5 Questions With Depeche Mode Ahead of Their Rock Hall Induction
You'd be hard pressed to think of a more unlikely path to universal adoration in the rock realm than Depeche Mode. Dismissed as synth-pop pin-ups for the first decade of their career (despite making some of the best existential electronica of the '80s), Depeche Mode's intense cult following and low-key influence on innovators in nearly every genre from the '90s onward has made this electronic-leaning outfit one of the most celebrated acts in the alt-rock pantheon.
Ahead of the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during 2020's virtual ceremony (which features a wildly eclectic bunch of musicians speaking on DM's impact) airing on HBO Nov. 7, founding member and primary songwriter Martin L. Gore answered a few questions for Billboard about the group's unique trajectory and their long-standing relationship with Mute Records and Daniel Miller.
Congrats on your induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Of course, the Rock Hall inducts acts beyond a strict definition rock music, but would the members balk at being called a "rock band"? Do you even care about labels like that?
MG: I think that we have always had a very electronic foundation, but we embraced a lot of rock traditions a long time ago. We used to be electronic purists, but that changed at some point during the ‘80s when we started using guitars and other instruments, so I have no problem with being called rock.
Despite deals with majors, Depeche Mode has maintained a long-standing loyalty to Mute Records. How essential was Mute to the success of early Depeche Mode?
MG: I think we were very lucky to bump into Daniel very early on in our career and to get to work with him. He was like a father figure to us, really. Even though he wasn’t that old, he had a lot more experience than us. He’s really helped to guide our career from day one and is still part of the story today. He’s still involved in all aspects of the music making and we still take his advice.
If you had to pick one album as an essential turning point in the band's career beyond the critical favorite Violator, which record would it be and why?
MG: For me, apart from Violator, the big turning point for the band was Black Celebration. I think we turned down a dark alleyway that we quite liked.
What do you think is the band's most misunderstood song, in terms of what you intended and how it was received?
MG: I think that my songs are often very misunderstood. People have all kinds of interpretations of them and more often than not, they are a million miles off of what I initially intended. I think that’s one of the useful things about the power of music.
Critics, particularly in the U.K., didn't respect Depeche during the '80s. These days, there are precious few bands of the era treated with greater reverence. When did the band realize that sea change in public opinion had occurred?
MG: I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I remember going on a promotional tour at some point in the early 2000s. A lot of the journalists had grown up with us and they all seemed to be uber fans. I remember going into the interviews and everyone had brought their record collections with them. Instead of having to fight journalists who hated us, we were having to sign all of their albums.
7 ноября 2020 года в 20:00. СТАНДАРТНОЕ ВОСТОЧНОЕ ВРЕМЯ. (В Москве 04:00 утра 8 ноября 2020 г.) пройдет 35-я торжественная церемония включения в Зал славы рок-н-ролла в 2020! В этом году такой чести удостоились группы Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Nine Inch Nails, T. Rex, певица Уитни Хьюстон и легендарный рэпер The Notorious B.I.G.
Watch Depeche Mode’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech "Music really brings people together, and God knows we need that more today than it seems any other time"
Depeche Mode were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame overnight, with the legendary electronic trio accepting the award remotely.
The band were inducted by Charlize Theron, and honoured by the likes of Arcade Fire‘s Win Butler and Chvrches‘ Lauren Mayberry.
Founding members Dave Gahan, Andrew Fletcher and Martin Gore shared a pre-recorded acceptance speech from their respective homes. Watch it below: “Congratulations to all our fellow inductees. It’s incredible now to be in this club. There’s so many other musicians, artists that are a part of this that we have grown up listening to. David Bowie, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Clash, just to name a few,” Gahan said during the speech.
“You know, growing up, listening to music on the radio and having music, it really kind of helped us to feel normal, feel part of something.
“That’s what music does for people and I think that’s what Depeche Mode has done for many people. I think music really brings people together, and God knows we need that more today than it seems any other time.”
The band also acknowledged former members Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder, calling them “part of the DM family and the DM history and the success of this band”.
Other people the trio thanked included creative director Anton Corbijn – who they credited with “[making] us look cool” – along with Mute Records’ Daniel Miller, manager Jonathan Kessler and longtime touring members Christian Eigner and Peter Gordeno.
After collaborating with Humanist earlier this year, Dave Gahan spoke to NME about Depeche Mode’s plans for the future – as well as his work on another album with side-project Soulsavers.
“I’ve been working again with Rich Machin on Soulsavers again,” Gahan told NME. “It looks like we’ll be doing another thing there which will probably surface towards the end of the year. Before that, I’d just come off the road. For the first six months after you’ve been out there for over a year, it’s always a weird transition. This time more than ever, I just thought ‘I don’t know if I want to make music any more’. Not because I don’t like music, but because I was so drained. Still, music is one of the only things that makes any sense to me in life.”
He continued: “Depeche have made so many records together and after a tour Martin [Gore, chief songwriter and bandmate] and I are like, ‘See you then!’ “There will more than likely will be another record, but we really don’t make plans beyond what we’ve just done.
“To be honest, it’s always been like that. In the first 10 years we could keep up with the pace of boshing out a record then a tour, record, tour, record, tour. As you get older you start to get a little more selective about what you want to do.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was postponed back in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. A virtual ceremony instead took place, broadcast over HBO Max.
Other artists that were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year included Whitney Houston, The Notorious B.I.G., Nine Inch Nails, T. Rex and The Doobie Brothers.
Immerse yourself in stories with artifacts that are new to the museum and being exhibited for the first time, including a special NIN installation taking fans back to the '94 Woodstock performance, Martin Gore of Depeche Mode signature star-shaped guitar, Whitney Houston clothing, Biggie outfits, and more.