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WORKING METHODS - inspiration / techniques / devices / studio life 

From: frequently asked questions

Did Martin's songs change radically from their demo versions to completion?

Sometimes the songs drastically changed from the demo (i.e. Enjoy The Silence), sometimes they were pretty similar (i.e. Shake The Disease). It is probably fair to say that from 'Violator' onwards, the final results bore less resemblance to the original demos.

Did you ever feel like you should have shared credits with Martin due to your considerable musical input?

I don't think the production credits really show a fair reflection of who did what but Martin wrote the songs so it's quite right that he should receive the songwriting credits.

I have never understood why DM albums after 'Some Great Reward' didn't contain any of your songs?

As I have said in the history section of the A-Files, I think I felt obliged , as the 'musical one', to contribute my own songs to some of the early DM albums rather than because it came to me naturally. I much prefer to concentrate on the music.

From: Julie

Having just read your excellent 'Singles 86 - 98' editorials, you confirmed something about DM that has bothered me for a long time - namely the extraordinary amount of time you spent in the studio over the years (particularly when the other band members 'couldn't be bothered' or were away on holiday) and why you never or rarely seemed to get the proper credit for all this work. Was it really the general consensus of the band that production credits should read 'Depeche Mode' and what about the live shows, you did all the programming, so why were you never mentioned?

I've said before that I don't think the credits on Mode albums really reflected the truth about who produced them but to be honest, at the time I just couldn't be bothered about getting into big discussions on the whole subject. I was happy to do the work because it was enjoyable and something I was good at.

In relation to this, I remember reading some comments from Fletch and Martin (around the time of 'Ultra') that were along the lines of "Alan is really boring....during recording periods, he never came out with us and spent too much time in the studio..." etc. The audacity of some people makes my blood boil! What about you, any thoughts on this?

As I've also said before, some of the comments that were made during the promotion for DM's last album were disappointing although not unsurprising and I can understand a bit of why they might have been said. The simple fact is that most people just do not understand or appreciate that 'producing' a record properly requires an enormous amount of energy and concentration. Anyone can go into a studio for a couple of hours a day, take loads of drugs, twiddle a few knobs, whack it all on a CD and call it a finished album but invariably the end result sounds like what it is - lazy and ill-judged. I can't just roll into the studio at 5 o'clock in the afternoon with a raging hangover and expect to be able to work effectively. This doesn't mean that I never take a break during a session but as a rule, I like to keep work time and play time separate so I can give my absolute best to whatever project I'm involved in. If this makes me boring then fine.....I'd rather be boring but have a really good record.

From: Dalibor Schon
E-mail: SCHOEN@iert.tuwien.ac.at

I think some of the instrumentals could have had lyrics. How did you decide to put or remove lyrics and release an instrumental track?

None of the instrumentals ever had lyrics to my knowledge. Nor did we ever try to add lyrics to them.

Instrumental tracks such as 'Agent Orange', 'Kaleid' and 'Nothing To Fear' etc - Was this pure Martin Gore work or did other members contribute to them?

They were written by Martin and then recorded in the usual way.

From: Mario Vella
E-mail: mmjgvella@hotmail.com

Looking back at your work with DM, do you wish you could have made any of the songs more dark and atmospheric? Which ones would you like to have done differently?

With the benefit of hindsight, I probably could have pushed some of the early stuff further.

From: Mark Stewart
E-mail: 95070605@mmu.ac.uk

Although it maybe let you express yourself more, did it ever bother you that Martin didn't really care about the production?

Sometimes, but it gave me more space to do what I enjoy.

From: Johannes K. Arnason
E-mail: dm@mmedia.is

You've said that you didn't like your songs when done by DM (Keyboard Magazine). Would you consider making your own version of these older tracks?

No, I don't like them.

From: Carsten Vogt
E-mail: cvogt@theorie.physik.uni-wuppertal.de

Can you think of any examples where Martin's version of a song was preferred to yours?

It was never as clear cut as that.

In the studio with DM or Recoil, did you or do you actually perform certain parts of a song "live" on the keyboard or is it all just programming ?

With DM, if they were playable, quite a lot of the parts were performed rather than programmed. Same thing applies to Recoil.

From: James
E-mail: JAME567892@aol.com

Did you ever find recording DM material depressing? What do you think is DM's most depressing song?

No, not at all. I don't find Martins songs depressing.

From: Neil Kay
E-mail: nkay@uk.bnsmc.com

Which D.M. song that you composed are you most pleased with?

None of them.

Which one DM song took the longest to complete, and why?

There have been a few over the years - 'Master And Servant' took a staggering 7 days to mix (and we still managed to leave the snare off by mistake:-)), 'Clean' and 'Policy Of Truth' went through several re-workings and 'I Feel You' was also very difficult to mix. 'Walking...' and 'Judus' both took a long time as well.

Did Martin transcribe the music for you, tell you or just play you the chords / melodies when a new song was presented?


From: Niels Kolling
E-mail: nk@tdk.dk

I've heard a few of Martin Gore's demo's and they do sound VERY basic. How did he present an instrumental track to you? Was it just a melody line or did he have a basic track worked out? And were they all instrumentals from the beginning or was it because there wasn't time to come up with some lyrics?

He produced a basic demo which usually contained a complete set of lyrics with a vocal melody, the chords and one or two melodies. We would take it in whatever direction from there.

How did you used to present your songs to the band? Were they generally all programmed up ready? Did you sing in the studio to indicate to Dave the vocal melody?

Much like Martin, I produced a demo at home which I sang on.

Can you talk a little about the recording of vocals for both DM and Recoil. Do you always have a guide vocal early on (more difficult with Recoil I guess!)? How many takes did Dave normally require to get the final result and was there a preferred time of day for him to record? And for Martin? How did they compare with Toni, Doug, Moby, et al. Did you take the best bits from various attempts or was it normally a complete performance?

With Recoil, because of the way the tracks are constructed (with the vocals coming at the end) I don't work with a guide. In DM's case, the guide vocal would normally be sung by Martin at the earliest possible stage when working on a song (although in later days Dave sung some of the guides). The final vocals would usually be recorded once the overall structure and majority of the music was in place and like most artists, were composited from several different takes - sometimes these would be sung over the course of 2 or 3 days, sometimes they were quicker. It was pretty much the same for the Recoil collaborators. Basically different singers have different strengths and thresholds.

From: Daniel
E-mail : danielro@attachmate.com

Of all the songs you worked on while with DM, which one would you say best describes you and why?

I've no idea. What do you think?

From: Brian Hodge
E-mail: brian.hodge@blockbuster.com

I know that you said that DM was never pressured by Mute to be commercial but was the fact that Mute exists (financially) because of DM (and Erasure) ever on the band's mind?

I think there's always an underlying pressure felt by DM to come up with hits but, luckily, Martin's a natural pop songwriter so you couldn't say it was forced. I do think for balance, Mute could use a few more commercially successful acts on their roster.

To understand DM in the studio would be a great gift to us. Any chance of you telling us the strong points of DM in the studio?

Go to Report - editorial / Aug, Sep, Oct and Nov.

From: Katherine Davison
E-mail: jcheney@cstone.net

I know you said that you would not make comments on current Depeche Mode work but I notice one drastic change in their sound. The hi-hat use in many of their songs are over-saturated and used far too much (my opinion). The beats sound very programmed even though there are several credits for percussionists and drummers. Was the looser sound that you said DM was trying to achieve more of something you wanted or was it a whole band thing because you would never know by the way the new album sounds?

As I've said before, we tried to change our approach from album to album. It's probably fair to say that myself, Flood and Dave were the main instigators for a more open, looser and more fluid sound.

From: Niels Kolling
E-mail: nk@tdk.dk

Martin has said in recent interviews in connection with 'Ultra', that now that he has hit middle age, it's getting difficult for him to write more up-tempo songs. He claims it sounds fake to him if they get over the dizzy heights of 100 b.p.m. Do you feel the same way?

Not particularly. I don't consciously say "Now I'll write a slow number" or "It's about time I did a fast track" - the mood of the music usually dictates the tempo.

From: Aaron Henderson

Unlike many electronic acts, DM and Recoil have never really gone along with the current "in thing" in electronic music. Is this a conscious effort to remain different or something that you haven't really thought about?

The interesting thing is that over the years, DM just carried on producing music in our usual way and the band has moved in and out of fashion, depending on what's trendy at the time. It's always preferable to remain true to your ideals and maintain one's integrity rather than jump on the latest bandwagon.

From: Akonsta
E-mail: akonsta@ort.org.il

You said that for every album that DM tried to take a different approach? Can you explain the change in approach for each album from 'Construction Time Again' to 'Violator'?

I'm sorry but this kind of question can't be answered that simply. As I've said on other occasions, we always tried to change our approach to keep things interesting. I can't spell out the intricacies of those changes - can't you hear the differences in the albums?

From: Ana Turunen
E-mail: analysande@hotmail.com

What was your attitude and reactions towards David when you found out that he was using and how did it affect your work?

It was disappointing. Not for any moral reasons but because his drug use adversely affected his personality and more specifically his greatest asset, his sense of humour. There was also an increase in general apathy and a distance which I found sad considering what an enthusiastic and vital person he really is. By all accounts his unique wit has now fully returned;-)

From: Hubert Razack
E-mail: razack@mygale.org

You said in the' SOFAD' EPK something very interesting about minor chords being more powerful than major chords. Apparently, it's one of the trademarks of DM. Have you always thought this way?

Minor chords will always create a more melancholic mood than major chords. They're not necessarily more powerful in themselves but one is much more likely to be able to create a darker atmosphere by working in minor keys.

Vince Clarke - major, Nine Inch Nails - minor.

Abba - major, Massive Attack - minor.

And don't forget, as Nigel Tuffnel said: "D minor - the saddest of all keys".

From: Ostermalms Eltjanst
E-mail: ost-el@swipnet.se

I've heard many DM fans say (after your departure) "....the songwriter and the singer are still there so the next albums will be as good as the previous ones..." but what I miss on the 'Ultra' album is the basslines which I think have been the trademark of DM. Were you responsible for most of these, especially the powerful bassline in 'World In My Eyes' which I think is a big part of the song?

I was responsible for quite a lot of them including 'World In My Eyes'.

From: Stephan Martinussen
E-mail: stephan.martinussen@get2net.dk

I've heard a demo of 'Enjoy The Silence' and noticed how much the song had changed from the demo to the final version. Which factors determine whether the song is going to be "dark and melodic" like the demo or "more optimistic" like the album version?

This is not easy to answer. There are no rules - you just go on a feeling and allow a song to develop. I thought that particular track would be better with a more upbeat 'dance' vibe than as an organ / vocal ballad.

From: Gary
E-mail: savimi01.savit@interbusiness.it

In 1989 I met you at Milan's Logic Studio where DM were recording some tracks for 'Violator'. You were working on a drum sound for a long time. How much time would you usually spend on a sound or idea?

As long as it takes. Dan Miller once spent 3 days on a bass drum sound ...... and it was still shit ;-)

From: Alex Reed
E-mail: alexreed@erols.com

I know that you must have written more songs for DM over the years. Were you reluctant to submit them?

I never submitted any more after 'Some Great Reward'.

Martin seems to be a little apprehensive about submitting material - I saw the MTV Depeche Mode Rockumentary and he seemed to be a tad afraid. Were you very critical of the songs? Did you ever say "This is not a good song to do, I don't think it has any direction."

I would obviously say what I thought the potential of each song was but I would hope that I was always diplomatic and never insensitive with my comments.

From: Eddie

I often wonder what some of the DM and Recoil song titles were before they actually got their final name. Please list some and what their original names were.

I'm not prepared to divulge all my working titles over the years but I'm currently working on a track affectionately known as 'Bastard'. During the last album what turned out to be one of my favourites was for a long time tentatively referred to as 'Iran'. Don't bother asking why - it's too long a story..... ;-)

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