Members: David Gahan, Martin Gore, Andrew Fletcher
Depeche Mode is an electronic music band from the town of Basildon, England, founded in 1980. They have been one of the longest-lived and most successful bands to have emerged during the New Wave and New Romantic era, though they are more akin to what was known as the 'Futurist' scene; many of their videos have been heavily rotated on MTV. As of 2006, it is estimated that Depeche Mode has sold over 72 million albums worldwide. They have influenced many of today's popular recording artists, in part due to their innovative work, recording techniques and use of sampling. In their home country, the U.K, they are thought of by some as an "Eighties band". Though massively influential in the modern electronic dance scene, they remain in the alternative genre.
Depeche Mode's origins can be traced back to 1976, when Vince Clarke and Andrew Fletcher formed a band known as "No Romance in China." The band was unsuccessful and in 1979, Vince Clarke formed a new band named "French Look" with Martin Gore and close friend Robert Marlow. In March 1980, Vince and Martin formed a band with Andy Fletcher called "Composition of Sound," with Vince as the vocalist/guitarist, Martin as the keyboardist, and Fletcher as the bassist. Not too long after the formation, Vince and Andy switch to synthesizers, working odd jobs to buy them, or borrowing them from friends. David Gahan joined the band in 1980 after Vince Clarke heard him perform at a local gig, and "Depeche Mode" was born. The new name was taken from a French fashion magazine, "D?p?che mode", which translates to "Fashion Update" or "Fashion News Dispatch" (d?p?che = dispatch) though it has commonly been mistranslated as "Fast Fashion."
The band became part of Daniel Miller's Mute label by verbal contract, and released their first album, Speak and Spell, in 1981. Soon after, Vince Clarke left and went on to form several other bands including Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.) with Alison Moyet, The Assembly with Eric Radcliffe, and later Erasure with Andy Bell.
After Clarke's departure, Martin Gore, who had written "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Big Muff" on their debut album, took over as the band's primary songwriter and in 1982 the album A Broken Frame was released by the remaining trio. Prior to this, Alan Wilder replaced Vince Clarke on tour, but he did not contribute to A Broken Frame. Shortly afterwards, he became a full-fledged member of Depeche Mode, in time for their 1983 non-album single "Get the Balance Right". He wrote "The Landscape is Changing" and "Two Minute Warning" for their 1983 album, Construction Time Again, "In Your Memory," the B-side to the "People Are People" single, and "If You Want" on the 1984 album Some Great Reward, an co-writes with Martin Gore "Fools", the B-side to the "Love, in Itself" single but his main contribution to Depeche Mode was in technical and musical production.
In the early 1980s the band's popularity was largely confined to Europe (particularly Germany). However, in 1984 Depeche Mode made inroads into the U.S., spawning the North American-only releases of the compilations People Are People and 1985s Catching Up with Depeche Mode, the former featuring their first transatlantic hit "People Are People".
This period is seen as the beginning of the band's long (misinterpreted) association with Britain's Gothic movement that was gaining popularity in America. Interestingly, the music intelligentsia in Britain dismissed Depeche Mode throughout the 1980s as fluffy synthesized teenybopper pop stars because of the cheery and "cute" style of many of their early songs, such as "Just Can't Get Enough," despite the darker overtones that had begun to emerge in their music. At the same time, in Germany and other countries in continental Europe, Depeche Mode was considered major teen heartthrobs. (Some fans of KMFDM liked to joke that that band's initials stood for "Kill Motherfucking Depeche Mode.") But in America, where the band's music had first gained popularity on college radio and non-mainstream alternative-rock stations such as the legendary KROQ in Los Angeles, Depeche Mode's appeal was to a decidedly different, more cultish audience.
The "Gothic" tag, in the U.S., may have owed more to its sound than to its image, due to the band's late exposure to the American market and its unfortunate string of inconsistent, budget-driven music videos prior to this time. As heard with 1984's "Blasphemous Rumours", a bitter commentary on the unfairness of life, and the B-side to 1985's poor "It's Called a Heart", called "Fly on the Windscreen" (thereafter remixed and released as "Fly on the Windscreen - Final" on the 1986 album Black Celebration), lead songwriter Martin Gore began a decade-long descent into dark, brooding synthesized music. At the time, many associated this sound with that of the then-descendent Goth movement.
The first five years of Depeche Mode's career was documented by a singles compilation ("The Singles 81-85"). The compilation was revised and retitled in North America as the aforementioned "Catching Up with Depeche Mode".
After the video of their 1986 single "A Question of Time" garnered attention, its director Anton Corbijn began a long-lasting friendship and working relationship with the band, eventually directing 20 of their videos (the latest being 2006's "Suffer Well"). For his part, Corbijn -- an internationally renowned photographer and newly emerging music video director (U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" (1984) and Echo and the Bunnymen's "Bring on the Dancing Horses" (1985)) -- was catapulted into near stardom, eventually directing music videos for the likes of Joy Division ("Atmosphere" (1988)), Front 242 ("Headhunter" (1988), "Tragedy for You" (1991)), Bryan Adams, Nirvana, and U2 ("One" (1991), "Please" (1997), "Electrical Storm" (2002)). With a newly-coherent, striking image and a brooding sound, the band resonated with an emerging taste for all things Gothic in the U.S. On the heels of their ironically titled 1987 album Music for the Masses, Depeche Mode played a follow-up world tour in 1987-88, to sold-out venues.
In the mid-1980s and 1990s, the band's popularity in the U.S. grew, as did their influence on the emerging techno and house music scenes. Techno pioneers Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins regularly quoted Depeche Mode as an influence in their development of proto-techno music during the Detroit Techno explosion in the late 1980s.
The band's 1987-88 Music for the Masses tour culminated in a final concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl with a sell-out attendance of 80,000 (the highest in 8 years for the venue). The tour was documented in a film by D.A. Pennebaker, notable for its portrayal of fan interaction. An album release of the concert, titled 101 (the show was the 101st and final stop on the tour) became a bestseller in 1989.
Later that year, after Martin Gore had made a brief detour to record his "Counterfeit EP", with six cover versions of some of his favourite songs, the band recorded the bluesy country-western-influenced "Personal Jesus", in Milan. Prior to its release, advertisements were placed in the personal columns of UK regional newspapers with the words "Your own personal Jesus." Later, the ads included a phone number which, if dialed, played the song. The ensuing controversy helped propel the single to number 13 on the UK charts, becoming one of their biggest sellers and their first gold single in the U.S.
In February 1990, "Enjoy the Silence", one of Depeche Mode's most successful singles to date, reached #6 in the UK. It won 'Best Single' at the Brit Awards. To promote their new album Violator, they held an in-store autograph signing in Los Angeles, which attracted 17,000 fans. The album (Top Ten in the UK and U.S.) and the subsequent World Violation Tour were further successes. To date, the album has gone triple platinum in the U.S., selling over three million units. Notably, 40,000 tickets for the (New York) Giants Stadium show sold within 8 hours, and 48,000 tickets for the (Los Angeles) Dodger Stadium show sold within an hour of going on sale.
By 1991, Depeche Mode had emerged as one of the world's most successful acts, relying on a proto-techno sound to distinguish themselves. A one-off contribution to the Wim Wenders film, "Until the End of the World", entitled "Death's Door" and another solo album released by Alan Wilder under the Recoil moniker bridged the gap between albums.
The band changed pace in 1993 with Songs of Faith and Devotion, an album that hardened the group's sound. The album moved away from keyboards and synthesizer influences, for the first time introducing live drums (by Wilder) and outside musicians into the music. The album debuted at number 1 in both the U.S. and the UK; highlights included the country-blues/techno "I Feel You", the soulful "Walking in My Shoes", and the gospel-tinged "Condemnation". The 14-month "Devotional" world tour followed. A second live album, Songs of Faith and Devotion Live, was released in December of 1993; essentially a track-by-track reproduction of the eponymous album, it proved a critical and commercial failure. Strains became apparent when Fletcher declined to participate in the second "exotic" leg of the tour, due to "mental instability." During that period, Daryl Bamonte, who worked with the band as personal assistant for many years, filled in for him.
In June 1995 after the tour Alan Wilder left the band citing "unsatisfactory internal working conditions"; he continued to work on his personal project, Recoil. Contributing factors that have been suggested include the drug addiction issues of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore's admission of "battling his own demons" at this time, and growing tensions between Wilder and Andrew Fletcher. Wilder had stated that he contributed a lion's share of work while receiving the least credit on past albums. His departure was quickly followed by news of Gahan overdosing at his home in L.A.; he later entered a drug rehabilitation program to battle a heroin addiction.
In 1996, with Gahan out of rehab, Depeche Mode held recording sessions with producer Tim Simenon; the next year, the album Ultra and its two preceding singles, "Barrel of a Gun" and "It's No Good", were released to critical acclaim. The album again debuted at #1, but the band declined to tour, perhaps on account of the results of the 'Devotional' tour. They did, however, perform a series of Ultra 'Parties' for the music press and selected attendees designed to highlight the key tracks on the album.
A second singles compilation The Singles 86>98 followed in 1998, with the new track "Only When I Lose Myself". The band set off on a 4 month tour that cemented their place as a quasi-permanent attraction, with a large touring attendance regardless of album sales. (U2, the Rolling Stones, and Rod Stewart are some others in this category).
Also in 1998, a tribute album For the Masses was released. It featured songs from the Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, The Deftones, and even Rammstein. It is the best known Depeche Mode tribute album, but most certainly not the only one.
DEPECHE MODE IN THE 2000'S
While Depeche Mode remain popular in the U.S. and Western Europe, its most loyal fan base and widest appeal seems to lie in Central Europe and Eastern Europe fed by the timely confluence of several key events in this part of the world in the early 90s: the then world-wide popularity of Depeche Mode and synthesized dance music in general (which has since waned in the U.S.), the collapse of communism, and the rise of the Internet with the instant access this brought to a region thirsting for western music and ideals. Today there are countless fan-created web sites, in nearly every language, propelling the band to perpetual fame.
In 2001, Depeche Mode released Exciter, which did not place well in the charts outside of Continental Europe. Although it spawned several dance club hits such as Danny Tenaglia's remixes of "I Feel Loved", many fans felt the album was uninspired and underproduced, although the record was noted as containing some of the strongest vocal stylings of Dave Gahan since joining the band. Web blogs from L.A. to Sydney questioned if this wasn't a manifestation that indeed Depeche Mode had in essence broken up with the departure of Alan Wilder in 1995. Shortly after the Exciter tour, Martin and Dave seemed to sense that this would be a good time to busy themselves with new solo efforts.
2003 saw the release of Dave Gahan's solo album, Paper Monsters, followed by a worldwide tour and a DVD taken from it, titled Live Monsters; Martin Gore continued his solo career with the release of Counterfeit? (additional covers of some of Martin's most beloved and influential songs first canonised in his 1989 release Counterfeit); and Andrew Fletcher launched his own label, Toast Hawaii (the most notable outcome of which has so far been the female synth-pop duo,Client).
In August 2004, Mute released the DVD version of "Devotional," filmed during their world tour in 1993, and a new remix compilation album Remixes 81-04 that covers some new & unreleased promo mixes of the singles from 1981 to 2004, highlighted with a re-release and new renditions of their classic Enjoy the Silence. The single peaked at #7 in the UK, but did poorly in the U.S.. On October 18, the Depeche Mode fansite Depechemode.tv took top honours at the BT 2005 Digital Music Awards, further reflecting the enduring popularity of the band. It was also during this time that Martin, in an interview on BBC Radio's Stuart Maconie show on September 5th, revealed that he was currently going through a divorce.
On October 17, 2005, the band released their long awaited 11th studio album Playing the Angel and received very good reviews. Many fans felt this album was their true return to form.
Produced by Ben Hillier, this top ten hit (peaking at #1 in several European countries) featured the hit single "Precious", peaking at #4 in the UK charts. The album was backed by the band's first in-store signing since 1990, on the day of release in New York City. Worthy of note is that this was the first DM album to feature songs written by frontman David Gahan and is the first album in 21 years to feature songs not written by Martin Gore, that last album being 1984's Some Great Reward. Several months prior to its official release, a prototype of the video for "Precious" was leaked onto the internet, resulting in the arrest of a Polish citizen. Meanwhile, the official video was released on September 12 on the Depeche Mode website, www.depechemode.com. To promote the album, the band launched a worldwide tour in November, taking them to fans in North America and Europe. The tour continues thru the spring & summer of 2006. It will include more European dates, North American dates (Depeche Mode were the headliners for the 2006 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival) and possibly even South America. The second single from the album, "A Pain That I'm Used To", was released on December 12, and the third single from the album was "Suffer Well", the first Depeche Mode single ever to have been written by lead vocalist David Gahan. (To see information on "Touring the Angel" and other Depeche Mode tours, view Depeche Mode Tours)
In march 2006, the website announced two dates in Mexico (a country they had not visited for twelve years). More than 55 000 tickets for a stadium in Mexico city were sold inmediately, making the band give another date for that venue and showing that the popularity of the band in that country is as big as in many other countries in Europe.
On April 3, 2006, remastered editions of Speak & Spell, Music for the Masses, and Violator were released, featuring remastered audio on CD and SACD, and extra tracks and vintage interviews. The other seven pre-Playing the Angel Depeche Mode albums are set to be re-released sometime later in 2006. In addition, there will be a "Best Of" compilation at the end of the year, and a Playing the Angel live DVD.
To date, Depeche Mode has sold about 72 million albums worldwide (releasing a new studio album every four years since mid-career), and has cemented their position as one of the most popular recording and live performance artists of all time. Their music has been featured in a variety of soundtracks including the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Also in 2006, they have announced that their upcoming single release "Suffer Well" will also be sung in Simlish as it is featured on The Sims 2: Open for Business PC game soundtrack along with accompanying video (the group featured as Sims). Of course, the conventional video and single will be done in English. They join other 1980s stars, Kajagoogoo and Howard Jones in the PC game as musical contributors with their performances in Simlish.
1981 - Speak & Spell
1982 - A Broken Frame
1983 - Construction Time Again
1984 - Some Great Reward
1986 - Black Celebration
1987 - Music for the Masses
1989 - 101
1990 - Violator
1993 - Songs of Faith and Devotion
1993 - Songs of Faith and Devotion Live
1997 - Ultra
2001 - Exciter
2005 - Playing The Angel
1985 - The Singles 81>85
1998 - The Singles 86>98
2004 - Remixes 81 - 04