Depeche Mode‘s Dave Gahan has spoken to NME about returning from the brink to make new album ‘Memento Mori’, and life after the loss of bandmate Andy Fletcher. Watch our video interview with the frontman above.
Yesterday (October 4) saw the electro icons announce details of their 15th album and an upcoming world stadium tour from a press conference in Berlin. After the announcement, Gahan sat down with NME to tell us about the making of ‘Memento Mori’. Translating to ‘Remember that you must die’ from Latin, it marks the band’s first record since 2017’s ‘Spirit’ and first since bandmember Andy Fletcher died back in May, aged 60.
Despite the dark themes of the record, Gahan spoke of how the music pre-dates Fletcher’s passing.
“A lot of the songs for this record were written over the last couple of years Martin [Gore, bandmate] had been demoing for a while and was just waiting for me to come back to the fold,” Gahan told NME. “We talked about doing something together at the end of last year, then talked about it more seriously in January and here we are – we’ve got a finished record.”
The album is currently being mixed and is due to drop ahead of the tour kicking off in March 2023. However, Gahan revealed that he was hesitant about making another record at first.
“It wasn’t something I dived into, I have got to say,” he admitted. “At first I put up quite a bit of resistance. I would say, ‘I don’t know if I still want to do this’; all the usual kind of stuff, but there was a bit more of that than usual.
“That was a lot to do with the pandemic, being home for much longer, being around my family and friends. Coming out of the pandemic I was going, ‘What do I even want to do with my life?’ That’s the existential question that a lot of people have been asking themselves. I certainly have a lot over the last few years, but here I am! Again! I dived in, now I’m swimming in Depeche Mode again. I’m really pleased with what we’ve done with the record.”
Depeche Mode. Credit: Anton Corbijn
Gahan last spoke to NME last year around the release of his album ‘Imposter’ with The Soulsavers – a record he found “liberating” and inspiring to make, having felt “done” with music after Depeche Mode’s gruelling world tour for music. Now, he has told us of feeling rejuvenated.
“The wheels were coming off for me,” he said. “I pushed it to the limit for myself with those performances. I didn’t make it any easier on myself. I came away from that a bit sharp, thinking: I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. Not because it wasn’t great – it was great – but you climb that mountain every time you get to this point. It’s like, ‘So this is it – this is the best it’s ever going to get’. Why don’t we just leave it here? That’s happened a lot over the years.
“So the last thing I wanted to do was make a record that I didn’t feel was relevant. Where we’re at, the way that Martin and I feel about each other and working together, that had to be an enjoyable experience. I didn’t want to slog through a record together wondering how it’s going to turn out – wondering what the politics are of making the record.”
He added: “Also, commencing on some huge world tour to promote the album and do that whole thing in a very Depeche Mode style – I didn’t want to do that unless I was 100 per cent sure. And I’m still not there yet! I would say I’m about 75 per cent there! It’s better than zero. I wasn’t at zero, I was definitely down at 25 per cent if you’d asked me, as you did, when I made the ‘Imposter’ record.”
Depeche Mode. CREDIT: Anton Corbijn
Gahan remembered how the last time that he, Gore and Fletcher appeared together before the latter’s death was when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame via Zoom back in 2020.
“We were probably the last band they wanted to have in there but they had to give it to us in the end!” said Gahan. “That was kind of nice; the feeling of all those rock’n’rollers looking down on us in disdain going, ‘This is not a rock’n’roll band’! That had been a dispute for years, but that had to change.
“Anyway, here we were, we were on Zoom together and we did this thing. It was actually fun! We all dropped right back into place with these guys I’ve grown up with. When I first met them, I was maybe about to turn 18-years-old. When I think about that, it’s horrifying actually. I’ve spent so much of my life with them!”
However, the last time he would see Fletcher in the flesh would be at a concert Gahan was playing with Soulsavers at Westminster Hall in London in 2020.
“He came along with his childhood friend Rob Andrews and we got to talk a little bit, thank god,” Gahan remembered. “Martin didn’t get to do that with his old school friend. I will forever wish I’d been a little bit kinder to Fletch as I go forward.
“I will try to remember that with people I meet in the future too. I was always a bit of a dick with him, he was always a bit of a dick with me too. That was the relationship we had. That’s what was good about him. He would also be the first person to call me if I was going through something, saying ‘You alright Dave? I hear you’re not feeling so good’. He was that guy too.”
The frontman went on to explain how Fletcher’s death was “the last thing we expected to happen.”
“Even Alan [Wilder], who of course was in the band for the 10 years, was like: ‘And then there were two’,” said Gahan. “He sent me a text but made some comment like most people did, saying we all thought Fletcher would outlive all of us; especially in our kind of lifestyles.
“Fletch was probably, let’s just say, the least of all of us in terms of excesses. That was always the knowing joke – that Fletch was going to outlive all of us. ‘He’s still here, isn’t he?’ Now he’s not, and it still doesn’t feel real. When Martin and I were in the studio over the last couple of months, that was odd. We had already started recording and [Fletch] was supposed to come and join us. He would sit there, he would listen and he would make his comments. I missed that. It’s not until you lose someone that you realise these things.”
Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher. Credit: Palmer/Getty Images
Work on ‘Memento Mori’ may have been well underway before Fletcher’s passing, but the synth player never would not get the chance to play on it.
“He never got to hear any of it, which is really sad to me because there are songs on the record where I know he’d go, ‘This is the best things we’ve done in years’,” said Gahan. “I can hear his voice. I can also hear him saying, ‘Does every song have to be about death?’”
The frontman revealed that the songs he and Gore were writing were “falling in the same place” of echoing the message: ‘I belong here in this world, in this universe’” as well as the questions: “‘But what are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to do with this because we can’t fucking figure it out?’”
“The one thing I can do is make music with Martin, then we can go do our thing and hopefully that brings people together,” he said. “It’s just all too much [in the world and the news right now]. You have to find a place for yourself somehow. This is what it is for us right now: making another record, and we’re going to go out and perform on these stages.
“I don’t know what that’s going to be like and I don’t know what that’s going to be like without Fletch there. Linking to him ranting and shouting down the hallways before a show, saying the wine’s not right, all the shit that Fletch would do which I already miss a lot.”
Asked if Fletcher’s passing might change the way he performs on the upcoming tour, Gahan replied: “No. Look, Fletch did his thing on stage but he actually didn’t do that much musically! But he was Fletch, and that won’t be there anymore. We can’t replace that. We can’t put another Fletch there. He was one of a kind.
“Most of my mates when they come to the shows, they say ‘Fuck, I can’t take my eyes off the geezer over there! What is he doing?’ That was part of Fletch’s thing and he did it really well, so we won’t try and fill that hole.”
Noting that their 2023 tour schedule currently features some gaps in late June that could allow them to headline Glastonbury, we asked Gahan if we might be seeing the band down at Worthy Farm next summer.
“I don’t know!” he replied. “There’s a lot on the cards for the following year as well. I’ve seen these big spreadsheets. The one for 2023 is big enough! There will be more I’m sure.”
Looking to the future, Gahan added: “Who knows what we have in store for us? ‘Memento Mori’ really sums that up: ‘Remember that you must die’. What you do here today, you have to embrace. Today meaning, ‘being in Depeche Mode for the next couple of years’!”
Tickets to Depeche Mode’s 2023 ‘Memento Miro’ world tour are on sale from 10am on Friday October 7. Visit here for tickets and more information on UK and European dates, and here for the North American shows.