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Kilburn & kink: The time Neil Tennant interviewed Depeche Mode in Smash Hits

Following on pervily from the previous post, Speak & Spell: Pet Shop Boys talk Fletch and Depeche Mode, here’s the unexpurgated “following-them-around-on-the-road piece when they’d just gone sort of leather” by the fledgling frontman Neil Tennant, from the 22 November 22 1984 edition of Smash Hits*. Go on, give in to sin…


WHEN Depeche Mode were in Berlin a few months ago, they got a bit drunk while doing an interview and let a photographer take some “very dodgy” photos. “We stripped off and that.” The next morning they had to buy the negatives back to make sure they didn’t get printed anywhere. They’re still a bit worried that they didn’t get all the negatives back…

We’ve got more stories about Depeche Mode. Loads more. When Neil Tennant (words) and Paul Rider (photos) joined the band’s tour in Leicester (29 October, triv fans – Ed.), they discovered it wasn’t all games of Scrabble and early nights with a mug of hot cocoa. There’s more torrid tales down below and over the page…


The man who drives their tour coach spends a lot of time waiting for the group outside theatres. He whiles away the time by chatting to fans: “They ask some really weird questions.” Like what? “Well, one of them wanted to know if Dave Gahan shaves his armpits.”


Martin Gore wears a leather mini-skirt on stage. He bought it at Kensington Market in London and wears it rather fetchingly with leather trousers and a girl’s slip that a fan left hanging on their tour coach. Drinking in the hotel bar after their show in Leicester, a fan asks Christina, Martin’s girlfriend: “Is Martin kinky?” They laugh.

Dave Gahan, singer, 22 years old. Recently moved out of his mum’s house to his own house in Basildon. Is it in the posh bit of Basildon? “There isn’t a posh bit of Baz.” The moodiest of the group, he often sits by himself at the back of the coach and before concerts looks drawn and nervous. Afterwards he’s friendly and relaxed, smiles and jokes with the rest of the group, but admits about touring: “You can get quite lonely, really.”


Dave Gahan has become an accomplished bum wiggler on stage, as well as shaking his pelvis in a very suggestive way. If you think that Depeche Mode are a bunch of solemn, synthesiser-programming boffins, you’d be amazed at the waves of screaming that they arouse. A lot of the credit must be taken by Dave whose energetic performance is one of the most sexy to be seen on a stage anywhere at the moment.

Martin Gore, 23 years old, writes most of Depeche Mode’s songs. He lives with his German girlfriend, Christina in a flat in Berlin: “We’ll not see it ’til January though.” On tour he chats to Christina, chuckles a lot, reads books on Nazi Germany and drinks Pils or Dutch Grolsch beer. On stage he wears a leather mini-skirt, plays keyboards, bangs some metal pipes and sings one song, ‘Somebody’.

Shep’s house party? Mr Pettibone on the left


Fletch reminisces about being in the sixth form at school with Alison Moyet. He still knows her. “I don’t think she’d have been successful if she hadn’t met Vince – she’d never have had the opportunity. But she deserves it. She’s got a great voice. I haven’t seen her for about six months, though.”


Christina cuts Martin’s hair. In Leicester she nipped out to buy a ruler to cut straight partings through the hair at the side of his head.


If you’re a really together fan, how do you get close to your favourite group? Hang round the back of the theatre hoping to catch a glimpse of them? Chat up the roadies in the hope that they’ll introduce you to Dave Gahan? No, really organised fans book into the same hotel as the group and very casually wander into the bar after the show for a drink with the group. Or maybe join them for breakfast in the morning. In Leicester five fans crammed into one room in the same hotel as Depeche Mode and were to be found chatting to them after their concert and watching Martin and Alan swimming the next morning.

Alan Wilder, 25 years old, lives in Kilburn, London, doesn’t come from Basildon, writes a few songs. On stage he plays keyboards, makes lots of weird noises on an Emulator, and bangs a piece of corrugated iron (although it’s not miked up). He comes across as the most suave and sophisticated of the group, seems to go to bed the latest and never gets ratty. Maintains his hairstyle with pots of gel and is a keen photographer.


The group manage themselves, sharing responsibilities. Alan is the secretary and deals with correspondence. He’s normally to be seen with a briefcase, dishing out photographs to be signed. Dave Gahan “deals with the bank” (Barclays, Basildon) and helps to organise their merchandise. Andy Fletcher is in charge of VAT payments and liases with their music publisher and booking agents. Martin Gore, according to Fletch, is “a lazy bastard”. That means he writes most of the songs and isn’t expected to do anything else.


Before each concert the group and their road crew eat a meal cooked for them backstage. Alan and Martin don’t eat the lamb chops everyone else is munching because they’re both vegetarians. And only Martin drinks a can of lager with his food – the rest opt for either Tizer or Vimto (it’s a really crazy rock-and-roll life on the road!). While they eat the caterers play a tape of old songs by The Eagles and Steve Miller. Dave Gahan sings along with ‘Abracadabra’.


This tour of Britain was Depeche Mode’s longest-ever: 29 dates. Which places do they like playing best? “Liverpool,” says Alan. “They go mental there. And Ireland. We couldn’t get out of our hotel in Dublin because so many people were out there. I think it’s because they don’t get so many bands over there.”

They’re now off on a long European tour, an exhausting prospect for them. “It’s pretty much the same every night, so it can get a bit boring,” admits Alan. “The worst thing is finding something to fill in three hours in a hotel bedroom in the afternoon. I take photographs to relieve the boredom. I can’t write songs or anything, neither can Martin. There’s something about touring that stops you doing that.”

Andy Fletcher (known as “Fletch”), 23 years old, lives with his girlfriend and her mum in their house in Basildon. He’s never considered living anywhere else: “It’s what you’re used to, I suppose.” Off stage he wears glasses, looks a bit like a cheeky schoolboy and chats easily to fans. Likes to wind up their coach driver by messing around on the walkie-talkie that links them with him when they’re backstage. Plays keyboard on stage and occasionally waves his arms about.

Edited by Steve Pafford

© Neil Tennant, 1984 via 

* This is the issue of Smash Hits after the one where, notoriously, Neil Tennant reviewed the singles and proceeded to bitch about virtually everything: ABC, OMD, Eurythmics, Culture Club, Dead Or Alive (You Spin Me Round no less!), the smelly old Pogues, even Trevor Horn‘s the Art Of Noise. In fact, there were really only three 45s to totally escape his wrath — Sylvester, Strawberry Switchblade… and Depeche Mode, with the double A-sided Blasphemous Rumours/Somebody. A double dip in entertainment value, the magazine sported the “Midge Ure: ‘Wham! Are prats!’ cover headline, where the Scots songstrel from Ver ’Vox famously slagged off everything and everyone just before having to cosy up to them for Band Aid. Oh, how we laughed.

Talking of Leicester, by the way…


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