Tuesday 20 August 2019

Just can't get enough of Dave Gahan

Despite being dead for two minutes after an overdose, Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan is still one of the great showmen

Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan tells of his experience with death
Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan tells of his experience with death
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Earlier this year American neo-Nazi moron-in-chief Richard Spencer told the Conservative Political Action Conference that "Depeche Mode is the official band of the alt-right". It was a statement utterly more bizarre than any of the band's outrageous stage outfits.

Depeche Mode's lead singer Dave Gahan was incandescent with anger. "What's dangerous about someone like Richard Spencer is, first of all, he's a wanker - and he's a very educated wanker, and that's the scariest kind of all. I think over the years there's been a number of times when things of ours have been misinterpreted - either our imagery, or something where people are not quite reading between the lines."

"If anything, there's a way more sort of socialist - working class, if you like - industrial-sounding aesthetic to what we do."

The hard-edged existential genius of their music - so many unforgettable songs like Enjoy The Silence, Personal Jesus, Walking In My Shoes, Shake The Disease, Just Can't Get Enough and Policy Of Truth - has made Depeche Mode one of the biggest bands in the world.

Songs about death, inner-torment, God and alienation are not songs you readily imagine people in their millions across the planet singing along to, but that is the reality. And when Depeche Mode play their almost sold-out show at the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 15, expect to witness the 12,000 crowd seeking redemption by singing along with Gahan to Shake The Disease thus:

"I'm not going down on my knees/ Begging you to adore me/ Can't you see it's misery. And torture for me.'"

Or perhaps, from Everything Counts:

"The turning point of a career in Korea, being insincere."

Formed in Basildon, Essex, in 1980, Depeche Mode are no ordinary act. They couldn't be. When Dave Gahan was 11 he came home from school and was confronted by a man sitting next to his mother. She told him that "this man was my father". Up until then Dave believed his stepfather, who died when he was nine, was his biological father.

"It turns out my father had left us when I was very young... After that, I was like, 'f**k off to everything' and I got into a lot of trouble, for stealing cars and robbing and thieving.

"When I was about 15 I was sent away to a detention centre for six weeks. It was a kids' prison. You march down the hall, get your blanket and new clothes, get screamed at and beaten up. Joining Depeche Mode saved my life."

Dave Gahan is one of the greatest frontmen of the 21st century. What adds to his greatness is that he has beaten death. On May 28, 1996, he came back to life after being officially dead for two minutes when he overdosed on drugs at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles.

His heart stopped for two minutes until he was revived by paramedics. Gahan claimed afterwards that he saw, or heard, his then girlfriend, Jennifer, calling him back to this world. "I had this feeling that she was a light, a good thing in my life.

"I found out later that Jennifer, who was in New York, felt at that time an overwhelming feeling that something terrible had happened to me. All I saw and all I felt at first was complete darkness. I've never been in a space that was blacker, and I remember feeling that whatever it was I was doing it was really wrong."

He told US rock magazine Blender in 2009 that after he almost fatally flatlined on smack he decided to give up drugs. "It still took me about two years after that to ask for help. At that point I was court-mandated to stay sober. It was either that or go to jail. So I went to live at a sober-living house and they would pull us in randomly to be urine-tested. It was really humbling but at the same time I felt the best I had ever felt in my life."

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