Dave Gahan: of faith and devotion
di Leo Mansueto – Traduzione di Matteo Tonolli
What would it be of the Young David ‘Dave’ Gahan if at the end of Seventies he didn’t know and love the music of David Bowie? And what it would be of Depeche Mode if that seventeen boy with a weird haircut and the clothes of a new romantic didn’t go to the Woodlands School in Basildon that particular afternoon in the spring of 1980? Yes, as he remembered years after, “that particular afternoon” Dave Gahan followed his friend Paul Redmond to attend the recordings of the French Look, the band of Rob Allen. They played “Heroes” and Gahan took the microphone and started to sing. In the classroom beside, his performance attracted the attention of Vince Clarke, who those days was looking for a singer for his Composition Of Sound (in the band there were also Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore, who played also in the French Look): a week later the Depeche Mode were born… Casuality or predestination, the debt of David Gahan toward David Jones is not a coincidence of that Wednesday of 36 years ago.
“For me” told the frontman of Depeche Mode to Marc Spitz, “Bowie represented a way to get out of myself and from where I was. Basildon was a factory, working-class town. Bowie gave a hope that there was something else. This world that he seemed be part of – where was it? I wanted to find it. I just thought he wasn’t of this earth. And that was really attractive to me, to live in a different persona.” So it’s natural that the biggest debt of gratitude by Gahan, before Bowie as a Berliner and potential inspirer of the first electronics wailings of the DM, is for Ziggy Stardust, quintessence of transformism and extra-terrestrial escape. “There’s many records that have been pivotal for me” he has recently told to CNN. “If I were to name one, it would be Ziggy Stardust. It changed my life. Moonage Daydream still gives me the goosebumps” he said. “I couldn’t really tell you what the hell he’s singing about. It’s about feeling and emotion first, it doesn’t really have to make any sense. It makes more sense melodically, it’s abstract musically. That’s with me now, every time I’m trying to write. It inspired me. Without it, I would have been resolved to a life of petty crime.” As his ‘hero’, the life of Gahan had many demons. After an heart-attack in 1993, he survived to a heroine overdose, a suicide attempt and a malignant tumor in 2009. As Bowie 20 years before, also his experience in L.A. at the beginning of ’90s coincided with his darkest period of his life: the descent to hell of the heavy drugs. And the ascent was miraculous.
The 2000s, after the worldwide success of Depeche Mode, see his solo albums (Paper Monsters and Hourglass) and the collaboration with the Soulsavers of Rich Machin & Ian Glover, to find his artistic freedom. After the album The Light The Dead See in 2012, his signature and face were on the cover of Angels & Ghosts, by Soulsavers in 2015. In that album there’s a song, “One Thing”, in which Gahan does an explicit quote (There’s always life on Mars out there for me) of Life On Mars? “It still means a lot to me” he explains in a 2015 interview on Electronic Beats. “I can still play that song and I can still hear a person who’s lost. But at the same time, I can see this beautiful landscape he’s lost in, and how we desperately try to find things to numb ourselves from the way we feel.” “Life On Mars?” he added, “can always transform however I’m feeling. Bowie’s the one artist, I’d say, for many decades that’s always surprised me and also lifted me.
“I have complete identification with his voice and his melodies”. “If I’m feeling a certain mood” he also said, “I know I can put on Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane and my mood will completely change. It just takes me to a place where I wanted to go when I was a teenager. It’s like where Bowie was, I wanted to go.” As Bowie, Gahan moved to New York in 1997, where he still lives Earth his third wife Jennifer Sklias. In an interview with Ralph Moore for Mixmag in 2007, Gahan told his experience to live in the same city of Bowie: “I see him quite often actually. He has a daughter that goes to the same school as my daughter. I bump into all those guys. I see Lou Reed walking around with his little dog. It’ all my heroes but I see them going about their everyday life. And that’s kind of cool too. Bowie did a performance at Roseland where he performed all of Low from start to finish and I got to meet him afterwards – but it was weird. Before the show I was told that David would really like to meet me. And I was like, ‘what do you mean, how does he know me?’ To me, he’s an iconic figure so for him to even be aware of me was kind of weird, to start with I said no, but my wife convinced me to go back so I did and he was great. He came walking out, his wife was there and a whole bunch of people were wandering around and suddenly he picked me out and said ‘I KNOW YOU!’ I used to get really terrified by meeting people who I respected and liked.
“I met David Bowie once and I was terrified because I thought, what if I don’t like him? But he was really nice. We got on fine.” The invisible which links Gahan to Bowie grows in 2011. On 6th May in the name of devotion for Aladdin Sane, the singer covers live a bloody version of Cracked Actor. When? For a benefit concert for MusiCares at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles (on YouTube you can watch different contributes of this special version). A second tribute, more explicit, is the cover of Cat People (Putting Out Fire) released this year by Martyn LeNoble e Christian Eigner to sustain the American Liver Foundation. “Been so long, so long, so long” repeats Dave at the end of the song, following the deep, baritone and ipnotic voice of Mark Lanegan. It’s his way to feed a fire that has burned for a very long time. Waiting for a personal song of faith and devotion that could come next year with a new album of the Depeche Mode.”