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5 Questions With Depeche Mode Ahead of Their Rock Hall Induction

Founding member and primary songwriter Martin L. Gore answered a few questions for Billboard about the group's unique trajectory.

You’d be hard pressed to think of a more unlikely path to universal adoration in the rock realm than Depeche Mode. While Depeche were dismissed as synth-pop pin-ups for the first decade of their career (despite making some of the best existential electronica of the ’80s), their intense cult following and low-key influence on innovators in nearly every genre from the ’90s onward has made this electronic-leaning outfit one of the most celebrated acts in the alt-rock pantheon.

Ahead of the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during 2020’s virtual ceremony (which features a wildly eclectic bunch of musicians speaking on DM’s impact) airing on HBO Nov. 7, founding member and primary songwriter Martin L. Gore answered a few questions for Billboard about the group’s unique trajectory and their long-standing relationship with Mute Records and Daniel Miller.

Congrats on your induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Of course, the Rock Hall inducts acts beyond a strict definition rock music, but would the members balk at being called a “rock band”? Do you even care about labels like that?

MG: I think that we have always had a very electronic foundation, but we embraced a lot of rock traditions a long time ago. We used to be electronic purists, but that changed at some point during the ‘80s when we started using guitars and other instruments, so I have no problem with being called rock.

Despite deals with majors, Depeche Mode has maintained a long-standing loyalty to Mute Records. How essential was Mute to the success of early Depeche Mode?

MG: I think we were very lucky to bump into Daniel very early on in our career and to get to work with him. He was like a father figure to us, really. Even though he wasn’t that old, he had a lot more experience than us. He’s really helped to guide our career from day one and is still part of the story today. He’s still involved in all aspects of the music making and we still take his advice.

If you had to pick one album as an essential turning point in the band’s career beyond the critical favorite Violator, which record would it be and why?

MG: For me, apart from Violator, the big turning point for the band was Black Celebration. I think we turned down a dark alleyway that we quite liked.


What do you think is the band’s most misunderstood song, in terms of what you intended and how it was received?

MG: I think that my songs are often very misunderstood. People have all kinds of interpretations of them and more often than not, they are a million miles off of what I initially intended. I think that’s one of the useful things about the power of music.

Critics, particularly in the U.K., didn’t respect Depeche during the ’80s. These days, there are precious few bands of the era treated with greater reverence. When did the band realize that sea change in public opinion had occurred?

MG: I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I remember going on a promotional tour at some point in the early 2000s. A lot of the journalists had grown up with us and they all seemed to be uber fans. I remember going into the interviews and everyone had brought their record collections with them. Instead of having to fight journalists who hated us, we were having to sign all of their albums.