Halo Effect

Depeche Mode’s 1990 studio album, Violator, was an important record for 15/16-year-old me. As I wrote in a guest article for website, Eight Albums, a while back: I can remember being so excited ahead of its release. I’d loved the two singles that preceded it – the anthemic, bluesy stomp of Personal Jesus and the blissed-out, pulsing pop of Enjoy The Silence, so I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the album. I wasn’t disappointed.

‘I bought it the day it came out (March 19, 1990) – after school I walked to the local record shop to get it on tape and then listened to it on my Walkman on the bus home. I can still recall the effect hearing the opening, moody, techno-inspired synth line of the first song, the mysterious World In My Eyes, had on me.

‘I was in a short-lived band at high school – we were a trio and were called The Massive String Thing. I sang and my friends, Chris and Dave, played keyboards and drums, respectively. We only did two gigs – our first one was during a school lunch hour and we played three songs, opening with World In My Eyes. I wore a black denim jacket and did my best Dave Gahan impression.

‘I thought we were great, but looking back on it, I think most people who saw us would’ve rather enjoyed the silence.’

Thirty two years later, I was very excited to read about a new book coming out: Halo: The Story Behind Depeche Mode’s Classic Album Violator, by Kevin May and David McElroy (Grosvenor House Publishing).

So, I decided to, *coughs*, ‘reach out’ to the authors and ask if I could talk to them about their publication, which is a great read – a brilliantly researched and well-written piece of work that goes to painstaking lengths to talk to so many people who were involved with Violator, including the engineers and studio mixer, the guest slide guitarist, the sleeve’s graphic designer, the album’s marketing and PR representative, and even two of the girls, an actress and a dancer, who featured in promotional videos for the record.

Not only that, but there are also personal stories from some of the band’s fans from all over the world, who share how much the album means to them.

In an exclusive interview, Kevin and David tell me how the book came together, share some of their insights on Violator, and also talk about the future of the band, following the recent death of keyboardist, Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, and the announcement that surviving members, Dave Gahan (vocals) and Martin Gore (guitar / keys), will continue as a duo and release a new album, Memento Mori, in spring 2023, followed by a tour.

Q&A

How did the idea for the book come about? Was it as a result of lockdown?

Kevin May: It was a little while before lockdown – it’s been a while in the making. In the age of streaming, I think it’s increasingly rare to listen to an album front to back – people pick up tracks on random playlists…

It just so happened that I was travelling home from a work event quite a few years ago and decided to put Violator on – it was the first time in a long while that I’d listened to the album. At the end of it, I thought; ‘It’s so terrific – such a wonderful album’.

I’d seen the DVD documentary that had been made about it, in 2000, which does a fairly decent job of going over some of the bits and pieces, but I thought that because the album defines an era for the band – and for others – that it was worth digging into it…

I had no concept at all about how to go about writing something more than an article, which is what I used to do for my day job – it needed to be much more than that – so I asked a few people, someone said they’d written a book and they knew a publisher who was great, and they introduced me…

It started from there and it took quite a long time for me to do the first run of interviews – I had to fit them around work, and I was an editor of a travel publication, so I was pretty busy.

Then, in early 2017, David entered the fray…

Left to right: David McElroy and Kevin May

How did you guys meet?

KM: I don’t recall our first conversation. David – did I approach you about writing a contribution as a fan?

David McElroy: That’s right – I’ve run a blog for the last 10 years. In the last five or six years, it’s become Depeche Mode-focused. Kevin asked me to do one of the fan contributions for the book and then the Global Spirit tour kicked off – Depeche Mode did a BBC 6 Music show at The Barrowland in Glasgow.

I met Kevin at that gig. I’d always hoped I could see them at The Barrowland.

One of the things that impressed me most about the book was that you managed to track down and speak to a whole host of people who were involved with the making of, and the subsequent release and promotion, of Violator. You even spoke to a dancer from the Halo video… How did you go about finding everyone? Was it a challenge?

KM: When I did the first run of interviews, the vast majority of people were fairly easy to track down, either through social media or LinkedIn. There were a couple that were a bit trickier – Richard Smith, who worked for Area, which was the design agency. He’d never spoken to anyone about Violator – that was a real coup. I particularly enjoyed talking to him.

In some respects, Anton Corbijn is the creative mastermind behind Depeche Mode’s look from, 1987 onwards, with the videos and the sleeves, but Richard and Area were pivotal to it and become more influential as Anton gave them more freedom to do things.

‘The band take a very consistent line on  requests – they don’t get involved with any biographers. That applies to current band members and also Alan Wilder’

For example, the cover of Personal Jesus was an Anton brain dump, but as the singles went on, he gave more control to Richard and Area – World In My Eyes was very much Richard’s work.

I didn’t know any of that and I don’t think many people do – he’s one of the unsung heroes… Rightly, so much of the credit goes to Anton, but Richard has done a lot of work and he was just a footnote: ‘Designed by Area’.

There are no new interviews with any of the band members in the book. Did you ask them to get involved and did they decline?

DM: The band take a very consistent line on any requests – they don’t get involved with any biographers. That applies to current band members and also Alan Wilder [who left Depeche Mode in 1995]. The management didn’t get involved, either – no one in the close circle. They politely said ‘no’.

‘You’d probably get more about the story of the making of the album from the people we’ve spoken to, rather than the band, who would just say, ‘I can’t remember what I was doing in Milan, in late 1989’

When we first gave our editor the book, he thought if Depeche Mode weren’t involved, how would it come across and how would the story be told? But he said he quickly forgot that the band weren’t involved with the book because of all the other people who contributed. His view was – and I think Kevin and I agreed with him – was that you’d probably get more about the story of the making of the album from the people we’ve spoken to, rather than the band, who would just say, ‘I can’t remember what I was doing in Milan, in late 1989’…

Drugs, probably, I’d imagine…

[Everyone laughs].

Flood, who produced the album, didn’t contribute to the book either, did he? Were there quite a few ones who got away?

KM: Certainly Flood was the one who got away. It was basically a timing thing – I approached him right at the beginning and his management company, 140dB, said it sounded like something he’d be interested in, however, at the time he was working on a PJ Harvey album, at Somerset House. After that, he took a break because it had been intense.

‘Flood famously doesn’t do many interviews, but everyone else who worked with him – all the engineers and François Kevorkian – did speak to us’

This dragged on for a couple of years and then they said it probably wasn’t going to happen – he was then working with Ed O’Brien [Radiohead]… Flood famously doesn’t do many interviews, but everyone else who worked with him – all the engineers and [studio mixer] François Kevorkian – did speak to us.

Getting the fans involved was a nice touch…

DM: Kevin had had this idea and I did a thing on my blog for the 30th anniversary of Violator, which was an article a day for the whole of March – it was the one of those ideas I had and then I realised I had to follow it through…

I got quite a few fans to contribute, so the articles they wrote for me feature in the book, because we felt they were a good fit. They’re not just saying ‘Violator is the greatest album I’ve ever heard and Depeche Mode are wonderful… ‘ It’s more about their story.

Which people were the most fun to chat to for the book, and, as fans, did you learn anything that really excited you?

KM: Richard Smith was probably the person I learned the most from and, in terms of fun, the experience of interviewing Steve Lyon [engineer] was great because I actually went to his recording studio, in West London – I’d never been to a proper one before and I was a little bit overawed by that experience. He’s just a generous and very funny bloke – he was great.

I met Bruce Kirkland, who was on the marketing and publicity side, in L.A. I happened to be there for a conference, so I asked him if he was around and I caught an Uber out to his office, which was in the hills, overlooking L.A. We spoke for a couple of hours. That was genuinely a really enjoyable period of doing the book – I was talking to people about something I love and am passionate about.

DM: The things I learned the most were from reading Kevin’s interviews. If you look at the book as two halves – Kevin had done all the work on the part up until the album is released, and, as a Depeche Mode fan who, perhaps, can be a bit boring about the band, I was reading things I’d never read before. I found that fascinating.

My interviews were more based on ideas I thought we could explore for the book – I chatted to Angela Shelton, who was the actress in the Clean video. I’ve seen that video a lot of times, so that was quite surreal.

Tracking down Nils Tuxen – the slide guitar player – was quite odd. I went through his Dutch fan club – and via his daughter. It was a brief interview, but it was quite fun and part of our attempt to delve into every corner of Violator.

‘Fletch was an integral part of the band. If he hadn’t have been there, I think the band would’ve finished long ago’

Andrew ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. Photo credit: Ivica Drusany / Shutterstock.com

Sadly, while you were in the final stages of proofing the book, band member Andrew ‘Fletch’ Fletcher died. You’ve dedicated it to him, which was a really nice gesture…

DM: Fletch was an integral part of the band. If he hadn’t have been there, I think the band would’ve finished long ago. He was a constant presence in the studio and saying, ‘I don’t think this works, you should try this’. He was very involved in the direction he thought the band should go – ultimately, he was the biggest Depeche Mode fan there is and he knew what we kind of liked. If he hadn’t have been there, I think the band would’ve finished long ago. His role was a bit like Bill Berry’s in R.E.M. He was the kind of ‘pop ear’ – when Bill left, R.E.M went more in Michael Stipe’s direction.

Martin Gore and Dave Gahan

And now, Depeche Mode’s remaining members, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore, have announced they’re continuing as a band and have a new album, Memento Mori, and a  world tour planned for next year. How do you feel about that?

DM: It’s strange to see them without Fletch, and you can certainly tell that both Dave and Martin are feeling his absence, but I’m not surprised they are carrying on, especially when they said how far along the album was before Fletch died. I’m glad they’ve carried on and finished the project off. It’s a nice way to pay tribute to Fletch and will allow fans to meet up and remember him.

Let’s go back to Violator – it’s an album that took the band’s sound – and status – to a whole new level. On the record, Depeche Mode embraced blues, country, techno, house and disco. I can remember where I was when I first heard it – it was on March 19, 1990, which was the day it was released. I was coming up to my sixteenth birthday, and living on the Isle of Wight. I bought the album after school, on cassette, from a local record shop, and played it on my Walkman on the bus home.

‘I listened to Violator on repeat so much that the sticker on the side of the cassette came off’

From the synth intro of the first song, World In My Eyes, it blew me away. What are your memories of hearing Violator for the first time? 

KM:I was at sixth form college, in Rochester, Kent, which is where I grew up. A friend of mine had a cassette version, we were walking to college one morning, he put his headphones on my head and said, ‘Listen to this’. That was the first song. By that time, we’d all heard Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence, but when I heard those first eight to 16 bars of World In My Eyes, I thought, ‘OK – this is really good’. By the end of the day, during breaks at college, I’d listened to the whole thing and when I got paid from my supermarket job later that week, I bought my own copy.

DM: I was 15 when it came out. Having fallen for Enjoy The Silence, which was the first time I properly got into Depeche Mode, I went to Woolworths, in Castle Douglas, in south west Scotland, where I’m from, and bought Violator on cassette. I took it home, and played it in my room. Like both of you, when World In My Eyes started, I thought, ‘This is something different’. I listened to the album on repeat so much that the sticker on the side of the cassette came off.

‘Depeche Mode have never received the critical acclaim they’re due. Violator is one of the most forward-thinking and innovative British albums ever released’

Violator is 32 years old and yet, if you listen to it now, it still sounds so fresh and modern. It was so ahead of its time, wasn’t it, but it doesn’t get talked about as one of the classic rock albums, does it? Why do you think that is?

DM: As far as I’m concerned, Depeche Mode have never received the critical acclaim they’re due – that’s across the piste from Speak and Spell [1981] onwards. Yeah, they made a few mistakes in the early days, like doing some daft TV appearances, but their work has always been experimental. From Speak and Spell to Violator, they’ve always moved on and done different things – they didn’t stand still. Violator crystallised all the work they’d done up until that point,

You’re right – when you read those ‘Best 500 Albums of All Time’ it’s always there, at 300 or 350, but it’s one of the most forward-thinking and innovative British albums that’s ever been released. Just because it was released by a band who was on Noel Edmonds’s Swap Shop, playing synthesisers and wearing suits eight years before that, it doesn’t mean it should be any less credible.

‘There were quite a few tracks on Violator that were a lot rockier before the final versions.You wonder if it would’ve been more like Songs of Faith and Devotion if François Kevorkian hadn’t been the overall mixer on it’

For a band who were part of an early ’80s scene where all the other bands had fallen away, split up or were releasing increasingly dull things, Depeche Mode kept on moving forward and were big all over the world.

KM: There were quite a few tracks on Violator that were a lot rockier before the final versions – you had Martin’s demos, which Flood and Alan Wilder predominantly worked on, and then François Kevorkian came along and made them a little bit more electronic in parts. One of the stories that comes out in the book is that Halo was a lot rockier than the final version, because François did his thing on it. You wonder if Violator would’ve been more like Songs of Faith and Devotion if François hadn’t been the overall mixer on it.

Violator is very contemporary – you can put it on now and if you play it to someone who doesn’t know the history of the band, or music, I contend that they would struggle to name the year it was recorded. Thirty two years later, it’s a very difficult album to pin down in terms of the genres it covers and the year it was made. That’s what makes it a unique album – it’s timelessness.

What are your favourite songs from Violator?

DM: Enjoy The Silence – it’s a fairly obvious one, but it’s the song that started off the whole Depeche Mode thing for me and, ultimately, led to me sat here, chatting to you. There’s not a bad note on Violator

KM: For me, it’s Halo and World In My Eyes. Contrary to Dave, I think there is one weak song – and we’ve discussed this before  – and it’s Sweetest Perfection.

I like that song, but, for some reason, I guessed that was the one you were going to say… I don’t know why.

KM: It just never got me in the same way as it gets people like David, I suppose.

Photo credit: Kraft74 – Shutterstock.com

Is Violator your favourite Depeche Mode album?

DM: For me, it’s number one – it’s what started it all off for me. Black Celebration follows a close second – it’s a manifesto for Depeche Mode fans laid out over 12 songs. I also think Songs of Faith and Devotion is superb, and I love Ultra.

KM: My other favourite Depeche Mode albums are Songs of Faith and Devotion and Black Celebration – I like Some Great Reward too, and I like Exciter and Ultra. I think Exciter is a really interesting and important album for Depeche Mode – it was the first time in a few years that they’d gone into a studio, and the first time they were going to do a big album tour after Dave had been ill, and there was another new producer [Mark Bell]. Dave was chomping at the. bit to add some of his songs, but didn’t – he waited until Playing The Angel.

Photo credit: Avis De Miranda / Shutterstock.com

There was a lot going on at that time and they started to gain respect critically, as there had been a changing of the guard among the music critics who’d slated them. Fifteen years later, some people were saying: ‘Depeche Mode are quite cool, actually’. That period interests me in, dare I say it, doing a sequel book, which David and I have yet to discuss.

Finally, I’m having a night in tonight, without my family, should I enjoy the silence, or should I lift up the receiver, reach out and touch faith?

KM: It depends who’s on the other end of the phone…

DM: Take a chance to enjoy the silence, but stick Violator on loud in the background.

For more on Depeche Mode, visit David McElroy’s blog, here.

Imposter Syndrome

Dave Gahan & Soulsavers. Photo: Spencer Ostrander

Say It With Garage Flowers has chosen our favourite album of 2021 , and, shock, horror, it’s a covers record: Imposter by Dave Gahan & Soulsavers.

Not only that, but we’ve also got an exclusive interview with Rich Machin  – aka Soulsavers  – on the making of the album. This isn’t fake news – Imposter is for real.

“It’s about trying to go into different worlds with stuff, rather than just recreating the original versions,” says Machin. “It was a good, fun excuse to dig through my record collection.”

For the first time since we started publishing, Say It With Garage Flowers has chosen a covers record as our favourite album of the year.

But it’s not just any old covers record – it’s one of the best we’ve ever heard: Imposter by Dave Gahan & Soulsavers.

For their third album together, the Depeche Mode frontman and his musical partner, producer / engineer/ musician, Rich Machin, decided to work their black magic on other people’s songs, rather than write their own. Both of them came up with a long list of contenders and then narrowed them down to the final 12 that make up the record.

As I said when I reviewed the album for consumer magazine, Hi-Fi+ earlier this year, it’s an eclectic selection, with Gene Clark sitting alongside Charlie Chaplin, Cat Power, Dylan, Neil Young and Mark Lanegan, whom Soulsavers first collaborated with in 2007.

There’s a pretty faithful rendition of the shadowy, infidelity-themed, country-soul classic The Dark End of the Street, albeit with some gospel stylings; a gorgeous, hymnal take on Gene Clark’s Where My Love Lies Asleep; a version of the jazz standard, Smile, as sung by Charlie Chaplin and Nat King Cole, among others; Cat Power’s Metal Heart; PJ Harvey’s The Desperate Kingdom of Love; the urgent, raw,  trad blues-rock of Elmore James’s I Held My Baby Last Night, with squalling electric guitar, and a stunning and dramatic reading of Neil Young’s A Man Needs A Maid, with the rich orchestration of the original replaced by atmospheric piano and unsettling, spacey sound effects.

One of the highlights is a dynamic take on Dylan’s Not Dark Yet. Gahan and Soulsavers turn a stately twilight ballad into an altogether heavier beast. In fact, the majority of the songs on the record have been reinvented, which, of course, is the trick to making a great covers album. You have to bring something new to the party.

Writing in Hi-Fi +, I said many of the choices, which are often dark and full of pain and suffering, sound like they were written for Gahan to sing. Married three times, he is a former drug addict – he overdosed on a lethal cocktail of heroin and cocaine at the Hollywood Sunset Marquis hotel in 1996 and spent at least six minutes clinically dead. He’s a man who’s seen some harrowing sights – so much so that he doesn’t just sing these songs, he lives them and inhabits them.

The title of the album may be Imposter, but Gahan was born to perform many of these compositions. In fact, talking about the record, he says: “When I listen to other people’s voices and songs –  more importantly the way they sing them and interpret the words – I feel at home. I identify with it. It comforts me more than anything else. There’s not one performer on the record who I haven’t been moved by.”

‘Many of the songs, which are dark and full of pain and suffering, sound like they were written for Gahan to sing – he lives them and inhabits them’

The album was recorded with a 10-piece band at Rick Rubin’s famous Shangri-La studio in Malibu, California.

Musicians along for the ride included guitarist James Walbourne (The Rails and The Pretenders), keyboard player Sean Read (Dexys Midnight Runners, Edwyn Collins, Manic Street Preachers) on Hammond and piano, and Pornos For Pyros and Jane’s Addiction bassist, Martyn LeNoble.

Gahan says: “I know we made something special, and I hope other people feel that and it takes them on a little kind of trip – especially people who love music and have for years.”

He’s spot on. Imposter is the real deal. To get the full story behind the making of the record, I spoke to Rich Machin of Soulsavers.

“When I walked into the studio for the first time, I knew things were going to work, because there was an ambience,” he says.

“There was a vibe in the live room – it was perfect for the way I wanted to make this record. I had a good feeling…”

Q&A

Why did you choose to make a covers album this time around?

Rich Machin: To be fair, Dave floated the idea by me – he called me up and said, ‘Would you consider doing it?’ I said, ‘Well – I’ve done covers before, but never a covers record – let me think about it and I’ll come back to you.’

I thought about it – I had a long mental checklist of tracks that I could cover. Once I had several ideas bubbling away in my brain, we talked about it and then spent a while exchanging ideas of what could work. We formed a long list and then whittled it down. It was a good, fun excuse to dig through my record collection.

It’s a really varied collection of songs. There’s some stuff that maybe you would expect to hear on there, but also some surprises, which makes it an exciting record…

RM: Out of curiosity, which are the ones you would expect to hear?

The Mark Lanegan song, Strange Religion, and the PJ Harvey track, The Desperate Kingdom of Love – I know Dave’s a fan of both artists and you’ve worked with Lanegan… To be honest, I was expecting there to be a Nick Cave cover on there, but there is a song by Roland S. Howard, from The Birthday Party – Shut Me Down…

RM: We did talk about a couple of Nick Cave ideas, but Roland S. Howard and the whole Birthday Party / Bad Seeds crew were as equally influential on us.

Shut Me Down is such a great track and it was nice to give a nod to one of the lesser-known people from that group – it came from the Cave world and it’s one of my favourite tracks on the record.

It’s great to have a Mark Lanegan track on the album, as your collaborations with him were how many people became aware of Soulsavers. It feels like you’ve come full circle by including one of his songs on the album…

RM: Mark Lanegan is one of my best friends – we speak three or four times a week. His presence is still heavily felt in what we do. At some point we’ll pick up where we left off.

The Dark End of the Street was the second single from the album. I love that song – especially the James Carr version – but your take on it is great, too… Was that one of your choices?

RM: Yeah – that was one of mine. I sat on it for a while because, to me, the James Carr version is so definitive – you don’t fuck with it!

We had a couple of other tracks in the mix that I felt the same way about, but Dave was pushing them – Lilac Wine and Always On My Mind. Willie Nelson’s version of Always On My Mind is the one, but people always think of Elvis’s…

With The Dark End of the Street, I thought, ‘fuck it – let’s try it and see where we go…’ and I was pleasantly surprised how it came out. I was more than happy to leave it on the shelf if we hadn’t done it justice.

‘I sat on The Dark End of the Street for a while because the James Carr version is so definitive – you don’t fuck with it!’

The version of Always On My Mind is brilliant. It closes the album, but you’ve resisted the urge to make it a Vegas-style showstopper – it’s stripped-down and understated, with gospel backing vocals and country guitar. The recording is very intimate – you can hear what sounds like the creaks from someone sitting on a seat…

RM: The only way for it to work was for it not to be overblown – it needed to be an intimate moment. We recorded the song live in the studio, on a Sunday night. Most people had left – there were just a couple of us left, and it had gone dark. We only had a couple of lights on – we wanted to capture the ambience of the room as much as the performance.

Most of what you can hear is the room mics. It makes you feel like you’re in the room with everybody performing – you can pick up all the creaks…

Your version of Dylan’s Not Dark Yet is superb – you’ve made it heavier, bluesier and much more dynamic than the original…

RM: It’s about trying to go into different worlds with stuff, rather than just recreating the original version. Dylan did it his way, which is the definitive version, but I could hear it differently – I played around with it. Lyrically it’s a very dark song and I was going for more of a raw, ‘60s fuzzy psych guitar feel – there’s no bass on it. I felt it really worked.

You worked with a 10-piece band on the album. Some of the arrangements have a full band sound, but there are plenty of stripped-down moments, like your dramatic version of Neil Young’s A Man Needs A Maid, which is shorn of the original’s string arrangements, but, instead, has piano and strange spacey sounds. A lot of the songs have plenty of room to breathe…

RM: It’s just as important to know when not to use people – just because it’s there, you don’t have to wave it around. You have all the tools to be able to do what you want, but the key to making something work intimately isn’t just to fill the space with everything you’ve got.

The space and the room – the silence and the quiet – on a record is just as important as the music. I was very conscious of that with a lot of the songs – it was about giving Dave’s voice room to really be the draw to what you’re listening to. The music is there to support the vocal.

‘The space and the room – the silence and the quiet – on a record is just as important as the music. I was very conscious of that with a lot of the songs’

This album was recorded with a full band at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La studio, in Malibu. Didn’t you make the previous Dave Gahan & Soulsavers albums by working remotely?

RM: Kind of… That bit gets overstated – we did spend a lot of time together making those records. It wasn’t as disconnected as it sometimes gets portrayed. We wrote the songs for those albums remotely, but it wasn’t like this record, where we had 10 people in the studio.

When did you make the album?

RM: We recorded it before Covid, in November 2019. The first I knew of Covid was in January 2020, when I was in my hotel room, mixing the record. I was watching the news and saw something was happening in China. Our main concern at the time was the Malibu fires.

How were the recording sessions at Shangri-La?

RM: Terrible! [laughs]. I’m certainly not averse to a month of California sun in November.

It’s an incredible studio. When we were talking about places to record, Dave was very drawn to the idea of recording in Los Angeles. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of recording in L.A – I felt like I wanted us to be out of the city. I didn’t want us to have any distractions – Malibu is pretty much the city limits and it’s got a very different vibe.

‘Shangri-La is an incredible studio. It was perfect for the way I wanted to make this record. I could set everybody up, with no separation, and just let it bleed, so it sounded like a band’

Rich Machin

I’ve known Rick a long time, so I dropped him a text on the off chance that he wouldn’t be using the studio in November and he wasn’t, so it lined up perfectly. I floated the idea by Dave and he said yes. We got there and it was amazing.

When I walked in there for the first time, I knew things were going to work, because there was an ambience.

There was a vibe in the live room – it was perfect for the way I wanted to make this record. I had a good feeling – I could set everybody up, with no separation, and just let it bleed, so it sounded like a band.

After a few days, the history of the place gets to you. Dylan’s old tour bus is still outside – the inside of it has been turned into a recording studio. It’s a 30-second walk to Zuma Beach, so you can go there and clear your head in the morning, then stroll back, plug in and play, and make some music in the afternoon.

How did you first start working with Dave?

In 2o09, Soulsavers spent about three months on the road, opening for Depeche Mode – we became friends on that tour. When it finished, we stayed in touch and it blossomed from that.

‘It’s weird – Imposter is a covers album, but Dave said it feels more personal to him than anything he’s written himself’

Dave sounds like he’s lived some of these songs – often the lyrics are very apt for some of the experiences he’s had…

RM: It’s weird – it’s a covers album, but Dave said it feels more personal to him than anything he’s written himself. Because of the way he relates to the lyrics, it’s as if he’s telling a story.

Dave Gahan. Photo: Spencer Ostrander

Anyone else you’d like to collaborate with?

RM: I’m working on a couple of new things for next year, with some new and old faces. I’d love to do something with Patti Smith – she’s someone that I deeply admire as a person, a writer and a musician. She’s such an interesting and deep character – she’d be top of my list.

What music – new and old –  have you been enjoying recently?

RM: I’m just going to look at a stack of albums next to my record player…  that’s a good starting point. I’ve got piles here – Brian Eno… Every once in a while I get really into him –  that’s definitely been a regular thing. The Harmonia album [with Eno] is on the top of the pile – it’s possibly my most listened to album of the past however many years. It’s had quite a few outings recently.

I’ve also been listening to the Heliocentrics records a lot – they put out two albums last year that were just amazing.

I was really slow to hear Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways. For whatever reason, when it came out I didn’t tune into it. Recently, I’ve gone, ‘Oh – this is good…’

‘I’d love to do something with Patti Smith – I deeply admire her as a person, writer and musician’

Do you stream music or buy CDs, or are you a vinyl-only guy?

RM: I’m pretty much all vinyl, but I do have a Spotify account. With new music – I like a lot of electronic stuff – rather than drop 25 quid on the vinyl, I will listen to it once or twice on Spotify to see if it’s worth the investment. I really only listen to anything on vinyl for enjoyment. I’ve got my set-up in the living room – that’s how I listen to music.

Finally, are you glad you made a covers album?

RM: Yeah – I’ve got a lot of friends who’ve made covers albums and they always say they’re the most enjoyable records to make. I’d never really figured that out for myself before, but they’re right – it was a lot of fun.


Imposter by Dave Gahan and Soulsavers is out now on Columbia Records.

http://www.davegahan.com/

https://www.instagram.com/theimposter/