Alan decided to leave the band and called a band meeting in London. It took
place without Dave, who didn't react to Alan's telephone call, or to a fax.
(By the way: There is a quote from Daniel Miller in which it is claimed that there had been a meeting right after the tour and that Alan wanted to get full control in the studio. Alan said that there had never been such a meeting and that he had never said anything like that. Of course, it's not sure whether Miller had ever said anything like that.)
Martin: "Alan just told us that he didn't particularly get on with us anymore. He felt that our relationships had all gone down the drain and, because of that, it was time to leave. But there were a lot of things he didn't tell us at that meeting that came out later. He made a very big press statement saying that he felt the workload had been unfairly distributed over the course of the last album or two, and that he wasn't getting enough appreciation and gratitude from the rest of the band. What he failed to say in that press statement is that he is a control freak who decided it should be that way. We were all quite happy going home at midnight or one in the morning when we were in the studio. But Alan is one of those studioheads who loves being there until four in the morning. He focuses on every minute detail. Or over-focuses. And also, for the last tour, he took it on himself to prepare all the backing tapes. He said he wanted to do it. Since the rest of us don't particularly enjoy that task, we said, 'Fine, if you want to do it, go ahead.' Maybe we didn't thank him enough at the end."
Alan's statement read:
"Due to increasing dissatisfaction with the internal
relations and working practices of the group, it is with
some sadness that I have decided to part company from
Depeche Mode. My decision to leave the group was not
an easy one particularly as our last few albums were an
indication of the full potential that Depeche Mode was realising.
Since joining in 1982, I have continually striven
to give total energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the
furthering of the group's success and in spite of a
consistent imbalance in the distribution of the workload,
willingly offered this. Unfortunately, within the group,
this level of input never received the respect and
acknowledgement that it warrants.
Whilst I believe that the calibre of our musical output has improved,
the quality of our association has deteriorated to the
point where I no longer feel that the end justifies
the means. I have no wish to cast aspersions on any
individual; suffice to say that relations have become
seriously strained, increasingly frustrating and,
ultimately, in certain situations, intolerable. Given
these circumstances, I have no option but to leave the group."
Later he explained, "The reason I made a statement when I left the group was to try to summarize succinctly in my own words some of the reasons for my departure, rather than have the press speculate and inevitably draw the wrong conclusions."
It seemed as if especially Martin was angry about this statement. The question
here is whether Alan told some uncomfortable truths or if Martin felt that it
wasn't the truth.
I'm quite sure that everything Alan said is true; it's just a question of putting it in the right context and of not forgetting that there are always two sides to every story.
Alan was willing to provide everything and - when he noticed that he didn't get anything in return - probably seized almost the whole project, leaving no room for the other members of the team. Martin, however, was willing to let him seize the project. He was fine with going out partying, leaving Alan behind working in the studio. He was also fine with letting Alan work out the backing tapes and the new live versions, without even listening to them before they were played on stage.
Alan enjoyed what he was doing, but he felt forced to provide more than he wanted to provide, because it was no longer "work sharing", but became a "working while the others enjoy themselves and sometimes deliver something" situation.
Martin obviously didn't try to involve himself or to sit down and talk to Alan to find a solution; however, Martin is known to be shy. Maybe he felt pushed aside and wasn't able to tell Alan what he wanted, especially because Alan was so focused that he might not notice small hints.
Here we are again at the question of how important Fletch and Dave were for the balance and the team-spirit, because at that time the team was (more or less) reduced to Alan and Martin, and evidently it became clear that they couldn't work with each other on their own. Thus, maybe Alan felt Martin didn't value his work, while Martin felt Alan had taken over such an important leading role that it wasn't a team situation any longer.
At that time Martin was sure that this was the end of DM because they didn't
want to go on without Alan. But we know that he would change his mind later.
Alan: "Martin shook my hand and looked a bit embarrassed and Fletch got quite defensive and seemed to take it rather personally. Some of the comments that were made during the promotion for DM's last album were disappointing although not unsurprising and I can understand a bit of why they might have been said. The simple fact is that most people just do not understand or appreciate that 'producing' a record properly requires an enormous amount of energy and concentration. Anyone can go into a studio for a couple of hours a day, take loads of drugs, twiddle a few knobs, whack it all on a CD and call it a finished album but invariably the end result sounds like what it is - lazy and ill-judged. I can't just roll into the studio at 5 o'clock in the afternoon with a raging hangover and expect to be able to work effectively. This doesn't mean that I never take a break during a session but as a rule, I like to keep work time and play time separate so I can give my absolute best to whatever project I'm involved in. If this makes me boring then fine ... I'd rather be boring but have a really good record."
If his words about rolling "into the studio at 5 o'clock in the afternoon with a raging hangover" were a description of the recording sessions of SOFAD, one gets closer to the reasons why he found it unbearable.
(with friendly permission of © Anja - compositionofsound)
Martin and Fletch made some caustic statements around this time, indeed.
Fletch: "We were never in contact with him anyway when he was in the band. It's almost like he never existed."
Martin: "I don't think we should ever get into a slanging match with Alan, because he was an integral part of the band who had a lot of input and a lot to say in what the band was doing. It wasn't totally unexpected. Alan's always been very private and secretive, so it's very hard to know exactly how he's thinking at any given point. But it became very apparent to us that he wasn't happy. It wasn't a shock at all when he left. I think he took too much upon himself. I think even he would readily admit he's a control freak. I think Alan was very set in his ways. I'm sure if we ever suggested something to Alan, and he didn't particularly like what we were suggesting, he would make sure it didn't work."
Interestingly enough, Alan thought none "of them were aware that it was coming and even if they were, I don't think they thought I'd actually go through with it." It's yet more proof of how bad the communication was between the band members, backed up by Martin's remark "It's hard to know exactly how" Alan's "thinking at any given point," because Alan said almost the same thing about Martin.
Fletch: "I think he felt the band would split up, what with the state Dave was in. I think he wanted to be the first one to jump ship."
This is a statement that you still find today on some message-boards. "Alan wanted to destroy the band / he thought it would split up when he left." And although an inside source told me that Alan really said something like this - that his departure should come down on Martin like a ton of bricks, and that he felt it would be the end of DM - I don't think one should overrate this just as one shouldn't overrate the statements of Martin and Fletch at that time. All of them were angry, and angry people tend to say such things.
Alan: "It sounds arrogant, but if I could do everything myself I would. I like to work alone - though this doesn't mean that I don't ever want other people's input. I enjoy collaborating, but not on a permanent basis. With Depeche Mode, what I learned over the years from working with other people has been invaluable. It's left me in a position where I know what I want in terms of production. Nowadays, I find that working with other people slows that process down, and sometimes turns it into a battle. At this stage in my life, I feel I don't want that anymore. ... I think I'm quite diplomatic in the studio. I'm able to put people at ease, and encourage them to bring the best out of themselves. Dave loved being driven hard, even to the point where he would become frustrated; but then the next day he would say, 'I'm so glad you did that, because I'm really pleased with how my vocal sounds'. I wouldn't say I left DM because of the mass of the work. I enjoyed doing this, the production and the programming, I didn't have any feelings of resentment against it. I only had the feeling that it was taken as a given thing."
Martin once said Alan's tensions with Fletch might have been the key for leaving
the band. This is also something that still appears in message-boards very often.
But Alan said, "The relationship that never really flourished was between myself and Martin. I felt that it was mainly he who didn't really value the effort I put in, and that disappointed me, because generally we got on OK and I respected his talent as a songwriter."
When I had the opportunity to talk to Gareth Jones I asked him about the relationship between Alan and Martin in the 1980s, especially around recording Black Celebration, because I was curious to find out if there was any sign of a difficult relationship between these two characters before SOFAD.
"I just remember everyone was working very hard. At that stage Martin wrote all the songs, and Alan was a huge part of the studio-team. He was there every minute. Martin, Dave and Fletch might come in a bit later sometimes, on some days. Alan was there with me, Daniel Miller and the assistant every minute of the whole thing. We were all working in a very loving way, I think, with a lot of love and respect for the songs. We all felt we were working on the songs, even Martin had written them. Once he had written them they became a life of their own. And the responsibility of the production-team as a group of musicians was to make the songs as good as we could. To me it seems that Alan and Martin had a great relationship. Alan was working incredibly hard and focused to make the best out of the songs."
Of course, Gareth Jones can't say anything about the relationship between them during the time of SOFAD because he didn't work with them at that period. "I don't know if there was particularly a problem between Martin and Alan. Clearly there was a problem in the group somehow. Y'know, it's like in a family, isn't it? In a family, if one member starts behaving badly then you have a family problem. You can't just blame one person, the whole family is something that needs to be looked at. And I guess it's a bit like in a band, it's a complex relationship. And when it goes wrong it goes badly wrong sometimes."
There's a lot of truth in it. Each member of a team is "guilty" of something, and no one particularly can be blamed for the whole situation.
Alan: "During Devotional I decided to leave DM. However, I had already
thought about it during the work on the album. The relationships
within the band had got very bad. Generally I never wanted
to be in a band my whole musical life, and I thought
this would be a good time to do this step forward."
Remember the previous chapters. There are quotes of him, saying that he decided to leave the band 18 months after the tour. As it has been mentioned before it probably was a kind of process. At a certain point you start being dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction grows over the course of time, nevertheless there are things you still like. So you actually enjoy what you do most of the time, but basically you are not satisfied, and think about changing things. So Alan probably means that he started to consider leaving the band much earlier, but the final decision was not made before 1995.
In 1997 he named one of the songs on his album Unsound Methods - Control
Freak and was asked whether he did this because Martin called him that name.
Alan: "Yes, but it doesn't refer to the lyrics, it's just the name of the song. I found it funny somehow. However, it doesn't have a deeper meaning."
According to my statement that I'm definitely a control freak myself because I want a project to be as good and perfect as possible, he admitted, "It's true that I am a bit of a control freak. I think that anyone who is deeply passionate about what they do will have that element about them."
Once Fletch was quoted with: "Alan never did like us as people.
Well, he doesn't like anyone as people, really - he hasn't got friends
and things like that."
It's not certain whether he really said it in this way, but Martin also once called Alan a misanthropist.
Alan: "There's probably an element of truth in this but 'misanthropist' is perhaps a little harsh. I don't have a huge army of so-called 'friends' because I don't suffer fools gladly and I'm also not so insecure that I need an entourage of sycophants singing my praises all the time. I'm very selective about the people I socialise with. I suspect Martin meant that I was cynical and sarcastic which is pretty much right! It takes quite a lot to really get me rattled actually and I've consistently found that humour (or more specifically, sarcasm) is the best method of diffusing difficult or confrontational situations."
Later Martin said, "Maybe it's false intimacy when it's all based on partying, but I think Alan would have to admit that he had fun with us at times."
He certainly had, but this sentence again clearly shows how little they talk to each other about essential things.
It seems as if Martin was well aware that some of their statements were a bit harsh, and over the course of time he would retreat increasingly from this position.
For a long time this "battle" was fought between Martin, Fletch and Alan, while
Dave said little.
Alan: "I didn't hear back directly from Dave but he did send Hep and me a huge bunch of flowers when Paris was born and we saw him on a couple of occasions quite soon after. I'm sure he understands exactly why I left and he has been nothing but a perfect gentleman regarding the whole situation. [...] I was never angry with the remained members of DM. I still have a good friendship with Dave and I still have business relations with DM."
At first, Dave evaded the questions about Alan or humoured Martin and Fletch a bit. So he said in 1997, "I think it was happening around when we were making SOFAD. Alan put in a lot of work, and the thing is, if you're going to put in all that work, fine, do it. But afterwards, don't kind of turn around and say, 'Hey, I did all this and what do I get back for it?' There's a lot of ego stuff goes on, as we know, in these bands. It just got to the stage where it was like, 'I do all this, and I don't think I'm respected.' And that's really sad, but I think Alan had to do what he had to do. You know, I love Alan. I mean he was in the band with us for like, fifteen years or something. I mean, it's a family. It is a brotherly thing. Sometimes you hate your brother, and it's like, 'Get out of my face', but there's something there that's really special."
He is concordant with Gareth Jones on this. Probably many successful bands feel that way because they share experiences that aren't easily experienced by "normal" people.
In 2001 he said (according to Ultra), "I felt a big part of what
we were doing was missing - a leader, musically, and for me Alan was that.
The others would say he was too controlling, but he just worked his a*** off
because he really believed in it and the idea of pushing himself musically,
which you can hear on his own records. I find that really inspiring. I miss him."
And in 2003, "I really miss Alan's input on everything we do musically, but I miss him as a friend. He was probably the person in the band I felt supported by the most and I wish I'd fought harder for him to stay. What Alan really wanted was for Martin to turn round and say, 'You've really contributed something great', but Martin's not someone who hands out compliments very often."
Alan: "Dave is very generous and I think he is honest at his comments. I think it seemed strange to him to work with so many new people. He said such nice things about me which gives me a good feeling. Although I'm happy with what I do now I also miss it not having him around."
To understand why Alan left, it's necessary to put his different answers together
and not to look at a single statement. As we have seen, there were 26 different
answers to the question in the survey of depechemodebiographie.de about why Alan
had left the band. This shows how much Alan had said about it over the course of
time. Maybe he said TOO much but the reasons that led to his final decision
were probably so complex that he could talk about it all day and still wouldn't
be able to sum it up, as he once said.
Not even people who are close to him are able to understand and explain it. "I don't know really why Alan decided to leave the band," Steve Lyon said. "I knew before it became a common knowledge. I don't know if he told anyone else but I knew that he was going to leave. I really think it's really unfortunate because the working relationships and the success that they had were good. When we were working together it was incredible. It's a real shame that he left. Sometimes things have to break and then go together again. So let's wait and see. They had been together in the band for a long time. And he took a very, very lead role in the band and it's a shame that they are not working together again."
But probably this lead role is the crux. All the problems and tension seem to be based on it.
Some fans and journalists have their own theories about Alan's departure. "I don't believe him when he says it had been a well-thought out decision. I think it was an irrational act because he was burnt out, hurt, disappointed and angry" is one of these theories.
Being burnt out, and thus coming to the conclusion that he had had enough of the whole thing, so that it would be the right time to do something that had been brewing on his mind for longer would be an explanation that makes sense. There is even a statement by Alan that could prove this (see 1997).
Later, not only the remaining band members but also Alan watered their statements down. But I don't think that "I never expected to remain in a band all my life. There's something quite sad about being in a 'pop' group when you hit middle age" and "one of the reasons I eventually left was so that I'd be able to spend more time at home with my family" as well as "I wanted change and wanted to do something different. It was at a time in my life when I needed to clear out a lot of baggage and I just felt it was time to move on", and the additional wish to focus on his own project shouldn't be seen as alibis, or as back-pedalling as some people do, because he had mentioned some of these things long before SOFAD. I think these reasons were a kind of background. Only "My decision to leave wasn't as a direct result of tensions anyway" sounds a bit strange, because it doesn't match his official statement at all. Because the main point, of course, was the team-work fraught with problems. If he had still been happy in the band, the other reasons wouldn't have become that important for him, or he would have found a way to combine the band with his own projects, and with family life.
Both points are probably correct again - it was a well thought-out decision and an irrational act at the same time. The well thought-out decision followed a line of consideration and personal / musical development from Violator onwards, but in the end it was probably based on being burnt out and being disappointed, because his official statement sounds a bit like that, while everything he said afterwards is much more moderate.
But maybe he was simply slightly unhappy with his official statement - perhaps because of being angry about the reactions of Martin and Fletch at the meeting, (maybe he had expected they would try to change his mind), or possibly because he was over-accurate in writing down the reasons. Everyone might know this: you are trying to write down something very important, write, edit, think, write, edit ... and end up leaving out something essential, or coming across in the wrong way. This caused angry reactions from Martin and Fletch, and that raised speculation in the media and among fans - a typical knock-on effect.
The speculation got out of control here and there, and some fans still think
today that Alan got paid less than the other band members.
But Alan said, "The publishing royalties go to whoever wrote the song (and are obviously split if there was more than one writer). Record royalties are divided equally between all group members at the time of the recording. Just as I receive royalties from any recordings I was involved in, I have certain rights regarding their release. Leaving the band does not stop me receiving a 25% share of royalties from record sales of all the work I was involved in - that means everything from Construction Time Again through to SOFAD. I will continue to earn for as long as the records keep selling."
(It's No Good - with friendly permission of © Ana Marķa Villanueva O., Punta Arenas, Chile)
This had been one of the big topics of that year. The other was Dave
again. In August 1995 he made another detox.
"When I went up to my house to get some clothes I found it had been looted."
Everything was gone, his Harleys, studio equipment, the stereo system, everything down to the cutlery. The house had a coded alarm system, so it must have been an inside job. He didn't know what to do, so he checked into the Sunset Marquis (a hotel in LA and a meeting point for junkies).
"I rang my mother and she said Teresa had told her that I hadn't been to any rehab, I wasn't even trying to get clean like I'd promised - and I was trying, I was doing the best I could. I quickly got loaded and drank a lot of wine, took a handful of pills. I went into the bathroom and cut my wrists. Uh, there was a friend with me. ... In fact I remember now, I was in the middle of that phone call to my mum and I told her to hold on, I'd be back in a minute, went to the bathroom and cut my wrists, wrapped towels round them and came back to the phone and said, 'Mum, I've got to go, I love you very much.' Then I sat down with my friend and acted like nothing was going on. I put my arms down by my sides and I could feel them bleeding away."
There is also another version of this story. According to that version he was alone, but knew a friend would come over. However, probably at the behest of the record company or the band, he later said he had just injured himself "by mistake" and it hadn't been a suicide attempt.
"Anyway, I woke up the next morning in a psychiatric ward, strapped up, the full padded cell. First of all, I thought I might be dead, then this psychiatrist came in and informed me that it was a felony to take your own life in California - so I was busted for trying to kill myself!" (laughs) "I'm glad I can laugh about it now. Things went from worse to worse. There were loads of other occasions of overdoses, waking up outside dealers' places downtown, on the lawn with no clothes on, robbed. But there were always people to pick me up. I'd go to these meetings and be f*** high as a kite among all these sober people. And you can't imagine a worse place to be when you're loaded! I used to go to the bathroom and shoot up then come back and raise my hand and say, 'I got 30 seconds clean!'"
At one of those meetings or at a detox he became acquainted with Jennifer, his
present wife, a New York actress and scriptwriter, who had also been addicted
to heroin once.
Dave: "I met her in Arizona. Jennifer went back to New York. I went to LA and we kept in touch. I'd visit her and her kid, who is now my stepson, and we remained friends. I could see something in her I wanted. She didn't give a crap about the band I was in. She just genuinely cared about what I was doing to myself and I saw that right from the start. That was unusual because I was usually suspicious of people, particularly myself. When you can't trust yourself it's impossible to trust others."
Despite all these circumstances, the band started to record Ultra in
September 1995. It seems as if it was something like an act of defiance.
Martin realised that Alan wasn't even an original member of the band, as he said,
and that perhaps it would be right to go on without him. So he decided to do so -
and maybe he wanted to prove to Alan that he was able to make a good DM-record
Fletch confirmed, "I think there was a feeling of us having to prove ourselves, a bit like after when Vince left. It gave us a new challenge and I think in some ways it's spurred on us to do better things."
Quotes from that time show that it wasn't as simple as they sometimes pretended it was, and they went on saying things which weren't always diplomatic. Martin tried at least, however. "Alan was a very important part of the band, especially the last two albums. He was the one who would spend the most time at the computer, sometimes until 4 in the morning. And he took on a lot of the production side of things. So, um ... it was very important for us to find the right kind of person."
The "right person" he was talking about was Tim Simeon, whom they chose as producer for Ultra. And while the first sentence was friendlier and a little step towards Alan, the next one ruined it: "Since Alan left, we are working so much more as a complete unit. We ... we do describe ourselves as a family these days. Alan left at a very strange time. It was when we were actually doing nothing. He didn't leave us at the end of the last tour, and he didn't leave when we got together and decided to actually start working again. I think, after that last tour, he probably felt that he'd had enough and wanted to leave the band, but he wanted to give himself time to reconsider."
Fletch: "I wasn't sure whether I could work in a band without him anyway. I felt he didn't have too much respect for the other members of the band. In the end, it made the decision-making process a lot easier. When there are three people, there has to be a decision."
 Ultra Sounds, Guitar World, May 1997. Words: Alan di Perna
 Press statement
 Synth and Sensibilities, NME, 25 January 1997. Words: Keith Cameron
 Pavement, 16 April 1997. Words: uncredited
 Ultra Sounds, Guitar World, May 1997. Words: Alan di Perna
 Many Smack-Free Returns! Q, June 2001. Words: Dorian Lynskey
 Unsound Recordings, Sound On Sound, January 1998. Words: Bill Bruce
 Just Can't Get Enough, Uncut, May 2001. Words: Stephen Dalton
 Source can't be found anymore
 Long and Winding Mode, Details, May 1997. Words: Gavin Edwards
 Many Smack-Free Returns! Q, June 2001. Words: Dorian Lynskey
 K-ROQ FM, L.A., February 1997, DJs: Kevin and Bean
 In the Mode for Love, Time Out, 4 April 2001. Words: Omer Ali
 Cash for Questions: Dave Gahan, Q, June 2003. Words: Paul Stokes
 Alan Wilder Interview, Future Music, Issue 62, November 1997. Words: Andy Jones.
 Tears of my Tracks, Q, March 1997. Words: Phil Sutcliffe
 Tears of my Tracks, Q, March 1997. Words: Phil Sutcliffe
 Dead Man Talking, NME, 18 January 1997. Words: Keith Cameron
 Facing my Monsters, Daily Mirror, 27 June 2003. Words: Gavin Martin
 Andy Fletcher Interview, Dotmusic, 4 May 2001. Words: Uncredited.
 Modus Operandi, Detour, May 1997. Words: Shari Roman (Ed: Trent Buckroyd)
 Ultra Sounds, Guitar World, May 1997. Words: Alan di Perna
 It's a Mode Mode Mode Mode World, Hits, 28 April 1997. Words: Janet Trakin