2010-05-16 Cyberspace, Zevox, Paris, France
Webradio station Zevox (now defunct) got to interview Alan Wilder for their show Cyberspace, while Alan was in Paris for his Recoil tour. Zevox typed out the interview in English and they had uploaded it on their now-gone Facebook page. I cleaned up the transcript a bit and have pasted it below, but it still has slightly different wordings than what Alan actually said (but the gist is the same). In 2011, I had asked the Facebook page owner if I could have an audio file of this interview and they sent me one in MP3 format. The file is uncut, so it also contains many songs.
- Duration: 03:24:36 minutes
Zevox: It’s been a long time you’ve been out of the tour & concert, now you’re back on the road… how does it feel?
Alan Wilder: Well I would say I started nervous about it and the first couple of shows I wasn’t comfortable about it. Possibly I didn’t give myself enough to do. I was probably cautious about the all preparation and how the reaction would be, now that we have done 15 shows , I feel much more relax about it, I’m back in the routine and I feel although it’s very different obviously to Depeche Mode tour, completely different, the all concept of touring is, remembering how it’s like to be continually on the move, especially with the recent travel chaos, we really have been on the move you know, so I’m a bit wiry but I’m enjoying it.
Zevox: Since I’ve been listening to Recoil all those years, I always wondered how to put it live, to do a proper live, many musician, singer. How did you imagine to turn this massive production work into a live show?
Alan Wilder: I’ve never imagined it other than being a kind of presentation to people out to a party and it became more than that, close to a proper gig, but I don’t see it that way. I’m very careful to point out to people that it’s more a presentation rather than a concept. It would be probably obvious to put a band together and it might sound like other acts. I’m not worried about not doing that. But it’s a more unique approach, especially with the film which plays an important part of the all presentation. As long as people understand what it is and don’t have any preconceived ideas and take it as something interesting and exciting.
Zevox: Without entering in too much technical details, is that a kind of reconstruction, playing with loops, re-arranging things?
Alan Wilder: It is a sort of reconstructed long mix of Recoil music which people will recognize but won’t sound the same as the records, slightly stripped sound, more minimal, with live elements added to it. Paul & I try to tailor each venue’s sound slightly differently to suit that particular place and we had a variety of venues, ranging from small clubs through to medium venue size-
[Alan gets an Iphone text notification]
-Sorry about that, everyone who has got one of those recognises that sound. And that requires that we change a little bit what we’re doing with the sound, we try to get a as big and bright screen everywhere as we can get and we add live effects and synthesis into the mix and that’s really what you can expect.
Zevox: Is there a part of improvisation that makes one night different from the other?
Alan Wilder: Yes, there is an element of improvisation and slight differences between the shows but essentially it’s pre-prepared things and it’s very similar each time. It has to be that way because of the limitation of the personnel, the fact that it runs in sync with the films, so even though the film is very surreal and abstract, it’s not random, each side of the film is designed with the music and it needs to run in sync with that. We did make one change to the set halfway through the tour as we had a couple of days off and were able to that, but we needed to re-sync music and film in order to do that.
Zevox: So you’re back in the mood of getting into studio with hard work as soon as you have a day off?
Alan Wilder: I do work hard, even on the road, with my laptop. The first question on the road for hotel “does it have the WiFi” there’s a kind of frantic that happens every time when we can’t get online which is sad in a way as you just can’t relax but I like work hard, there’s a lot to do at the moment, and yes, you need to fine tune things.
Zevox: Recoil is not the kind of thing that you can easily compiled with hits, how did you manage to do this?
Alan Wilder: Lucky thing was, we didn’t have any hits. It made life easier and the only challenge was to make a piece of music that flows. If we had some hits that has to be in it such as Hit 1, 2, 3 it would have spoilt the flow when you really want the all album to work as a complete thing. I enjoyed the challenge when mute told me “look, put together whatever you thinks work as a selection of tracks and we’ll call it a best of”. And I thought, Nice I can find a way to that.
Zevox: You say there was no hits but I always thought there could have been one or two tracks per album that could have been some hits:Faith Healer, Jezebel, Hallelujah or Killing Ground could have been hits. In some interview by the past you expressed, not bad feelings, but a little bit of frustration not having your music supported as it should have been, how do you explain that?
Alan Wilder: I wouldn’t say I’m bitter about that. I just think it’s the way things are. It’s incredibly difficult having any kind of music plaid on the radio and I’ve long given up the concept of that and focus on different way to marketing the project, which has been quite successful in that sense, using online viral marketing, YouTube, clips, unofficial website, try to think a little bit outside of the box of what you could do these days and there is so many options of what you can do. So I’m not too worried about the radio thing I do feel, as you said, some tracks could have been hits so you never know if that might happen one day, it’s a possibility I suppose. If Recoil music goes commercial it’s an accident, I don’t see it and do it that way, it’s just that sometimes it just end up more commercial than others. That’s not my starting point, ever.
Zevox: Recoil started very electronic & digital and then, it turns out with blues, gospel, organic elements in it, was it when Martin started to go in the black & gospel music with Violator and most of all SOFAD that you also discovered some stuff with him or was it your own way and arriving to the same point?
Alan Wilder: Well I think both Martin & I do like gospel & blues music somehow so the fact it has been incorporated wasn’t so strange. Wherever one influences the other I’m not too sure. On SOFAD for example, it was my idea to have gospel singers in, I guess you could say I was in it first, but you know, it doesn’t really matter. The point is I think that for me there was a period where I’d been doing Recoil for a while, but there was no point to it. It was a collection of instrumental music plaid around with loops and I wanted it to be a bit more than that and I felt the focus of vocals had to be introduced. And even when there’s no proper song, there are some words and it’s the words I guess and the melody that gives the all things a point. And working outside of the group on my own gave me the opportunity of bringing all different kind of people really which is why I still love the project now, I can go in any direction, work with any musician, and singers that I like, it doesn’t matter, it’s really open.
Zevox: When you left Depeche Mode, people who thought of you being a studio maniac were expecting you being more productive… Exhausted about Devotional and lack of inspiration?
Alan Wilder: I think it was a little bit of both really. I don’t find it easy to be prolific and make a lot of records. I do feel exhausted at the end of making a record. I put so much into it and so passionate about every detail that you need a break, it’s tiring. The process of making a record is slow one anyway so when you combine the process & the break you arrive to a 3-4 years gap, and in that melting pot you have life and family and all the others things you do in your life, my life tends to be more and more complicated and not easier, my children are growing up and they have needs and I always wanted when I left the group … one of the main reason was to have more time with my family, so that changes things a lot, you realize your priority is not being in the studio every day. You can’t be a good father being in the studio every day, it’s hard
Zevox: Recoil 1+2 was a specific Depeche Mode thing, playing with loops and so on… but why is there no tracks of the 2nd album on Selected? Grain, Sermon or Stone could have been edited to suit into Selected.
Alan Wilder: Yes, that could have happen. But 2 reasons really. First, if I had put some of the earlier stuffs… some of the later one would have gone and I wanted to have more than I could from the later albums in. But the main reason is more musical than that. It’s just the fact that it didn’t really fit when I tried it. I did play around with some of the earlier music and it just sounded like two different projects. And for the reasons we talked about earlier I wanted to create a flow and an overall continuity to the album rather than a random selection of track . For these reasons I thought I just had to leave that stuff out. My feeling is that I improved other the years, which I would hope is the case. And the later stuffs are better, simple as that.
Zevox: Let’s say it differently. Hydrology is a great piece… hope to have them remastered one day?
Alan Wilder: I don’t know where all the master tapes are. I guess it will happen at some stage. We could have done it this time because obviously we’ve remastered quit a lot for this album and the sensible thing would have been to have everything remastered from the archive, but it would have been expensive and time consuming and I didn’t really feel I could ask to Mute to pay for it. It might one day.
Zevox: About the visual of your live show, any special directors?
Alan Wilder: Igor Dvorský, Dmitry Semenov, Steve Fabian & Marcelo von Schwartz. They’re all from different countries and they’re all people that came to me at various stages, saying we’d like to do something for you and I thought it was a great opportunity to farm out some music to those directors and “make some films for this” and see what we end up with, something we could use in our live shows and it developed into something more than that, into a really good 75-minute piece, which has specific section for specific music. So it’s not just random abstract imagery, but it’s not necessary a story either, it’s a kind of short films collection, pasted together to form a all thing, and it really gives a visual focus to the events that can keep people interested I suppose when PK & I aren’t doing very much physically.
Zevox: By the way… are you still playing drums?
Alan Wilder: Not on this tour but, I have my drum kit at home and sometimes I play, but not as much as I should, really.
Zevox: You’re about to release a special box with 3 CDs, 1 DVD and many things… Can you talk about it ? Especially the DVD content?
Alan Wilder: The DVD will be basically what you see on the show. The audio will be basically the audio from the show, pretty much the basic version of that before we add our extra things, then there gonna be some photo booklets, new press-shots from photograph Steve Gullick and also another booklet with some live shots from a hands of events and another booklet with all the major artworks of Recoil, a nice box and package. We’re still working on it but we’re almost done with it, and we try to include on the label all dates of the tour but as all the dates are not booked yet, it’s kind of difficult. But I’ve been told it should been released by middle of may the latest. And the vinyl will be ready in two days ! That’s also a really nice looking box.
Zevox: What is the look you have on the music industry, internet, radio behaviour, do you think the "1983/84" Depeche Mode would have the same career today?
Alan Wilder: People attention to the band is shorter these days. People lie a faster pace and have less time for tangible things in their life and a very despairing example of that is in live show, people don’t even take time to look at their favorite band on stage because they are so intent on texting their friends who stood next to them anyway or on their own twitter twitting to someone else. It’s a worrying trend because it seems the longevity of a career would be more and more difficult to achieve for a band or artist because people just want change all the time. However I think there’s a move back towards something more tangible, not only in term of music, but in life. I think people being tired of tings being disposable and I certainly know from my experience with my fans, maybe slightly older, there’s a big demand from high quality product. The compromise we make is to offer everything so those who can’t be bother content with the download, it’s there for them and at the other end of the scale the all things with box-sets and extras, and the consumer can make its choice on what we wants to spare, what he really wants to have in its collection. I think it’s the best compromise to make you know. About the internet… to me it’s a very useful tool and I think there are some things that are disappointing like with the lake of secret with YouTube, everything out there before its release, no surprise, no waiting around for the day of its release. You can’t fight it so I try to use it to my advantage and I love it, being on line, doing things quickly and fast. We couldn’t have make the film we did 10 years ago, in the time we have made it without internet and the cheap high def camera available, editing softwares and now we can and I love technology and see it moves forwards. There’s no simple answer to your question.
Zevox: There has been a lot of talking about your recent appearance on the RAH with Depeche Mode so I won’t ask you the same questions :) just… what was the feeling you had entering on stage with the crowd, playing with Martin… What happened on the first seconds in your mind?
Alan Wilder: I was apprehensive as anyone would be but I wouldn’t say I was really nervous about it because I kind of knew in my heart it’s gonna be a good reaction and I was really eager to see the surprise on the faces cause not many people knew about it. It was a very well protected secret despite what we’ve said earlier, very well protected. I was really excited as I went on stage, I was a little bit nervous, hands were a bit shaky, but I felt relax, let slip into that wave and it seems very familiar at the same time, “been here before” you know, and the crowd was so nice so responsive I just felt good.
Zevox: There’s no point of dreaming of you getting back in Depeche Mode, but is there still something to be done with them, have you talk to the guys about this open door?
Alan Wilder: I’d say there’s never a closed door, there’s no open door either you know, we haven’t discussed anything, we haven’t got any plans, but I think each of us feel there could be something in the future, some kind of collaboration, there’s no concrete plans.
Zevox: Last Depeche Mode question, you probably listen to new Depeche Mode albums. What do you think of their evolution? Are they surprising you?
Alan Wilder: No, not really, the band sounds more & more like Martin’s project rather than a fully formed group if you know what I mean. Even though Dave is now contributing his stuffs, and I think since he’s doing that it moves in the right direction or them, mainly because for his personal state of mind, it’s obviously very important that he’s able to contribute songs & feel, he’s doing more than he use to do. In our days, I know he attempted and probably wrote a lot of songs but he never had even the confidence to present them to us. And we’d never heard anything that he had on the go and now he does, clearly, he’s done solo album and contributed to the modes, good on him I’d say, that’s a good move.
Zevox: And you? you wrote some songs until Some great reward and then, no more ? Was it because of the Recoil project starting?
Alan Wilder: I think I made the conscious decision of not continue to do that. I’ve never felt there were really what I wanted to do. I just felt I owed to be writing some songs, here I am now in this group and I had to write some songs, I never felt they were good, I struggled with lyrics you know, they never sounded to me, they seem laughable to me, it just don’t come naturally to write this kind of songs. What come naturally is the creation of kind of atmospherics soundscapes which is what I do now and I let someone else contribute to lyrics to that and then I use my skills to kind of orchestrated them and that’s what I feel confident in doing, and that’s what I do naturally, what I do best.
Zevox: This song Landscape is Changing, and if you take it now, in our context, especially with what happened those last days with the volcano things and so on, are you still focused on the all environment thing?
Alan Wilder: Not more than anyone else, you know. Even in that time when I wrote that song, it was something on people minds, acid rain, effect on our environment, decreasing rain forest, the nuclear situation was very much on people’s minds, it inspired the song Two minutes Warning, which country should disarmed now because there’s a danger in something going of. That has changed, the nuclear conversation doesn’t come that much anymore.
Zevox: Have you noticed the colour of sky during those days, since no planes were in the sky? With my wife, we thought we haven’t seen such a blue sky over Paris since we were kids!
Alan Wilder: Yeah, and the surreal thing is that we should expect something coming down from the volcano thing and we saw nothing, and no one’s been hurt, no one’s being killed, no houses were destroyed and yet the chaos has been immense. On the road I’ve noticed a high traffic of freight, because obviously goods were to be transported.
Zevox: My 30 minutes being over, I end the recording… but Alan is in a talkative mood and very relaxed… I add two questions, more in a conversation-mood, around our glasses.
Zevox: You produced Nitzer Ebb and their cult album Ebbhead, also did some production for Curve and its singer Toni Halliday… why not pursuing that road afterward?
Alan Wilder: Because, in fact, producing a band, it’s a bit like being part of it… and as you know, it wasn’t really the kind of experience I wanted to live anymore. [smiles]
Zevox: But with Nitzer, may it be with Doug and Recoil or the band, you continue. The remix of Come Undone you did dis superb… a real mix of all your « tricks » with your unique style: choirs, deep bass, intense drums, strings and orchestral moments…
Alan Wilder: Yes, and I’m really happy with it… but in fact, I’ve worked on the track with a lower pitch and lower tempo because I haven’t use the right frequency… when I’ve listened to the final version, I was surprised… and I prefer the slower version! Try to pitch it down and you’ll see the difference.