When Depeche Mode titled their 1990 album Violator, that it was supposed being taken ironically. The previous year had seen smarmy hair-mongers like Bon Jovi, Bad English and Poison scoring Number Ones with saccharine power balladry, plus the leather-clad, synth-pop group had understandably “gotten enough.” So they exacted vengeance for their album sleeve. “We planned to come up with by far the most extreme, ridiculously heavy-metal title that any of us could,” the group’s chief songwriter, Martin Gore, told NME right at that moment. “I’ll a bit surpised if men and women get the joke.” His skepticism was warranted.
In the twenty-five years since Depeche Mode officially became a phenomenon using a string of Violator singles like “Personal Jesus,” “Enjoy the Silence” and “Policy of Truth,” this rock band has inspired an unusual, surprising cult following among headbangers and hard rockers. Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, Converge as well as Mr. Power Ballad Himself, Sammy Hagar, have tackled Depeche Mode covers – many of which cull from Violator. Their love of this guitar rock band is genuine. Singer Chino Moreno, who alternates between throat-shredding screams and Dave Gahan–like crooning with alt-metal group Deftones, even has Violator’s cover flower tattooed on his bicep.
In hindsight, though, Depeche Mode’s influence on essentially the most extreme of music genres makes some sense. When the group formed in Basildon, about 30 miles east of London, in 1980, it played light-hearted new-wave pop songs like “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Dreaming of You” with keyboard parts that the group’s Alan Wilder nonetheless later likened to blues and heavy-metal riffs. When founding member and original chief songwriter Vince Clarke left that year to build Yazoo, Gore took over songwriting duties and brought a darker sensibility on the group. “Rock musicians say it’s not possible to express yourself having a synthesizer,” he told Sounds almost 30 years ago. “‘Soulless’ may be the word. But what exactly is there in whacking musical instrument? Every heavy-metal riff sounds exactly the same anyway.” He proved his naysayers wrong.
Within the following couple of years, Depeche Mode became a force to become reckoned with about the pop charts, eventually making a direct effect in the U.S. with 1984’s urgent-sounding plea for peace “People Are People.” But within the U.K., they’d been creating one high-charting single after another, most of which carry controversial themes including survival on the fittest (“Everything Counts”), bondage and discipline (“Master and Servant”) and breaking freed from groupthink (“Stripped”). Deeper cuts like “Fly about the Windscreen – Final” – which starts with the very metal line, “Death is everywheeerrre!” – tackle inevitable mortality.
Most chilling, though, was their 1984 single “Blasphemous Rumours,” which tackled teenage suicide and mortality within the verses, that had been bolstered from the chorus, “I don’t wish to start any blasphemous rumours/But I think that God’s got a sick a sense humour/And when I die I anticipate finding Him laughing.” That sentiment predates Slayer’s “God Hates Us All” by almost two decades plus the song bore the type of scrutiny restricted to metal bands at that time. The BBC reportedly told the group’s label it couldn’t play every it got (however the song later reached Number 16 inside the U.K.) plus the tune got an excellent shaming in the group’s hometown. “If we can easily say God so loved the world that He sent His only son, if He did that, He cannot have a very sick a sense humor,” a Basildon priest told the press back then, according towards the 1994 book Depeche Mode: Some Great Reward. It seemed the group’s world-wary ethos threatened mainstream sensibilities and yes it mattered not only a jot.
But while headbangers were singing about a similar things and filling midsize venues with sweaty mosh-pit warriors, Depeche Mode were packing arenas and stadiums with screaming teenage girls singing their hits (even “Blasphemous Rumours”). Moreover, a reported 20,000 fans, most of whom was waiting for days, appeared for a Depeche Mode record signing in Los Angeles when Violator arrived on the scene, as well as the roar with the fans captured on this rock band’s 1989 live album and video 101 is echoing across the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
Their impact stretched world during the lead-up to Violator’s release, and it absolutely was around that time it settled in the psyches of hard-rock and metal bands. The first notable hard rocker to sing their praises was Axl Rose, who in 1989, reportedly attemptedto curry this guitar rock band’s favor by reciting the lyrics for their tender, hopeful love ballad “Somebody” for them at the 101 Hollywood premiere. Later that night, he brought them on the L.A. metal club the Cathouse but he soon lost their friendship. After the party, the Guns N’ Roses singer reportedly attended a Beverly Hills barbecue where he allegedly shot a pig. Depeche Mode then released a statement to your U.K. press that, as vegetarians, these people were “appalled” with him and failed to want being associated with him.
It seemed to be around that period that people who’d come to define metal over your next couple of decades became fans from the synth-pop group. Marilyn Manson fondly recalls seeing Depeche Mode in L.A. on the World Violation Tour, and Deftones’ Moreno proudly says that that had been the first concert he ever saw. “I fought my way on the front for being against the barricade,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I employ a feeling it’s what launched me into looking to make music, by simply seeing the power. It was just something different, considered one of my fondest and greatest memories of coming of age.”
“Dave Gahan’s voice was always appealing to me,” says Burton Bell, who peppers industro-metal growls with full-throated, Depeche-y singing when fronting Fear Factory and identifies himself as being a Mode fan from little one Violator. “He did not employ a ‘whiny’ voice, that was popular to the genre of music during the period. He carries a voice that resonated deep emotion and commitment. It’s not really by what he was singing, but more details on how he was singing it, that basically made me a follower.”
“It was distinctive from anything that’s going on at the period, that is what drew me in,” offers Ville Valo, frontman on the brooding Finnish “love-metal” group HIM, which once covered “Enjoy the Silence.” “The uniqueness of Depeche Mode was similar to Black Sabbath. They gave us hope you do not have to do just what the rest with the people are doing. They reinvented the wheel.”
As with like-minded groups the Cure and New Order, Depeche Mode’s mid-Eighties attract Future Metal Leaders from the World lied in the almost morbid, matter-of-fact gothy iconoclasm. What set them besides their peers, though – apart from a sparing by using guitar – were the ornate lattices of synthesizer counterpoints and clanging rhythms that defined their albums beginning 1985’s Some Great Reward (as well as its hit “People Are People”) onward. It’s a sound which includes gone to inspire many industrial bands, notably Nine Inch Nails and Ministry (although latter, who started off sounding like Depeche Mode, would later disavow them). That sound would become increasingly sexually charged and trance-inducing on albums like 1986’s Black Celebration, this year’s Music to the Masses as well as their masterpiece Violator.
“I don’t know as to what appeals to other bands, except for me, I think it is simply music which you put on since it is got sex entice it,” says Marilyn Manson, who covered “Personal Jesus” in 2004. “That’s what inspired me over it. That and it also has a hypnotic feel.” The singer, who also cites a period of time he received “oral sex which has a rosary bead around my dick” as inspiration with the cover, still plays “Personal Jesus” which has a “southern Baptist bible-pulpit” approach. (It’s worth noting that Gore drew inspiration not from Jesus Christ for that song but from Priscilla Presley’s almost religious admiration for her onetime husband Elvis in their book Elvis & Me.)
Another artist who covered “Personal Jesus” but for any different reason is former Van Halen belter Sammy Hagar, who included a bluesy, hard-rock rendition on the tune on his 2013 solo covers comp Sammy Hagar & Friends. “A large amount of people find it problematical to believe I’m an admirer,” according to him. “My oldest son, Aaron, actually turned me onto the group when he was little however it wasn’t until I heard ‘Personal Jesus’ that I became a lover. It hit me how cool it sounded on an electronic band to experience such a heavy blues groove. That riff always gets me.”
Beyond the feel with the group’s music, Depeche Mode’s allure for modern heavy band members also is due to Gore’s cutting, moody, often personal lyrics. In metal’s first twenty years, essentially the most successful bands had, generally, lived out their fantasies of their lyrics, but for the start with the Nineties – as punk- and hardcore-influenced grunge bands threatened the futures of puffed-chest pop-metal groups with songs about (gasp!) their emotions – an influx of harder-edged bands, too, started singing about actual.
“Depeche Mode records are typically a little bit personal and powerful,” says Converge frontman Jacob Bannon, whose histrionic hardcore-metal crossover group once covered Violator’s Pink Floyd–referencing “Clean.” “On Violator specifically, maybe it’s the aesthetic, the, the type of battle between human darkness and temptation that’s in it, I think those ideas just relate with a wide range of artists which might be making heavy music. The subject matters are essentially the identical.”
Similarly, the selling point of doing a “fully heavy” version of “Clean,” make use of Bannon’s words, was the song’s message. “It’s discussing somebody looking to get emotionally, physically and spiritually clean,” according to him. “At least this is the interpretation and narrative that I planned to explore while using song.”
“My favorite music from their store is a little unsettling,” Moreno says. “It’s darker-themed and there is a large amount of love- and relationship-type things, but it really’s unhappy music.” With Deftones, Moreno has covered Music for your Masses’ “To Have also to Hold” and Violator’s “Sweetest Perfection.” In 2013 actually is well liked sang Music with the Masses’ “Behind the Wheel” with math-metal troupe Dillinger Escape Plan. “You never truly know what they’re singing about, they’re never really so open and out front about this,” the Deftones singer says. “When you listened for many years, you kind of ran while using mood of computer and you connected it to wherever you are in your life at that time.”
Moreno recalls attempting a version of Black Celebration’s “Fly about the Windscreen” with Deftones when these were making their 1995 debut album, Adrenaline, nonetheless they never finished it or input it out. “It was our first try at doing something not too typical for the heavy band,” he states. “Now we’re renowned for doing covers which can be not so conventional a hard-rock band.”
The singer still recalls surprise that his bandmates can be open to trying something so outside with the heavy paradigm, stating that Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter had never heard from the group before meeting Moreno. That goes, too, for singer Cristina Scabbia and her bandmates in goth-metal outfit Lacuna Coil, who scored a hit inside U.K. because of their cover of Violator’s “Enjoy the Silence,” essentially the most verbose song extoling the virtues of quietude since Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.” “Marco [Biazzi], our bass player, who arranged the background music was not much of a big fan ones,” she says. “He respects them but he wasn’t an admirer to start with. But the alchemy solved perfectly.
“With some songs you obtain that special feeling,” she continues, explaining why she picked “Enjoy the Silence.” “Depeche Mode write songs with notes that hit you right from the heart. They are sometimes melancholic. I don’t know whether it’s part of man’s instinct to like to suffer a bit but in my experience it’s prefer that when I tune in to music, because I like to listen on the heart of any song.”
“‘Enjoy the Silence’ is certainly one of those songs that sounds so overwhelming that a heart may seem to burst once you hear it,” says HIM’s Valo, who covered the song partially “to receive the girls interested” in their band. “It has very easy melodies and lyrics, too.”
Another artist who recalls getting resistance initially to covering Depeche Mode is Rammstein guitarist Richard Kruspe. He discovered the synth-pop group while growing within the former East Germany where it turned out difficult to find records by his favorite bands; nevertheless he became an admirer after seeing them perform “People Are People” on TV and, in 1998, he convinced his industrial-metal group to battle Black Celebration’s “Stripped.” “I even paid them money to make it happen,” he jokes.
But even when the rest of Rammstein were fully briefed, he’d to make a concession with all the way the song was recorded. “I remember going into your studio and Till [Lindemann, vocals] was wanting to sing ‘Stripped down to your bone’ as well as hours he couldn’t eliminate this thick, German accent,” Kruspe says. “So we eliminated the ‘down on the bone part.'”
For his part, Lindemann says he’s come around to Depeche Mode, save a very important factor. “They do not have guitars and once you play metal, you wish to hear musical instrument, therefore it demands an appliance cover version,” he admits that. “But Depeche Mode work most effectively band without guitars where will still be working.”
The indisputable fact that Depeche Mode’s sound can be so delicate and malleable is additionally why the theatrical heavy-metal group Ghost attempted Violator’s tender “Waiting to the Night” for their 2013 covers EP, If You Have Ghost, which featured Dave Grohl on rhythm guitar. “It had a lots of body to discover, becasue it is very ambient and sonically sparse,” one from the group’s so-called Nameless Ghouls says. “When we got in to the studio with Dave Grohl, we toyed with all the idea to sludge out to a really doomy metal song, and I think we did rather well. The original though carries a unique, nocturnal ‘listen in bed within the dark before you head to sleep’ quality going without running shoes, though, that any of us never achieved. It’s a very beautiful song.”
“Depeche Mode’s music is just not tied into a certain length of time or fad,” Valo says. “That’s this wonderful time of this guitar rock band, being able to cater into a unique world and existence. Whenever you can open a door by enjoying music, you’re sucked in, and quite often, you decide to go from this everyday dreary, gray existence, that is the beauty of Depeche Mode.”
Despite the admiration Depeche Mode have received from hard-rock and metal fans, the group’s Martin Gore remains ambivalent about the selling point of their music into a genre that seems so diametrically the complete opposite of his own. Earlier this year, the singer told Rolling Stone he’s amazed together with the number of requests normally he gets from artists attempting to cover his songs. “The majority of these, I have to say, I don’t particularly like,” he stated. “But I usually approve them, as they are my fans. Nobody’s gonna want to cover something unless they’re actually an admirer. To say, ‘No, it’s not possible to release that because I don’t as it,’ I think, is simply bit unfair so I always approve them.
“Metal bands and Susan Boyle,” Gore said having a laugh. “When people ask us about our influence, finished . I’m most proud of would be the fact we have influenced people right overall in all different genres of music.”