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Depeche Mode
Few bands in the world have a chance to change their colours midway through a successful career, yet pop band Depeche Mode have made a transition from pop to rock with practiced ease and have managed to retain their identity through the years.

Depeche Mode were originally a product of Britain's new romantic movement, and went on to become the quintessential electro-pop band of the 1980s. The roots date back to 1976, when keyboardists Vince Clarke and Andrew (Andy) Fletcher first teamed to form the group No Romance In China. The band proved short-lived and in 1979 Clarke had formed French Look with guitarist/keyboardist Martin Gore. Fletcher then signed on with Clarke, with the group taking on a new name Composition Of Sound. In 1980 singer David Gahan was brought in to complete the lineup, and now with four in the band, they decided to take another name change and were rechristened Depeche Mode, as itís known even today.

The band was spotted by DJ Stevo, whose interest in futuristic sound led him to releasing a compilation LP that featured then unknown bands. Depeche found a slot on this LP, and the track Photographic, though rough in its presentation, was the best on the vinyl. They signed to Mute Records in the early 1980s, but their first two singles didnít cause much of a stir. It was their third effort, Just Can't Get Enough, which became a top ten UK hit.

Depeche Modeís career so far has seen sales of upwards of 50 million records worldwide and a staggering 38 hit singles in the UK and no fewer than 13 Top 10 albums. And yet, with Playing The Angel they sound like a new group, not one halfway through their third decade together. Precious, the first single, is quintessential Mode, all cyber pulse and glorious chorus.

How does it feel to record a new album after such a long time?
David Gahan: I really felt, before we started this album, that there was unfinished business. This is our 11th studio album and I feel itís the best record weíve made. Weíre all feeling incredibly positive about it. Ben Hillier has brought a whole new dynamic to the group, which is quite inspiring.

Can you tell us something about the album?
Gahan: The Sinner In Me perfectly balances the organic, synthetic, and climaxes, as do most of the tracks, with staccato blasts of noise and FX. Macrovision, sung by Martin, is hi-tech pop with an enormous hook. I Want It All is one of the slower tracks with its minor-key menace, like trip hop from hell. Itís a song that I didnít imagine would go in the direction it has. A Pain That I'm Used To is a furious style with its savage bursts of guitar.

Why did you use such a title, Playing The Angel?
Andy Fletcher: The title for the album was taken, from the lyric of a track called The Darkest Star. You have to work hard at reinventing yourself, so you have to choose new people who push you. Playing The Angel is faster-paced than the last two Mode albums, heightening the sense of urgency and vibrancy. Ben's fondness for analogue synths over digital ones helped shape the sound.

How was it working with Ben?
Gahan: Ben sort of works very fast and knows exactly what heís doing. We needed a kind of master, a headmaster or teacher. Heís young and upcoming. We had a list of ones to choose and we liked his work. There was a lot of energy in the studio while recording and Ben knew the way we wanted to go. He uses a lot of analogue stuff and synchs and makes the whole thing look so great. Suddenly Ben goes on the drums and starts playing and its real fun. We had to really show him all our stuff we had done and so he had to get used to our style, though I suppose he already knew us and our music but wasnít a fan of ours.

How is this album different from your earlier releases?
Fletcher: We never have a master plan for any of our albums. We just go to the studio and lay the tracks and make a few changes required. The sound on this album, compared to the synth sound of the Ď80s, is a little gone and in its place we have a more digital offering slant for our fans. We have more guitars and analogue pieces.

You can read the rest of our feature on Depeche Mode in the December 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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