Last updated 28.01.08
The inimitable Dave Gahan makes a dynamic return on October 22nd with «Hourglass» - his eagerly awaited second solo album. Best known as the iconic frontman of Depeche Mode, he continues his impressive career with a blazing new side-project, which follows his critically acclaimed solo debut «Paper Monsters».
Produced by Dave with Christian Eigner and Andrew Phillpott, both members of the Depeche Mode touring band, «Hourglass» also reflects Gahan's growth as a songwriter. Initially showcased with 2003's «Paper Monsters», he later wrote 3 stellar tracks for Depeche Mode's recent 2 million selling «Playing The Angel» - «I Want It All», «Suffer Well» and «Nothing's Impossible».
«Hourglass» highlights include the gospel-tinged «Saw Something», which kick-starts the album with stealth before effortlessly setting the tone for the other 9 tracks. «That was the catalyst that started the idea to write again,» Dave recalls, adding that is was also «the first lyric, and the key to open the door to thinking, 'Okay, I can go here.'»
Other standout moments include the exhilarating, tour de force roar of «Deeper and Deeper», the soaring epic first single «Kingdom» (out on October 8th) and the addictive pull of «Use You», where he scathingly lets loose his disgust with people, and specifically, himself. Meanwhile, on «Down» - perhaps the most confessional song on the record - he confesses «I feel so old, down on the ground is where I'm bound to end up.»
Sonically, the record cuts across a range of influences and styles with grace. Decidedly more electronic than his previous solo work, he has seamlessly swapped the guitar of «Paper Monsters» for the synthesizer he epitomizes so well.
«It doesn't feel so much that the band is my identity anymore, although I owe everything to it. I'm starting to really feel that I have my own voice, and it's definitely coming out in the songs. For me, it's the best possible record I could make at this time. And it's gone well beyond what I expected of myself.»«Hourglass»
«They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.» - Andy Warhol
There are few professions that force one to so constantly face down the march of time as that of the gloriously precarious job of rock stardom. And it is exactly that which makes the title of Dave Gahansís second solo album, «Hourglass» (Mute/Virgin Records), all the more poignant.
The revered Depeche Mode front man, of course, nearly ran out of time himself. In the midst of a tragic and understandably well-publicized pre-Millennial run of decadence and self-destruction, Gahanís heart literally stopped beating ó the result of an overdose in a Los Angeles hotel room. He survived, of course, and, given a second chance at life, he determinedly set about the business of making the rest of his time matter - in a way that he hadnít in a very, very long time.
Perhaps itís no surprise, then, that he should have come to this point, to be making a record that strips off a few layers of rock & roll mythology and exposes the vulnerable, fallible flesh and blood person beneath it all. Gone are the mocking self-recriminations and gentle self-reflections of his solo debut, «Paper Monsters», replaced by an astonishingly stark and honest search for meaning amidst all the chaos that is life on this Earth. Curiously, he credits the influence of longtime band mate and chief songwriter Martin Gore, with whom he shares a sometimes edgy partnership, with helping him find the fortitude to lay himself so lyrically bare.
Gahan reveals, «Itís something Iíve learned over the years from Martin, whoís not the most forthcoming of people when it comes to having a relationship with him. But I know where heís coming from through the songs that heís written. Thatís where Martin exposes himself; and it takes a lot of courage to do that.»
Ah, Dave and Martin. From Townsend and Daltrey to Barat and Doherty, there have always been those renowned, volatile musical pairings that have produced as much controversy as they have great music. Gore, of course, took primary creative control of Depeche Mode after Vince Clarkeís swift 1981 departure, with Andy Fletcher and later Alan Wilder assisting in the sonic architecture ó thus leaving Gahan to cultivate his role as singer, front man and, increasingly, towering sex symbol. He carried it all out with equal skill and zeal, as the bandís popularity skyrocketed throughout the 80ís, culminating in a spectacular sold out show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 1988, which saw this once odd little band of new wave futurists suddenly playing to 60,000 screaming Americans. They would never again be a cult band; they had become international superstars, ironically fulfilling the promise of their somewhat sarcastically titled sixth album, «Music For The Masses». They would go on to sell more than 50 million albums and more than 10 million fans would witness their sensational, legendary live performances.
However, what was to follow that unimaginable night in Southern California has by now become the stuff of legend. Depeche Modeís ascent continued mostly unabated throughout the 90ís, and stardom began to get the better of their already iconic singer. He left his life in England behind, planted himself in Los Angeles, and went on a tear that nearly cost him his band and, as stated earlier, even his life.
As the road to redemption often does, it lead Gahan to a sharply increased self-awareness, and from this emerged the songwriter in him that had always been left neglected for a hundred and ten other concerns and obligations.
But as he prepares to release «Hourglass», itís important to point out that probably very few gave him much credit in advance of «Paper Monsters». Even Mute founder Daniel Miller, Depeche Modeís longtime mentor, was a skeptic. The record, of course, went on to tremendous international acclaim and success, with Q magazine citing it as one of the top 50 albums of the year. Sold-out tours of the US and Europe followed, and were captured on the electrifying 2004 DVD release «Live Monsters». Gahanís growth as a songwriter was represented on Depeche Modeís 2005 album «Playing The Angel», the groupís first album to feature Gahan originals; his three compositions included the single «Suffer Well». A two million worldwide seller that vaulted to Number #1 in eighteen countries, the album was accompanied by a 2005-2006 international tour reaching 2.5 million people across 30 countries.
Now, teaming with drummer Christian Eigner - of Depeche Modeís touring band - and Andrew Phillpott - who served as a programmer for Depeche Mode touring - Dave has made an album of startling versatility and emotional weight.
Rather than a collection of highly stylized and slickly produced songs, the music on «Hourglass» seems to be a direct extension of the specific emotions Gahan is trying to express. It is astonishingly direct, and not at all ambiguous. The eerily beautiful, gospel-tinged «Saw Something» quietly opens the album, his aching voice conveying a chilling reluctance to be secure in oneís happiness, for fear of it suddenly going away.
«That was the catalyst that started the idea to write again,» Gahan recalls, adding that is was also «the first lyric, and the key to open the door to thinking, ĎOkay, I can go here.í»
The three also made the brave (skeptics might have said ill-advised) decision to produce the record themselves, leading to a finished work that is strikingly immediate. The effortless chemistry between he and his collaborators even surprised Gahan himself.
«Originally we thought we would just demo some songs, he explains, but within the first week, it was obvious that we were doing more than that. And working with Andrew and Christian, weíre very comfortable with each other, and we understand each other musically. So we came up with the idea to just record and produce a record ourselves.»
Sonically, the record cuts across a large swathe of influences and styles with remarkable effortlessness and grace. Decidedly more electronic than «Paper Monsters», it also conveys an almost primitive urgency, resulting from the excitement of three musicians working together for the first time and discovering genuine chemistry. And perhaps most important of all, letting their mistakes take them in new and unexpected directions.
«It wasnít anything that was contrived,» says Gahan. «We wanted to do something that was less formulated, and so it became more organic, for want of a better word. Itís all kind of cut and paste.»
Eigner proves an incredibly versatile drummer, creating gentle rhythmic ambiance one moment, and thundering, freight-train beats the next. And with electronics providing most of the musical environment of «Hourglass», Phillpottís guitar playing roams freely into fantastical atmospherics, especially evident on the soaring epic «Kingdom».
What might surprise Gahan followers most are the albumís moments of exhilarating industrial aggression, as in the blistering, hyper-sexual «Deeper and Deeper».
Perhaps more importantly for the singer, «Hourglass» is a journey of the soul. In «Kingdom» he confesses that «Glory doesnít mean that much to me» while wondering aloud if there really is something beyond what we can see with our own eyes ó a superstar struggling to find a humbler self within him. And his personal doubts are in full evidence on the ethereal, Eno-esque «Miracles» where he admits, «I donít believe in Jesus / But Iím praying anyway.»
To be sure, he doesnít at all shy away from his uglier inner conflicts. On «Use You» he scathingly lets loose his considerable disgust with people in general, and himself specifically. And with «Down», perhaps the most stark confessional on the entire record, he wearily croons, «I feel so old», while admitting that, «Down on the ground is where Iím bound to end up.» Itís his blunt admission that no matter how far heís crawled from it, for him, the abyss is never very far. His old demons are always, it seems, ready to drag him back down in.
But with «Hourglass», not only has he intrepidly once again faced down those very same demons, but heís also identified his greatest foe of all: time itself. And made at least a little peace with it.
«I donít know if itís about age, just getting older,» he wonders. «But there are certain things that just donít work anymore. Thereís no longer the luxury of being able to get blind drunk every night and just hide behind that. My fear is that Iíve wasted so much time in fear, in fear of diving in. I feel like Iím racing against the clock; I feel constantly like I havenít got enough time to get to where I wanna be. And I think what Iím afraid of is what the future may hold, and am I doing anything of meaning?»
«Hourglass» actually answers his question for him. Gahan has veritably made the record that was probably always in him, but could only have been made now: a collection of songs not by the superstar frontman that world has come to know him as, but by the man underneath it all, who like everyone else, has fears, struggles, and has made some really big mistakes that he is determined to learn from.
«I feel this record has been an amazing opportunity to push the artist in me,» Gahan enthuses. «It doesnít feel so much that the band is my identity anymore, although I owe everything to it. Iím starting to really feel that I have my own voice, and itís definitely coming out in the songs. For me, itís the best possible record I could make at this time. And itís gone well beyond what I expected of myself.»
Yet heís quick to conclude, «Itís about trying to find out who I am and being comfortable being that person in no matter what Iím doing. I think Iím still struggling with a relationship with myself.»
«When we first started writing, I had that song in my head and in my heart; so I was dying to get on a mic and sing it. The lyrics are about sitting, waiting for something to come - protection of some kind, or some kind of answer. What Iíve come to learn is that youíve got to go find it, take some action. I prefer to sit and wait, but it just doesnít work. It sounds kind weird, but I do believe in that sort of divine intervention, if you allow it. If you allow life to happen, not try to push it in the direction you think itís supposed to go in ó which is what I spend a lot of time doing ó then really amazing things happen, things that you didnít expect. But youíve got to take some action. This song, for me, is a starting point for something new in my life.»KINGDOM
«Itís this idea that thereís a better place, and itís not up there in the clouds, itís right here. And itís about becoming more accepting of life and the way it is. I would be lying if I said the world didnít affect me. I have children and I want to protect them; and sometimes I donít really have the ability to do that.»DEEPER AND DEEPER
«It is very sexual and very animal. But thatís a big part of me, too; and I wanted to expose that. I started singing it, and Christian said I would have to stand three feet from the mic ó I was just screaming it out. I wanted it to have that feel of T. Rex, Gary Glitter, all those glam bands. But itís really kind of a blues thing, just riffing on one idea.»
«This is built around a sort of Stooges drone, a bass guitar hit in a very strange way. Itís sung in my true voice, the way I just sort of spit things out. As for the lyrics, well, all these things creep in from what I read, what I see. And I do believe that we are building this tower of fear that weíre all going to live in, until we decide weíre not going to anymore.»MIRACLES
«Itís one of my favorites, because it is so exposed. Visually, itís kind of like coming in and out of the fog. Exposing a little bit of what I believe in but not really. Iím going to tell you that I donít believe in Jesus but Iím gonna continue praying. Religion is not a concept that I... I think itís archaic. But at the same time, there are many times Iíve found myself praying to something. If the lyrics are contradicting themselves, itís because Iím contradicting myself all the time. The thing is, I donít believe in miracles, but I see them happen in my life and in other peopleís lives. I have total faith in life and love; I just donít have any faith in people. But itís really a love song. And I believe in love, but Iím also afraid of it. In the past, I lost myself completely, and if youíve lost yourself, you canít possibly have a relationship with anybody else. To have that in my life, to have a family, I realize itís the most important thing.»USE YOU
«Itís very sleazy. Itís about my disgust with people, myself, disgust with my arrogance and my self-sabotaging behavior. I wanna use something, I wanna use life to escape. I think it comes from being made to go to Sunday school when I was a kid. I heard it loud and clear, that weíre all sinners.»
«Itís just the word, I really like that word. Itís about something you canít really touch, but you know itís there. I felt like it wasnít going to make it on the record, but we stripped it back, and itís become drumless. Now I feel like itís got a place.»ENDLESS
«Itís about trying to believe thereís something at the end of the tunnel that will somehow solve all the problems; itís that illusion. We recorded «Endless» in five different ways. We went a really hard way with it, and that just didnít work. Then Andrew and Christian went out and ended up at some club and the DJ did this thing where he reversed the beat; and they came back all excited about it. So we let Christian go at it and he came up with this very off beat. I think that even in a pop format, if you push yourself and allow the experimentation, the song can go in so many different ways; it's very hypnotic, but it's also a pop song.»A LITTLE LIE
«It has a John McGeoch/Siouxsie Sioux kind of vibe to it. Itís very gothic, and of course thereís nothing wrong with goth. Itís like those songs that have real highs and lows and take you to an odd, sort of ethereal place. A lot of Depeche songs have that feeling; Martin and I are very much minor chord people. The beat is a sort of swamp crawl, something from the deep South, which comes from me listening to John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. I was poking fun at myself a bit in this song, using this really bombastic opening, and then singing about how the time for that has sort of passed.»DOWN
«Itís one of my favorites. Itís almost got a kind of country feel to it. Itís the last little reflection of where I left off with «Paper Monsters». Visually itís reflecting back to the days when I wasnít participating in life. There are certainly times when Iím still, like, fuck it, letís crack open the bottle of Jack Daniels.»
Dave Gahan - Hourglass
Playing The Angel
«Fragile Tension / Hole To Feed» long-awaited details
Nitzer Ebb on tour: solo and with Depeche Mode!
FrYars with debut album and Dave Gahan on vocals
SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE [ lyrics ]
Fragile Tension / Hole To Feed
HOURGLASS - REMIXES
Saw Something / Deeper & Deeper
HOURGLASS [ lyrics ]
THE BEST OF VOLUME 1
Martyr [ lyrics ]
TOURING THE ANGEL - LIVE IN MILAN DVD
John The Revelator / Lilian
- Songs Of Faith And Devotion
- Some Great Reward
- A Broken Frame
- Music For The Masses
- Speak & Spell
PLAYING THE ANGEL [ lyrics ]
A Pain That I'm Used To
Precious [ lyrics ]
Enjoy The Silence
BOX SETS: DMBX4-DMBX6
101 DVD | 101 SACD
Martin Lee Gore
COUNTERFEIT² [ lyrics ]
LIVE MONSTERS DVD
PAPER MONSTERS [ lyrics ]
I Need You
Dirty Sticky Floors
One Night In Paris | Easter Egg
I Feel Loved
EXCITER [ lyrics ]
Live in Moscow (4.03.06, DS «Luzhniki»)
Gatecrasher Moscow - Andy Fletcher's DJ set (09.05.04, ęGaudiĽ club)
Our interview with Andy Fletcher (December 2003)
David Gahan's press conference in Moscow (June 2003)
Meets'n'greets with Depeche Mode in Moscow, 2001
Tour of the Universe 2009/2010
Touring The Angel 2005/2006
St. Petersburg (3.03.06)
Dave Gahan on solo tour
Martin Gore on promo tour