For those of you who don't yet know, DM Live Wiki (https://www.depechemode-live.com/wiki/Main_Page) is a site that, firstly, acts as a Depeche Mode live history and secondly, hosts hundreds of Depeche Mode live recordings from the very earliest up to now. The site continues to grow with the help of the likes of Angelinda from DM TV Archives, who has added interviews to various gig pages. All the recordings are unofficial and contain no commercially released tracks. They are gathered together from various sources who have taped the band's gigs and are presented on DM Live Wiki to download free.
The Black Celebration Tour section is certainly worth a visit as it contains a number of must hear recordings:
My personal favourites, other than the ones we'll hear about in a bit, are the excellent Munster (20 May 1986) and Valbyparken (19 August 1986) shows. I caught up with Matthew Wolfe, the man behind the site, to find out a bit more about it and, naturally enough given what I'm doing at the moment, to chat Black Celebration.
APA: How did DM Live Wiki come about?
MW: I've always been a proponent of sharing live recordings. I started collecting Depeche Mode live recordings back in 2009 and sharing whatever I could on a torrent tracker for live recordings of bands called DIMEadozen. I've amassed quite a collection of recordings, good and bad, and a few years later I posted a thread on the excellent fan site "Home" forum containing download links to what I felt were the very best soundboard, FM, and audience recordings from each tour. I thought, why not take that a step further and make something similar on a public website and expand it to include more recordings, information, etc?
I started on the wiki in mid-December 2013 and my colleague Ronny helped me populate the set lists for every gig and also gave me the awesome domain name depechemode-live.com that he had sitting unused for years. I also included download links to the same great recordings that were on the Home forum. I made the site public on January 27, 2014. Angelinda also contributes a lot of effort by adding interviews to the wiki - she also contributes to the DM TV Archives project, among other DM-related projects. I know the wiki is a little clunky as far as navigation goes, plus a rating system for users to rate recordings and improved search capability to be able to drill down types of recordings and such would be beneficial, and the streaming capability could be improved for sure, but overall I think the use of a wiki works pretty well for my purposes.
The site uses torrents for downloads of the full recordings to help avoid any legal issues by making the recordings available via regular direct-download links. You know how stuff on YouTube often gets taken down even if it's live stuff like this - the same thing could happen to the wiki. I'm hoping one day the site may get some sort of official sanction to allow direct-download links without worry of them being taken down or something, but to date I haven't had anybody representing the band or any of its labels contact me about anything regarding the site in an official capacity.
I work on the site whenever I get some spare time, and I usually add entire tours' worth of recordings at once. Shortly before Christmas I added all of the available recordings from the 1990 "World Violation" tour, so that was something of a little Christmas gift to many Mode fans around the world. There are about 450 recordings and about 300 interviews available currently. I set up a discussion forum as well, but it doesn't get much traffic right now - that's no big deal, it'll always be there. I pay for the wiki and its infrastructure entirely out of my own pocket plus the servers are all managed and administrated by me; the cost is pretty modest, so I don't mind. I'm happy to provide the wiki to fans around the world!
Some things coming up in the short term on the wiki: my colleague Vince and I are working on remastering a great sounding FM broadcast master tape of 1984-11-30 Basel, so that will appear soon, and of course the Devotional tour in its entirety is next. Long-term, I've been toying with the idea of a compilation perhaps titled "The Essential Live Mode" which includes some of the best recordings from each tour all rolled up into one big compilation - I'm sure something like that would be immensely popular, especially for more casual collectors who just want the best few recordings from each tour to enjoy. I've also got a bunch of soundcheck tapes coming in the next month or so, and that may be interesting to some of the more devoted collectors
APA: It seems the site has caught the imagination of Depeche fans - is that fair to say?
MW: I'd like to believe so. The site receives around 150 to 200 visits per day on average - I'm sure the awesome domain name I've got helps (thanks Ronny & Carsten!). Once in a while I get pleasant emails thanking me for providing all of these recordings and the information. I really enjoy the emails where people generously contribute their own tapes for me to transfer - for example, the partial recordings of 1990 Cleveland and 1993 Chicago were both taped by German fans who mailed the tapes to me and even paid for shipping! Both of those recordings were basically uncirculating and, considering the entry-level equipment used, sound pretty good when I transferred them on high-end Nakamichi cassette decks. The Demos & Studio Pre-Mixes page is quite popular - it doesn't quite relate directly to Depeche Mode's live career, but I think a trustworthy resource on that topic was long overdue. If you haven't visited that page before, definitely give everything a listen - there's probably around an hour of juicy audio there.
APA: Do you intend to keep growing the site? Is the aim to get EVERY possible DM gig recording up there?
MW: Absolutely! The goal is to have every circulating recording of Depeche Mode available to stream and download on the site. It's a bit tougher with videos - currently I host streaming copies of videos on my server - so I'll probably need to rethink that and maybe use YouTube or something. I'm not a big video collector to begin with, I've just the better circulating recordings like pro-shots and some live TV spots, so maybe once all the audio's more or less available I'll work more on videos.
APA: Turning to Black Celebration, the site currently (I think) has 44 of the 76 shows on that tour. For someone new to Depeche recordings, what ones would you recommend?
MW: 48 out of 76 dates have recordings as of this writing - you were close! I think the short list would be:
- 1986-04-10 Birmingham - a really nice sounding 12-track FM broadcast
- 1986-04-16 London - the best pro-shot PAL DVD out of the three available, generously given out free by the DM TV Archives; the soundboard audio by itself is also available to stream and download if you go back to the main page for that date
- 1986-05-02 Stuttgart - a superb audience recording, plus a pro-shot DVD and soundboard audio are all available, but the DVD & soundboard audio aren't quite as good as London so my main reason for listing it here is the audience recording
- 1986-06-24 St. Paul, Minnesota - another excellent audience recording, sourced from master tapes
APA: The Brighton gig from the BC tour is notable for having a version of Here Is The House, a song that was swiftly dropped from the set. What's that recording like?
MW: I actually just re-transferred my tape copy of that recording the other day for improved quality to help celebrate the gig's 30th anniversary. It's not a superb audience recording, but it's definitely listenable with the advantage of having a really quiet crowd during songs. It's somewhat incomplete as well, missing six tracks entirely. "Here Is The House" was assumed to have been performed at the first concert of the BC tour, 1986-03-29 Oxford, and it was performed at the Brighton gig, but then dropped; the recording of the next concert at 1986-04-02 Dublin confirms that. The performance of "Here Is The House" is a touch rocky as some keyboard mistakes were made. I'm not sure why the song was dropped from the set list. Feel free to stream the entire available recording of that gig, or just "Here Is The House", at the recording's page here.
There's a 20-second soundboard snippet of "Here Is The House" being performed during tour rehearsals in March of 1986 and it sounds simply amazing; it's a shame the full tape isn't available as all of the snippets sound great. You can hear it and read more info about that tape on this page: 1986-03-00 Black Celebration Tour Rehearsals, Nomis Studios, London, England, UK
I really hope that full tape will be circulating one day - even better still if I'll have the opportunity to transfer it to ensure it sounds its best!
APA: Do you think you'll be able to get the remaining 29 gigs?
MW: It would be awesome to have a complete set of recordings from *any* of the DM tours really, but there's no guarantee all of the gigs were taped and that those tapes are still in existence or playable; there are so many factors involved, especially with analog media being the king back then. I'm always welcome to helping anybody with transferring tapes though and I've got phenomenal equipment for working with cassettes (details are here: Equipment: Nakamichi Dragon) which will extract every detail from just about any tape. If anyone's reading this that happens to have any recording of DM from any tour, on pretty much any format that you'd like me to digitize or at least compare it to any existing copies that may be floating around, please shoot me an email! I'd be more than happy to check it out and cover shipping costs both ways (or one-way if you don't need the item returned). Check out this page for more info if you're interested: Contributing
Well, if that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will. The amount of work that Matt has put into the Live Wiki is heroic and there is so much to explore there that you will lose days at a time easily. Go and check it out and make sure to listen to Matt's Black Celebration recommendations.
And remember - if you have a tape or two kicking about that contains a show or shows not on Matt's list get in touch with him. We'd all love to hear the result.