A new album and tour is business as usual for Depeche Mode, which has, like clockwork, issued a full-length and embarked on a coinciding live run every four years since 1993. But the band's 13th studio set, "Delta Machine," due March 26 on new label home Columbia, was created under unusual circumstances for the veteran alt-rock group. After years of well-documented infighting, the members, including frontman Dave Gahan and chief songwriter Martin Gore, were downright giddy working with one another.
"When you're together with people for more than 30 years, there are bound to be ups and downs, things that bother you and then things that you celebrate together," Gahan says. He admits that his health struggles during Depeche Mode's last tour supporting 2009's "Sounds of the Universe," including gastroenteritis and the removal of a malignant tumor from his bladder, helped him appreciate working with Gore and multi-instrumentalist Andy Fletcher more than ever before. "I didn't really take in that I had felt pretty sick and managed to get through that," he says. "So when the tour was over, I spent a little time reflecting on that."
After working with British production duo Soulsavers in 2011 and returning to Depeche Mode at the top of 2012 to spend a year recording "Delta Machine" in Santa Barbara, Calif., and New York, a re-energized Gahan has put his recent troubles behind him, with the band plotting an even more expansive live return to support the album. A 34-date European stadium tour begins May 7 in Tel Aviv, and U.S. arenas will likely follow in the fall.
"We're already planning another European leg and then definitely South America and possibly Asia. Then we're planning to come back to America, and [do] festivals in Europe in the summer of 2014," Gahan says. The group allied with German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom for its European summer tour, and longtime manager Jonathan Kessler says it's looking into marketing partners for future runs as well.
Depeche Mode still makes its hay on the road: "Sounds of the Universe" has sold 194,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, but the group earned more than $72 million from 59 shows on the Tour of the Universe trek, according to Billboard Boxscore. Kessler believes "Delta Machine" will receive an even more forceful push, though, now that the group's more open to public appearances.
After a weeklong U.S. promotional run, the second half of March will be spent making TV appearances in Europe, including U.K. show "Friday Night With Jonathan Ross" and Germany's ECHO Awards. An album launch event, presented by Deutsche Telekom's international music program Electronic Beats, is set for March 24 in Vienna. "I went to the band and said, 'You can't sit in a room now and do interviews for a month,'" Kessler says of the album's promotion campaign.
Meanwhile, Depeche Mode's move from EMI to Columbia, announced in December, has been an "amazing" experience, Kessler says. The label has emphasized the project's global reach and is currently pushing multiple tracks for synch opportunities. "Our licensing team has been playing music for TV and film people, and the reaction has been nothing short of incredible," Columbia marketing director Erika Alfredson says. In what could be a good omen, in November the band's 1984 single "People Are People" appeared in a Volkswagen TV ad, which included an appearance by Gahan.
"Delta Machine"'s first single, "Heaven," is a quirky midtempo ballad that has sold only 14,000 downloads since its late-January release (album cuts like "Soothe My Soul" and "Angel" possess more immediate alt-rock hooks). But Gahan says he isn't overly worried about the single's success-or lack thereof. "This is an album that has life to it," he says. "We're going to be touring for a long time with it, so let's just take our time. There will be more songs that come."