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2003-04-08 Uncut, Home House, London, UK
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Dave Gahan stayed at the Home House from 6 April till 8 April to give interviews and be photographed for the British press. On 8 April, Chris Roberts interviewed him for Uncut magazine's Questionnaire section. A short version of this interview was published in the July 2003 issue of Uncut. Below is the text of that publication. rocksbackpages.com, a site where subscribed music journalists archive their interviews, have the full audio file of this interview available. Thanks to Rachel Blackman for sending over this file.
- Duration: 58:20 minutes
UNCUT: After 20-odd years of Depeche Mode, how strange was it to record your new solo album, Paper Monsters?
GAHAN: I just got the feeling, during the last band album, that it was something I had to do, and that it wouldn't be possible within Depeche. I'd been chomping at the bit for a while, getting frustrated. I wanted to put myself in an unknown situation, to take risks. Even with all the fears attached, the sense of what-am-I-doing, I knew deep in my heart that it was the only way I could move forward and grow.
UNCUT: In a couple of places, your inner rock beast bursts forth.
GAHAN: There'd always been a strong contingent within Depeche who were very against going down the 'rock' road. Everything I fancied was always "too rock", y'know? I was bored with that. To me, it was like: "Well, that's another door you've closed, guys." They thought I wanted to turn them into Guns N' Roses or something...and yes, there was definitely a part of me that did! Just to have that experience. So I ended up doing it in my own mind! And it was fun hanging out with that whole rock scene in LA for a while.
UNCUT: Did your LA period change the way you felt about music?
GAHAN: Well, there it's about attitude. If you're in a rock 'n' roll band, you're cool. I definitely pushed, from Songs Of Faith And Devotion onwards, to be more experimental. I'd come back from LA after we hadn't seen each other for two years and said, "Hey, different things are happening in music now, guys! We gotta push on!" I'd been going to little clubs and seeing Jane's Addiction and Soundgarden: it was a cool time, and the fluffy metal bands weren't happening any more. There was a scene emerging, which spread to Seattle, and Nirvana. I felt the excitement I'd felt watching The Clash as a teenager. But then, of course, I thought I could convert my band to this, and they all looked at me with blank faces like I was a fucking alien or something.
I'd walked into the studio in Madrid with hair down to here and a long beard and they all thought... well, I guess what they thought was, "Wanker". But it'd started when I moved to LA and my girlfriend at the time was desperately trying to get me to grow my hair. So I went along with that...cos, y'know, I thought she'd love me more. And she seemed to, for a while. Everybody at the time was telling me I should go off and form my own band, but I never for a second thought that. I was happy with Depeche, I just wanted us to rock a little harder. It was exciting then, touring with Primal Scream and all that - they were my partners in crime cos they were pretty deep into the drugs as well. And I was certainly getting a lot of attention.
UNCUT: Surely you were getting plenty of attention anyway?
GAHAN: It got too much. It got so I couldn't handle it. So I fucking hid. I rented a little apartment in Santa Monica, and didn't go out any more. This was at the height of our success - I completely lost my sense of humour. On the road, it was insane, there were maybe 150 people working for us, and I couldn't tell you the names of 10 of them. People were falling off rigs, dying...there was always some drama going on. So I anaesthetised myself. I got dependent, and wasn't aware of it. It was a constant party for a couple of years. All of us were losing it - it wasn't just me. There was focus on me, because I think I was the most honest about it. I'd take pride in telling you I just shot heroin, y'know? Somehow, to me, telling you meant I was being honest. But that's what the drug will do to you - false bravado and strength. You think: "I don't need anyone, fuck you all." It doesn't last long. I was definitely...searching for something. That somehow I was as important as the next person in the band. Or, actually, more important.
UNCUT: Thousands worshiping you every night wasn't enough?
GAHAN: Well, evidently not. When you're drunk or drugged on stage you think you're giving your all, but it's bollocks. And you start noticing a Spinal Tap vibe, or some bemused faces, and you feel like you're just a clown up there. I was driven by the idea of being a rock star, and that overtook any ideas of substance within the music. That's what changed now, with this new stuff.
UNCUT: Won't your new single, "Dirty Sticky Floors", just keep people talking about your on-the-edge years?
GAHAN: That lyric's meant to be funny, too. See, I had these huge Wizard Of Oz statues in my Santa Monica apartment - the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. They pretty much became my companions. On any given night they'd begin talking to me, and shit. Ha ha! I ended up actually shooting the Tin Man...he was the worst. He was like a freaky ventriloquist doll...but, er, anyway, it was complete paranoia. They scared the shit out of me. I'd be on my own, walking around my apartment with a loaded .38 down the back of my pants. Scared of my own shadow. I mean, I'm laughing now, but it really was heavy at the time. I wouldn't go out without a gun. I don't know what I was gonna do with it, but thank God nothing stupid happened. I found myself in situations I'd never wish upon my worst enemy. In shooting galleries in LA that are not nice places at all. With someone putting a gun to my head. I was not supposed to be there! This was not what my mother had in mind when she raised me as a child!
UNCUT: You survived...
GAHAN: Yeah, but some stupid accident is usually the way drug addicts die. Burn themselves, or set their house on fire. I wasn't even aware of how many times I overdosed through that whole period. Anyway, this song - I wanted to reflect the stupidity of addiction. To say, look, this is where it ends up - hanging out with the toilet bowl, with your head down it most of the time. Crawling around some dirty sticky floor, usually your own, on your own.
UNCUT: And why "Paper Monsters"?
GAHAN: Cos these monsters were just fears I'd created for myself. These huge scary things, these boundaries, were stopping me moving forward, and weren't real. Those challenges are still there for me on a daily basis, but I'm not scared of them any more. I feel secure with my family, which I never did before, being confused and mistrustful. Now I haven't always got to go for a drink and be an asshole to keep from thinking. By the way, for fun, I nearly called this album "Essex Boy"...
UNCUT: You're based in New York now?
GAHAN: Yea, Knox Chandler [co-writer] and I became friends a while ago. I knew he'd played with Psychedelic Furs and Siouxsie. People thought we were forming a New York garage band. And originally that was my idea, kinda. To get as far away from what I'd set myself up as within Depeche as possible. But more Depeche had rubbed off on me than I thought. Still, I insisted that people, rather than technology, dictated the energy of this. Then, when I heard it back, I thought: wow, it's pretty dark. But I can hear my sense of humour in there, and a lot of ideas, and not being afraid to show vulnerability. Producer Ken [Sigur Ros] Thomas was very supportive of my spontaneity.
UNCUT: Are Depeche Mode still a going concern?
GAHAN: To be honest, we haven't talked about it. Until we do, that's not something I'm focused on. I don't know what's in store for me. I'd be lying if I said, "Yeah, of course there'll be another Depeche album". I reduced a German journalist to screaming and tears the other day when I couldn't guarantee it. It was bizarre: he was stamping his feet and wailing. But sometimes I think the only common ground left in that band is we all want to be loved!