2003-xx-xx Paper Monsters EPK, Mute Records
In the audio interview section of the Paper Monsters electronic press kit (IPKSTUMM216), Dave Gahan speaks in detail about the events that convinced him to embark on a solo project, how he worked alongside Knox Chandler, and where he found inspiration for the songs. A transcript of the interview was shared on some musicnews-sites at the time, and has been copied below.
- Duration: 23:11 minutes
1 What inspired the decision to record your own solo album?
I really got serious about it about three years ago when we finished the Depeche tour – it was the Singles '86-; 98 Tour. I had a few song ideas and I went back to New York and really, my wife really encouraged me to do it and she really supported me a lot. I had these ideas and I guess I was always moaning about not having someone to bounce the ideas off. I really felt the need as well to have an outlet. I wanted to work with somebody else so that we could exchange ideas, I wanted to move forward. And when we finished that tour I felt like it was just really important to push myself in an area that maybe was a bit scary for me, and it was something I talked about for a long time. In fact when I lived back in Los Angeles I started properly talking about doing it – more so, actually, from other people, you know, friends tried to encourage me to do something and at the time I just didn't have the bottle to do it.
2 You worked closely with Knox Chandler on this album, how did this come about?
What happened was someone... a mate of mine from Los Angeles, Victor, who actually played a lot of drums on the album and he's going to be playing drums with us on tour as well; he suggested that I call this mutual friend – this guy Knox. And I knew Knox, but I didn't know him that well. It just so happened it was a total chance meeting, I happened to walk into a place and he was there, sitting there. So something possessed me at that point. It was really nerve-racking, but I went up to him and just said "I'm Dave Gahan, I hear you play guitar and some cello and stuff and I've got these song ideas and I need someone to help me develop them." And he was all just like, "Yeah, great". He said, "I've got a little work room in my house, come over next week." And so sure enough I went over there the next week and had this one song which has now ended up... it will probably be a B-side, it's called "Closer". I sung him the song and he started playing some guitar and to be honest we just made it a regular event, we started getting together and it was about writing really.
3 How did you and Knox work together?
After we'd thrown around about five different ideas – I had a lot of words and I had some melody ideas in my head - Knox really helped me with the things that he would play. I mean, he played very atmospheric guitar stuff, a lot of cello, some stand-up bass stuff, and it was very spacious, very atmospheric, and a long way from where we are now. And it just really inspired me. There was something about the sounds and the way he played that really inspired me and I'd start blurbing out lyrics and ideas and we'd just record everything. After not that long we used to get together once or twice a week, sit around, drink a lot of coffee, talk and then work for about an hour, but always I left there with something. I left feeling like we'd accomplished something and I got really excited, and I hadn't felt like that for a long time and I realised at that point that I really needed to be doing it. After a couple of months doing this we both realised that we were writing songs together.
4 Did you carry on working on your own material when you were recording the last Depeche Mode album?
Even during the making of "Exciter" on days off I would work on ideas and I would go back into the studio in Santa Barbara and work on ideas. The engineer there would help me, I'd burn some ideas and send them back to Knox, and he would send them back to me with some ideas on top, and that's really how the songs came about.
5 Had you ever discussed writing any songs within the framework of Depeche Mode?
The only time really that I plucked up enough courage to do that was during the making of "Ultra". I had that song, actually, which then was called "The Ocean Song" and I played it to Martin, it was a really rough demo, I mean it's basically me tapping my foot and singing the melody and singing some words. I played it to Martin and he really liked it. And then for whatever reason during the recording it was presented to me that the song didn't really fit in with the theme and at that point I really backed off again. But it didn't matter because it started the ball rolling with me to just keep pushing and seeing what I had inside me.
6 Do you find that your singing style is different now that you are singing your own words?
Yes, totally different, and I didn't really realise that myself... It was interesting because when I first started writing I found myself editing my own words and songs in a way that I was very used to. I would almost be like my own worst enemy when I was singing because I was actually trying to shape things in a style or a way – unconsciously, really – that was familiar to me, which was the way I worked with Depeche. And really, Knox had given me the encouragement to try different things with my voice and just to be freer and not stick to any rules. Once I got confident doing that things started coming really easily. It felt... obviously it was way more natural, it felt like stuff was just flowing through me rather than me trying to direct it into a certain way.
7 After working for so long within the framework of a band, how did it feel to suddenly be doing your own thing in the studio?
Suddenly the rule book was thrown out and I realised I could play with different ideas and things would change all the time, and once we started recording as well, if something wasn't working, or if I felt it could be better I'd just do it again, I'd rewrite it. But these things, you know, these songs kind of after a while, during the making of this album in New York, started to... After we recorded a few songs, it has like a life of their own and I haven't really felt that for a long time, probably since "Violator", probably since making "Violator" with Depeche Mode, where it was like, it was just going somewhere that I never imagined it to go and I was actually really liking it.
8 Was the recording process different to how you have worked before?
Certainly all the stuff was recorded in a different way, everything pretty much was performed and then processed rather than being processed from the ground up. And I think that also – for me – that seemed much more natural and it makes more sense now that I'm coming to the end and am nearly finished, because what I'm really good at, that I feel I'm really good at, and what I've learnt over the years, is performing: and you know, that's where my strength is and it feels really natural. It's so great to be in the studio and be open to other people's interpretation of my ideas as well. It took me a while to get the confidence with that, actually. I still don't fully believe it to be honest. [laughs]
9 Ken Thomas produced your album. Ken is best known for the Sigur Ros albums, what was in those records that you thought would work for you?
I think that's a really good question because when I first picked up a Sigur Ros album it just made me feel really good. I don't know why it made me feel really good but it just did. It really inspired me to push forward and to carry on with what I'm doing. It was kind of like, to be honest, during the making and before we started in the studio with this I carried it around with me like a Bible, I listened to it everywhere and there was just something about it that was really like they'd thrown out the rule book – and I suggested Ken. Daniel said he knew him from the past, and called him up, and they took a meeting and Daniel played him a few songs, I think he played him "Dirty Sticky Floors", a song called "A Little Piece" and "Black And Blue Again" and then we all got on the phone together. I asked Ken what he thought and he said to me "Your songs really make me feel good, I'd really like to do it." And that to me, that's what I want to do, I want to make a record that makes people feel good.
10 Did you draw from any particular musical influences when writing this album?
Well there's a lot of different influences in what I do, which I've come to realise... I've had a lot of training from somebody who I respect who is probably one of the best songwriters of my time – who is of course Martin – and that's definitely rubbed off on me (laughs). And so I just wanted to take that and just kind of be freer with it, there definitely is a lot of blues influence, there's a lot of the music I grew up listening to, like T-Rex, David Bowie and Slade and "feel good" stuff. It's not rock, you know? It's not what I'd call "raaak". The stuff that moves for me, it's got a swing, I always feel like I have to be able to perform it, when I was writing the songs and everything as well, as they were developing I would always be visualising myself performing them and it just felt right.
11 What inspires you as a songwriter?
A lot of the lyrics I was writing came from just the way I feel about people and life and I kind of put myself in there, and how I felt about myself and the way I've sort of led my life. None of this stuff was really written, apart from a couple of things, through what I call my Dark Ages – the prehistoric times! It's all come out of life, how beautiful life can be, seeing that again and feeling that again. There's a lot of darkness in the world today. There's a lot of fear and the only way to combat that – for me, personally – is to have a feeling of hope and faith and I definitely have that today.
12 Are there any songs that came out of what you call the "dark" period of your life?
"Dirty Sticky Floors" is the whole lifestyle that I was drawn into. That whole kind of rock star cliché, as it is, it was a lot of fun for some time and then it wasn't any more, so out of the ashes of that came "Dirty Sticky Floors" which really was a piss-take of myself and the sort of whole glamorous side of – it's not really glamorous at all – but that whole culture of the rock and roll star that gets drunk, gets high, and falls on his face and usually ends up on some dirty sticky floor – be it your own or somebody else's I wanted to just sort of put some fun into that – and not be a song about the pain of addiction. As painful as it is, if you are lucky enough to come out the other side like I have, and get enough perspective on it, and some space from it, you can see how ridiculous it is, especially when you choose it. And I definitely chose it.
13 Has the stability of your life now helped you to make this album?
I'm a good example of somebody with an over-inflated ego but an incredibly low self-esteem (laughs) and they really go hand in hand. It's like I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread on one hand and the lowest creature from the black lagoon that you can possibly imagine on the other side – and of course I'm neither, but somehow I found this kind of balance and I think making this album has helped me to achieve that. And certainly the stability and the loving family that I have around me, my wife and kids and everything, it's like, I want all of that, it's not hard work, I want to enjoy it and I don't want any of that stuff to be painful, and it's what I put into my life is definitely what I'm going to get out of it.
14 What have people's reactions been to the new album?
I think a lot of people that listened to stuff, they seemed quite surprised and I'm not surprised that they're surprised because I think a lot of people expected me to come up with something that's like, either it'll be totally weird and dark, or like some LA heavy metal band or something (laughs). There's a bit of that stuff in me definitely, but this is just what happened, like I said it's kind of got a life of its own, it's taken its own... It's gone down it's own road. A lot of it is out of my hands. I really feel like I'm just in the right place. I really feel like I'm in the right place doing what I'm supposed to be doing so you can't get better than that.
15 Are you concerned about what people's reactions are going to be?
If I start thinking about who's going to like what I'm doing (laughs) I get into a really bad place. All I know is that I really like what I'm doing and I've really enjoyed this, and I can't imagine that there aren't some people out there that will get the same kind of enjoyment from this music that I've been working on. Because I just feel it, I can feel it in my heart, that it's right. And who knows – that is something that's out of my hands, but I'm going to work really hard.
16 Have you had a lot of support from the Depeche Mode fans while recording this album?
I was sent this book of emails when I was in New York from this girl from Brooklyn and it was just all these little postings from fans all over the world. It was really nice, it was at a time when all those kind of questions were being asked of me, and I got this book and it was really nicely laid out and it was all these really encouraging emails from Depeche fans from all over the world: "We just want to hear how you feel". Pretty much they all said the same things – so I know there's at least a hundred fans out there that are definitely going to buy the record (laughs), so I've got a start.
17 Where did the title "Paper Monsters" come from?
Even when I was a kid I spent a lot of time wondering who was in the closet and who was under the bed, footsteps chasing me in the night, and all those kind of dreams I used to have as a kid and to be honest, I realised a lot of what stops me from what I want to do is just fear. I think that stops a lot of people doing what they want to do, or saying what they want to say. I think that's one of the hardest things in the world to admit to yourself. Paper monsters, you know, that's what's always stopped me and these songs have come out of that. There were all kind of these monsters growing inside of me and I had to let them out and then I realised that it was only like this huge symbolic sheet of paper that was stopping me, and it was a really big paper monsters, but then I realised I could just rip it apart and rip through it and come out the other side, so that's where the title came from.
18 Can you tell us a bit about the song "Hold On"?
There is something about it that is very simple and yet... it's very simple but at the same time it's very big, in the feel of it, it's just a universal kind of sentiment. And to myself as well the message in there is "hang in there", and you've got to keep pushing and you've got to hold on to your dreams and ideas. And I just feel like, I guess, you know, in some ways the song is also about God, and what I feel, what God is to me and you know, what that is, whatever you want to call it – this power, the universe. It first came about lyrically because I felt like I'd been tested, I'm always being tested in different areas and I realised they weren't really tests, they were gifts, they were chances and things that were given to me to maybe make a change, maybe take a different road with something. That's really where the song came out of. I wanted it to have a sort of bluesy, sort of country feel to it but it's got a very modern edge to it, and I wanted the chorus just to be very, very simple. There's something about the way Knox played certain chords, and when we first... he had this little chord formation and he played it to me, and I had these words and a couple of verses and this idea for these two words "hold on". He started playing and I started singing the song, the melody over the top and it was just right, it was one of those ones where it really had nothing to do with either of us when we were writing it.
19 What about the song "A Little Piece"?
That was the one song on the album when I was literally walking down the street and the whole thing came in my head, like kind of overwhelmed me. I always carry this little Dictaphone around with me and I pulled it out and I'm walking down the street, people are looking at me and I just started singing into this Dictaphone – the whole melody, all the words. By the time I got home I had the whole song and I picked up the phone, I called Knox and I played him the Dictaphone down the phone to him. I saw that song as like... to me it's got a real gospel feel about it but it's turned out quite different, the way we recorded it – but I always heard this big gospelly choir, and stuff, and it didn't end up like that but I think it's come out pretty good and again I think it's got a pretty universal feel about it.
20 Which song did you find the most emotionally intense to write?
Probably "Black And Blue Again", which came from... I wrote all those words in a cab, along the way from a big fight with my wife. To me it's like a boxing match and I wrote these words like I was fighting and there's a lot in there – we're back in the ring fighting again. And it's fighting with myself, and it's struggling to be in a relationship rather than dictate how the relationship should be, that's always been my downfall. And that song was hard to... because I really wanted to be honest about it (laughs). I wanted to tell it exactly as it was – this fight – and really admit to myself that I'm not a very nice person and I really felt that at the time. I realised at the time that I really wasn't very nice. Hence the song title "Black And Blue Again": just beating myself up – I do a much better job of doing that than anybody else anyway.
21 What's the song "Bitter Apple" about?"
I'm glad you asked about "Bitter Apple" because that is a song about being in love and really realising that I was feeling love again. It doesn't have to be about being in love with another person but just feeling the love and the beauty of everything again. I also wanted it to have a feel about it that was sitting on some little barstool in some little dirty Paris smoke-filled café and that real sort of feel about it, somehow. Now that song is like, to me, it's really innocent and honest I didn't want to think too much about making words and things sound good – I just wanted it to sound exactly how I felt.
22 Who will you have on stage with you when you perform live?
The most important thing is that I put a band of people together that, like, are friends. People that I get on with. One of the key people to be involved, apart from Knox who's playing guitar, was a friend of mine from Los Angeles called Victor Indrizzo and he's going to be playing drums. And we go back. I knew him when I lived in LA and we went through some stuff together and we always talked about doing something together. That's what is really important to me, is that the people that play are not just these super slick guys – it would be easy for me to put a band together like that – it would be harder for me to put a band together of people that I feel are really passionate about these songs. And that's coming together.
23 Will the set list be drawn entirely from this album or will there be any Depeche Mode songs?
Obviously I want the focus to be on my album and I want to also be... It's great to be doing, I want to do these shows where I'm having to work hard because I'm promoting an album of songs that nobody's heard. When you're going out there and you've got like twenty songs that are hits it's like surfing – you just lie on top and it's great. So this is going to be like the old days of Depeche Mode where you release an album and nobody's interested in it and you've got to go out and tour for the next year – well, hopefully some people will be interested when the album comes out. But I'm definitely going to be doing some Depeche songs. I already told Martin that, and for me it's the songs that would fit in like "Personal Jesus", "Never Let Me Down" [sic], "I Feel You" – that's what I'd want to do. It's about going out and having fun too, and I think it can be a pretty intense set and I really don't want to play for longer than an hour and a half as well. For me when I go to a gig or the movies or something, after about an hour and a half I start fidgeting. I'm done. I don't care how good it is – so an hour twenty, an hour and a half and that's it – bang goodnight.
This file was ripped from the CD by 'anonymous' as a WAV file, and has been converted into MP3 for the re-upload above.