The most startling stat anyone can tell you about Depeche Mode is this: Since the group’s inception in 1980, they have sold 100,000,000 records. One. Hundred. Million.
Through 14 studio albums, several live records and unaccountable remixes, Depeche Mode has survived catastrophes that would have destroyed lesser bands. Granted, these catastrophes happen on average every 13-15 years, But when they hit, things get awfully weird.
The first crisis came after Depeche Mode’s first tour when chief songwriter, Vince Clarke, decided to quit. The second tsunami surrounded the Songs of Faith and Devotion tour in 1993-94 that involved (a) grand mal seizures; (b) nervous breakdowns; (c) the departure of keyboardist/programmer, Alan Wilder; and (d) the clinical death and long rehab of singer Dave Gahan.
Gahan figured in the most recent crises, too, although he can hardly be faulted for anything. A suspected case of food poisoning picked up around his 47th birthday in early May turned out to be a malignant tumour on his bladder. The tour had just re-started when Dave suffered a torn calf muscle that was initially mistaken for a twisted ankle. More cancelled shows.
Yet here we were, backstage in Toronto at the first show of the North American leg of the Sounds of the Universe tour. I got Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher at halftime of an intense game of foosball to talk about everything that’s happened. “To be honest,” says Fletcher, “this has been most strange since this has been our most successful tour. And also calamitous at the same time.”
“It’s also ironic because we’re in a better state than we’ve ever been for any tour,” adds Gore. “As a band, we were more prepared, physically fitter and two shows in, we had to take a three-week break.”
“Dave has taken these knocks in a really great way,” says Fletcher, “But he’s very competitive. He’s really been performing like he’s never performed. Now we’re hoping for a nice run of normal gigs.”