11 Questions About Sex, God and Personal Demons With Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan

 

Arguably no other rock star has played the Jesus Christ personification as spectacularly as Dave Gahan. Indeed, one of Depeche Mode’s most iconic songs, “Personal Jesus,” even found the singer blaspheming his way further into the hearts of his swooning masses of disciples, imploring them to “reach out and touch faith” – and veritably offering up himself in place of the Son of God.

La Mode have continued to fill stadiums (most especially in Europa) and make incisively relevant music, that still and ever winds us through the darkest recesses of the human psyche. But Gahan himself has, since 2003, also cultivated a fascinating solo career, often harvesting his more insalubrious musical proclivities for the job. Much of it has been about rescuing himself from the dark hole he had fallen into during the 90s, characterized by a run of epic debauchery, which literally took him to the brink of mortality at least a couple of times.

His new album with Brit production duo Soulsavers, Angels & Ghosts (out this week) follows on from their 2012 collaboration, The Light The Dead SeaAnd rather than rely on familiar electronics, it’s all dirty guitars and languid rhythms, sensual blues and soaring nouveau-gospel. Gahan lyrically still struggles between the dark and the light, but on cautiously exuberant tracks like “Shine” and “You Owe Me” (“Angels are signing / It’s a beautiful sound”), he allows a bit more optimism to illuminate the proceedings.

Leading up to a live appearance at New York”s Town Hall this Thursday the 22nd – followed by dates in London, Berlin, Paris and Milan – we caught up with Gahan to delve into his current state of mind.

 

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Why work with Soulsavers again? You’d think you might want to mix it up a bit.

It was really a continuation, we never stopped writing after the last record. It just slowed down because there was a Depeche album and tour. But I keep working with these people that I’m learning so much from; and they allow me to indulge my thoughts and fantasies and realities, and put them all together into melodies and words.

“Shine” is quite a full on gospel song. 

It’s probably the most optimistic thing I’ve ever written. The lyric came to me one night in Berlin – that sounds very romantic, of course – but it was after a Depeche show where we played this huge open-air stadium, it was a beautiful night, and I felt like I could do anything with my voice, anything with my body. I was strong and healthy and the audience was amazing. I got back to my hotel room, I couldn’t sleep, and the word ‘shine’ kept coming up in my head. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted it to be the first song on the album – before we then take you on a journey through the darker alleyways of life…

There does seem to be a real struggle between darkness and light on this record.

Yeah, and I really do vacillate between the two. The difference on this record is that there’s much less distance between them, they come really close. I have a sense now of feeling a bit more at peace with myself – and that’s just not easy with me. Ask anybody that has had to live with me for any length of time.

You’ve told me that you think your wife Jennifer is a saint.

She continues to be that! She hangs in there with me through thick and thin, and I owe her an awful lot.

“One Thing” is shockingly different for you. Musically, it sounds more like Debussy or Kate Bush. It seems as if it allowed you to challenge your voice.

You’re absolutely right. I reached this point with my voice years ago where I thought, well, this is it, this is just what it is. But somewhere along the way I found that there was much more – I sort of surprised myself, really. After all these years, I’m still teachable.

You continue to struggle with the whole spiritual thing. Are you still finding your way?

That’s a good way to put it. I can spend quite a bit of time really losing my way – that just seems to be the case with me. But there are more moments in my life now where it doesn’t feel like that. Yet I can’t ignore it, it’s informing me all the time; it definitely comes from outside of me, it engulfs me in either the dark or the light. I found the only way I can escape is to write my way out of it.

We touched on this when you recorded “Kingdom.” Do you want to believe in God?

Well, I want to believe in something, I want to feel that there really is something more. I’d like to think that I was completely self-willed, and I certainly can be – yet I also feel this sense of responsibility, which I can’t completely explain. But there’s nothing religious about it at all.

 

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You mean in the sense of what we’ve been taught?

Well, if you think of an image of some guy in the sky with a big beard…that’s where it all totally falls apart.

With each record, you do seem to be able to convey a greater sense of exuberance and optimism amidst all the tribulation. Have you made a truce with your demons?

We definitely walk down the same path, put it that way. And I don’t think those demons are going anywhere. But I now understand that those demons, angels, whatever you want to call them – it’s more like a companionship that you…

You just learn to live with each other?

It’s definitely a marriage, that’s for sure. I see myself in it all, I see the choices I’ve made, and I see where they take me – from the simple things to the more elaborate. But it’s clearer to me that I’m responsible for those choices.

A Depeche Mode live show is still one of the most deviantly erotic experiences one can possibly have. How do you keep it up?

Pure fantasy! I want to take myself and you out of the world that we live in and into this fantastical place – with the help, of course, of the music.

 

 

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