Exploring The Sober Side Of Depeche Mode

August, 6, 2009 / 0 comments

By Tom Lanham ~

SAN FRANCISCO — On first listen, Depeche Mode’s new ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ may seem like more of the UK trio’s sinister stock in trade — Gothic synth motifs backed by the funereal crooning of frontman Dave Gahan.

But delve deeper into the tracks — most composed by band Svengali and keyboardist Martin Gore — and a thematic pattern emerges: This is easily the most spiritual set of their three-decade career.

“That’s kind of how I see it, really,” says Gore, who just turned an unusually reflective 48.

“The album didn’t start making sense that way until I’d written songs like ‘Peace’ and ‘Little Soul’ — then I realized the bigger issues I was confronting.”

The “Peace” lyrics read like a reaffirmation of purpose: “I’m leaving bitterness behind this time/I’m cleaning out my mind … peace will come to me.”

Gore, who brings Depeche Mode to Shoreline Amphitheatre Wednesday, says he found serenity through sobriety. Three years ago, midway through a world tour, he quit drinking, cold turkey.

“I was suffering from panic attacks, I was always irritable and grumpy, and when I added up all the units of alcohol I’d been consuming, the total was truly horrifying,” he says. It was even scarier to realize “that I’d never been onstage sober in my life before. So this is the first tour I’ve ever done, alcohol-free, and I prepared for it like a professional boxer.”

Was there a final-straw moment when Gore knew he had a problem? He laughs.

“There were loads of those moments, but they never hit home,” he says. “I mean, I had seizures one day on a boat in a Louisiana swamp, and fell forward, just by chance. And if I’d have fallen backward, I would’ve landed in a swamp full of alligators — no joke. But even that didn’t stop me.”

Gore still gets mortality reminders, as on a recent Athens, Greece date, when Gahan was rushed to the hospital after collapsing in his dressing room.

“We are getting a bit older, proven by Dave’s cancer scare,” Gore says. “At first he was diagnosed with a stomach bug, but overzealous doctors did a scan and found a shadow on his bladder that turned out to be a malignant tumor. It’s a miracle they managed to catch it so early.”

Ultimately, Gore — a divorced father of three — wants to be around for his kids.

“So I’ve learned that for me, personally, drinking is not an option anymore,” he says. “The moment I open that door even a crack, it’s fully open within 24 hours. Because I could always find a reason to drink.”

Source: San Francisco Examiner