On 17 January recording for Playing the Angel began in Santa Barbara, continued in New York and London, and like during Exciter, they noticed once again that they got on with each other much better now.
Dave: "The strangest thing that's happened is that we're all getting on pretty well. With the last album, it all felt a bit dead. This time we're all pulling together a lot more."[1]
Even Martin opened up a bit, although it was difficult for him. About Damaged People he said, "The first line is we're damaged people, drawn together by subtleties we're not aware of. And I think that happens all the time with dysfunctional people, me included."[2]
In later articles it became obvious that the atmosphere wasn't as great as they had claimed.
Dave: "Martin was drunk most of the time.[3] When he came in the studio we knew we had a few hours: he's a little drunk right now, he's going to get drunker. Ben Hillier put a guitar around his neck and ran around getting as much out of him as he could."[4] Because later he would pass out and wasn't able to work anymore.
So, at least there weren't that many changes.
Dave: "Pain and Suffering in Various Tempos was the original title of the album. During the first recording session someone of our record company dropped by, wanted to know whether we already had a title. Of course we hadn't. I joked then: 'As usual it's all about pain and suffering.' And the bloke completes: 'Presumable in different tempi.' And now we let this print on the back of the album."[5]
The title which was finally chosen is referring to the line oh, you sad one, playing the angel in the track The Darkest Star.

While the way of producing the album and the main topics weren't so different to Exciter, it was new that Dave contributed three songs to the album.
"It's about that I still can't allow any feelings. There is this side in me that is a bit strange. I could never write a song about the euphoric beginning of a relationship. It's difficult for me to handle the love that is given to me whether of my family or of my friends. Perhaps I have been disappointed once too often in my life. I have actually everything. I feel loved but I often don't use this wonderful supply because it's hard for me to let anyone get close to me. I'm afraid of opening my soul and give myself completely to someone else. Through this my life is more difficult than it has to be. Maybe the reason for it lies in any debt in my subconscious, deep dug in my childhood. I don't know. My wife tries to cheer me up then. We are very similar in this regard. It's not by chance that you surround yourself with people with whom you can share such feelings."[6]

They also had a new producer, Ben Hillier, a choice that parts of the fanbase didn't really like, the music fans especially weren't that happy. The band had - of course - a different view on this issue.
Dave: "Depeche Mode has always had a specific sound and it's not necessarily easy to detach oneself from it. It just exists there. But Ben Hillier, our producer, took us to a whole different new direction. And that is exactly why it is so exciting and thrilling to work with people like him. We wanted to work with someone who would push us further and experiment more."[7]
Martin: "Ben came to the table not really even being a fan of our music. He knew a few songs and we had to actually get him the whole catalogue for him to listen to. But he really had an idea of how he wanted to approach this and he was aggressive with that and I think we needed that."[8]
He was also great at "breaking down the shit that forms between family members," Dave explained. "Seeing very quickly the sort of roles we had devised for ourselves and going, 'This is ridiculous.' We wanted to have somebody who was a headmaster-type figure. But he was like the art teacher - you know, the one who would let you into the storeroom to bum a cigarette."[9]

And it seems as if Dave also used him as a kind of accomplice for pushing through his idea of shared songwriting because Hillier had to choose the songs for the album. "At that point, Martin had maybe written five songs, and I had, like, 15. That kind of became the catalyst to make Martin write more songs, because he wanted to have more songs on the album. And there was one point where I was like, 'You need to write some more songs, or we're going to have to use mine.'"[10]
Obviously, he put some pressure on Martin who wasn't well at the time, suffering from his divorce. "When people meet me I think they're surprised to find out I'm not always angst-ridden. But I think anything that I write comes from the soul. I sit down and create atmospheres, start playing guitar or piano and just sing whatever comes out of my mouth. I don't write poems and put them to music. Just let things flow."[11]
He tried to work differently, put more importance to the atmosphere of the songs. Dave, on the other hand, was still at a learning stage and had to find a good working process for himself.
Dave: "I'm not patient. That's my problem. And I forget stuff really quickly. I have this guy in New York who helps me out, and he has lists for me everywhere of like, 'This is how you record a vocal,' 'This is how you set up your mic,' or 'This is how you access the keyboard.' I've got all these lists everywhere, and I still manage to fuck it up. Christian [Eigner] and especially Andrew [Phillpott]", with whom he was working out his songs for this album, "are a lot more technical, and I kind of leave that up to somebody else so I can just kind of be free and go wherever I want to go with the song or with the melody."[12]
And what was Fletch doing? "The truth is, I don't write songs, I have no interest. I play a bit of keyboards but I took an interest in the business side of the band, dealing with the record label and our daily affairs. Martin and Dave are the backbone of the band, I suppose I'm the guy who brings them together."[13]

Playing the Angel

(Playing the Angel - with friendly permission of © Paolo Gobbo)

On 3 October the single Precious / Free was released. There were several different versions of Precious available, while there was only one different version of Free available. The B-side was unavailable in the U.S., aside from importing. Precious was a quite successful single. It made No. 1 in some countries, reached No. 4 in the UK and No. 71 on the Hot 100. The video was directed by Uwe Flade. An early version of the video (with unfinished rendering and many sketch placeholders) was leaked on the Internet long before the song was released, so most fans were able to listen to it about two months ahead of the release.
On 17 October the album Playing the Angel was released, for which DM won the MTV European Award in the category best group.
The character on the album cover is a little creature called Mister Feathers. (The band calls it Tubby Goth). It was designed by Anton Corbijn.

The media didn't believe in the sudden harmony, therefore the previous "bitch alarm" was picked up again (among all the other well-known topics - weird clothes in the past, being gay, drugs, Alan's leaving ...)
Dave: "I find a quarrel very healthy and beneficial if it's about ideas. But not if it's about ego. This was my problem in the past. I have never said clearly enough: 'Here, I have some ideas, I want you to help me.' I simply couldn't say it. For this album I formulated it for the first time and was greeted with open arms."[14]
But still there were some tensions, about the concept of the video to Precious, e.g.
Martin: "The director was just going through the concept of the video, and that he wanted us to be playing in this futuristic ballroom. And Dave said, 'Well if it's a ballroom, Andy, I think you should play a piano,' and Andy said, 'Well if it's a futuristic ballroom maybe it would look better if I play an old synth.' Suddenly Dave's shouting, 'Well I only want what's best for the band!' and he's stormed out."[15]


Speaking of funny things, there were some amusing moments this year.
Hilarious interview with Martin and Fletch which was published on aol.de, shortly before DM's appearance at TOTP on 8 September and which, unfortunately, can't be found anymore. Therefore, the name of the journalist who met the two for a wheat beer is unknown.
Martin: "The beer was my condition for this interview."
Fletch: "He's been drinking non-stop for 14 hours."
Martin: "A new journalist comes in every half an hour, and I get a new beer every half an hour. That's the deal. I have to be fit tomorrow, though, because of TOTP. We're alone at the show. We are even a bit angry that we won't meet Nena this time."
Journalist: "Do you like her?"
Martin: "She was quite cute 20 years ago."
Fletch: "She has four children, one more than you, Martin. And she's shaving her armpits now."
Martin: "Every journalist comes in, saying, 'I like the album.'' In the past, there used to be real discussions with the rock journalists, heated discussions about what the songs are worth. This was extremely more fun. To take the cassette recorder from a journalist and throw it out of the window was fun, too. Good old days."
Fletch: "Yes, nowadays even the rock journalists like us."
Martin: "In the '80s, we were at least hated. Now, everybody accepts electronic music, and we are in the pop shelves. We're terribly mainstream. We wouldn't make any albums anymore if we weren't sure they're important and relevant beyond their time. It would be really sad to be like the Rolling Stones. Everybody wants to see them, but then they only want to hear Paint It Black or Satisfaction."
Fletch: "But, Martin, people also come to us because of Just Can't Get Enough."

During an interview with a German radio station Martin and Dave were asked whether they speak German.
Martin: "Ich habe Deutsch in der Schule gelernt. Und ich habe eine Weile in Berlin gelebt. Ich hatte eine deutsche Freundin." (laughs) "Ja, ich spreche nicht gut Deutsch, aber ich spreche okay Deutsch."
[I have studied German at school. And I have been living in Berlin for a while. I also had a German girlfriend. Yes, I don't speak very good German, but I speak okay German.]
Dave: "I'll stick to 'Spiegelei mit Bratkartoffeln - ohne Toast'." (laughs)[17]
[Fried egg with fried potatoes, no toast.]

In another interview the band members were asked to say, separate from each other, what they liked about the other two.
Fletch: "Martin, I've known him since the age of 11, and he's one of the nicest men I've ever met. Dave, he staggers me with his performance every night."
Martin: "Dave is extremely disciplined. And Andy's excessively organised."
Dave (apparently caught unprepared): "Um ... tell you something great? Oh, that's much harder than I thought. I couldn't tell you something great about myself. Well, Martin ... You know what? That's a really difficult question. You just landed that one on me. ... Well, Fletch is, um ... I can't think of anything. Do I get to hear what they said?"[18]

Touring The Angel

(with friendly permission of © Jérôme Pouille)

On 28 October Touring the Angel began. The North American leg started in New York, comprising 26 concerts, and ended on 11 December.
(By the way - I was asked by a reader when Martin started wearing wings on stage. It was during Exciter-Tour. Obviously he has a crush on angels. The same reader asked whether the band member have special designers who make their stage clothing. Yes, and as far as I know each member has his own designer.)
Martin: "Any tour is a mixture of excitement and fear. Andy always says that if you don't get some kind of adrenaline rush then there is something seriously wrong. And that is true. It is a long tour. We start at the beginning of November and we will play until the end of April. At that point, if we are enjoying it, we may continue right through until August. Being on tour tends to be very grueling. For me the shows themselves are not particularly grueling but for Dave as the front man they are extremely so. Dave is very good front man and he expends a lot of energy every night. It is not the shows that I find taxing, it is everything else that revolves around the tour. It's the traveling and the different hotels every night. There is always someone trying to take you somewhere. We are all a little bit older this time and I think we will have to start declining a few of these offers."[19]
On 12 December the single A Pain That I'm Used To / Newborn was released. The single contains remixes by Goldfrapp and Jacques Lu Cont. There were also two radio versions of A Pain That I'm Used To available. Although Better Days was mentioned to be the B-side for the single in its press release, it ended up being the track called Newborn. Better Days went on to be the B-side to the following single, Suffer Well. The single was only physically released in Europe. Again, the video for A Pain That I'm Used To was directed by Uwe Flade.

[1] In the Studio: Depeche Mode, Q, July 2005. Words: Uncredited
[2] Fighting Mode, Music Article, 14 October 2005. Words: Chris Willman.
[3] Depeche Mode on synths, drugs and Basildon, The Times (UK), 21 March 2013. Words: Ed Potton.
[4] We're dysfunctional. Maybe that's what makes us tick, The Guardian (UK), 28 March 2013. Words: Dorian Lynskey.
[5] The Dark Side of the Mode, Kulturnews, October 2005. Words: Stefan Woldach
[6] The Dark Side of the Mode, Kulturnews, October 2005. Words: Stefan Woldach
[7] Radio interview with Dave and Martin, Eins Live, 17 June 2005. Interviewer: unknown.
[8] Mode Turn Angelic, Manchester Evening News, 24 March 2006. Words: Kevin Bourke.
[9] Pop: It's good to talk, Sunday Times (US), 18 September 2005. Words: Dan Cairns.
[10] The Long Ride Home, Remix Mag, 1 November 2005. Words: Robert Hanson.
[11] A La Mode, Gaywired, 2 November 2005. Words: Lawrence Ferber.
[12] The Long Ride Home, Remix Mag, 1 November 2005. Words: Robert Hanson.
[13] Depeche Mode returns to basics with latest Album, Channel News (Asia), 14 October 2005. Words: Zul Othman.
[14] The Dark Side of the Mode, Kulturnews, October 2005. Words: Stefan Woldach
[15] Songs of Innocence and Experience, Mojo, November 2005. Words: Danny Eccleston
[16] Interview on aol.de. Source can't be found anymore
[17] Radio interview with Dave and Martin, Eins Live, 17 June 2005. Interviewer: unknown.
[18] Showtime! Q, February 2006. Words: Johny Davis

Biography: 2006

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