2009

After the new single had been represented at the Echo-Awards in Berlin on 21 February, the single Wrong / Oh Well finally was officially released on 6 April. There were several different versions of Wrong available, while there was just one different version of Oh Well available, the Black Light Odyssey Remix. The video for Wrong was directed and filmed by Patrick Daughters in December 2008. The actor in the video was Liars drummer Julian Gross. The video was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Video.
At a fairly early stage, the band had decided to release Wrong as the first single because it was quite different to anything they had released before. And it really stood out of the album tracks.
Fletch: "Wrong was the song of which we thought it would make a big impact. We thought it would be good to come back with a bang. The first single has to be challenging to the audience, something to makes them react."
They thought the same about the video. "Anton Corbijn normally does our videos, and we had an idea from Anton and we had ideas from for other people. One of them was Patrick Daughters. And Patrick's idea didn't include the band very much, and Anton's idea did include the band. And, y'know, I think on these days MTV doesn't play many videos anymore. So finally we decided for Patrick's idea because it we thought it had more effect on the audience. We don't like making videos anymore, so it was quite enjoyable."[1]
Oh Well was the first track to be released which had been co-written by Martin and Dave.
Martin: "It wasn't a real co-write because I had originally written the song as an instrumental but Dave heard it and liked it and he took it back to his hotel room and wrote some words and a melody over the top. It wasn't like we sat in a room and wrote it together."[2]



Fragile Tension

(Fragile Tension - with friendly permission of © Lynn (M)factr)



Unfortunately, some demos leaked out, and finally the whole mastered album. They took it as it came, and comforted themselves in the knowledge that the fans would buy it anyway. They were less happy about the leaked demos, as it seemed to them like showing someone an unfinished painting.
On 20 April the album Sounds of the Universe (SOTU) was released. A year later they received the award for Best International Group - Rock / Pop at the 2010-Echo-Awards in Germany for it.
The band, of course, tried to explain the album, said things like that they wanted it to sound as if they drove with a car in a tunnel by night and that this album was less "dark" than Playing the Angel. Again, they tried to point out that there was a lot of humour in their lyrics.
Martin: "There's always a lot of humour on our records but there's definitely more on this one. It's mainly dark humour but this time it's sometimes more obvious. In the song Little Soul there's a small musical break, and every time I hear that I laugh. I hope the listener will laugh when they hear this too.[3] Well, I think Jezebel is a good name for an exotic booze. I imagine it would taste like a strong-smelling perfume. There must be a perfume called Jezebel."
Fletch: "You can't drink perfume!"
Martin: "Well, you can, but they take it away from you if you go to rehab."
Fletch: "It would be quite good for goth girls, wouldn't it?"
Martin: "Women are different now; they like wearing T-shirts with things like SLUT and WHORE and stuff. I'm sure a bottle of Jezebel would go down well."[4]
While Martin changed the title Footprint to Little Soul and was worrying that Miles Away was a Madonna song title, and wanted Dave to change the title to Miles Away/The Truth Is, he wasn't worried about Jezebel. Of course it's a biblical figure, but nevertheless it's also a song title on Alan's album Liquid.

On the SOTU-box set they also released some old demo-tracks.
Fletch: "Initially it was my idea to put the demos on the box set. I was convinced that this was unique content that people would appreciate and that would make the purchase of this box set worthwhile. Martin didn't mind at all. He was fine with it. The main problem we encountered was to actually find the demos. Basically the 5 people that you'd think who would logically have the demos would be Alan, Daniel [Miller], Dave, Martin and me. But as it ended up, Alan had them somewhere tucked away and couldn't find them directly and that was also the case with Daniel, Martin and Dave. I knew I had lots of demos but they were in storage so I dug them up. In the end I recouped about hundred demo songs - which also means that there are hundreds that we don't have anymore ... and that includes for instance the demo for Personal Jesus which seems to be lost forever."[5]
He promised that they would release some more demos in the future. (They didn't when Delta Machine was released, but they had some problems with the various labels, and on the other hand, you don't know how many albums they will make in future.)



Miles Away

(Miles Away / The Truth Is - with friendly permission of © Maria Gay)



Then they prepared for the tour. There was no question of not touring the album, because especially for Dave this is the thing that makes sense for him. And of course they were aware that you sell a record by touring today.
Martin: "We've done a lot of touring for a so-called 'electronic band,' and we've proven that electronic music works in a live format and in a huge live format. In a way, what we're going to do now is a landmark like the Rose Bowl gig. We're going out to play our first stadium tour. There's not another electronic band that has gone out to play a stadium tour."[6]
Although for them it's always a bit of a nightmare to pick a setlist, -
Fletch: "We're a democracy, so it's like the Eurovision Song Contest. We have to cast votes for our favourite tracks."
Dave: "We'll do some old stuff and some staples. And we'll have fun doing songs like Just Can't Get Enough. We can't ignore that. It would be like the Stones not doing (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."[7]
- in the end the setlist turned out like most previous setlists.
This caused lots of discussions on several message-boards about the question whether DM might have become too "Rolling Stones". In fact, DM had never played as many different songs on a tour as on this one, although all of the all-time classics like Personal Jesus, Enjoy the Silence and Never Let Me Down Again appeared. That the live versions aren't as varied as they used to be in former times is probably mainly a problem for the hardcore fanbase. People who sometimes listen to DM and have been to one concert on a tour probably wouldn't notice it. But it is noticeable that although the band had announced that they wanted to play as many songs from the new album as possible, they didn't play many from it in the end.

Martin: "When we're playing, you look in the front row and there's a lot of younger kids as well as the older audience. People are coming to hear the new record as well as songs we made 20 years ago. Obviously, we are the worst people to have any subjectivity on the matter, but we are really aware of our legacy and not repeating ourselves. The day we start making music and don't think we're achieving something - or stop enjoying it - we'll stop."[8]
This led to the question whether this was the last album and the ultimate tour (as they had been asked before during the promotion for Playing the Angel).
Martin: "We've been together for 29 years and we've had ups and downs, but I think if Depeche Mode ended tomorrow we'd end on a positive note."
Fletch: "It's hard to think about your farewell gig and where it would be."
Martin: "It would have to be the Pyramids."

On 6 May the Tour of the Universe (TOTU) began in Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg as a warm-up gig. The first real gig was played in Tel Aviv. They started the tour there because they were supposed to end Touring the Angel there "but unfortunately the Israel/Lebanon war got in the way of it," Martin said.
Fletch: "They've got different agendas. They like music, but missiles are just more important."
Martin: "Yes. We had to make the decision not to fly in and do the gig because there were missiles flying around and to make up for that we're starting this time in Tel Aviv."[9]
It was astonishing to read in some comments in the internet that they were blamed for cancelling the gig in 2006. Some people thought it would have been a political statement to play there, no matter if there was a conflict going on or not. I think it's harsh to demand playing a gig in a crisis region. You not only endanger yourself and your crew members, you also endanger everyone in the audience.
DM has never been a political band. They did not even react to the attack on 11 September 2001, although they were on tour at the time. While other artists cancelled gigs, made a speech or asked for a minute's silence, DM did nothing. They simply played their gigs (11 September in Vienna and 12 September in Budapest) without saying or doing anything special. Some people thought it was a strange, even a cold reaction. But maybe it was the best reaction to show. If you don't have words for something, it's always the best to say nothing at all and carry on as usual, showing that the world still turns (from Insight, Ultra).
Some political statements were made from the recording of SOTU onwards, like supporting gay rights. But you couldn't get rid of the feeling that their way of not mentioning political issues, as they had done before, was the better one.

However, it seems that Tel Aviv and DM weren't a good combination, because with this gig some problems started.
Fletch: "Actually on the first gig of the tour in Israel, I had the first bit of bad news: My father died."[10]
The gig in Athens had to be cancelled because Dave fell ill. It was said it was a severe bout of gastroenteritis. While in hospital, further medical tests revealed a low-grade malignant tumour in Dave's bladder.
Fletch: "Actually, Dave was very lucky because he had gastroenteritis and they found this tumor very early.[11] It was low grade. It was just a question of zapping it out. I said to Dave to other day, 'I can't wait for your autobiography.' It's quite a story developing.[12] Dave has really got a competitive spirit in him. If anything, he thrives on these sorts of things."[13]
This information was released very late. Too late. Instead, an extremely bad new policy was in practice. While Dave had a surgery in New York, fans thought the concert in Poland might still take place. While he was recovering from surgery, fans thought other planned concerts might take place. A lot of rumours were floating around, it seemed to take ages before it was confirmed that the gigs were cancelled. The band apologized, saying that they hadn't known how things would continue. Sure, but if someone undergoes surgery, it's obvious that they won't be able to play a concert on that day, and that they will need some time to recover afterwards.

With the release of Exciter in 2001 the band had established a presence on the Internet. The Bong-magazine that had been used for information and interaction until then was stopped in the same year. Instead, they now had a website and a message-board. And while they had shown some interest in this new way of communication, it was now diminishing increasingly. Around the time of SOTU the band remarked that their official forum was a "big moan" because people were complaining about a lot of things, and Dave even wondered whether the people posting there had a job at all.
And while other bands are using the Internet a lot, providing news, using Facebook and Twitter, and being interactive with their fans, DM's official website and Facebook site got less interesting over the course of time. They went retro, and they became much more retro with the next album, Delta Machine, at least as far as their way of communicating was concerned.

The tour was re-started in Leipzig on 8 June, comprising 18 concerts in Europe, until 9 July, when another concert had to be cancelled because Dave injured his leg.
In the meantime, on 15 June, the single Peace was released. The single version of the song has a completely different introduction than the album version. It charted at No. 57 in the UK charts; this is the band's second lowest UK singles chart position since Little 15. In Germany Peace reached No. 25. It was not commercially released in the U.S. The video was filmed in Romania by French duo Jonas & François. It featured the Romanian actress Maria Dinulescu and was the first video without any of the band members, but this was due to Dave's illness.
On 24 July the American leg started in Toronto, comprised 22 concerts, and ended on 5 September. In August, they had to cancel some concerts again, this time because of Dave's voice-problems.
He wasn't well at all, but this turned out much later.
Dave: "Physically, I had some problems. I got sick for a bit and I got through that. Then I had some other problems with my voice, which I think all has to do with the fact that I was struggling to try and get my body back together after being diagnosed with cancer, unfortunately, at the beginning of that tour. Every time we took a break, I went back to the hospital for some more treatment.[14] It was the first tour I felt like: 'I can't do this anymore. This is fucking hard.'" Nevertheless, "I was very lucky. The cancer hadn't spread through the walls of my bladder so all the chemo was localised. It still made me sick but I didn't lose all my hair."[15]
Despite all these problems, Martin did enjoy this tour, the first one he experienced sober completely. "It was difficult as we were on the road and that's always difficult to avoid drinking. I just got to a point where I knew if I carried on then I wouldn't be alive for much longer. I was drinking all day - literally getting up and drinking with breakfast. I'm just thankful some of the madness missed the age of smartphones. Back in the day when I was drinking and out of control I would have been all over YouTube." (laughs) "Just for the fun of it I'd just get naked in hotel bars. Can you imagine doing that now?"[16] (Oh, I think lots of people would have enjoyed this. ;)) But this time "I'd really been lucid enough to take in everything and enjoy the concerts and then enjoy the cities the next day."[17]

From 1 to 17 October they played 9 concerts in Central and South America, before the second European leg started on 31 October, which comprised 27 concerts and ended on 18 December
In the meantime, on 7 December, the single Fragile Tension / Hole to Feed was released. Both songs have been slightly edited and remixed for the single. Fragile Tension has some new instrumentation and clearer vocals, while Hole to Feed has been re-arranged and some sections have been removed. The video for Hole to Feed was directed by Eric Wareheim. The Fragile Tension video was directed by Rob Chandler and Barney Steel.






References:
[1] Interview Depeche Mode - Sounds Of The Universe, 2009, fnac (Videointerview)
[2] "Depeche Mode Interviewed: Universal Truths And Sounds", The Quietus, 20 April 2009. Words: John Doran
[3] Videointerview 2009 FG5
[4] Songs of faith and commotion, The Guardian, 21 March 2009. Words: Peter Robinson
[5] Article on Sideline, 16 April 2009. Words: Bernard Van Isacker
[6] Depeche Mode in Mature Mode, Los Angeles Times, 28 March 2009. Words: Chris Lee
[7] They just can't get enough: One-time synthesiser sissies Depeche Mode are back on song, Mail Online, 3 April 2009. Words: Adrian Thrills
[8] Depeche Mode in Mature Mode, Los Angeles Times, 28 March 2009. Words: Chris Lee
[9] Songs of faith and commotion, The Guardian, 21 March 2009. Words: Peter Robinson
[10] "Pop Quiz: Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode", sfgate.com, 9 August 2009. Words: Aidin Vaziri
[11] "Six Questions for ... Depeche Mode", Washington Post, 28 July 2009. Words: David Malitz
[12] "Pop Quiz: Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode", sfgate.com, 9 August 2009. Words: Aidin Vaziri
[13] "Interview: Depeche Mode's Andrew Fletcher", bohemian.com, 4 August 2009. Words: David Sason
[14] Depeche Mode Q & A: Dave Gahan Talks 'Delta Machine,' Massive Tour Plans, Billboard.com, New York, 8 March 2013. Words: Jason Lipshutz.
[15] We're dysfunctional. Maybe that's what makes us tick, The Guardian (UK), 28 March 2013. Words: Dorian Lynskey.
[16] Depeche Mode: Brits wouldn't show our set so we said f*** them, The Sun, 22 March 2013. Words: Uncredited.
[17] Depeche Mode, 'pessimists at heart,' never imagined longevity, Reuters, 14 March 2013. Words: Corrie MacLaggan



Biography: 2010 & 2011

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