the time. So he sent me a letter back saying, yeah, he was really sorry, and he appreciated my annoyance, but could he come round again next week! That's when I decided to move.

Depeche Mode's following is very broad-based. Teenage girls flock to them for their boyish good looks and cute pin-up appeal, muso sixth-form lads are attracted to Martin Gore's pensive, introspective lyrics, while the group's often brutal, minimalist electronic rhythms, allied to a deeply melodic pop sensibility, has earned them admirers in the least likely of places. In a recent survey, it was discovered that the records bought most in West German shops by East Germans were those by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, AC/DC and...Depeche Mode.

"We're huge in Eastern Bloc countries, I know," Dave says. "Even in Russia they did a survey on the streets, asking people what film of a rock band they would most like to see. First it was the Beatles, then The Police, and then Depeche Mode! We've played in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Berlin - where Martin actually used to live in the early eighties - and the demand for tickets was huge. We'd be playing 10,000 seater venues and there'd be another 20,000 queuing up to get in!

"In underground clubs in Russia, East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, where they can't get records very easily, Depeche Mode are really big. We get letters asking us to send tapes of our songs, which they then cut up and make music from, to play in these clubs.

"In Hungary there are actually groups of fans called 'Depeches'! Honestly! They're like the mods and rockers we get in Britain, our hotel was surrounded by them, and they all looked like one of us. We'd go out there and it would be like looking at loads of mirrors, all these kids copying our image - not that we have a particularly strong image, really. So there'd be loads of Martins and Alans and Daves and Andys, and we literally couldn't go anywhere without being mobbed by these so-called 'Depeches'."

Success engenders fame and fame brings with it recognition, money, travel and glamour. On the downside the arduous single-album-tour cycle, and the rigorous schedule involved in promoting an outfit as large as Depeche Mode on a worldwide scale also involves tremendous pressures. For Dave Gahan, his double life as a top pop star and caring father has brought as much pain as pleasure.

"Our lifestyle does have its ups and downs, and it's sometimes a struggle to keep things together because I'm away so much. That's a massive pressure, trying to maintain a family and do year-long tours at the same time. I definitely want to have more children but at the moment it's really difficult. When Jack was born two years ago, I was with him for his first three weeks and then I was off on tour for the whole of the next year," he sighs. "It's a schizo life and it can cause arguments, but I love both parts of my life so much that I carry on."

Depeche Mode are not the clean-cut Basildon boys-made-good, as painted in many press articles. Records such as Black Celebration, Master and Servant, Stripped and Shake The Disease highlight a dark, mischievous streak that runs through their music, and into their lives. Like many bands in their position, Depeche Mode have often succumbed to the excesses that the pop star lifestyle can offer.

"It'd be a lie to say we haven't done those things, whether in the past or the present", says Dave. "I think we've experienced pretty much everything. We've packed almost everything into the last ten years, I can tell you!" We're one of those bands who quietly go about their business, while at the same time there's this strange, weird force surrounding us.

"You can get tempted by things, certainly, like drugs or girls, but they can't help but affect your relationships, marriage, whatever. I've been through this myself, and it's only when I saw how I could lose the things that were really special to me that I realised how superficial those on-the-road attractions really were. I'm talking from personal experience here, but I don't really want to go into it. The tabloids have tried to get stories out of me, but I don't do those kinds of interviews. For me, personally, I've experienced things and I've found out whether I like them or not - leave it at that."

Now Depeche Mode have come to their 23rd single, Enjoy The Silence [1], and seventh studio LP, Violator. Gahan considers it to be the band's best work by far; the record company, Mute, are apparently very excited about it and, for once, the hyperbole appears to be justified. Violator moves even further away from Depeche Mode's lightweight synthipop roots into rather more tense, atmospheric, ambient dance areas. Some tracks, notably Clean and Sweetest Perfection, indicate a shift towards harsh electronic blues territories - imagine New Order playing Muddy Waters. One song, Halo, is possibly their best ever. Violator is a fine way for Depeche Mode to start the 90s.

"If it all ended tomorrow we'd be pretty lost," says Gahan. "Luckily we still get on really well together, and hardly a week goes by when we don't see each other. Plus, we've still got goals we want to fulfil. When we stop having those goals it'll be time to call it a day. I don't really feel that much older than when we started. It's all happened so fast, and we've never really had a chance to look back, or stopped to consider what we're doing. Look at The Stones and The Who - they're still going, and good luck to them. They've earned it. I hope we're still doing it in ten years' time!"
[1] - Just to clarify the counting: 'Enjoy The Silence' is numbered 24 in the box set releases, and the reason for the discrepancy may be because the single 'Little 15' wasn't ever released in the UK so the author has not counted it. The reason the author can say (on the previous page) that Dave has sung on only 22 of their releases is that one single, 'A Question Of Lust', was sung by Martin.