Depeche Mode Unleash New Music This Spring
New album 'Exciter' produced by Mark Bell
'Dream On' Set as First Single
Depeche Mode have titled their eagerly anticipated forthcoming album 'Exciter' which will be released this May on Mute. In the words of songwriter Martin Gore, speaking from a New York City recording studio: "It still has darkness. But I find it more uplifting."
'Exciter' signals a new era of creativity for Dave Gahan, Andrew Fletcher and Martin Gore. The sounds (electronic and acoustic) are strikingly varied, the songs are emotionally rich and Dave Gahan's vocals are even more resonant than before.
'Exciter' marks the band's first album of new material since 1997's 'Ultra' (four million sold worldwide), which continued their tradition of creating memorable hit singles ('Barrel of a Gun', 'It's No Good') while maintaining the band's musical integrity and vision.
'Exciter' follows 1998's 'The Singles 86>98' greatest hits album and world concert trek (The Singles Tour) when the band played 64 shows in 18 countries for 650,000 fans. Every gig on the five month trek was sold out, including three at New York's Madison Square Garden and four in Los Angeles. European highlights included two nights in Paris, Berlin and London's Wembley Arena.
"After our last tour," says Dave Gahan, "I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I really enjoyed doing the older songs, and I simply embraced them. I felt like, 'if this is going to be the end,' then it was OK. So recording the new album has been quite a surprise really, to be honest."
Gahan expresses admiration for producer Mark Bell, with whom they decided to work (for the first time) based on albums he's produced for Björk (1997's 'Homogenic and last year's 'Selmasongs'). "Mark is very musical, and extremely intuitive about working with vocals and what can be done with them. He encourage me to push further."
Andrew Fletcher underlines these sentiments: "With Björk, Mark used her voice almost as an instrument. He works very hard and just seems to have a sense of what is right, both musically and vocally. He's been very important to the making of this record."
Adds Martin Gore, "Mark doesn't do anything straight-forwardly. He would never do anything that is clichéd. Which I think is great. He thinks so differently."
A sense of adventure is at the heart of 'Exciter' which was recorded in Santa Barbara, New York City and London. 'Dream On', the first single out in April, contrasts skittering beats with acoustic guitars. 'The Sweetest Condition' mixes a deep groove with a snaky rhythm and mysterious, psychedelic sounds. The tension-building 'When the Body Speaks' matches sparely plucked guitars with startlingly intimate vocals by Gahan. 'Breathe' with Martin's lead vocal has a torchy feel while the beautiful 'Goodnight Lovers' is a different kind of lullaby.
Dave Gahan says the tracks on the new album "could have been songs from various different years of Depeche Mode. It's almost like a greatest hits of songs that haven't been released yet. I'm not saying they're all going to be very big hits or anything like that. I just feel it is very strong in that way."
On 'Exciter' the refreshed Gahan admits, "I'm a lot more confident vocally. I really wanted to bring something beautiful to these songs. When you're singing a song, it's like you can just disappear into it. It's the only way I can describe it really. And I did that. It's a really luxurious place to be. I wanted to do that with every song. On 'Ultra' I was not able to do that because I wasn't physically able to bring all of myself to it. Now I feel like I'm firing on all cylinders."
Fletcher, citing the band members' rekindled bond, says 'Exciter' feels like a new beginning of sorts. Because of the problems in the band during the last two studio albums, the creativity was cut off to a certain extent. Now relations between us are better than they have been for a long time and that has carried over to the album.
"There is a real feeling of the group working and enjoying each other's company," he adds. "When you hear the new songs, I think they come across as sounding quite fresh. The new album reminds me of one of our albums, 'Black Celebration', in that it has lots of good songs that sound completely different from each other but actually work together on one album."
The new, emotionally powerful songs visit a familiar theme. "My songs are about relationships because those are the things that are closest to me," admits Martin Gore. "That's the thing that moves me most, the thing I can write about most passionately. All I ever intend to do is move people, to somehow tap into their emotions."
Gahan has, once again, tapped into the feeling behind Gore's lyrics. "Dave has a voice that is really distinctive," says Gore. "It has a great tone to it, and he has a real aggression which I don't have, and that is really important for a rock star. That is really what Dave brings to our songs. Every voice is a different instrument, and he has a great sort of depth."
"For me," says Gahan, "there are many dimensions to Martin's songs lyrically. I like the graphicness of them and the emotional terrain they cover: love lost, compulsion, control, denial, addiction, lust... all those things that everyone experiences. Martin seems to be able to interpret those things in a way that is believable. And then I make it mine vocally, drawing from my own experiences and emotions."
Depeche Mode keep in touch with fans globally through the band's official website www.depechemode.com. Sections include news, archives, and a communication zone where fans can chat. In fact, Fletcher says, "I run into so many people who say they met and married through a Depeche Mode web site."
So what accounts for the lasting appeal of Depeche Mode? They've sold over 50 million albums since 1981 and still have the kind of underground vibe most superstar acts envy.
"We've always stuck to the punk and indie ideals we grew up with," says Fletcher. "We've been allowed to actually go forward and learn. We're very lucky to have this huge fan base which enables us to actually release records that are a bit off the wall."
According to Gore: "I can't really explain why we've been so popular for so long. Maybe it's because we've never fit into any one trend."
"I enjoy the challenge... and still want it to be a challenge," adds Gahan. "Otherwise, why bother?"
The first single, 'Dream On', is out April 23rd.