Timo Maas recalls his Depeche Moment

In our ongoing series assessing the impact of Depeche Mode through personal narratives, Bückeburg-born progressive house and trance star Timo Maas remembers being their (German) warm-up act in a stadium full of Polish football fans during the World Cup, plus tells the story behind his evergreen remix of “Enjoy the Silence”.

 

I’m not a hardcore Depeche Mode fan but I’m a child of the ’80s and as a consequence I have my own emotional experience with their music. I grew up in a small town between Hanover and Bielefeld called Bückeburg and I remember that in 1982 they played in a small club in Minden. I was too young to go but my brother went to see them play and he was really excited about seeing this new band.

Since then, I’ve done remixes of the Depeche Mode songs “Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus” but I have only met them personally once, at the Legia Stadium in Warsaw in 2006 when I played a DJ set as the warm-up act for them. That was a massive occasion, particularly for a German playing in Poland. It was the time of the World Cup and Germany had just beaten Poland so I was concerned that there could be trouble because that stadium is the home of some of the most notorious hooligan fans in Europe. I was really nervous before going on stage but it all turned out fine. I even received applause at the end. That was one of only two sets in my life that I have prepared beforehand. I am always spontaneous and have a lot of music with me so that I go along with the situation and the mood of the set but that time I had to be prepared because I had visuals and everything. I remember I played a kind of alternative-electronic set including remixes of Placebo that I had done, one of which was “Space Monkey”. We had a special video prepared for that. It was a great moment playing to a sold out stadium of 35,000 people. I’ve played even bigger gigs than that, such as with the Smashing Pumpkins in Mexico in front of 50,000 people, but the Depeche Mode show was very special. It was one of those moments where I could sit back and realize that through my profession things that once would have seemed impossible had in fact become possible.

When I was asked to remix “Enjoy the Silence” in 2004 I accepted straight away. I mean you can’t say no to something like that. That song and “Personal Jesus” are probably among the 50 best and most well-known pop songs ever written. Around that time my then-partner Martin and I were working quite a lot with major artists but this was an interesting challenge. At first we just sat there kind of frozen with respect for the song and then we put our heads together and thought about how we could interpret it and mix it without ruining the original intention of the song. We didn’t want to make it too loud. We decided to approach it with respect and feeling and to interpret it at an emotional level. You sometimes hear these remixes that use trendy sounds like dubstep or whatever to reinterpret a song, but stuff like that is usually forgotten after a couple of years. It’s just too narrow-minded. Martin and I tried to make something timeless and we achieved that I think—I’ve heard that people still play it today at parties and that’s great. It’s really the ideal situation for a remix that it’s respected and still gets played seven or eight years after it was made.~

 

You can read more Depeche Moments here.

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Rick Jordan of Scooter recalls his Depeche Moment

In our ongoing series assessing the impact of Depeche Mode through personal narratives, the songwriter behind one of Germany’s most successful and polarizing pop groups enjoys the sonic violence. 

 

My interest in Depeche Mode developed over time. When I was younger and growing up with songs like “Just Can’t Get Enough”, I actually wasn’t really that into them. Back in those days I was listening to other music. I first discovered my passion for their music when I was a bit older and started going to clubs where they would play new wave and stuff like that. Suddenly, Depeche Mode’s music took on another dimension for me. I remember that the song “Enjoy the Silence” left a major impression on me. The sonic violence of this song and the killer production really blew me away, particularly the way that fading in and out was used with the refrain and the mood that this created. Dave Gahan’s vocals are amazing in that song. The sound that they were able to create by using filters and envelope curves on samples was really groundbreaking at that time. We tried to imitate some of those sounds to use them in the Scooter context but never managed to!

Depeche Mode have certainly influenced me as a producer and I think that their sonic innovations have subtly worked their way into our sound. We even once covered “Stripped”, where we did a version with a proper orchestra arrangement. I would say that we were more drawn to the transcendent and ceremonial elements of their sound, rather than the more morbid elements. There are, of course, many differences between our approach and that of Depeche Mode. Whereas their sound features Martin Gore’s guitar we are more heavily focused on singing. We aren’t really classic songwriters in that sense, but rather producers or directors, people who make something big out of something small. Maybe the biggest similarity between Scooter’s sound and Depeche Mode lies in our attitude, this drive to ensure that all the sonic elements come together and work equally well in a stadium as well as on recordings.~

 

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Matthew Dear shares his Depeche Moment

In the latest instalment of our series assessing the impact of Depeche Mode through personal narratives, Texan techno savant, bandleader and, for the Düsseldorf leg of the Delta Machine Tour, Depeche Mode opening act, Matthew Dear talks about what it feels like to share a stage with band he first saw live in 1993. Photo by Thomas Fähnrich.

 

The first time our paths crossed officially was when I did a remix of “Heaven” from Delta Machine, but back in 2007 we saw them play in Detroit. We didn’t have any connections then, we were just fans. We ended up sitting pretty close to the stage, and right before they started playing they had their soundtrack music come on. The first track was from Audion, one of my other projects, and we just started looking at each other. We knew then that Martin was kind of a fan. It was always hovering, this idea that one day something could happen, and then the remix kicked it off. They asked us to open for them in Düsseldorf.

I think 90 percent of the people in the audience weren’t familiar with my work, but there were definitely one or two die-hard Depeche fans near the front going, “Aw yeah! I heard the remix this guy did for them”, so that’s good to hear. The way I look at it is that you shouldn’t get in the way; the fans are there to see Depeche Mode. This is their night to connect with their favorite band, and it’s my job to give them what Depeche Mode wanted me to say. By selecting me they’re telling the fans, “Check out this stuff that we like.” So we did a nice little set, played our hearts out, and hopefully got a few converts. You don’t want to offend anyone in a situation like that. I think it was one of the largest crowds we ever played for. We played in Kiev a few days ago and that was 42,000 tickets sold and that was amazing. It was an open stadium so it felt more festive, and the crowd was looser. I think the people in Germany are a bit more hardcore about Depeche Mode, whereas there I think they were just excited in general. The Germans were definitely more judgmental toward us, but in a good way. We had to earn their applause, and we fed off that.

It’s funny, actually, how big a piece of my career Depeche Mode are. My brother flew in from Texas for these two shows, and my first experience with the band was through him. He’s nine years older than I am; his first introduction to music was Yaz, and it sucked him up into the world of new wave. We were always kind of baffled how, growing up in East Texas, he got access to the kinds of music he did. He actually used to travel to record stores that were miles and miles away just to buy music and talk to the guys who worked there about new stuff. Music For the Masses was one of the first CDs I ever really got into. I was about eight at the time; I remember seeing that big cardboard box that all CDs used to come in back then, and the album cover became so iconic for me. I’d go into my brother’s room and grab all his maxi-CDs with all the remixes and just sit and play them. I loved it, loved anything with synthetic sounds actually.

Fast forward a few years. It’s 1993, I’m 14 years old and about to go to high school, and my brother decides that it’s time to go to a concert. So he takes me to see Depeche Mode on their Songs of Faith & Devotion tour. I was this wide-eyed kid in a huge amphitheater, surrounded by people and knowing all the words to the songs. It was a revelation. I’d started getting into making music, and as I sat there seeing it all I said to myself, “This is what I want to do.” Now I’m opening for Depeche Mode, which is mind-blowing. Now my brother is here, and it’s this perfect full-circle moment.

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Tim Simenon shares his Depeche Moment

In the next part of our series assessing the impact of Depeche Mode through personal narratives, British electronic music producer Tim Simenon, best known for his work as Bomb the Bass, remembers working with the band during their most tumultuous period. Photo by Luci Lux. You can read more Depeche Moments here.

 

I grew up pretty quickly as a kid because, from a very young age, I didn’t live with my family. Growing up in London, I started buying music around the age of ten. I was just fascinated with sound. Eventually I started knocking about with people who really got me into music, to the point where I was DJing by the time I was 14 or 15; I was “the kid with the records”. By the time I’d finished my A-levels, I knew that music was something I would be heavily involved in during my life. That evolved three years into college courses at SAE in North London. One day I met up with James Horrocks, who was running a label called Rhythm King. He knew I was DJing, and also that at the time my technology skills were limited—I had two bags of records and an idea, basically. So he gave me two days in a studio with the producer Pascal Gabriel, and he helped me realize my idea. The success was an amazing surprise. I was a waiter at a restaurant when that first Bomb The Bass record went in the charts at number five, and I remember telling the owner the next day that I thought I had a new job.

From 1988-onwards, it felt like everything I was doing was leading up to working with Depeche Mode. I’d been a massive fan ever since picking up a copy of Some Bizzare with their photograph, and with Rhythm King being part of Mute and in the same offices at the time, it all just fell in to place. I knew Daniel Miller, and I’d always see Dave and Martin knocking about. One day in ’88, Miller asked me if I wanted to do a remix of “Strangelove”; my first-ever remix, actually. When Alan Wilder left and they were looking for a new producer, my name was already in the mix. I think Martin and Dave had enjoyed the Gavin Friday album I’d finished a year ago. So, I get another call from Miller telling me that the band wanted to meet with me and play me some demos they’d just written. I went to their offices and had a listen, and even though the structure was bare bones—guitar, voice, a simple beat—the melodies were all there as well, and I was blown away.

I remember being nervous as well; Dave’s health was fragile at the time, and there wasn’t any certainty that the band would carry on. Daniel said to me, “Oh, let’s just give it a go, maybe work on three of the tracks,” and there was always that kind of feeling; it wasn’t like we felt we were making an album. It wasn’t necessarily where the band was at either; Martin had only written the three songs, so there wasn’t an album’s worth of material anyway. The studio we were working was very comfortable but not flashy or anything; you could just walk in there and lounge, and the band liked that. As time went on, Martin grew more convinced that our chemistry together worked. We had a break over Christmas period while he wrote three more songs, and we just continued in this fashion. Eventually we ended up in LA, where Dave was based at the time, to record vocals. I was staying at a hotel, and I remember going out for a walk and coming back, and the hotel manager telling me, “Your mate Dave has just been taken to the hospital.”

Amazingly, he bounced right back and we were in the studio two weeks later. He was there with a sponsor and we were just recording vocals like nothing happened! He was actually clinically dead at one point, and suddenly he’s singing “Barrel of a Gun” like nothing happened! We were able to finish the rest of the album with a minimum amount of fuss, really. It was bonkers, but it was an amazing time as well. It was really one of the best years of my life, really. The album was made feeling like it would never be made, so to look back on what we did is just phenomenal.~

 

Bomb The Bass’ new Wandering Star EP is out now.

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Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas J. McCarthy shares his Depeche Moment

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.

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