The Depeche Mode singer on crappy gigs, addiction and escaping death... twice
Dave Gahan is stationed in the basement of the swanky Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. As I wait outside his room in music journalist purgatory, waiting for an interview with some other mag to round up, I’m told that it shouldn’t be long but, well, unfortunately, Dave is enjoying the conversation so much that he wants to keep chatting. Maybe we’ll get on really well too, I think.
When I am finally beckoned in, Gahan welcomes me to the conference room that’s become his office for the day. He is warm, full of smiles, and even offers me a smoothie. Radioactive green, it’s a sign of the journey from Gahan’s dark days in the late ’80s and, well, most of the ’90s. It’s fair to say that the rider requests for a man who’s come through heroin addiction and bladder cancer is a little different these days. With hair slicked back, pencil moustache neatly groomed and a silver skull ring nestling on his middle knuckle, it’s hard to equate him with the 19-year-old Epping boy in the oversized suit who nervously bopped his way through ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’.
Of course, a lot of well-documented water has passed under the bridge since Gahan and Depeche Mode arrived with the synthpop agenda-setter ‘Speak & Spell’ in 1981. Fourteen studio albums is a pretty solid achievement in itself, but when you hear the context of the hurdles that had to be negotiated in order to do so, it pulls the feat into sharper focus. Through ailing health, substance abuse and a couple of run-ins with the law, Depeche Mode have somehow stayed united. Depsite the chaotic highs and creativity-sapping lows, the release of their latest LP, ‘Spirit,’ continues a run of at least one album every four years for the last 35. Impossibly, Depeche Mode have become one of British music’s most reliable forces.
As Gahan speaks in staccato – all full-stops and short and rapid-fire sentences – he flits from topic to topic and I may as well have left my nice, crisp A4 sheet of questions at home, because I barely say anything. Jumping from the band’s recent gig at Glasgow’s Barrowlands to the merits of theatre and the ethic behind Depeche Mode’s ‘depressing’ sound in the first five breakneck minutes, at 54 Gahan is full of energy. But while it can be hard to keep track, Gahan’s passion is the thread that ties our conversation together.