In spring 2008 DM began to record Sounds of the Universe (SOTU).
Again, they recorded in three different cities - Santa Barbara, New York and London. Again, they worked with Ben Hillier as a producer - "We thought that it worked very well with Playing the Angel, and we were very comfortable with him,"[1] Fletch said - and again Martin and Dave shared the songwriting. Once more, they had a "nice friendly atmosphere" and a lot of fun in the studio. Again, these were the main topics in the media. After you had read one article about it, you didn't need to read another. (I nevertheless did it of course. ;))
Fletch: "Dave was in quite a strange position - it's rare for a frontman not to write lyrics, but now he's been writing songs for the last two albums and he feels more a part of it.[2] I think generally Dave writing songs has really glued him a bit more to the group, and he's so much more confident and fulfilled. It's one of the main reasons the band is really gelling together. Dave's songwriting is improving all the time. You know, it's sometimes hard to actually distinguish between Dave's songs and Martin's songs."[3]
Martin: "This time I did go about the whole song writing process in a totally different way. The actual writing process I did on a lap top. It's so much quicker. I think that was the reason why I wrote so many songs this time. I think I wrote 18 or 20 songs this time. With Dave's songs included I think we had 22 songs of which we recorded 18."[4]

There were only a few new things that happened. One was that Martin stopped drinking - a topic you could find in almost every article in that time. Of course, it was at least more interesting than getting on well, although Martin had already given up drinking three years previously during Touring the Angel.
Dave: "He is a changed man. There's a different side of Martin that has always been there, but sometimes it gets clouded when the drinking and stuff becomes more important than anything else. I think it got to that phase on the last tour, and Martin was the one that stood up and said, 'You know what? I've got to stop this.'"[5]
Martin: "It was just a decision I made. I didn't go to AA or any of that stuff. I've found that I've got plenty of things to do with my time. It was all part and parcel of being in a band. It's almost encouraged for you to be drunk almost all the time if you're in a band. People are disappointed if you're not! There's always someone somewhere who wants to give you something!" (laughs)[6] "I think I am more spiritually connected now. More a part of the universe, no pun intended. I feel like I'm more in touch with my emotions. You have to be careful when you talk about spirituality and stopping drinking in the same breath. You start sounding a bit holier than thou. That's the last thing I want to do - come across as some new-age guru." (laughs)[7]
Now Fletch is left over as the last one who sometimes likes to take a drink: "I've cut down but ..."
Dave: "He's under pressure."
Fletch (obviously doesn't like being under pressure): "These things are happening to make the atmosphere better. So it's got to be good."[8]


(with friendly permission of © Depeche Gurl (DMMB))

The second new topic was that Martin swapped alcohol against buying old analogue synthesizers and other stuff on ebay. Although he bought the stuff under his real name only few people commented on it - and it didn't even make the round. Dave: "Literally every day something new would show up. Drum machines, synthesizers, sequencers. So there was some of the fun that there was in some of the early recordings in exploring a new piece of equipment and seeing what sound we could get out of it." But there was also "a lot of performance. Martin playing guitar, me singing, every day in the studio."[9]
Fletch: "That was quite an inspiration. Generally, I think it's more of an electronic album. There is guitar on it, of course, but much more electronic than Playing The Angel."[10]
They warded off the prejudice that this album was "retro". For Martin it was more a kind of "yesterday's future". "I started buying these old, vintage synthesisers, and the sounds they produced conjured up images of the universe and space travel. That's how we came up with the album title."[11]

Later it became clear that the band - or at least Dave - wasn't happy with SOTU and the way it was recorded throughout.
Dave: "Sounds of the Universe was a bit too much production, too smooth, too much was going on. You can not force out good music. It is a delicate thing. So it is with Depeche Mode, albums come when they are supposed to. And they are not like they were planned to be."[12] Nevertheless, "it was certainly more landscape-y, more filmic, and I think this was more of a combination of the two elements there. It's very driven, it's very out front, and it still has some of those kinds of dreamy qualities to it as well."[13]
Maybe this was one of the reasons why they wouldn't play many of these songs live later. It was too difficult to transpose the complex studio versions into live versions.

[1] Catching Up With ... Depeche Mode's Andrew Fletcher, Paste, 7 May 2009. Words: Grant Shellen
[2] Masters Of Their Universe, The Times, 3 May 2009, unknown author
[3] Dmdotcom, 23 January 2009. Words: Daniel Barassi
[4] "Depeche Mode Interviewed: Universal Truths And Sounds", The Quietus, 20 April 2009. Words: John Doran
[5] Article on CNN, 12 May 2009. Words: Denise Quan
[6] "Depeche Mode Interviewed: Universal Truths And Sounds", The Quietus, 20 April 2009. Words: John Doran
[7] Depeche Mode in Mature Mode, Los Angeles Times, 28 March 2009. Words: Chris Lee
[8] Article on CNN, 12 May 2009. Words: Denise Quan
[9] "Depeche Mode Interviewed: Universal Truths And Sounds", The Quietus, 20 April 2009. Words: John Doran
[10] Dmdotcom, 23 January 2009. Words: Daniel Barassi
[11] They just can't get enough: One-time synthesiser sissies Depeche Mode are back on song, Mail Online, 23 April 2009. Words: Adrian Thrills
[12] Sanger på tro og ære, dagsavisen.no, May 2012. Words: Geir Rakvaag.
[13] Depeche Mode Q & A: Dave Gahan Talks 'Delta Machine,' Massive Tour Plans, Billboard.com, New York, 8 March 2013. Words: Jason Lipshutz.

Biography: 2009

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