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: 23.10.2008
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: 30, 2013 12:35 pm

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: 23.10.2008
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"Im bleeding Im bleeding"screamed Gore still lying on his back

September 1993 issue NME article #DepecheMode on tour in Hungary during the Devotional Tour [Gavin Martin]

1.PENANCE EXTRA

After years of stadium success, cracks are starting to appear in the fabric of the Depeche Mode organisation as band members fail to communicate with one another, preferring instead to battle with their own personal Jesuses. GAVIN MARTIN joins the faithful, and despite being fed the party line that its all wine and roses, sees something very rotten in the state of Depeche Mode

"You can fulfil/Your wildest ambitions/And Im sure you will/Lose your inhibitions/So open yourself for me/Risk your health for me/If you want my love/If you want my love."

Some lines from Judas, a Martin Gore song, one which David Gahan doesnt sing, on the Songs Of Faith And Devotion album.

DAVID GAHAN is breathless, metaphorically bouncing off the walls, leaping from the couch to illustrate his points. His voice is worn away to a raw husky rasp. Still on that adrenalin-surging, post-showtime high, he has just come offstage after a performance in front of a 25,000 crowd at a football stadium in Budapest, Hungary.

On the table before him theres an inhaler to soothe his throat. His assistant/ helper/handmaiden/protector press officer, dressing room designer, promotional person and bodyguard are close at hand. This is the interview. A quick meeting, 20 minutes, much of it pseudo superstar babble, cut short when someone taps me on the shoulder and calls it to a halt.

The tap on the shoulder is an unnerving detail, redolent of the polite but firm signal that ends a visit to a sick relative in hospital.

By that time David has said so much much more than Martin Gore had to say in an interview lasting three times as long that afternoon its hard to believe the chat has been so brief. It has also been such a sad charade, its hard to believe it has been allowed to happen at all.

Gahans own private dressing room has been transformed into a darkened coven. Candles burn on table tops, on flight cases and other surfaces provided by his makeshift road furniture. Loud music blasts from his hi-fi. Jasmine incense sticks are burned to give the atmosphere he desires. Behind him theres a red carpet, hung against the wall, the final touch in this full rocknroll Parnassian set up. Such are the trappings that befit a Cool Icon, a man playing, or trying to play, the role of A Rock God.

David Gahan has all the trappings, and a few of the problems, of a Rock God. His problems have become Depeche Modes dirty little secret everybody in the camp knows about them but no-one mentions them. Gahan talks about them in vague terms. He means to get things sorted out, he says. But everyone knows a rocknroll tour isnt really the place to start sorting things out.

He doesnt look or sound like a well man. His skin is sickly grey in the half light, his eyes sunk into bluish sockets. Beneath his vest, tattoos embellish his biceps and torso, but the inside of his long skinny arms are all bruised and scratched. Later someone tells me they are scratch marks inflicted by rabid fans who tore their idol apart when he launched himself at them from a stage in Germany.

Depeche Mode have survived, theyve worked hard, and in previous interviews theyve alluded to how they like to play hard too. In a recent interview Gahan denied that he has ever had a drug dependency, adding quickly that he did, at one time, drink too much. His press officer asked the writer not to bring up the drug subject again.

The only time the drug subject surfaces during our chat is when David mentions it. He goes off the record once, but it has nothing to do with drugs. He asks me not to print some information. If you do Ill have to kill you, he says, not too convincingly.

DAVE GAHAN wasnt cut out for a cosy life in the new town of Basildon, the cradle of the 80s Thatcherite revolution. A clean suburb with a nasty underside, Basildon was confirmed as south east Englands still-surviving Tory stronghold at the last election, almost a decade after David made his escape. Early interviews and the Depeche Mode debut single New Life placed Dave and his cohorts in a modernist context, a new type of group for a new era, appropriately rising from a planners dream town.

The effortless rise and rise of Depeche has masked complexities beneath the surface. All the world sees is fame of humungous proportions. The internal struggles, the turmoil played out in their songs, the lavish hedonistic conceit that has grown around them all goes largely unprodded.

People think of Depeche as clean middle class boys. Though he was studying design at college when the band formed, David was from the rough side of town and he was an emotional yoyo as a teenager. Traumatised by his broken home background, he turned to crime and was in several scrapes with the authorities before Depeche provided an escape.

D. A. Pennebakers Depeche Mode documentary movie 101 gives a glimpse into how fame affects a young man like David Gahan. Made in 1989, Pennebakers movie captures Depeche at the point where cult following has become mass phenomenon, focussing on a status-sealing show at the 70,000 capacity Pasadena Rosebowl Stadium. Ostensibly 101 is about the bands huge stateside following and lucre-crazed nature of The Bigtime Rock Event (their toytown capitalist satire Everything Counts provides the recurring keynote). But Pennebaker is an acutely sussed documentarist and when he zeroes in on David Gahan, the footage used is very revealing.

Two scenes stick in the mind. In a hotel room in the middle of the tour, David graphically illustrates a fight hes had a few nights previously with a taxi driver.

"Letting out all that built up energy and tension like you do onstage its not enough, youve still got more," he explains to the interviewer. "That was definitely a release. I was looking for a fight for a good few days."

At the main event, his wife and baby child are in attendance, flown out especially for the Rosebowl triumph. David seems to carry it all off easily, orchestrating the chanting crowd onstage, playing the doting daddy offstage. But when he comes to the end of the show hes ravaged.

"I was thinking about the whole thing during the gig, everyone. I couldnt stop crying, yknow?" he says, falling into the arms of a Depeche crew member. Just as he seems to be about to break down the camera pulls away.

Gahan tried to make a go of it. In 1987 he was enjoying his 19th Top 20 hit, but he told an interviewer he was still looking for his long-lost father. Maybe when I have a family of my own it will stop me thinking about my dad. He tried to settle down into a marriage with his local girl bride, Joanne, who was running the groups fanclub. He tried to do what friends call the Essex thing. But he was leading a schizophrenic life, joining in the wild hedonistic pursuits of his colleagues on tour while trying to keep a home life going. Inevitably he eventually split with his wife and kid. Then he fell under the influence of, and fell in love with, Teresa Conway.

Conway is the fresh-faced blond publicist featured in 101. Later she worked with Janes Addiction. By the time she married Gahan, last year, shed become a thin-faced brunette. 1992 was also the year when David had to bury the estranged father hed never really got to know, and as he did so he was stung by the realisation that the same sort of relationship was beginning to develop between him and his own son. To top it all, arguments with the band raged during the making of Songs Of Faith And Devotion in Spain. None of the others even attended his wedding to Teresa. But the story was hed come through it all hardened, matured, a man.

Spend some time around the Depeche camp, see Davids forlorn little expressions, hear his thinly veiled cries for help; the opposite seems to be the case. Gahan is treated with something bordering on mild contempt by at least one of his colleagues. Did he meet you in his harem then? sneers keyboard and business operative Andy Fletcher when we get back to the hotel after the interview.

Gahan is like a lost child. He is fronting an outfit which give or take Martin Gores dalliance with bondage gear and leather skirts isnt noted for its extrovert image. Whats more, hes trying to cater for a phenomenal, monstrous following. Thats the thing Depeche have become bigger than anyone every imagined. In Hungary they have become a neo religious cult, inspired by the dark mystery and chilling invocations that run through their most memorable music.

Blonde-haired Chico Marx look-alike Martin Gore bank clerk turned black arts investigator, choirboy come existentialist, geek as svengali writes the Mode meditations on lust and sin and death and envy. But it is Gahan who sells them, who sings them, who is at the cutting edge where band meets fan. How do you deal with that? Davids solution seems to become the new Peter Pan of Pop.

The Janes Addiction song Wings is playing on his ghetto blaster. He lowers the volume but, when asked how the show went, he keeps talking about Wings anyway, on his feet, arms aloft, playing out some fantasy in his mind.

"Now with "Wings" thats just actually how it is, thats the song. I was just sitting listening to that before you came in and I saw this band at their last gig in Irvine Meadows in California, me and my wife, we were both there and This f-ing song was just like it was tonight, it just BLEWMEAWAY!

"It was just like everybody could have wings for one night. Thats the greatest feeling and this is possibly my all time greatest song for everything. Everybody has wings. You just have to fly," he says.

By everyones estimation, even the partisan Depeche crew, the gig David has just played was a lukewarm affair, a chill Eastern European response compared to the hot blooded Latin reception of their Spanish shows the week before. Gahan never really gave the impression of being at the match. Sure, stadium gigs are a hard place to communicate with the audience but it wasnt that. His performance was disconnected, flailing helplessly as he tried to brandish and capture a spurious sense of bigness.

If he said thank you and howled into the mic once he must have done it a thousand times. I like Depeche Mode music. With their most recent LPs, I think theyve sculpted something exceptional in English pop, but seeing the show, I wish Id stayed home with the records. Gahan was worse than remote, he was truly wrapped up in his own world. No amount of design, stage projection or help from the back-up singers or FX could mask it.

BACK IN the dressing room Janes Addiction play on. I ask David, who was running with the Basildon punk contingent when he joined Depeche, what he thinks about when hes onstage.

"The people and the energy and the f-ing feeling, the feeling, the feeling thats there now for the first time. And thats yknow Ive never felt that before. I dont think so, not really. Maybe a couple of times in places like The Rosebowl, maybe some gigs but not like tonight.

"Tonight I felt like shit. I felt like Ive got a f-ed-up voice. Im just borrowing time. But you go on there and you see all these people and theyre all waiting all day and you can just smell em. So you just gotta f-ing go for it. And when you touch them its just incredible, theyll kill you. They tried to a couple of times."

Somewhere during the previous week David looked at the audience. He saw this great heaving mass of arms and faces as he went to the lip of the stage. He stood mesmerised by the colours, the energy, the sound of adulation, he went closer and peered into the whirlpool. Then we went too far, wobbled and fell in.

His voice is hardly there at all as he recounts the adventure. He gets back on his feet, teetering on the brink of an imaginary precipice.

"The true story is in Mannheim I just went too far, too far to the front of the stage. I could hear it. You f-ing idiot youve gone too far! I just knew I wasnt going to go back. So that was the first time. I thought, f- it I may as well fly into them, theyre going to pick me up. So I just went for it and got one of the biggest charges I ever got in my f-ing life, getting back onstage. They just tear you apart. They want something like everybody f-ing does I suppose."

If theres one thing Gahans performance shows, its that he knows people want something. He seems to want something too, he seems to want them to take him, to swallow him up, to complete or obliterate the spiritual tragedy played out in his bands songs. So he does the 360 degree spins, the Christ-like martyr poses, the bravura put your hands together spell, the pouting, the preening, the odd bit of crotch grabbing. Its whats expected.

Conscious, perhaps, that hes not the prime creative force in the band, David must feel that hes somehow at the centre of this Mode thing onstage and off. As hes talking, the backstage party is in full swing outside. Somehow he must make it his concern too so he asks a flunky.

"Hows things out there? Has everyone got what they want, everybody happy?"

Yes, someone reassures him, everybodys happy.

DAVID HAD appeared backstage briefly before the show, slapping colleagues on the back, sipping tequila, like a good chap ready to go over the top, to take on the multitude. Okey cokey, he said, all vim and vigour. But he looked woozy, glazed, a benign softness settled over his face as he posed with the lucky young prizewinners of an MTV competition. Theyd all been invited to spend the last week of the European tour on the road with Depeche Mode. Twenty of them flying on the bands charter jet, seeing the sights, seeing the shows. Nonetheless the winners were a bit perturbed when Margaret, the promotional person, took David and his glazed grin away so soon.

Margaret had assured the MTV teens thered be lots more time to meet and greet with the band. That seemed unlikely. Relating to the teen market may be vital to keep a pop phenomenon buoyant and refreshed, but Depeche have spent long years in the glossy girl/teen mags, now it was becoming a chore. Earlier in the week, Mick the press officer had phoned to ask Gahan would he give him a lip print for a feature in a teen publication. How many times do you want to hear the F word used in this conversation? was his response.

However, somebody in the Depeche Mode camp obviously does like young girls. After the show in Hungary there was a whole retinue of them, fresh faced pubescents, some unable to speak more than a few words of English, clad in stockings and suspenders. Eagerly lined up to enter the hallowed portals behind the scenes at a rocknroll event.

The Tour programme stresses the comparison between the Depeche Mode 1993 Roadshow and a military campaign. Its a point well taken considering the phalanx of crew, advisors and strategians that they, and indeed any late 20th century stadium rock show, employs. No doubt these young girls have their place in that comparison, especially in Hungary. Hungary is itself on the border of a full-scale real life warzone in Yugoslavia. As a result, it has a refugee population close to a million. Two by-products of this influx are growing social tension and the biggest porn centre in Eastern Europe. There are people here men, women, kids running from unspeakable horrors. In a country with 30% inflation they do what they can to get by. A basketball hall at the back of the stadium provides the makeshift staging post for the Depeche tour team. Black cloth walls have been erected between tour management and catering, between the bands play area and the eating area. After the show beer, wine and tequila flow, sumptuous platters are laid on. Theres music blasting and all these pretty young girls and even a few lads milling around. It could be a school disco or even one of those emergency centres set up across the border, a place the whole community gathers to rally round from incoming threats. It could be something almost comical in its innocence, the girls dressed up like that, sitting round watching the band playing table football. Or it could be something unbearably sleazy, the beginning of a dive into debauchery.

I mean how did these girls get here, who rounded them up?

You soon realise that some of them must be the girls youve read about in previous Depeche Mode interviews. The girls who are always there for the band and crew when they need to be entertained. A tonic for the troops. Theres a girl from France who is following them all across Europe, she met them during the last tour in Paris and now is provided with passes and tickets everywhere she goes. The food and drink provided here after the show makes it cheaper and easier for her to stay on the tour. Theres a young girl from Germany with a T shirt that says F- school, f- work, f- this, f- that, f- you, f- me F- everything, basically.

And then there are the lads. The lads, like many others in Hungary, have hit on the late 80s Depeche look slicked back hair, white jeans and leather jackets as their uniform. To the visitor from Britain they were reminiscent of moonstomping skinhead boot boys. There was something uniform, totalitarian about the way they joined together holding hands aloft in triumphant glory, or slamming the air with their fist during Behind The Wheel. They really did seem to be a law unto themselves, an example of the way Depeche have grown, become something that the band can no longer hope or want to control.

What do these young Hungarian men get out of Depeche Mode? Its hard to know; their actions backstage only add to the puzzle. There they were, gathered round while Martin Gore, Alan Wilder and Andrew Fletcher played table football. Fletcher is known as the Depeche money man but he hates to be called a manager. Just say he looks after the business side of things, journalists are told. Whats the difference? You may well ask. Its not hard to get the feeling that Fletcher is fed up being thought of as a backroom type while David Gahan gets all the glory.

Inevitably and somewhat poignantly Fletcher, the least glamourous of the Mode men, is the object of the Hungarian boys affections. There he is, head down studiously going for goal, herbal Yoga tea to hand, unaware that behind him the lads have unfurled a banner emblazoned with the legend Andy Is God GIVE ME PLEASURE LITTLE FLETCHER. Fletcher gets his goal easily Martin Gore has collapsed in hysterics with the unfurling of the banner.

MARTIN GORE had talked about being on tour with Depeche Mode earlier in the afternoon. Gore was hunched over a table in the lobby of the Depeche hotel, an architectural nightmare, like it had been brought to Budapest straight from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Gore had a tour anorak pulled over his head, furtively reading recent press reports, hiding from the fans, the so called Depeches who were on 24 hour vigil outside his hotel. He couldnt understand it; hed been all round Europe but had never encountered anything like The Depeches, Hungarys very own youth cult who took their style, slogans and rationale from his band. He balked at the suggestion that this had ever been the bands intention. Ive never heard of anything more ridiculous, he spluttered. If youre going to start a movement and base it on a band, you should at least get a better name for it.

The road to Hungary began in April when Depeche Mode sat in Londons Ministry of Sound Club and were satellite linked to fans round the world. Lots of intense young girls and boys, vetted prior to transmission, waited in line to ask solemn questions about the meaning of Mode, the philosophy in their songs, the gravity of their music. In Germany one young man was so overcome with the idea of speaking to his idols that the pressure built up all day until, when it came time to ask his question, he fainted.

There had been other mishaps too, places where the campaign had faltered. In America, Depeches affluent unofficial but computer-linked fan club somehow got hold of an early numbered copy of the Songs Of Faith And Devotion album, far in advance of its official release. Tapes of the album were being exchanged, advertised through the computer network. Reviews were being swopped onscreen between the fans. It was a big deal, like someone had got hold of a top secret military strategy. The Depeche battle plan for the next two years was out in the open before the Mode machine had even put it into operation. A full investigation was ordered into how the leak had occurred; record company employees cowered. But no culprit was found, there was no court martial.

Still the Devotional tour rolled out across the continent. Gahan out front while his three cohorts provided the groups impressive diseased, decadent sound on a raised podium far above him. Together with their arty porn back projections marching girls with the horned heads of mythical beasts, close-ups of breasts and navels Depeche wooed the big stadium crowds.

Always, wherever they went, there went parties, girls, the pleasures of the flesh, the fruits of the world laid at their feet. On the afternoon before the show, as he sipped his coke, Gore (or Mister Iscariot as the writer of Judas calls himself on the hotel register) was being approached by fans asking for autographs, offering drinks, trying to recommend the best after hours entertainment Budapest had to offer.

"For me, it always seems that Im stepping out of real life into a film," reflected Gore in his funny little lisping voice.

"From the moment you start on the first day of the tour until you get home it just seems youre living in a total fantasy land."

How do you deal with that?

"Personally I just accept it, try to have as much fun as I can in fantasy land and then come back down to earth at the end of it."

Sounds like you can do anything you want, if its fantasy land.

"Yeah, pretty much."

Are there any dangers in that?

"Im sure there are."

The interview with Gore provided slim pickings for the quote hungry. His answers werent evasive exactly, though they did seem circumspect. I had not seen Gahan when I spoke to Gore, hadnt witnessed the frankly disturbing state the singer was in. Naturally, like any songwriter, Gore denied that his Songs Of Faith And Devotion were written for any one person or about any particular subject. But later Gahan would seize on them, saying the songs on the new record related directly to him.

That gave them a creepy quality was he singing the songs of penitence, punishment, persecution and turmoil or were they singing him, providing him with a pit to fall into? Was he following the well-beaten paths of rock tragedians, playing out a fantasy for the band and the fans alike?

Gore described the aforementioned Judas, with its sepulchral tone and its creepy vision of real love tied to a willingness to risk death, as an arrogant love song. He said the Aids reference gave the song counterweight, balanced it against the many nice love songs hed written. Judas has a lure and an abiding fascination common to Depeches strongest material, a sense of danger and foreboding ripples beneath its surface. Gore didnt argue with that.

"I can never work out if Im just being realistic or if Im a total hypochondriac. That probably comes through in the music. Maybe its not real danger at all and Im an eternal pessimist but sometimes I think its based on reality."

Martin Gore gets touchy when its suggested, but he definitely is a strange boy and that has been a vital factor in defining the Depeches perverse pop appeal. Though he was never a Christian, Gore went to church as a teenager because there was nothing else to do in Basildon on a Sunday night and he had a fascination with belief and religion. A fascination which has subsequently been played out in many of his songs.

Much has been made of the fact that Gore moved to Berlin in the mid-80s and started to wear a leather skirt onstage and in photographs. Hes well weary of the subject.

"Its only in England. Nobody mentions it anywhere else. Its like an English hang-up. Why is it that whenever theres a fancy dress party in Britain, every man goes dressed as a woman? I did it because I didnt want the macho image, its no big deal."

Pushed to the writing forefront when Vince Clarke departed the band (ostensibly because he didnt want to be in a pop band but more likely, says Gore, because he couldnt stand to be part of a democracy) Gores songs have propelled Depeche Mode, making them the archetypal English ideas band. Although hes embarrassed now by the groups first two albums (Speak And Spell and A Broken Frame) he thinks that they have become their most influential records on the subsequent development of Britpop and even the American house scene. Hailed as pioneers of Detroit dance, the group made a trip to that city in 1988 but they didnt like it and arent keen to go back.

Depeche albums have slyly tackled weighty concepts, gathering force and authority all the while. With Construction Time Again, Gore posited a nouveau socialist manifesto; Music For The Masses dabbled in totalitarian imagery; Violator was deadly in its simplicity, deep in its grandeur consummate electro blues and Devotion uses gospel fire to fuel its lost pilgrim pleas. With the Black Celebration album in 1988, the one-time cheery electro poppers successfully moved in on the constituency of goth; songs of dominance and subservience, a little gloom and doom and the black arts ranked high in its appeal.

Last time Gore spoke to the NME he said he was reading a lot of black magic books but had not come to any conclusions. Ask him about it now and he deals with the question the way Aleister Crowley fanatic Jimmy Page would.

"(Long pause) this stuff always sounds really bad in print so I think Im more aware now of some spiritual things and I do believe in good and evil. Other than that if you delve into it in print it sounds naff."

"Condemnation", the new single, sounds like a dialogue with God, a wracked judgement day confession.

"Thats roughly what its about. Ive always said you demystify songs if you say they are about a specific incident, it makes it sound so bland."

What frightens you?

"I think death for some strange reason. Death in general, specifically my own death, thats why Im a total hypochondriac. I cant work out if its normal to be a hypochondriac. I think its normal for men to be hypochondriacs.

"Every now and then on tour I have these panic attacks where I think my heart is beating too fast, my pulse seems strange in my arms and I think Id better get a doctor, I think Im going to die at any moment. Then I talk to all the men on the road with us and they all have them, all my male friends at home have them too.

"The funny thing is its virtually all men that have them, women dont seem to have them at all. Men must have massive egos and are always worried about dying whereas women just get on with life."

IF GORE gets panic attacks on tour, what must it be like for Gahan? While Martin is somewhere up near the stage roof, having done his bit at the songwriting stage, David is out front carrying the weight.

Back in his dressing room, ranting about what sounds like the best show since Moses did his turn in the Red Sea, Gahan still seems to be out on his own.

"Well thats pretty much what it looked like for a while, but now its not like that. I think it was like that for a long while, yeah, when weve played live. It was never a problem in the band it was just my job. I wanted something very different this time I wanted to feel like I was playing with people. And I wanted that from day one with the record and pushed really hard for it, and I think thats why, in lots of ways, we achieved things like "I Feel You". Wed never really rocked that hard, yknow? Without me bullying everybody to hell it wouldnt have happened.

"I bullied Alan into drumming because I said I want live drums. Fletcher thought Id gone crazy, he said Daves gone crazy, he wants drums, next thing hell want backing singers. And I did. Martins songs are like Condemnation and stuff and straightaway you know you have to do them in a gospel way.

"Martin was writing beautiful songs and sending them to me. I was getting them and every one was like a f-ing jigsaw puzzle at the time."

There must be certain songs that youve sang that you feel closer to than others.

"With this album I felt that every single song on the album, even the songs that Martin sang, were the best things he could have done for me at the time. As a friend to a friend he kind of helped me to heal a lot of my personal problems and he wasnt even trying. When youve been in a band for 13 years together its four weird energies, and I think now with Depeche Mode we really can do anything."

You were saying that Martins songs helped your personal problems, had you considered music as a healing force before?

"My attitude has changed, my whole life has changed really. Theres certain things that maybe didnt used to be so important to me and theyre now very, very important."

Like what?

"It doesnt matter, I dont think I really need to name anything but I think Im getting things in the right order now. Finally starting" He laughs

"Theres just a few things Ive still got to get right. I feel really good about I love going onstage and playing. I hate all the rest of the shit doing tours, doing interviews, all this kind of shit to be quite honest. But I do love that couple of hours I get to go out there and do whatever I f-ing like basically.


2. TATTOO UNLIMITED

Return to the manor of the Rock Gods! In the second instalment of the touring madness that is DEPECHE MODEs Hungarian foray, GAVIN MARTIN gets that inking feeling while DAVID GAHAN gets the needle down at the tattoo parlour, returns to scary Basildon, opens up to his audience, and considers the future of the Mode. And thats before the live sex party in London gets swinging

DEPECHE MODE are gathered back at their hotel bar base camp for their three days in Hungary. Theyve played their game of table football, watched by the girls and boys backstage, after the gig. Now its time to fuel up with some more juice before hitting the town a grubby little disco bar in a backwater of Budapest.

Andy Fletcher has thrown caution, and Yoga tea, to the wind and is taking his chances with a sizeable draught of lager. The last time Fletcher was interviewed by the NME the journalist started out by asking if he drank a lot on the road. The press officer was livid: sat behind the journalist, he started signalling to Fletcher to terminate the interview. The subsequent feature was given as the reason why the band refused to meet NME for many months.

They had finally decided to talk to the paper earlier this year, but when we ran a vintage 1985 Depeche Mode feature in our Rock Of Ages series they thought we were taking the piss and the whole thing was put back again. A touchy lot, pop stars.

Martin Gore is staving off one of his panic attacks by blagging a Nurofen off a girl from his record company. Soon hell be off charging round the bar, playing piggyback fights until he falls off his carriers back. The tequila slammer-fuelled horseplay was always heading that way, building up to a peak.

"Is it always like this?" gasps the serious young Hungarian girl when Gore fell over.

"Im bleeding, Im bleeding," screamed Gore still lying on his back.

Concerned faces peered down at the little blond stick-man. Then he leapt up with a cheeky grin on his face. He wasnt bleeding at all, and he was ready for another tequila slammer. And so the romp continued.

David Gahan made a brief appearance before retiring early. Unlike the others, he had early-morning video-shoot duties to perform. Gahan sat at a table where someone was discussing the concept of Political Correctness. Whats that? he asked. The PC ideal was duly explained to him. Hmmm, sounds really boring, said The Thin One before sloping off to his lair.

Alan Wilder is described by some as the Keith Richards of the band, meaning he sculpts the sound of their records with producer Flood, fills out the Depeche canvas, gives vital tension, drama and atmosphere to Martin Gores potentially morbid ditties. These days, ten years ahead of schedule, he is also taking on the appearance of the latter-day Sir Keef. Wilder by name, Wilder by nature knocking back double tequila shots and his face is becoming a well-worn road map of rocknroll excess.

Judith, the serious young Hungarian girl, had got short shrift when she approached Alan Wilder earlier with an enquiry about his band, and shed taken an instant dislike to him. Judith was the only person that spoke English among her group of friends. Shed been able to get into the bands hotel because shed been working at their show, voluntarily handing out AIDS awareness leaflets in a tent pitched at the back of the stadium.

She wasnt interested in the band the way the other little girls with stockings and suspenders and F- me T-shirts were, but Judith wanted to talk to Depeche because shed invested a lot of time in their music. She and her friends had hired out a big civic hall in Budapest once every month for almost six years. Drawing between 1500 and 2000 fans each month, this was the biggest Depeche convention in Budapest, though there were smaller ones held in smaller venues every week. Depeche nights had become the rallying point for Judith and her friends during their teenage years, providing food, drink, Depeche chat, Depeche stories, Depeche records.

It was a phenomenon that had outlasted even the Russian empire collapse of the late 80s. Now as those momentous changes were still having their effect, Judith and her friends were more conscious than ever that Hungary was at a crossroads. They watched events unfold across the border in Yugoslavia with considerable trepidation. They knew about the refugee problem, the camps outside of Budapest packed with people on the run from the war.

"It wont happen here," I was told later by the young Hungarian outside the hotel, "were good people, we dont want a war." You had to hope they were right, but it was only 50 years ago, during the Nazi occupation, that the local Jewish population were drowned in the Danube, the river that runs through Budapest. Dominated by the Nazis, then the Russians, Hungary was a country where it must have been hard to hold on to or even to find something to believe in. Things were moving again in this part of the world, heading in a dangerous direction, and for these young people the future wasnt clear. Maybe thats why they still held their Depeche devotion dear.

It was a hard thing to explain, a hard thing to understand what Depeche Mode meant here, Judith explained, but it was something special, something that the bands followers elsewhere might be surprised by. The Depeche club was now something that had become bigger than the band, lots of kids with problems, dysfunctional kids, kids with backgrounds not unlike David Gahans, in fact, from delinquent backgrounds and broken homes had come together at these nights. Depeche Mode was the common link that had provided a spur helping the kids discover themselves, to forge their own identity and develop relationships with like-minded souls.

WHY DID Depeche Mode, out of all the bands who made music during the 80s, mean so much to these young Hungarians? Obviously their imagery and sound was immediately recognisable as European, breaking with the Anglo-American pop hegemony. But it was more than that. Judith said that Martin Gores songs discussed things that often go unspoken, problems and fears that are usually hidden away. She said shed always cherish the times at the club and the friends shed made there, that Depeche Mode meant something much more to her than a pop band.

Judith started to feel embarrassed. Her boyfriend kept goading her to go and ask some serious questions of Martin or Andy. But neither of them seemed to be in any mood to talk in great depth at this time of the night. So she bided her time and watched them.

She reckoned that Fletch was the nicest, the most approachable. She thought that Martin Gore wasnt being his natural self, that he was putting on a rock-star tour-madness act because it was what was expected of him. She was repelled by Alan Wilder, he looked dreadful and she didnt think it was right the way he was messing round with the young girls at the bar. When he left the hotel for more tequila at the disco club, a group of Hungarian fans clambered outside at the window. Wilder staggered up towards them. Go on, f- off! he said. Get away from the f-ing window.

And then there was David Gahan.

The Depeche club were worried about David. They knew he had problems, you didnt need to see him up close for too long to see that. Theyd read about them in interviews, and they thought that Martin Gore had tried to help him with the songs hed written for the new LP they heard them as gifts from a friend, prayers for help and forgiveness. But David still didnt look well. They hoped that he would get better, they didnt want him to be a martyr for their religion.

Back at the hotel at 5am, after a few hours at Dull Disco, there was still a tribe of Depeches camped at the door. The girls were all dressed in black sackcloth, some carrying posters and some carrying scrapbooks of Depeche trivia. One kid, a gypsy crustie type had matted hair, rings of dirt round her face and the words punk forever on her baseball boots. Some of the boys brandished home-made Depeche passes, favouring an archive colour group shot from 1987 bound up in card and sticky tape. They wanted me to bring David Gahan down to see them. All they wanted was a hello. Theyd been waiting there all day couldnt I just tap on his door and ask? Surely he couldnt refuse, they reasoned.

Why Depeche Mode, I wondered, whats the big thing with them? They told me that its all to do with the sadness, that Depeche Mode music doesnt ignore sadness, that it puts sadness at its centre and recognises that sadness is the most common experience in the world, something everyone can relate to.

It wasnt a cheery note on which to say goodnight and it probably wasnt what David Gahan, 20 floors above and three hours away from his video shoot, wanted to hear.

BACK IN his dressing room earlier the previous evening, Gahan considered what hed be doing if he wasnt the object of the kids affections, if he wasnt a singer.

"Id be a mass murderer or something like that," he laughs. "Thats not really true. Yknow what? Even when I was a little kid I swear when I was a little kid I used to walk to school and try and miss every crack in the pavement. I know everybodys done this but my thing was I was just going to do something and all this school crap could f- off. Because I hated school, from day one I wanted to get out of there, yknow, I really hated it. So I just knew I was going to do something else.

"Compared to my other mates I didnt fit in very well with any kind of I moved around a lot, put it that way. I had a lot of mates, a lot of people I could go to hang out with that I could pick for different sorts of moods. Violent ones, druggy ones, just girls."

You had a criminal record before you put out a record

"Dont bring that up again, I have enough trouble trying to get in and out of places as it is."

When you jumped into the audience last week, did you know no fear?

"Thats the whole point. I learned that in Mannheim when I accidentally did it. I thought, if Im going to do it, Im really going to do it, Im going to do it as if Im diving off the top board at Basildon at 16 at Oswald Park swimming pool. Me and my mate Jay used to dive off the top, get up enough courage to dive off that top board. You just go, YES! Somebodys going to pick you up, they can rip you apart but they eventually will put you back up.

"You feel it, its scary, its a weird thing with all these hands, a million hands all over you, pulling you, and you see faces and suddenly you see someone like one of our security guards and theyre like, Dave, we got you. They ripped my shirt off, it was really funny. If theyd done it tonight there was no way Id have got out, no way. Im not that strong."

How do you feel about your audience? You must have mixed feelings.

"I hate the ones that try to be cool were going to have a good time but stand back. That English thing, yknow. I think in general theyve been right with us all the way. It gets a little bit more every time, little steps."

Do you wonder how youll relate to a new, younger generation of Depeche fans?

"The only way I think about that is because I have a son. And I feel although I dont really have any responsi My son is with my ex-wife. Anyway so anyway, but I still feel responsibility of the fact that I would want him to be to see everything, to experience things, to make up his own mind. I think thats something Ive learned through touring around with Depeche Mode because I had f- all education at school, apart from that I could paint. Everything else was just boring."

You said earlier that you dont like interviews.

"Its not so much that. I like talking to people, its what it gets turned into. You try to be open with people and just talk and sometimes you might go a little bit off because maybe youre trying to feel in a different mood to what you just felt. I cant really explain that."

You were talking about your divorce in interviews earlier this year. Doesnt it annoy you that you have to do that? Surely its nobodys business.

Now I feel like that and if you ask me any questions about that, Id have to say that, and I know youd respect that. I obviously had to talk about some stuff so I think it helped me a lot, in some way I hope it didnt hurt Joanne.

You didnt get much education, but youve become a pop star. Do you have to learn how to do that?

"Yeah, you do. Im getting really good at it now (laughs). No, the best thing about it for me now is I know weve made a really brilliant record, I feel really proud of it. I think Violator was the first step to what Songs Of Faith And Devotion achieved, the band starting to work together a lot more to get some emotion from things that maybe werent there when, say, Martin just wrote the songs. Alan and I would work very hard to just build things, were really into atmospheres and stuff.

"Its not just, Martin writes a song and thats it. I mean he loves Neil Young and I love Neil Young too, but Im not putting Martin down in any way its just that after hes written it he thinks hes done what he has to do."

Do you share the writing credit?

"Naw Its just Martin."

Doesnt that annoy you? I couldnt imagine many people wanting to listen to a Gore song before its been through the Mode machine.

"Umm, I sort of felt with this album that it was a little bit unfair. Not because Martin didnt write all the songs. He wrote the songs and theyre brilliant songs and umm. Yknow, everything came from him, but everybody else also worked really hard to really put some real emotion down. Alan would stay there forever, basically. I was just trying to feel much more than Id ever felt about words and melodies and highs and lows."

Had you felt disaffected in the past?

"I felt I just kicked myself in the arse and said, What do you really wanna do, what are you really like? Pick, yknow? What do you want? Do you want the big fancy house in the country with loads of cars or do you wanna go somewhere and just live with people and just hang out and stuff like that?

"Thats me now, yknow? Now Ive got enough space to really get into music, not thinking about that kind of stuff, like, ahh, I wonder if I can, like, buy a car or something. What would I want to think about shit like that any more for?"

Is being on tour still a helter-skelter experience for you, emotional highs followed by depressing lows?

"Totally, yeah. I mean, youre lucky youre here, really. I might have just been saying, Tell him I dont want to f-ing do it, tell him Im ill. Im really high from the f-ing gig, yknow, its When its like that

"I wont even sleep tonight. Ive got to get up and go and do some Ive got to go off with (Anton) Corbijn into the f-ing woods and do the Condemnation bit. But, really, I have fun with doing that. Its just the eight oclock morning, you gotta get over it."

You say you changed everything about yourself. The first thing people say is you changed the way you look. Is it more than that?

"I dont think I even Its funny, you know, cos I know my hair got long, stuff like that, but Ive always had beards, played around with beards and stuff ever since, like, I could ever grow one to be quite honest.

"And then I just it was just like I said, I put my brain into a lot of different things, like I went out and I went to clubs and I started listening to music again. And I started seeing bands and getting into a band and following them around and getting into that feeling. Bands like Janes (Addiction), that was mainly due to my wife, because she was working for em. Instead of me doing the gig, I would just be able to go to the gig and hang out. It was great, really."

Was that like following The Clash round when you were a kid?

"Yeah, it was the same sort of thing, but it was the Damned with me. I didnt get The Clash until I was a little older, on account of my education (laughs).

When did you first get a tattoo?

"When I was 14 at Southend seafront, by a man called Clive. Hed a tattoo round his neck cut here, with all the dots. He was like a sort of sailor guy, perfect. That one there

He shows me one of the old-style, rough-and-ready designs.

"A collectors item? Yeah they love it now, the people that work on me now, when they see this, its like, Who done that? All these guys know each other, its a whole scene in Amsterdam, f-ing Los Angeles, in London, in Japan its like they all know each other, its a real clan. Tattooists, they stick together. When they see this, they flip out especially Bob, who done a lot of stuff on me, this guy called Bob Roberts from L.A."

What was the last thing you had done?

"The last I had done was two weeks before I left. I had to have the first bit done and then it had to heal a bit and then I had to go and have the rest done. But I had to get it done, wed drawn it and everything and so

"It was like my wings, really, for the tour (a massive pair etched on his back). It was, like, my weapon for the tour if you can do this, you can do anything, yknow? If you can sit under the needle for ten hours, you can do anything, man.

It was sore, then?

"Pretty sore for a while. You forget how many times its nice to do that (he stretches), and you cant for about two weeks. It really killed me. Then of course we went into rehearsals, it was funny. But I had to have it done, I had to do it. Charlie, Bobs younger son, drew it on my back. He worked on it for ages. I have to go back, actually. Hes missed a few bits out.

When did you start grabbing your crotch onstage?

"Oh, I think that goes back a long way (laughs). I think I started doing that when I was about seven, grabbing my crotch. Now Ive got the opportunity to do it in public. Remember what I said about being a mass murderer.

What other music do you listen to?

"Im serious about Janes Addiction because I still feel they could have been quite possibly the greatest band in the world, but they blew it because of dope, or whatever, which is really sad."

Are you friendly with Perry Farrell?

"I dont want to get into that stuff, thats, like, private, your private life. I like Nick Cave, the Stones a lot, my mate makes compilations of all kinds of stuff Lynyrd Skynyrd. Stuff like that I really like, the Mid-West boogie, the old biker rockers."

Do you ever go back to Basildon?

"Scary but, yes, Ive been back a few times. In the last six years Ive been back about three times. I get my mum to come to London. Im like, Mum, bring the flat round with you. I just feel like Im going to get arrested there or something. I walk out at the station and Im like, I want to go back, I want to go back. I really do, its f-ing horrible.

"I walk past the taxi rank where Ive been beaten up so many times or had a fight. The cab rank after the Mecca. F-ing hell, Basildon. Its scary because you go back there and its exactly the same. Its just a different generation. Very scary."

How long can Depeche Mode continue?

(Groans) I knew you were going to ask that question. I think its up to us, really. Its up to all of us to feel we want to do it, of course.

"You know, theres no way Id make another record with the band or I know its the same with Alan, everyones the same, unless they really felt it was worth it. Because were still, you know everyones I know we can make another great record. But you just really got to want to do it. I think after this tour if we, yknow

"Its a long way to go yet, we dont finish until July or August next year. After that, everybody is going to want to take a lot of time off. To do some just to go and yknow aah."

Have you ever been in a fist fight with anyone in the band?

"I actually havent, no. Fletch has had a fight with everyone but me. Hes never actually tried to hit me. But just lately I think hes potentially been thinking about it."

David doesnt get the next question, my diction or my accent has him foxed.

"Where the f- are you from?" he screams.

London, say I.

"But where is that accent from?"

Ireland, say I.

"But its mixed with London now. Its just like Blade Runner, isnt it?

Eh?

"Soon theres going to be another f-ing language everywhere. Its getting hard to talk to people. What are they talking about?"

What do you like to do apart from music?

"I cant wait to do the next thing, really. Aww, yknow, just Ive actually got lots and lots of friends now. I spend a lot of time with my friends. Its something Id forgot how to do, I think I sort of really isolated myself, not even intentionally but over the years I had. Now Ive made a lot of really, really good friends, good people. Mostly women, I may point out as well."

Thats cool, its not illegal yet.

"Totally cool, especially when theyre all really good-looking as well (Cue hysterical schoolboy laughter of desperation).

Its time to play that old game: Ive-had-more-totty-than-youve-had-hot-dinners-before-you-were-even-born-kid.

Davids about to embark on the sort of spiel I havent heard since Weeper The One-Ball Wonder took us young uns round the campfire and told us about his sexual exploits nearly 20 years ago

"I had an older sister that had a lot of really nice girlfriends. So I used to walk to school with a lot of nice girls. I was like the young little the young little brother they all needed to explore, so I had a lot of fun, actually, in my youth (cue mad laugh).

So you were used to it? It wasnt really like winning the lottery when you became a pop star?

"Oh no. I learned pretty fast, I must say. I must boast."

You were cut out for this life.

"You might say that (more mad laughter) its up to you. I didnt say it.

The tap on the shoulder is about to come. So its time for a chatty query. Seen any good movies recently?

"We havent really had the chance. Theres in-house movies, stuff like that we have in the hotel, but I can never work out how to use the f-ing machine. I just play movies and forget about it, plug in the guitar and the ghetto-blaster, forget about it."

THE NEXT day Im in a taxi cab speeding towards central London with the Depeche Mode press officer. David Gahan is the cover star on a listings mag flagging the bands show at Crystal Palace that weekend. The cover line reads: Crucifixion Or Resurrection: The Making Of A Rock God. The press officer asks me what I think of the feature. The piece plays to the Depeche myth, David as a Rock God, ranting about the gig hes just played being extra special, everything is hunky dory.

It feeds the fans what they want to hear. I guess it serves the magazines purposes, I tell them, though I feel that its not the real Depeche story, that its a con job.

"It serves its purpose for us, too," decides the press officer.

Three days later, its early in the morning on August 1 at Londons Crystal Palace and The End Of The Depeche Mode European Tour Party is in full swing. After this they have a month off, then the campaign goes out to America. Theres vague talk that the tour may be 18 months long, but no one really believes it.

Theres a party within the party. In the middle of the floor, a leathery-faced security guy with shades and a walkie-talkie stands outside the door which provides the entry, up a spiral staircase, to the VIP free tequila and champagne bar. Only the band and their special guests are allowed in, so unlucky plebs like myself stand and wonder whats going on up there.

Apparently whats going on up there is LIVE SEX ACTS. Keen to protect their decadent image, Depeche have invited along performers statuesque girls, suitably attired in conical bras, fishnet tights and no knickers. A bloke with a laminate describes the goings-on in the VIP bar as very enjoyable.

I think about the allegations made about ritual abuse inside a certain heavy metal band and wonder if this sort of thing is really on. Is it decadence on a par with the Weimar Republic and the rotting Roman Empire?

But theres more than one way of looking at it. Certainly Martin Gores songs have an ambivalent attitude to matters of flesh and spirituality, to sin and salvation. The Irish girl beside me says she spends a lot of time at clubs in Paris where men and women perform sex acts. Far from being disgusting, she says, its a very beautiful, very artistic thing.

So who are we mere mortals to judge, down here without a laminate, while the gods indulge themselves above us?

Beer in hand, Martin Gore takes his chances with the plebs but when he tries to walk through the crowd he is assailed at every turn.

The feverish Depeche grapevine has been wheeling and dealing once again.

"Everybody I bump into seems to be a fan. I dont know how they all got in here," he complains to the press officer. "Everybody I meet, its like, Hey, do you remember me from Gothenburg?"

David Gahan is nowhere to be seen. Someone tells me that they saw him last year in Spain during the recording of the bands album and he looked scary, painfully thin, like he was almost blue.

Earlier, downstairs in his dressing room, David held court for his relatives, even his ex-wife and kid son were there. When a friend who hadnt seen Gahan for some years saw the singer he was shocked, sad and angry at the singers condition.

"Seeing him with his relatives was really weird," he said, "seeing him with his son there seemed to be an invisible wall between them."

Gahan rushed across the room and grabbed his friend, clung to him with something close to desperation. He said they must get together, must talk. It seemed like he was anxious to make some link with the past but the next day Gahan would be back in the Mode machine, protected, cut off and his old friend wouldnt be able to contact him.

As Im about to leave, I bump into a Mode camp insider. What, I ask, are the chances of Gahan whose speaking voice is still burned down to a husky whisper in between songs making it through the tour?

"Who can say?" comes the reply. "We just have to wait and see what happens. David has to go through a lot of things, its something that no one, not even anyone else in the band can understand.

"No one can understand what its like to be a young man and you get all that money, all that fame. Ive done everything I can to help. I think everybody has, its really up to David.

"This is something he must go through. Its a hard job fronting a band like Depeche, but he must know that if it wasnt for Martin thered be no songs, if it wasnt for Alan the records wouldnt sound the way they do, and if it wasnt for Fletch there probably wouldnt be any money.

"I think its hard for David to accept that. I think he does a good job but he has a lot of problems. I think hes looking for something really. I really think what he needs is love, he needs to be loved."

Rock Gods, eh?

Maybe theyre just like everybody else after all.

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