In the latest installment of our series assessing the impact of Depeche Mode through personal narratives, EBM innovator Douglas J. McCarthy recounts why being forced to tour with them was one of the best things to ever happen to Nitzer Ebb.
When Nitzer Ebb first signed to Mute Records in 1987, one of the first things Daniel Miller wanted us to do was tour with Depeche Mode on their Music For the Masses European tour. Being the obstinate, snotty little upstarts that we were, we baulked at the idea of doing something so ‘mainstream’ and popular’. We actually had a genuine fear that it would ruin our nonexistent career. Daniel insisted and got his way. Once on the tour the penny finally dropped: “Oh, that’s what being in a band is all about…”
Not only were we blown away by DM’s stage performance and attention to detail, off stage they were extraordinarily kind and generous… and an awful lot of fun. Things went so well, in fact, that they decided the show must go on, and we were invited to tour the US, too. US immigration had other ideas, and our work visas were denied, citing that we “lacked musical merit”—in some ways, a point well made. Sad though it was, the bands remained fast friends and whilst we were recording our third album Showtime, at Swanyard Studios in London, DM were mixing the 101 soundtrack in the room next door. We introduced them to Flood and made every effort to get him to produce their next album. It ended up being the masterpiece Violator, and once again we were invited to tour with them. This time, visas in our sweaty palms, we were actually let in.
The “World Violation Tour” that took place in the US over the summer of 1990 was an incredible experience for everyone involved. There was a magical element to it, which sounds straight out of the Rock and Roll Bullshit Handbook (I always keep a copy handy in my back pocket), but it was just a very special time full of excess, tears, and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.
The tour established Nitzer Ebb as part of the history of American alternative music and sent us on a trajectory that only we could hamper. As it turned out, hamper we did. Then, after a near ten year hiatus, we reunited and in the blink of a bleary eye we were on the road and making a new album. Whilst touring Europe we happened to be in Berlin for the Olympiastadion Depeche Mode show, which of course we leapt at the chance to attend. Given pride of place on a platform in front of the house mixing desk, we watched in awe as the boys did what they do to a capacity crowd of nearly 70,000 people. Then, and this is where my rambling finally gets us, Dave Gahan dedicated “Never Let Me Down” to Bon Harris and Douglas McCarthy. I am, admittedly, a sentimental fool, but I truly wept. With that one gesture, those few words, and that song, Dave summed up over two decades of love, happiness, heartbreak and sorrow. What a bastard. ~
Douglas J. McCarthy will be supporting Depeche Mode on their European tour; click here for dates. For more Depeche Moments, click here.