2003-xx-xx Counterfeit² EPK, Mute Records
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In the audio interview section of the Counterfeit² electronic press kit (ICDSTUMM214), Martin Gore talks about the conception and recording of Counterfeit², with special regard to how he chose certain songs and their significance to him as a songwriter. A transcript of the interview was shared on some musicnews-sites at the time, and has been copied below.
- Duration: 20:11 minutes
1 How does it feel to be back with this new solo album?
Well it's a bit of a new experience because this is only the second time I've ever released anything solo and it's a little more pressure I suppose. I'm finding it a bit more difficult just doing promotion because obviously I have to do three times as much (laughs).
2 Why did you decide to release a solo album now?
I started thinking that I might actually finally make the follow-up to the first Counterfeit EP after we finished Exciter and when I knew that Dave was going in to the studio to start making his solo record, so I realised I'd have quite a lot of free time, where I didn't have to be involved in activities with the band. So there was time to put into action what I'd been talking about doing for thirteen or fourteen years. So I suppose I started thinking vaguely about what sort of songs I wanted to record and who to work with, but I didn't really start anything really seriously until, say, January last year, when I started making lists of songs that I wanted to think about recording and also thinking about the people I wanted to work with.
3 Why do a covers album?
I like the idea of doing cover versions, I think it's always interesting when people from bands, or songwriters, cover songs, because it shows people some of their influences. When I was younger, I used to really like the Bryan Ferry covers records, and that gave me some insight into what inspired him. It also helped me to discover a lot of music that I wasn't aware of, so I like the idea of covered albums anyway.
4 Didn't you want to write any of your own songs for this album?
I think that while I'm part of Depeche Mode it's not right for me to use my own songs, because I am the main songwriter for the band and I'm not particularly prolific, so I think it creates a conflict of interest – what songs would I use for me, what would I use for the band – and it just doesn't seem right. I work in a strange way anyway when it comes to songwriting; I'm not the sort of person who writes constantly, I usually set myself writing periods, so I've just decided to do this as a project and I think it's healthy because it somehow bottles up your creativity. After I've finished this small bit of promotion for this record, and a small tour – a few dates – I'll get back to songwriting again and I'm already feeling more creative: when I sit down at a piano or pick up a guitar now I feel more creative than I would if I'd just constantly tried to write songs.
5 How did you go about choosing the songs to cover for this album?
Well there are obviously thousands of songs that I like but I was surprised by how few actually made it on to a shortlist of songs that I wanted to cover for this record. I don't know, I think that I tend to like songs that are very emotional, they strike a chord emotionally with me somehow and I can't quite explain that, but I think that somehow gives them a thread, even though they come from really diverse areas of music. I think there's some sort of solitude and loneliness about the songs, which I'm always drawn to.
6 Are the songs from a specific era?
Well they stretch back really - two or three of the songs are from at least the Thirties and then there are some from the Seventies. The Julee Cruise song was from, I think, about '97 or so, I think. Not much from the Eighties, I don't know why I avoided that, but… (laughs) it wasn't anything conscious.
7 What happened to the songs that didn't make it on the album?
Some of them I don't think we even started – some we did, like, spend a couple of days working on something and we thought, "It's not really right, doesn't really fit the right atmosphere", and I did a couple of songs more basically for B-sides – there are two just acoustic versions, just mixing in live with an acoustic guitar, of T-Rex songs for extra tracks on the first single, Stardust. And I started another song that needed a little bit more work, and if we do a second single I'll probably finish it for that.
8 Would you describe this album as a kind of homage to your musical idols?
Well, some of the artists on the record would be my idols – people that have maybe shaped the way I work, the way I write songs.
9 How important are remixes for you?
I think that it's always interesting to get remixes done and it's something that, as part of Depeche Mode, I've always valued. And I think that just by being really interested in what's happening in music currently we've always managed to get some great, interesting remixers to work on our stuff, and we seem to get them right before they become famous in their own right. I think that's just because we have been so interested in what's happening at any point.
10 How did you go about recording the tracks?
I imagined that it would be quite easy recording a covers album, because once I'd chosen the songs it seemed like it would just be a question then of recording them. But I don't really like doing straight cover versions: it's often a case of trying to reinvent the songs, take them in a different direction, but obviously they still have to work, they still have to have some spirit of the original; something that you like about the original still has to be there in the new invented version. And that's sometimes not the easiest thing, sometimes there's a lot of experimentation, and sometimes there's a lot of fruitless experimentation – you might spent four weeks trying out - - Sometimes I think we spent, like, three weeks, three or four weeks on one song, taking it down one route, and then we'd get to the end of that four weeks and go "You know what, that's not really working". So it'd be back to the drawing board.
11 Which artist / musicians influence you most at the moment?
I don't know if I could actually say there's one artist that influences me, but over the last three or four years I've been listening mainly to a lot of abstract, minimal electronic music, and I think there's that that has had at very least a subconscious impact on me.
12 Would you say there was a similarity in style between your solo album and a Depeche Mode album?
I think there is some connection between the last Depeche Mode album Exciter and this one. They're both very electronic, and I think I've been influenced quite a lot by the music I've listened to over the last four years, which has mainly been a lot of underground electronic music, quite minimal stuff, so I think there is a thread between those records.
13 You're obviously doing a lot more singing on this album than on a Depeche Mode record, how does that feel?
Ever since I was a kid; I've loved to sing, and it's not something that's really new to me because I always sing a couple of songs on every Depeche Mode record, or three or four songs when we play live, so it's a natural thing.
14 Do you have a favourite song on the album?
Funnily enough, I think my favourite is Lost In The Stars, and that is the one song on the album that is more traditional – it's just piano, strings and vocal. Simply because I didn't know how else to interpret that song. I don't think that it would have worked in any kind of electronic way, but that was the first song I had on my list, and I knew that I had to somehow fit it onto the album.
15 Would you agree that a lot of the songs on the album are quite dark?
I think that probably the majority of the songs on the album are quite dark, but somehow that's what I'm drawn to, I think I've always been like that. Somehow they resonate with me and they make more sense – I don't know, they seem more in the key of the universe somehow. I've never been one that really likes really happy songs.
16 Why did you choose to cover the track "Oh My Love"?
Well in the biography I said that without some of the songwriters that I've covered on this album, I probably wouldn't have been the sort of songwriter I am and probably John Lennon is the biggest example of that. I really love the sensitivity he achieved in his music, and I've always tried to achieve some of that sensitivity myself, and again there were probably a few songs by John Lennon that I could have chosen, but I really liked the simplicity of that one.
17 Tell us about the track "In My Time Of Dying".
The first time I heard "In My Time Of Dying" was probably on the Bob Dylan album – Bob Dylan's first album, and then after that I found various versions of it, some of them dating back to the Thirties, like Josh Wyatt, I think it was Blind Willie Johnson – and even Led Zeppelin did a cover in the Seventies of that song. It's like a traditional song, kind of blues / gospel, and I like songs about death, so it's all about dying and finding solace in Jesus, and Jesus helping you through that transition. I like having that there and then having Lost In The Stars a few tracks later which is a song about being abandoned by God: it's different feelings, and I can feel both those feelings at various times.
18 "Stardust" is the first single off the album – what appealed to you about this song?
Firstly, it was just a song from my youth. I wasn't ever a massive David Essex fan but I liked a few of his tracks and Stardust was one of them, and probably my favourite one, and it's also from the film Stardust, which is a film about the demise of a rock star and how he gets heavily involved in drugs, which was pointed out to me had some kind of parallel with Depeche Mode, but that's not the reason why I chose it. It's just a good emotional song and I think it does sum up, somehow, the loneliness of being a rock star at times – of course it's a great job, but it's a very strange job, it's very weird.
19 The song is very different from the original – did you know before you started what direction you wanted it to take?
No, like I said, with all of them it was a lot of experimentation. I don't think we did many versions of this, but it seemed to all slot into place quite quickly. It was just experimentation.
20 Why did you choose to cover the song "Loverman"?
I really wanted to cover a Nick Cave song because I think he's been a great songwriter for the last twenty years. I used to love some of the Birthday Party stuff even, and he was one of the songwriters where it was probably possible for me to pick two or three of his songs – pick from two or three of his songs – and just Loverman stood out, I just thought that I could do an interesting version of that, and again do it differently to him. His version is absolutely different, my version sounds nothing really like Nick Cave.
21 Were you a big Velvet Underground fan?
The Velvet Underground were a really important band for me; they really opened my mind when I first heard their records, just the way they could go from sweet pop music one second to noise and songs about darkness and drugs and stuff the next. It was really amazing for me, and I really wanted to record one of their songs. And I think that Candy Says probably wouldn't have been my first choice, I think that I really liked the Nico songs, like Femme Fatale or I'll Be Your Mirror, but because I already wanted to do the Nico song, the song that Nico covered, I felt that I really had to choose a song that Lou Reed had sung, so Candy Says is probably my favourite Lou Reed song – the one that he sings.
22 You have chosen well known artists but fairly obscure songs. Why is that?
Just because I like them. It may sound like a simple answer but I think it needs a simple answer. Out of the whole history of music I'm quite surprised that there weren't hundreds and hundreds of songs that I wanted to do covers of, but obviously there are hundreds and hundreds, or more, thousands of songs that I like, but a song has to have an extra-special quality before I'd consider doing a cover version of it. I'm not quite sure what that is, but it's something that affects me quite deeply – the songs have to be really emotional, and these are the songs, and some of them happen to be a little bit more obscure. But that's just the way it is.
23 Back to "Stardust" – tell us about the video. What can we expect?
I decided to work with somebody called Mike Mills this time, somebody I've never worked with before. I think it'll be very atmospheric and very slow-moving: the song's very slow anyway. I mean I've only seen an off-line version at the moment, I haven't seen the finished thing.
24 What's the idea behind the video?
It's a very simple idea, it's basically me in a hotel room, me in a car, I think it's just supposed to be - - For me it seems like it's trying to express the loneliness of the rock star.
25 Is it important to you what the critics think?
No, it's not important what critics think – I think we made a point about them on our first ‘greatest hits' album by printing one good and one bad review for each of the singles, just to have a laugh really. But of course, you want people to like it, not necessarily critics, but I'd like some people out there to find it an interesting project.
26 Is it important to you that this album is a commercial success?
I hope it's not important for me because I might be disappointed! (laughs) I don't really see this as a big commercial venture, I think it's - - The whole thing is very low-key; there's not really an ideal single on there – I think because we had to choose one we chose Stardust, but I don't think it's made for the singles market really. If it does half-OK then I'll be happy.
27 You seem to have a very broad taste in music.
I've been interested in music quite passionately since I was about 10, so I like lots and lots of different kinds of music. I think sometimes it surprises people – I don't know what they expect me to like, but if you're a fan of music, a lover of music, then you're open to all kinds of things. I mean, I've got lots of vinyl from back in the day when I bought lots of vinyl, but now, over the last number of years I've got a massive CD collection as well, but I've lots of different things, and I think it's difficult for me to actually make a covers record that's representative of everything that I like because that's almost impossible. But I think this Counterfeit 2 is more of a broader representation, at least, of some of the things I like.
28 What's your favourite record of all time?
That one's a really hard one to answer. I like some things that are always there for me in my favourite list. Things like Elvis' "The Sun Sessions" I always like, and The Beatles' "White Album" I always liked, I can play them over and over and over again and never get bored of them. So I imagine those two would have to be up there with my favourite albums. There are others that probably drift in and out, but those two are just more constant.
29 Where did you record Counterfeit 2?
I've just got a really small studio set up at home, it's not like a big old-fashioned recording studio, it's just like a home set-up. But I think it was important for me to do that because I like the idea of working at home because it means I still have some sort of family life – if I'd have spent seven or eight months of last year in a studio working stupid studio hours, then I wouldn't have seen my family for the whole period.
30 Do you live the life of a rock star at home?
Well, I think I lead two totally separate lives. There are times when I have to slip into rock star mode and the majority of the time I'm at home with my family and nobody particularly knows who I am. I play football – soccer, they call it in America – three times a week, and for the first six months nobody in my team even knew who I was. And that's quite nice.
31 What about Depeche Mode? With everyone's solo projects underway when do you plan to record another album together?
We've left it that we'll be talking at the end of the year, once these projects are out of our systems, and we'll work on some kind of time plan on when to get back into the studio and when we'd like to have an album released.
32 Are you planning a solo tour for this album?
I'm planning to do just a few dates – keep it small: I don't like the idea of going out on a huge tour with it. It doesn't seem right either; I think the whole album is quite intimate and I can't imagine having like a big production around it, I think it should be something very personal and intimate, and small, not too many dates.
33 As you are normally on stage with the rest of the band, is it going to be daunting being the focus of the whole show?
Well, I won't just be on stage on my own, I will have a couple of people with me, so yeah, I will be the focal point for however long I decide to play for, and half of me likes that idea and half of me doesn't, but once the adrenaline kicks in I'll probably really enjoy it.
This file was ripped from the CD by 'anonymous' as a WAV file, and has been converted into MP3 for the re-upload above.