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.
Published May 26, 2013. Words by Tim Simenon.