Martin Gore has been making music for the greater part of 35 years. His band, Depeche Mode, released their first record in 1981, and the new wave craze catapulted them into the mainstream for the rest of the decade and beyond. Despite being one of the highest-selling artists of all time, Depeche Mode has managed to keep on experimenting and innovating long after their peers dried up, and they're still making music today.
Gore is clearly one of those uninhibited workhorses whose career inspires artist biopics—his sheer output makes you wonder if the guy's ever taken a break. In between Depeche Mode band stuff, Gore decided to record and release his first-ever solo album of all-original songs, MG, which is made up entirely of lurking, cinematic instrumentals. He's been releasing snippets of the record as 15-second visualizer video clips on Facebook, and the album is finally out now on Mute, the same label that championed Depeche Mode in their infancy.
It's a textural, complicated album, and one that sounds way more grown up and multifaceted than any chart-destroying song Depeche Mode dropped in the midst of the 1980s electro-craze. I gave Martin a call the other day to chat with him about his new album, his old band, and how talking about synths in interviews all the time gets "very boring."
VICE: What's up with these little 15-second previews you've been doing on Facebook?
Martin Gore: We thought about ways of trying to promote this record and we didn't want to do anything that was obvious or that I'd done in the past. It didn't really warrant the kind of events we've done in the past for band releases. At one point, the record company were talking about me going over to London and Paris and Berlin and doing listening parties and stuff, and it didn't really work for this project. Getting these little snippets together and then having the films made was a much cooler way of doing some self-promotion.
And a good way to satiate everyone's dwindling attention spans.
Or maybe everybody's just downloading the 15 seconds and they won't bother with the album.
You could just release 200 15-second long albums! Could you tell me a bit about how this project came together?
I had a few instrumentals leftover after I finished the Delta Machine project. We have two band members writing now, so we had so many songs written that there were too many even for the deluxe edition. We didn't want the album or the deluxe edition to be too long. I was left with stranded instrumentals. I started thinking that it would be a good idea to continue writing instrumentals when I got back from the tour and put out a full album. I thought it was exciting—it's something I've never done before and it was completely unexpected. I want to do things that are unexpected, to keep people on their toes.
Did your gear setup on this album differ from the usual?
The majority of the sounds were made with Eurorack modular systems. Apart from that I did use some vintage synths and other modular synths. My studio now is basically one big modular mothership. I don't think people are interested in hearing about synths, though. I think it probably gets very boring for most people.
I bet it's pretty cool. With this instrumental stuff I feel a cinematic influence. Was this your mindset at all? Are they any specific film influences on this album?
I definitely wanted the album to be atmospheric and have a cinematic quality to it. I think that's one of the reasons why I kept the tracks quite short, since I imagine them being short scenes from a film. I don't know if there was any actual film or composer that I was trying to emulate necessarily, but I like a lot of film music. I really like Michael Nyman even though he's nothing like what I've done and I love the classics like John Carpenter and Vangelis's Blade Runner stuff.
Do you find it hard to divorce yourself from all the past Depeche Mode stuff, or do you find yourself now free to do things you were unable to do before?
I like the idea of doing this full instrumental album, for example, because I see it as a piece of art, really. Over the years I've written many, many instrumentals for Depeche Mode, but they've always been used as interludes on albums or extra tracks or singles, and they've been scattered all over the place. It was quite nice to work on a complete 55-minute instrumental piece of music. You can kind of join them together and they work as a whole.
Yeah, you can take that old kernel that you used for interludes and expand upon it.
It's only been a very small part of the band's output over the years, but I think there is a small percentage of fans who appreciate those instrumentals.
Do you think you'll stay with that concept for the next thing or will you continue to try to surprise us?
The next thing I have to start thinking about is, I suppose, a Depeche Mode album. I mean, I'm already writing songs, I've actually started going into the studio and writing songs now, not writing these instrumentals. I've started on that path. Assuming we finish another album, and it comes out, and we do another tour and finish that, it would be nice to do something different. People keep asking when Counterfeit 3 is coming out. It'd be nice for it to come out when people least expect it.
You can't surprise people too many times in a row.
Do you treat your studio time like a full-time job, or is it more sporadic?
I really never feel like I have to go every day, but I do, and I enjoy going every day. I think it just so happens that I keep the same hours because of the time I get up and have breakfast and all that. I get over there by mid-day and usually work until six or seven. I don't feel like it would be more creative for me to be in there until midnight, you know?
Yeah, you wrap up and save whatever's mid-way for tomorrow.
Right, I think you could easily get burned out. It's quite nice. Like today I knew what I was doing yesterday when I finished, so I'm gonna go in there today and finish it and I'm excited. If I had worked until midnight last night, I'd be thinking, "Oh god, I've got to go finish that today."
It's good to stay excited. Thanks, Martin.