2000

On 6 March the Recoil-album Liquid was released. On 3 April the single Strange Hours / New York Nights / Don't Look Back and on 21 August, the single Jezebel, of which Black Box Complete was the B-Side, was released. There were videos for Strange Hours and Jezebel.
Similarly, like its predecessors, Liquid was rather unconventional and wasn't received with enthusiasm everywhere, leading to speculation that Alan might be a little depressed.
"I can't really put my finger on why I gravitate towards that kind of music, but I just suppose that the dark side of human nature is much more interesting.[1] I don't think that I'm a gloomy type, I'm quite funny and not too serious. They are mistaken if people think due to the music I'm morbid or serious. People always talk about the darkness in the LP. I see it as dramatic rather than dark. I don't know why my music always sounds that way, I simply follow my instincts there and this is what comes out. Perhaps this is a side of me that only comes through in the music, I don't know, I can't give any reasons for."[2]
With this project he showed that some of the criticism from his former band mates was valid. "I'm a perfectionist and that tends to make each project that little bit harder - you feel you must improve upon what you've done in the past. Making Liquid was probably the most grueling time I've ever spent in the studio. I was encamped there for sometimes 20 hours a day, for a year or so. Naturally, the rest of your life suffers as a result."[3]
The 14 minute version of Black Box "was the original version, albeit having been through many changes along the way. I always imagined that the opening sequence was an onlooker's reflection of events and when the electro section kicks in, the listener would find themselves actually on the 'plane at the beginning of its fatal journey.' In the end, the 'journey' section (which is very long) didn't seem to fit with the rest of the LP and I preferred the idea of splitting the 'reflection' and the 'aftermath' into two parts while replacing the middle section with the rest of the LP, acting as a man's life memories."[4]
So this became the concept for the album, which was awarded as best album by the Charles Gros Academy.



Want

(Want (Scars) - with friendly permission of © Fury Harbinger)



And as usual, there was hardly a Recoil interview without DM being mentioned.
Alan: "I still have a little contact, mainly to Dave. However, since he lives in New York, we don't see each other often. When I was in New York on promotion tour I met him. Dave is in fantastic shape and we had a good laugh about lots of things - old and new. He is obviously besotted with Stella Rose and seems very content all round. I don't have really much contact to Martin and Fletch. It's just a business affair. At least I'm proud and happy about my years with DM. They were good years. Of course, we had some problems but I have so many good memories in me that are important to many people and to me, and also for what I'm doing now."
But when asked whether he could be thinking of having Dave sing on a Recoil-album, Alan replied, "I don't think it would feel right. I like Dave very much but I want to work with different people. Did you think about that he perhaps couldn't be interested in collaborating with Recoil?"[5]

Even at that time - only three years after Unsound Methods - some people noticed that Alan didn't look happy, although he said he was again and again, and also that he had no regrets about leaving DM.
In 2001 he became a father for the second time and wanted to "enjoy family life". He obviously did at first. In 2004 he said, "I've been enjoying all the things I never seemed to have time for when I was in the studio. They include travelling (around Europe), re-kindling relationships with other members of the Wilder family (my brother Stephen in particular), spending time with my kids and helping with their upbringing, spending time with Hep and taking her out occasionally, building a new glass courtyard, entertaining friends, playing tennis, walking, watching cricket, decorating, and drinking Campari."[6]
But then - according to his own words - he spent most of the time "on the sofa, drinking and watching sports". The reason for it was - according to him - that he was frustrated, having put so much work into his albums, but having to hear that "people say they want to listen to Recoil but haven't been able to find the records in the shops."[7]
Maybe he was also starting to realise - he was very interactive at this time and answered many fan questions (mainly about DM) - that he would never get rid of the ghost of DM whatever he did (as well as DM would never get rid of the ghost of Alan).



There's no real connection, but nevertheless it's quite interesting that Dave once said about the Devotional period that they had created a kind of mafia for themselves - and that Nicole Blackman sang about the black cotton mafia in Chrome. When you listen to the lyrics you might get the impression she had been there.
While I never got any answer according to the question if I might stream excerpts of Depeche-Mode-songs on this website, Alan kindly granted me to do so with Recoil-songs.
So here is an excerpt of Chrome:

(with friendly permission of © Recoil / Alan Wilder)



On 5 June DM went back into the studio and started to record Exciter. It was more or less the beginning of a new DM era. While Ultra had been a kind of outstanding experiment and a "project in between", with the remaining band members trying to face their demons and form a new band, Exciter marked the start of new working methods, and producing formulas that became typical for this and the following albums.
The sessions lasted until January 2001 and took place in London, New York and Santa Barbara, where Martin had moved to in the meantime. This was one of the new formulas. The following albums were also recorded in these three cities.
They changed their working times to make it more enjoyable than in the past, when Alan used to work all night.
Fletch: "We all come in about 12:30 and get something to eat. I buy and read my newspaper. Then we tend to work all the way through till about 7 o'clock when we eat and then go back and finish. Then go out maybe or go home."[8]

After they had worked with Tim Simeon as producer on Ultra, they chose Mark Bell this time, and also had a different team. While they were looking for a producer, they were forced to realise that there weren't that many suitable producers for DM.
Dave: "When Alan left us, he was kind of our musical director he would help to take Martin's songs and develop them and push them to another place. When he left, we kind of had a hole there, you know, we didn't have anybody to do that. With the last album it was Tim Simenon and a crew of people working as well. And this one was just basically Mark Bell. And Martin seemed to be a lot more open to Mark, like, giving his influence, and he was a lot more open with me, as well, like experimenting with my voice more. On this album I kind of like do some different things with my voice that you wouldn't expect from me. And, you know, try to challenge myself a lot more, with songs like Goodnight Lovers and another song called When the Body Speaks. It's not typical of what I might sing on a Depeche Mode album. And then you also get Dave Gahan doing Dave Gahan in his gothicness on songs like The Dead of Night which is, you know. I get to play out all my favourite sort of roles."[9]
Mark Bell "sees a voice as just another instrument." Something Dave probably didn't like that much. On the other hand, he felt encouraged. "I was basically singing from day one and I would work in a different room to the guys, and just keep singing like I was rehearsing the songs for a tour or something. So, it enabled me to like, find a place that was somehow a little bit deeper than before, and to relax and stop trying so hard."[10]

Martin: "I really liked the atmosphere Mark created for Bjork. After having worked with him, we realized how essential he was to those records.[11] He can visualize sounds in his head. He goes to a keyboard, and he creates that sound. It's not even just about the keyboard sound - it's the whole vision of a song.[12] Mark is so good with sound, that I tend to take a background seat from that stage, and I'll tell him what I like and what I don't like, which is in a way kind of how I worked with Tim [Simenon] as well. Me and Tim would conceptually talk about the songs, and then put ideas out to the team, whereas this time I can leave Mark to do stuff. I can say 'I like that', 'I don't like that', 'I think that's good because of this or that' or 'That's not working because I think that's wrong for this song' ... just working like that."[13]
Martin is right when he says that people stay basically the same. I think he was used to working like that before, taking a back seat and acting as a kind of a director, and it was probably something Alan didn't like. ("We never worked as a group.") And evidently Tim Simeon and Mark Bell didn't like it either, otherwise they wouldn't have refused to work with them again.
Talking to Steve Lyon, he confirmed that Martin used to act like this back in the 1990's. "Sometimes Martin would come in saying, 'I don't like this' and 'I don't really like that', and then we would work on things to get a different version but he would trust a lot in the three of us, Alan, Flood and myself. And Fletch as well, y'know. Fletch would come in, say his thing but leave it to us because he knew something good would come out."[14]
Yes, he clearly trusted in the people he was working with but as Alan said, and also Dave said several times in later years that he sometimes seemed to forget to tell those people that he valued what they did, although I'm sure he did value it. Remember him calling Violator "Alan's album", and naming it as his favourite one. So it's probably just a question of communication again.

It took a while before things got started because Martin had no ideas. "I had six months where I basically did nothing. I just kept putting it off and putting it off: 'I'm not inspired. I don't feel like I've got the songs in me.' It became a real chore. So I decided, for the first time, to get a couple of friends in, just to kick-start me. Just having them there made me start writing. They would sit in the studio, waiting to work, so I'd say, 'Give me two hours and I'll come back with a song that we can start on.' That was really important for me. Had I not had them there, I think I would have just kept putting it off. Even though I had the rest of the band dying to work, and the record company desperate for us to start putting something out, that meant nothing until I had two people sitting in the studio, waiting to work."[15]
These two friends were Gareth Jones and Paul Freegard.
Martin: "Because I work with Gareth, who's an engineer, and Paul, who's a keyboard programmer, the songs were actually a lot more finished when they were brought to the studio stage."[16]
According to Gareth Jones, the pre-programming took them about eight months. "Basically we were playing around with Martin's compositions. Martin would always come with a set of chords, vocal melody, and most of the lyrics for a song, and we would take it from there - trying different tempi and different timbres and atmospheres. Later we changed the keys for Dave."[17]

Again, they had a big production team, and some additional musicians were brought in.
Martin: "This time we did actually work with somebody that was really a totally off the wall coincidence. While we were recording in Santa Barbara, we were trying to put a percussion loop in time, and it was very complicated because it was a 4/4 loop over a 3/4 beat. This percussionist just happened to walk into the office, and Jonathan, our manager, was there and said, 'Oh, you're a percussionist. Maybe you can go in there and help him try and put this percussion loop in time.'' So anyway, he came in and just introduced himself. He said, 'Oh, I'm a percussion player. My name's Airto. If you ever want me to do any percussion, just give us a call.' So we did a bit of research on him, and he's one of the top percussion players in the world. Apparently he can play a month at Ronnie Scott's in London." (laughs) "That one wasn't necessarily someone that we earmarked to work with, but it just happened to turn out that way."[18]

As he had done on Ultra, Dave wrote some songs for Exciter, and played the demos to Martin. Both times he failed.
Dave: "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."[19]
The Ocean Song would later end up as the B-side of the Paper Monster single I Need You in 2003, titled Closer.
Almost the same thing happened when he played some demos to Martin during the making of Exciter.
Dave: "He nodded his head and let me know that they were pretty good, but he never turned around and said, 'Great, let's record some of these for this album.'"[20]
This would lead to Paper Monsters and some internal problems.
Strangely enough Fletch would blame Dave for Martin not reacting, because he had played the demos to Martin when he was drunk, and Dave hadn't asked him directly if the songs could be used for the album. This is probably more proof of their inability to communicate.






References:
[1] Songs of Praise and Emotion, Blue Divide, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2000. Words: Uncredited.
[2] recoil.co.uk
[3] Recoil aka Alan Wilder - On hold for the time being, Sideline.com, 21 March 2004. Words: Bernard van Isacker.
[4] recoil.co.uk
[5] recoil.co.uk
[6] Recoil aka Alan Wilder - On hold for the time being, Sideline.com, 21 March 2004. Words: Bernard van Isacker.
[7] recoil.co.uk
[8] Interview with Fletch - Santa Barbara studio, California USA, Bong Magazine (U.S.), 31 October 2000. Interviewer: Michaela Olexova.
[9] Interview with Dave, KROQ, 19 February 2001. DJs: Kevin and Bean.
[10] Depeche Mode - Press Conference, Valentino Hotel, Hamburg, 3 March 2001.
[11] Q & A: Depeche Mode, Mean Street, May 2001. Words: George A. Paul
[12] Article in Keyboard, May 2001, Words: Robert L. Doerschuk.
[13] Exclusive Martin Gore Interview, depechemode.com, 12 December 2000. Words: Daniel Barassi.
[14] depechemodebiographie.de
[15] Article in Keyboard, May 2001, Words: Robert L. Doerschuk.
[16] Exclusive Martin Gore Interview, depechemode.com, 12 December 2000. Words: Daniel Barassi.
[17] Two-plus decades of platinum synth hits - Interview with Gareth Jones, Keyboard Magazine, November 2001. Words: Greg Rule.
[18] Exclusive Martin Gore Interview, depechemode.com, 12 December 2000. Words: Daniel Barassi.
[19] Dave Gahan: Paper Monsters Interview, EPK, Mute IPKSTUMM216.
[20] Gahan Ditching Depeche Mode?, Rolling Stone (US), 20 August 2003. Words: Corey Levitan.



Biography: 2001 & 2002

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