In the next part of our series assessing the impact of Depeche Mode through personal narratives, German DJ and electronic music producer Stefan Betke—aka Pole—recalls the influence Depeche Mode had on him as a teenager in Dusseldorf, and beyond.
The very first time that I heard of Depeche Mode was through a music show on German television in 1981—I was 14 years old. I’m not part of the generation which saw the big musical developments between ‘75 and ’85, my active listening began in the late ‘70s and early 80s. However, I shared a room at my parents’ house with my older brother which meant I was exposed to a lot of music from that time. When I first saw Depeche Mode on TV I thought: ugly hairstyles, bad clothes and cheesy melodies. I was more interested in Richard Hell, Wire and the German punk band Hans-A-Plast, so seeing Depeche Mode on TV was alright and… That’s it.
Back then I already knew I wanted to be a musician. I was playing a Fender Rhodes in my school band, but for us it was unaffordable to buy a synthesiser or to even think about being a part of this new scene. I grew up in Dusseldorf and the bigger influence during that time was definitely Kraftwerk, who are obviously from Dusseldorf too. When I used to go out we’d see them in cafes. In our scene in Düsseldorf Depeche Mode were received as a purely pop phenomena; in conversations I had everyone said Depeche Mode were interesting, but, in the end, commercial. It took a while before it become apparent what their long term imprint on the music scene would be.
At this point in my life I was undergoing two angles of personal development, musically speaking. On the one hand I was into listening to punk; Hans-A-Plast, as I said, Chrome, as well as experimental jazz like John Lurie, John Zorn, Fred Frith etc. Yet at the same time, and as a musician, I was trying to learn what was possible in the musical language and how to use instruments, especially electronic instruments. This is where Depeche Mode’s worth came in, I saw the band as breaking through limits. They were the first people to introduce electronic music into a popular scene, before that it was really underground and only really focused on English scenes and Kraftwerk. Depeche Mode were using synthesisers to explore what everybody else said was a no-go area: not real guitar, not real drums, not this, not that. They tried to break the rules and go further, and they succeeded because it spread all over the world. This is what I appreciated about Depeche Mode from the early days onwards: the habit, the idea, the haltung. For me the haltung—the attitude—is a very important thing, it’s not a question of what you do but how you do it. In my opinion you’ve five percent talent and the rest is work. You have an idea but it’s the attitude that’s important, that you finish that work is important, and you have to go as far as possible. That is what I saw in Depeche Mode. They broke the rules, the purism of real instrumentalism, they went one step ahead.
Many years later I saw them at the Waldbühne in Berlin. I was totally focused on them, I was openminded enough to let them affect me. I was standing in the middle of the crowd listening to all these old tracks that I had on CD and vinyl, I thought by myself and in these surroundings, with this volume and this impact that they are producing, how Mr Gahan is acting with his body and how he is treating the microphone stand… I was like, that works. All the records before, they only worked for me on a production level. I remember I was listening to Construction Time Again, the album that was recorded at Hansa Studios, I was just sitting at home and thinking how can they have such a precise sound and such a huge stereo image? I was looking at it from a producer’s perspective rather than a musician’s. The thing is, when I first saw this concert I felt that there was something touching me.
Daniel Miller did come to me asking if I’d look to do a remix for them. I’d done some other remixes for artists on Mute before and the band wanted me to do one as well, so it was a mutual idea. Daniel was sitting at my home and said, “You can do whatever you want, but you can’t use the vocals.” The idea was an instrumental remix, which was fine with me because I prefer instrumental anyway. So I worked on it, did it, sent it over but I got told that the band said we couldn’t use it. Why? There were no vocals! I still have it, somewhere in my archive.~
Photo: Luci Lux
If my last column didn’t tip you off, I like to write about TV shows. Obviously I love sitting in front of the computer or TV for hours or sometimes even for days, while characters evolve, stories gain momentum and I get sucked deeper and deeper into a fictional world. But hey (and this may come as a surprise) I also like reading books. For this reason, I’d like to dedicate this post to the common ground between the written word and TV shows. Not so much television which is based on books, such as Dexter, Gossip Girl, The Walking Dead and last weeks topic: Game of Thrones. Rather, I wanna focus on programs that have nothing to do with actual literature, but become something close to it… or at least try to.
My first encounter with extraterrestrial bad literature was based on Fox Mulder and Dana Scully’s X-Files. Back in the days it was much easier for me to get my hands on the books than to watch the actual TV show. All I can remember is one story about – no joke – cows and sheep that were mysteriously killed in a small rural county. I also had this ‘non fiction’ book which was called something like ‘The Truth Behind the Truth is Out There’ and pretended to contain scientific proof of alien life on earth.
Throughout the following years the X-Files books worked like a vaccine against producers’ aims to squeeze another buck out of me, the loyal customer. I didn’t even notice written offshoots of TV shows – with two exceptions: the book The Bro Code is written by a the fictitious character called Barney from How I Met Your Mother and it’ss some kind of guidebook on how to get women, but alas, I’ve neither watched the TV show nor read the book. I have to admit though I was tempted to buy a book that, similar to The Bro Code, was written by another character from one of my favorite shows from back in the day: God Hates Us All by Hank Moody. In the Showtime series Californication, David Duchovny plays an author who suffers from writer’s block after the success of his first book (the above mentioned). But then the show turned into shit after the second season and, expecting the same from the book, I chose to forget about it.
So it took approximately eighteen years until I bought a book from a TV show and I promise you, it’s worth every dime. It’s called How To Archer, and it’s based on the FX show Archer about a secret agency called ISOS in New York – and it’s just as funny as the TV show. So the conclusion could be: creators that are responsible for great pieces of TV probably come up with good books. Who would have thunk it?
Game of Thrones is the newest HBO epic, based on the fantasy saga by George R.R. Martin. After a very successful (and enormously expensive) first season in 2011, the second season started airing on April 1st in the United States.
Like most successful books with a big fanbase that gets turned into a television show, this one has gained a lot of interest too, especially on the Internet. Basically there are two reasons for this:
1: Like every major production nowadays, Game of Thrones has a PR budget that equals the Gross National Product of a small country. And since we live in a digital world, most of the money is spent online with the result of creating an even bigger hype than there already is.
2: It’s common knowledge that the fantasy genre is basically crack for nerds; with the World Wide Web being first and foremost a gigantic nerd-playground, lots of websites hope to get shitloads of clicks just by having anything Game of Thrones-related in the headline.
And this is what sucks: Every media outlet blogs or writes about the TV show in order to get a piece of the cake or in fear of missing out on the next big thing.
But the problem is, aside from the extraordinarily compelling story and some facts regarding the production (an estimated fifty-million dollars just for the first episode, a great cast of well-known actors, an extravagant setting – all that has already been covered during the first season) there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to Game of Thrones. Unlike most other HBO shows, there is no meta-level to the story, which is set in a medieval universe with castles, swordsmen, big battles, and yeah, dragons. This may come as a surprise to all the critics who enjoyed other epic TV shows like The Wire (highly acclaimed for it’s realism and critical social commentary), Six Feet Under (highly acclaimed for it’s seemingly real life focus and it’s circling around the question “What is the meaning of life?”), Battlestar Galactica and many others. Game of Thrones is nothing like that.
The only connection to other modern series is the TV show’s explicitness, and the way it gets rid of a romanticized image of a certain fantasy age. What Deadwood did to our idea of the Wild West, what Rome meant for the ancient world and Blade Runner for science fiction, Game of Thrones has done for the medieval fantasy world. There are no hobbits, no benevolent sorcerer, and certainly no elves in Westeros, but lots of elaborate characters with personalities and allegiances beyond the black-and-white, good-and-evil molds that characterize so much of the genre.
So please, media outlets: stop covering Game of Thrones by just rehashing the episodes. The show itself is always much better than your boring recap.
It’s a pity you have to wait until 2012 to see Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All’s first television show, but if the Mayas got it all wrong and there is still a planet called earth, this is definitely going to be awesome. However, if you aren’t entirely convinced, here are two reasons in particular, that make sure of that fact the 15-minutes series called Loiter Squad will be worth seeing.
First there is Tyler the Creator and he is funny as shit. If you are willing to take a look at just one YouTube clip, watch the teaser for his album “Goblin” which was released in spring. There he plays his golf loving alter ego Thurnis Haley who “is 53 years old, eats golf and sleeps golf” and it’s a great example of absurd comedy and making fun of yourself. Something you don’t come across too often in the dead serious world of hip-hop. Of course there are lots of other videos on OFWGKTA’s youtube channel, that are worth seeing.
Second there is the fact that it’s going to be produced by Dickhouse Entertainment. If you don’t know, this is the crew around Jackass superstar Johnny Knoxville and creative genius Spike Jonze. Dickhouse already produced Jackass of course but is also responsible for such great shows as Wildboyz, Nitro Circus and loads of others.
Ahhh, we can’t wait!
In the short amount of time it’s been running, the Boiler Room – a live stream party come radio show, come platform for all kinds of forward thinking music, has established itself as a unique and essential part of the UK’s club music fabric. Following road trips to alternative venues and the Sonar Festival in Spain, the London based crew are now heading to Berlin Wedding’s Stattbad for a show of epic proportions.
Featuring the combined talents of Redshape and Kassem Mosse who are both playing live and DJ sets from Jimmy Edgar and Objekt the London crew are going to be bring some serious bass to techno central with enough deepness to keep the local heads happy. Starting on August 23rd at 20.00 and going through to midnight, this is not to be missed. Full info here.