By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
|Photo by Anton Corbijn|
Manhattan's Essex House, 1998: It's almost shocking how buoyant and young Gahan appears, much like his tidy, short-haired '80s incarnation. You'd think that a sojourn in junkieland, a much-publicized near-fatal overdose and unsuccessful wrist-slicing suicide attempt would leave one at least slightly leathery. (Then again, Boy George was looking pretty swanky this summer, and he was quite the walking pharmacy circa the late '80s.) Also present, and equally Ziploc-fresh, are songwriter/
multi-instrumentalist Martin Gore and his trademark dollop of unnaturally blond hair, and keyboardist Andy Fletcher (the tall guy), who kick back on a couch and lounge chair respectively.
Fun fact: The three interact entirely like brothers (Hanson Mode?), playfully scurrilous and sincerely bolstering, intermingling opinions, clarifying or correcting each other's statements, and sometimes deliberating a moment when the threatening specter of independence from their mates arises. Probing Gahan's venture into songwriting is mildly awkward ("Maybe a couple of songs a year, and I keep them, I have them, but I haven't yet recorded anything . . . I don't know if I want to expose myself that much . . . not like I haven't exposed myself quite a bit!"). And when Fletcher's desire to warble a track is questioned, he's modest . . . kinda. "My voice is very bluesy. Very deep. I don't think it's in the style of our music." Cautiously scanning the room for responses -- Gahan is midyawn, Gore is beaming -- Fletcher adds, "But I honestly feel like I've got a voice. For some reason Alan, Martin and Dave thought I don't, so I'm outvoted."
One item the group has also voted on is a spate of near-insufferable Depeche tribute albums, many of which seem to come from Sweden. Gore and Fletcher confess to having heard many of them, and the possibility of recording a tribute to their own musical heroes has been hashed about. After all, Gore did one back in the '80s -- the Counterfeit EP.
"I've actually thought about that before," he says, "because it is a nice thing to do, like the one Siouxsie and the Banshees did a few years ago. It's interesting to show your influences, but I think it'll be very diverse. With Siouxsie, they probably had at least a core of songs they generally liked, but we all have such different tastes that I don't quite know how we'd do Deep Purple!"
Gahan explains his own approach to interpretation: "When I'm singing, I want to move people with my voice. I want to feel moved myself. When I listen to Marvin Gaye, on an album like What's Going On, the whole album is like he's really in some kind of place there. You can't help but be moved by it. I wouldn't say [Gore's songs] are 'my' songs, but there are a lot of songs over the course of the last 18 years that I've really felt part of."
Gore, of course, writes the songs (that make the whole world, or at least all depressed adolescents, sing), and even trills some himself. "There's generally a couple of songs I sing on each record," he says. "Obviously, we sit down and talk about it, but it's usually blatant in the demos which songs will suit David's voice. I have a much softer voice that sometimes . . ."
". . . Some songs are more personal to you as well," says Fletcher, nodding knowledgeably.
Gore shoots him a tart glare. "I don't think it's a question of being personal, because all the songs are personal! It's really a question of 'That song suits my voice maybe better than Dave's,' and the majority of them don't."
Unquashed, Fletcher says, "I think in the past it might have been a question of any song under a certain number of BPM, but they're all under a certain number of BPM these days. We have to reconsider."
While the trio rattles off answers, it's hard to resist studying Gahan's tattooed arms for concealment of scars. Caught in the act, I ask him whether he's formulated a "plan" to keep those jeopardous days -- the ones he'd sooner I not address -- at bay. "I have a plan to protect myself, yeah. I try and keep a better perspective of myself and my place in life. I got carried away with the other side of stuff, what I thought was fun, 'rock & roll,' 'party party' all the time.