Friday, 21 April 2017

NOW THIS IS FUN: DEPECHE MODE FACEBOOK TAKEOVER - 20 APRIL 2017


Well, that was an odd day.

As you probably know by now, Depeche Mode are running a Facebook Takeover for 365 days, inviting fans to apply to be in charge of the band's Facebook page for a day. I obviously couldn't pass this up, so I applied and, fortunately, got picked. It was a remarkable experience.

Before your day goes live, you liaise with the lovely Carl and Ale who sort everything out for you. You can submit up to 5 posts including an opening bio post and, once they've been cleared, the DM Facebook team schedule them and post them. All you've got to do is be online when they pop up and interact with any of the band's 7.3 million followers who happen to get involved. No pressure there then.

I chose 4 posts in addition to the bio thing (see here) and after more thought that was no doubt necessary, went for these (click each for article):


I thought they offered a good spread of things from the interesting (Gareth Jones) to the collector geek friendly and that seemed to work. What was most surprising though was that, firstly, Live In Scotland has proved to be the most popular post and, secondly, that many, many more people than I expected got involved both on the Depeche Facebook page and on the blog itself.

Th experience of seeing my picture on Depeche Mode's official page together with a picture of my records was incredible. For that second, and in the picture I captured (below), I featured heavily on my favourite band's own site. If you'd told the 16 year old me that in 1990, once you'd explained what the internet and Facebook was of course, he'd have been beyond happy. To be honest, the slightly older than 16 year old me was very much beyond happy when he saw it yesterday.

Just me and Dave - remarkable

I'm a Depeche Mode fan and I know what we're like, but nothing prepared me for this. Before 2 p.m. yesterday when this all kicked off, my blog had had 251,000 visitors since I started this in 2011. I was happy with that figure and I've had consistent increases in hits each month since I began. Yesterday though caused these figures to go absolutely crazy. At the time of typing this, my blog stats are currently:

All time visits - 644,537 (an increase of just under 400,000!!)
Pageviews today - 222,673
Pageviews yesterday - 166,179

Good grief. The Live in Scotland post alone has had 180,019 reads since it went live at 9 p.m. on 20 April. That's less than 24 hours ago at the time of writing. I can't get my head round it really.

That's the Depeche Mode effect I guess, or really, that's the Black Swarm effect. Eager to read anything and discuss everything about Depeche Mode, the DM fans have blown my mind and the whole Facebook takeover thing was a one off, incredible experience. I even got responses like this from the clearly wise Camie Chance:



It was that sort of day!

Thank you very much for the chance Depeche Mode and thank you Carl and Ale for all your help. Thank you mostly to each and every Depeche fan who got involved. If you're new to this blog, welcome and I hope you'll stick around. If you're a regular, thank you for spreading the news around the world yesterday and making my day so much fun, if a little tiring. 

If you're a Depeche fan and you think you're interested in the takeover, apply and watch your Facebook notifications go through the roof. You'll love it. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

NEW RELEASES - MARNIE, MT. DOUBT AND AMOR

I've been stuck in a world of Depeche Mode blogging of late, meaning that I've fallen far behind on all non Mode related blog duties. There are three new releases, all Scottish and all superb, that I've been meaning to write about but haven't had the chance until now. To improve your Easter weekend no end, grab yourself all three of these tracks - you won't be disappointed.

MARNIE - LOST MAPS

Ahead of her forthcoming album Strange Words and Weird Wars, Marnie has released a second track from that record, Lost Maps which follows the quite brilliant Alphabet Block (review and interview with Helen here - click ). Lost Maps is a wonderful song, filled with dark, pulsing synth parts that bring the type of modular synth sounds you find on the new Depeche album. Once again, Marnie expertly manages to balance dark, electropop synths with a captivating, almost pure pop vocal melody, making Lost Maps a track that you instantly fall in love with. Like Alphabet Block, Lost Maps is a tantalising glimpse of what's to come with Strange Words and Weird Wars, an album that's destined to be one of the finest records you'll hear this year.




MT. DOUBT - TOURISTS

The buzz surrounding Mt Doubt continues to justifiably grow. Tourists is the band's first release of 2017, issued on the Scottish Fiction label as a split 7" with Foreignfox, and as with each new Mt. Doubt release, the songwriting is taken to another level. The track is a poppier affair than you might expect from Mt. Doubt, albeit the pop I speak of is very much at the darker end of the scale. Surrounding Leo Bargery's trademark powerful vocals are ever increasingly powerful layers of guitar that give you a real flavour of how powerful this band is live. It's great to hear the sheer scale of their live performances captured here. Listen to Tourists below then head to the Scottish Fiction bandcamp page to get the 7" single.



AMOR - PARADISE

Amor are made up of Paul Thomson, Michael Francis Duch, Luke Fowler and Richard Youngs, and with Paradise they've released one of this year's great tracks. It's on the wonderful Night School Records, a label that specialises in releasing nothing but magical records and this is no exception. The 12" single was limited to 500 copies which have probably all gone by now, but you should still buy the download immediately. Paradise sounds like a great lost 12" extended remix from the days when singles had such things as opposed to the generic substandard famous name DJ rubbish that blights remix singles these days. There are elements of disco, electro and even a dash of Can here, creating a type of sound that LCD Soundsystem would have come up with if they'd hailed from Glasgow rather than New York. It's an epic song basically, and once you hear it, you will fall in love with it



That's me caught up then. Normal Depeche Mode service will shortly be resumed.

Monday, 27 March 2017

MORE THAN A PARTY: DEPECHE MODE, GLASGOW BARROWLAND, 26 MARCH 2017



Where do I start?

It's very hard to put last night into words. Depeche Mode simply don't play venues like the Barrowlands but for one night only they did. Thanks to BBC 6 Music,  Depeche Mode took over Glasgow and I can say that I was there, I was a part of it. I'll never experience anything like that again.



The whole day had a special feeling to it. I went down to the Barras around 11 am yesterday and met a few members of the Black Swarm who had camped out overnight. Camping out overnight is crazy enough, but camping out overnight in that part of town takes a special kind of bravery. Well done to the Swarm. I hung around for a while, chatted to a few fans and ended up meeting Peter Gordeno. He's a lovely chap. I spoke to a security guy at the venue and he was amazed that fans were camping out for a gig that wasn't even due to start until 9 p.m. He said "Are all you Depeche Mode fans as mental as that lot?" pointing to the overnight campers. As someone who was aimlessly hanging around outside the venue, all I could say was yes.


Fast forward a few hours and me, John, John C and Andrew met up and were ready to begin enjoying ourselves. We headed to the Kilts pre show party and the day properly began. I met so many cool people there, at the gig and at the aftershow party and I don't want to offend anyone by missing them out, so I'll just say hello again to you all here and thanks very much for chatting. Being a relentless self promoter, I had a blog t-shirt on, and it was genuinely moving to have so many people come up to me, say hello and say kind things about all this nonsense. The pre show party was great and it set the scene nicely for what was to come.


In earlier posts about this gig, I said that the Barras is the best venue on earth and last night proved it. The combination of a crowd who were 100% up for it and a band playing what was surely one of the gigs of their lives meant that last night was a gig that I will never forget and it's unlikely to ever be beaten. I can honestly say that it was the best gig I have ever been to and I'm still in a daze as I write this. From the opening roar as the band came on stage, a roar that caused even as experienced a frontman as Dave to pause for a second or two, to the closing perfection of a revitalised Enjoy The Silence, this was a unique and beautiful Depeche Mode experience. World In My Eyes, Walking In My Shoes and Personal Jesus all sounded as good as they ever have done and the band fed off the crowd's energy throughout the show. Martin played a full band version of Home which was spellbinding and the new songs all fitted in perfectly, with Cover Me a gorgeous highlight. It was everything you could have wanted and then some.



I'm so lucky to have been able to get a ticket for this show and I'll genuinely never forget last night. Gigs like that don't happen often and when the best band in the world played the best venue in the world in the city I live in, I can say I saw it. Thank you Depeche Mode, thank you devotees.

Next stop Stockholm.







Thursday, 23 March 2017

DEPECHE MODE GLASGOW BARROWLANDS 26 MARCH - A GUIDE

Sunday 26 March is going to be a landmark day for Depeche Mode fans lucky enough to have got tickets for the BBC 6 Music Festival. The band are headlining the festival, playing at the legendary Barrowland Ballroom which means one of the biggest acts on earth will be playing what I consider to be the greatest venue on earth. The Barras (as it's commonly known) holds a maximum of 2100 people, meaning that this is Depeche Mode's most intimate British gig in years. In my many years of following Depeche around Europe on tours, I never thought I'd get to see them at the Barras. The fact they're playing there hasn't really yet sunk in but it's happening so I'm now in full on gig preparation mode. 

I know that a lot of you who read this blog aren't from Glasgow and that you'll be travelling to the city for the gig. To help you make the most of the Depeche related mayhem that Sunday will bring, here's a guide to what's happening on the day.

Pre Gig Preparation

If you're flying into Glasgow Airport on Sunday, look for the bus into town. The white airport taxis are extortionate. The Airport Express bus will cost you £7.50 for a single journey and it has a really frequent service, even on Sundays:


Once you're in town, it's time to head to the first pre-show meet up. The Kilts who, like me, are Scottish, but unlike me as the name would suggest, wear kilts to every Depeche gig they go to have arranged a superb free pre show party at Solid Rock Cafe at 19-23 Hope Street which is seconds away from Glasgow Central station. It runs from 2pm to 6pm and is free to get in. There will be food, drink and Depeche Mode related tunes played all afternoon. It'll be a great way to start the Barras Celebration (see what I did there?) and I recommend you go. 

There's a Facebook page for the event here - click me 

If you're not on Facebook, here is the venue website - click me Don't let the distinct rock flavour of the site put you off. For one day only, it's a Depeche Mode venue.

The Barras is only a short taxi ride from Solid Rock Cafe. I reckon it'll cost around £6 or so to get you there. 

The Barras



Your taxi will drop you off at the venue and you'll be greeted by an iconic site - the Barrowland sign all lit up and sparkling. If that doesn't get you inspired for the gig, nothing will! There's only one door into the venue which you'll see easily enough. If the scary security let you through, you'll go through a metal detector type thing and then head straight up the stairs in front of you. 

At the top of those stairs, turn left and you'll see a door which leads to the toilets (on the left through the door) and to a corridor leading to a bar. On normal gig nights, the merchandise stand is on the right as you go through the door. I don't know if there'll be any Depeche merchandise on sale on Sunday given that this isn't an actual Global Spirit Tour date. If there is, it'll be there.

To get to the Ballroom itself, don't go through that door on the right. Instead go up the other two flights of stairs, push open the double doors and you'll find yourself in the best venue on earth. There are two bars - one immediately on your left as you go in that sells cans of beer and bottles of water and another fully stocked bar at the far left hand side of the venue. The first bar is more of a table than a bar really. I don't need to point out where the stage is - you'll see that. There are no toilets on that floor so you'll need to head back downstairs to relieve yourself after the pre gig drinks. 

It seems that Depeche are on stage around 9pm. The venue has a curfew of 11 but that doesn't necessarily mean  the band will be on for two hours. Check the official Barrowlands Twitter page during the day for exact stage times - https://twitter.com/TheBarrowlands

Once the show ends, head back down the stairs, out onto the street and head for the aftershow party. You'll want to keep the Depeche mood going I'm sure


Post Gig Celebration

The only place to head after the gig is The Flying Duck at 142 Renfield Street where another free party is taking place. Blasphemous : A Celebration of Depeche Mode is running from 8pm to 1am, promising music by Depeche Mode with a selection tracks popular and rare, remixes and other Mute artists and it's going to be brilliant. If you can get a taxi, it's a short ride from the Barras. It's also walkable too - that'll take about 10 to 15 minutes.

There's a Facebook page for this one too - come here, click me, now

For non Facebookers, here's The Flying Duck's page http://www.theflyingduck.org/

I'll be at all these events because it's going to be tremendous fun turning Glasgow into Depeche Mode city for a day. Me and my fellow gig travellers will be wearing these fetching items


Come and say hello if you see us. One thing though, I'm not offering refunds on any taxi costs that exceed the estimate above ;)




Friday, 10 March 2017

RECONSTRUCTION TIME AGAIN : DEPECHE MODE - SPIRIT



I reviewed Spirit last week for XS Noize and did so having listened to the album twice in quick succession, basing my review on early impressions of the record. Obviously, being the person I am, it takes a lot for my first impression of any new Depeche material to be anything other than rapturous, but I think that review was even handed enough. I decided to leave my own review for a week to allow the album to sink in more, so that I could offer a perhaps more considered view of it, finding any flaws and taking these into account here. I've played a it a few more times, albeit not enough to dim the excitement that will arrive next week on the actual release date when I have the physical release in my hands, and I have to say that my opinion of the album hasn't changed. If anything, Spirit has grown on me more and, to my ears anyway, we have something of a late period Depeche Mode classic on our hands with this release.

Much has been made of the political slant of the album with lead single Where's The Revolution delivering a message that chimes perfectly with the troubled times we find ourselves in. That message is open to interpretation of course, as is amply highlighted by hatemongering alt-right buffoon Richard Spencer's recent assertion that Depeche are "the official band" of his tribe of racist lunatics. The band were quickly to politely but firmly play put that to bed and Dave has gone even further in an interview with the New York Post today (http://nypost.com/2017/03/09/depeche-mode-rails-against-the-alt-right/). What Spencer and any other clown thinking Depeche Mode are aligned with any of these right wing fonts of fuckwittery fail to appreciate is the band's history and that history resonates throughout Spirit.

Before Depeche Mode turned full on leather clad Berlin based globe conquerors they displayed a social conscience unusual in the pop world of the early 80's. 1983's Construction Time Again took pot shots at big business (Everything Counts), feared for the environment (The Landscape Is Changing) and told us that the only way to improve things was to have a revolution, albeit a gentle one (And Then).  Those songs displayed a naivety, the type that people in their early 20's experiencing success are wont to make, but its innocence made it work. The theme of many of the songs on Spirit could be said to be the same, but this time it's viewed through the cynical, world weary eyes of 50 somethings, filled with anger instead of hope. 



At this point, before I set about the album itself and stop banging on about Construction Time Again, it's worth pointing out that this album isn't Construction Time Again, nor is it Violator, Black Celebration, Music For The Masses or even Exciter (thankfully). No new Depeche Mode album is ever going to be like any of those and to expect that or to get angry when it doesn't sound like them is a waste of energy. My one fear was that we'd find ourselves still stuck in the bluesy swamp of the last two albums but the change of producer from Ben Hillier to James Ford has in the main dispensed with that sound and has seen the band's sound refreshed, producing Depeche's best album since Playing The Angel or perhaps even since Ultra. 

Opener Going Backwards sets the tone for the album and does so impressively. One of the first things that strikes you is the sound - this is far different to Delta Machine and mercifully Sounds Of The Universe both of which managed to sound overproduced yet muddy in places. Going Backwards is unmistakably Depeche Mode, but it has a nice aggression to it with a sparseness that makes the song a standout here. Dave's vocals are superb too, placed beautifully in the mix, maximising the effect of the song's sound and lyrics, where Martin writes about technology screwing society up and leaving us slaves to it, dulling our senses to the point we don't care anymore. This is as bleak as Depeche Mode have sounded in a long time and that's a welcome thing in my book. Where's The Revolution follows and I've discussed that before so there's no need to go through all that again. As a choice of single however, it's interesting as I can't quite put my finger on why it was released. It's a safe choice in that it acts as a bridge between the last two albums and this one and it's an introduction of sorts to the themes of Spirit. It's not an especially brave choice though. I'd like to have seen something like Scum or even You Move released first, just to wrongfoot people. Anyway, I like Where's The Revolution and that's that.

The third track, The Worst Crime continues the album's theme of doom and despair with its tales of lynchings and bemoaning the fact we have committed some crime or other, sealing our own fate. Martin wrote his songs on this album in late 2015/early 2016 so they predate the twin horrors of Brexit and Trump, but his lyrics really do have a relevance that they've not had for a long time, especially in this opening quartet of songs. The Worst Crime is a slow, dark lullaby of a track that suddenly pounds into life in places before disappearing again and, sonically, it's a cross between Delta Machine's blues and Dave's Soulsavers project. Indeed, it reminds me so much of the latter that I was convinced this was a Dave track when I first heard it. It's "Depecheified" enough to make it sound like Depeche Mode however and it's a track that will slowly creep up on you, reeling you in over repeated listens.



One of my favourite tracks, Scum, follows and it is a song that is destined to be the star of this year's live shows. Part Nine Inch Nails circa The Downward Spiral albeit without the intense self loathing, part modular synth fest and as angry as Depeche Mode have sounded in ages, Scum is a cracking track. Be ready to sing "Pull the triggaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah" at every show you see this year. You'll recognise Scum from the Milan press conference last year as it starts with some of the bleeps and beeps from one of the snippets played there. It soon turns into Delta Machine's My Little Universe pissed up and fighting facists however and that is a wonderful thing. After slabs of gloom, You Move arrives, very much a bedroom song and one that is rather wonderfully co-written by Dave and Martin. It's definitely a case of Dave on lyrics and Martin on music and it really works. It's a synthpop song but a distinctly experimental side to it, sounding in places like Dopplereffekt which is a real treat. Again, this song might pass you by on first listen, but it grows in stature with every play.

Dave's songs have never been my favourites on post Exciter works as for every Suffer Well or Nothing's Impossible we've had a I Want It All, Miles Away or, heaven forbid, a Hole To Feed.  His songs here, the first of which, Cover Me follows Scum, are all really good, interesting tracks. Cover Me is very much a tale of two songs however. The first part is a ballad with a gorgeous chorus, but a song that tilts a bit too much towards Soulsavers, before it blossoms into a couple of minutes of pure electronic music that is a gorgeous as any Depeche have made before and will no doubt bring a tear to the eye of those who still pine for Mr Wilder. It's Depeche Mode as Kraftwerk circa Autobahn and Trans Europe Express and it elevates Cover Me from just another track to something very special indeed. If they play this live, it will be special. My nervous anticipation of Dave's contributions to albums is equalled only by my Martin bias as it his solo tracks I always look for first. His first vocal contribution is short but majestic Eternal, a black celebration of love, promising that no matter what disasters befall him ("...the radiation falls..") he will love the object of the song eternally. It's a step up, or perhaps several steps up, from recent Martin tracks too. It's short in the same way that classic Martin tracks like It Doesn't Matter Two are short, Martin sings almost entirely without the crooning vibrato that's befouled his recent efforts and, while the lyrics are not exactly new thematically, they have a focus that his recent vocal leads haven't. This is a dark, powerful lullaby and the final "My eternal loooovvvvvve" line is stunning.

Focus is a key feature in Spirit and that seems to be down to a combination of Martin having something to write about and James Ford's production. Previous albums have either meandered wholly (Sounds Of The Universe) or lost focus halfway through (Delta Machine and even Playing The Angel) but, here, we are 7 songs in already and there's no sign of any slacking or any needless filler. Dave's second contribution comes next and it keeps the momentum up nicely. Poison Heart was another of the Milan snippets ("Wooah-ohhh-ohhhhh" - you know the one) and, again, Dave's come up trumps here. Ok, the lyrics hold no real surprises, but the song has a almost soul like feel to it, admittedly soul smothered in black leather waiting for the world to end, and it works. Again, it maybe takes time to grow on you, but it will do. The album as a whole is like that really; it reveals another layer each time, like a big gloomy onion, and Poison Heart fits that bill.



We return to synthpop with So Much Love and after all the darkness, it's nice to see some light. It starts off like Broken gone haywire before settling into a fast paced track with synths clanking all over the place. It's not the best song on the album, but it's needed to break up the gloom. Those Depeche fans yearning for the old days will love this one and is definitely Spirit's purest pop moment. 

The tenth track heralds the first misstep. Poorman is another slow paced, song of faithlessness and distortion that isn't really needed here. It's very much in tune with the theme of the record with its tale of a "Poorman" who is down on his luck, ruined by corporate greed, but it sounds forced. Whereas Everything Counts expressed a youthful shock at what The Man gets up too with his grabbing hands grabbing all they can, hearing the 50 somethings I referred to at the start of this review sing "Corporations get the breaks/Keeping almost everything they make"  is just a bit odd. Considering that they've not done too badly for themselves over the years and that the album is out on a major label, this doesn't sit right. Musically too we're going backwards to the Hillier era rather than forwards and really, Poorman isn't needed here. It doesn't add anything and is a bit of a momentum killer. 

Dave's third and final contribution No More (This Is The Last Time) revives the mood however. It's another synthpop focussed track that brings to mind the band's earlier works and, whilst it's a good song, it does sound a little unfinished to me, Something is lacking from it and whatever that is, really could have given this song an edge that would have promoted it to one of the album's standouts.



We end, uniquely for a Depeche album, on a Martin lead vocal with the wonderful Fail.  It acts like a recap of what's gone on in the previous 45 minutes, reminding us that "We're hopeless" and that "Our souls are corrupt" before surprising all and sundry when Martin sings "Ohhh..we're fucked." Cover your ears Devotees. The song is great for many reasons. The music firstly is all swirling synths and scary noises, back to the experimental feel of earlier electronic passages on the album. The lyrics offer yet another crushed worldview but this time with a very dark sense of humour evident, telling us all that all the ranting and raving of the album's opening tracks has been pointless as, no matter what we do, we're in trouble and, as Martin notes with the last line of the album, "We've failed." What adds to the song's genius, and what ends the album beautifully and cleverly, is the passage of music that follows that last line, with glimmering synths offering some hope after all, like the sun coming out just before the planet inevitably explodes anyway.

Spirit will not please the entire Depeche Mode fanbase, if such a thing is even possible, nor will it necessarily win them legions of new fans. What I love about it though is the fact that it shows Depeche Mode still want to push themselves. Ahead of another stadium and arena tour, they could have easily put out another Hillier era like album, knowing that tickets would sell and people would buy the record, but they've chosen not to do that. With Spirit, the band have found a new energy and focus that is rare in bands of their size, and they have done so in their own, unique way. This albums shows that Depeche Mode are as relevant as they ever have been and, perhaps surprisingly, they find themselves making political statements ahead of any other act their size. Ok, morons like Mr Spencer might choose to misinterpret that, but what does that matter? If Spirit works, the revolution will see to the likes of him. Get on board.

Spirit by Depeche Mode is out on 17 March.

Friday, 24 February 2017

THE GRABBING HANDS GRAB ALL THEY CAN - HOW NOT TO SELL TICKETS

Today tickets went on sale for the BBC 6 Music Festival in Glasgow due to run from 24-26 March this year. The radio station is bringing a host of excellent bands to a city that loves music and, on the face of it, the festival is an exciting prospect to say the least. The fact that they've got Depeche Mode as a headliner speaks to the pull of the event and the prospect of seeing Depeche in the best live venue on earth, the Barrowland Ballroom, is a prospect that has driven me beyond excitement since it was announced. Forgive me from this point on if the larger point is made from the perspective of the Depeche Mode fanbase rather than fans of the many other outstanding bands scheduled to appear.

The same excitement I felt was felt by most Depeche fans, especially those based in Scotland. I know plenty of them and they are all long term Devotees, each one scarcely able to believe that their band is scheduled to play the Barras. We're used to see Dave and co in stadia and arenas - we never expected to be able to see them in a venue the size of the Barras. It's a remarkable thing. Getting one of the 1500 tickets available was never going to be easy - nobody thought that - but the shambles that has occurred has made everyone angry, including those lucky enough to get tickets, amongst whose number I am fortunately counted.

The BBC6 Music site was clear about how tickets were to be purchased. It said:

Tickets are limited to 4 per event per customer and photo ID will be required to be presented by the lead booker upon arrival at the venue on the night of the show. The name of the lead booker will be printed on each ticket. The name cannot be changed once the booking has been made. 

The lead booker will be asked to present ID to gain entry into the venue. Failure to adhere to the terms and conditions may result in the customer's order being void. 

If you are booking more than one ticket your guests must arrive at the concert at the same time as you. Failure to do so may result in guests being turned away. 

Tickets cannot be resold or transferred under any circumstances. If the organiser reasonably believes this to be the case the barcode on the ticket will be voided, prohibiting entry to the concert.


Seems clear doesn't it? Buy tickets and you will have to be one of the people that turns up for the gig. You will have to show ID at the venue and your name will be printed on each ticket. The tickets that I got then will bear my name and I'll need to show ID to get me and my friends in. That seems sensible to me. Some gigs where this has been a proviso, such as U2 at the Hydro on their Songs Of Innocence tour, have been easily accessible without showing ID, but that can partly explained by the size of the venue. At the Barrowlands, with only 1500 people getting in, it should be feasible to check ID. The system then seems reasonably foolproof at first glance.

But here's the thing. While I and certainly every other Scottish Depeche fan I know were redialling the TicketWeb phone line endlessly and queuing on a site patiently awaiting some form of sign of progress this morning, tickets for this already massively oversubscribed gig were appearing on vile, fan ripping off, blood sucking, legalised touting bastard sites like Viagogo. Some tickets even appeared on that site BEFORE the official sale start time of 10 a.m. How on earth is that possible? How is it permitted?

How is it lifelong fans of Depeche Mode are denied the opportunity to even fairly compete with other lifelong Depeche Mode fans in the scramble for tickets? Why can't BBC6 Music or TicketWeb even attempt to tackle such rank inequity? It's frankly beyond contempt and the fact that a music festival set up for laudable reasons and promoted as a come one come all event is immediately subjected to the sort of blatantly fraudulent ticket scams that one has sadly come to expect from major events these days is an utter disgrace. 

This rant in itself is ultimately fruitless as this problem is not new, nor is it unexpected. It's horribly predictable and, really, I shouldn't be surprised and shouldn't be annoyed about it as vulture sites like Viagogo, Get Me In and Seatwave always win, they always scam genuine fans and rob many excited punters of the chance to see their favourite bands, despite threats of legislation and despite warnings about people not getting in etc with tickets purchased from these sources. This is what being a gig going music fan involves these days and there is little interest in doing anything about it, other than from music fans themselves.

And they don't seem to count one jot when it comes to buying tickets. Why should they? They're only the lifeblood of live music in the country.

I'm one of the lucky Depeche Mode fans today and I'm supremely grateful for that. I'm also grateful I'm not feeling the justifiable rage of those denied by the touts. None of them are moaning about genuine Depeche fans getting tickets. Far from it in fact, they are delighted for their fellow fans, happy in the knowledge that they will see Depeche Mode in as intimate a venue as they can. They are angry at the way they've been conned basically and rightly so.

So come on BBC6 Music and TicketWeb - justify this. How did this happen and how will you avoid it in the future? How will a music festival be given over to actual music fans rather than the shady grabbing hands who grab all they can?

How can you say that this festival is truly a festival for music fans?

----------------------------------------------

An addition:

On Twitter at 5.32 pm on 24 February, spurred on by the many positive reactions to the post above,  I said:

OK here it is. When are up here for can we have a chat about ticket selling? Many would love to hear it explained

So do you fancy it? Happy to make myself available. I'll report back to fans here and on the blog. Get in touch

So will BBC6 Music respond? I'll let you know....

Thursday, 23 February 2017

DEPECHE MODE LIVE IN SCOTLAND PART 2 - GLASGOW BARROWLAND 26 MARCH 2017

This was all going so well. I've done 1981, have interviews underway for 1982-84 and everything was set up for a chronological history of Depeche Mode's visits to Scotland. And then this happened...


Bands like Depeche Mode do not play the Barrowlands. They play the Hydro in Glasgow or the likes of London Olympic Stadium and every single stadium in Germany. The Barras holds 2100 people. That is usually the front two rows of the early access golden super circle in whatever enormodrome the band have pitched up in. Also, the Barras is my favourite venue on earth and is only 15 minutes drive from my house. I've seen hundreds of bands there, most recently The Pixies, and every gig has been a cracker, even the self indulgent Spiritualized show in 2001 which my companions that night still rate as the worst gig they've seen. The Barras is full of musical memories for me and I never expected Depeche Mode would even consider playing there. Yet, on 26 March, that's exactly what they're going to do.

This gig, as you'll see above, is part of the BBC6 Music Festival which is taking over Glasgow for three days starting on 24 March. For the shows at the Barras, capacity is restricted to 1500 tickets and these are available this Friday via the 6 Music website. For a standard gig, 1500 tickets isn't a lot. For Depeche Mode, it's a minuscule amount. If you are lucky enough to get one, you are in for the Depeche gig of a lifetime. If I get one, I'll obviously report back on the gig here - once I've calmed down that is. Good luck in your hunt for tickets.

As an historical aside, this is not the first time the band have played the Barrowlands. As I'll come onto in more depth on what was scheduled to be part 4 of this series, now a frustrating and album order defying part 5, the band played here on 16 October 1984 on the Some Great Reward tour. First hand recollections and more chat about that gig will come in good time. To whet your appetite for that and for Friday's ticket scramble, check out this recording of that 1984 gig courtesy of the ever wonderful DM Live Wiki:


Monday, 20 February 2017

DEPECHE MODE LIVE IN SCOTLAND PART 1 : 1981

Depeche backstage at Nite Club - photographer unknown - picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Information Service - 1981

With Depeche Mode's new album Spirit imminent and the Global Spirit tour shortly about to start up in Stockholm, I thought it was time to have a look at the band's live history in my home country, Scotland. From when I became a proper fan of the band in 1990 until the Tour Of The Universe gig at Glasgow's SECC on 12 December 2009, I didn't have the chance to see the band play live in Scotland. Before the December 09 gig, the last time they played here was at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 17 January 1988 on the Music For The Masses tour. When you consider they ended up at the Rose Bowl, it's hard to imagine that set being played at such a small venue. More on that gig to come however. 

Picture courtesy of Trevor Thomson

The first part of this blog looks at the band's earliest shows in Scotland, all of which took place in Edinburgh. I've been trying to track down people who have been at every gig Depeche played in Scotland and that's been hard for the early dates. Thankfully, I managed to have a chat with Trevor who saw both the first gig Depeche played in Scotland and the subsequent Speak And Spell tour gig in Edinburgh too. I was put in touch with Trevor via the Depeche Mode Classic Photos And Videos page on Facebook (thanks Andy) and the excellent Depeche Mode Information Service - 1981 page which is of course run by the wonderful Deb Danahay.

7 August 1981, Nite Club, Edinburgh (2 gigs)
The band's first Scottish outing saw them play two shows at the long closed Nite Club in Edinburgh. The venue was situated beside the Edinburgh Playhouse on Greenside Place, Edinburgh and it's long closed though the Playhouse is still there.

Nite Club Edinburgh, courtesy Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Videos

The band played two gigs that day - one was an early show ostensibly for Under 18's and the other a later standard show. Sadly, there is no record of a setlist for either show. As both predated Speak And Spell, it's likely that songs like Television Set and The Price Of Love still featured. The show at Rafters in Manchester on 5 August featured them for example (see https://www.depechemode-live.com/wiki/1981-08-05_Rafters,_Manchester,_England,_UK - thanks to DM Live Wiki ). I wonder if the band mixed the sets up at all rather than play two identical ones? A look at other setlists of the time would indicate that's likely. If both sets had been the same, and had we had the internet in those days, you can only imagine the moaning.

This is where Trevor steps in with his first hand evidence. 

APA: What made you go and see Depeche Mode at Nite Club?

TT: I was 17 and had, by then, developed a love of electronic music, kick-started by Tubeway Army in 1979, fed by Kraftwerk and developed by the Human League (both incarnations) and OMD. A friend of mine told me about New Life when it was in the lower reaches of the charts, and I’d seen Depeche Mode mentioned in the Indie Charts earlier in the year without paying much notice. I heard New Life on the radio and I thought it was something new – electronic pop, jaunty melodies, accessible and addictive. I also thought it was a great song, and still do! I was also attracted by their attachment to an Indie label – Mute. By that age I was a bit grumpy about the shiny corporate pop machine.

Picture courtesy of Trevor

APA: What do you remember about the gig?

TT: Firstly, that it was totally mobbed. The Nite Club wasn’t that big, but it was pretty full. It was also meant to be an early (i.e. no booze and under 18) gig, but there seemed to be plenty of older people! Not that it was a problem. I spent most of the time waiting for them to play New Life but considering I didn’t know any of their songs apart from it and Shout! I really remember Dreaming of Me, Puppets and What’s Your Name? I’m pretty sure they played all of these – I’d bought the Dreaming of Me 7” by then. I definitely remember What’s Your Name?!

Trevor's ticket courtesy of Trevor

APA: Now, from looking at Deb's Depeche Mode Information Service - 1981 page, I see that you managed to see a little bit more Depeche Mode than you bargained for. What's the story there?

TT: I was meant to be going to the gig with my brother, but for some reason I went down to the venue at about 4:30 or 5:00 – I have no idea why. I suppose I was at a loose end. I poked my head ‘round the door and there was this joiner working on something and I mumbled about getting in to see if there was anyone around; he said, well if you go up to the bar and get me a drink of water I suppose you could get in. I think he probably didn’t expect to see me again, but off I go, up to the top of the building and fetch a drink of water for the joiner at the door . . . and there were all these members of Depeche Mode milling around. So, I take the drink down to the man, and run back up. At this point there was Vince, Andy, Martin and Dave mooching around the place.  I didn't want to get booted out so I kind of sat around unobtrusively. I distinctly remember their rider was something like twenty-four cans of Kestrel, which I was a bit dismayed at because even to my untrained palette Kestrel, could only have been described as 'rank'. Not Scottish brewing's finest moment. Anyway, I hung around for the sound check. They ran through a couple of songs; tragically I have no memory of the songs they played but I just thought they were superb. Mainly it was great music played very loud. I remember Dave being in charge of the tape machine. And very little mobility from the other three!

The sound man, who looked INCREDIBLY stressed, was a slightly overweight person with curly unkempt hair and thick rimmed specs. I often wondered who he was; I speculate that it was Daniel Miller but I don’t know. There were hardly any people around – another hanger on, me, the band, “Daniel Miller”, and some bar staff. I think that was all. . . I had my ticket stub, so I got it signed. It was all very unlike me at the time as I was a bit of reserved person, and hardly ever worked up courage to speak to anyone. What I do find remarkable is that three of those skinny 20 year olds are now selling out Olympic stadia all over Europe! And the other is basically a hit factory. . .

Trevor's autographed ticket - courtesy of Trevor


Thanks very much to Trevor for sharing all that with us. He didn't make it to the second show but you might have been there or you might know someone who was. If you do, get in touch.

2 November 1981, Coasters, Edinburgh
For the Speak And Spell tour proper, Depeche returned to Edinburgh to play Coasters. Situated at 3 West Tollcross, it's now known as The Cave and has gone from looking like this

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos And Videos

to this


which is a pity. It all seems somewhat livelier in the top picture. Also, as we can see in the picture below from 1982, it doubled as a roller disco. Did Depeche Mode do this? I can only speculate. No (roller) Disco anyone?



Anyway, luckily for this blog, Trevor remained a fan of Depeche Mode and he attended this gig. I bothered him again and, thankfully for me, he was happy to oblige. I asked him what he remembered of the show - over to Trevor:

"Coasters - 02/11/1981! This is all a bit more sketchy. I wasn't going to go until the very last minute and eventually ended up paying at the door; I lived out of Edinburgh and going in to town on a Monday night in November required a bit of commitment. And it was raining. Coasters was a bigger venue certainly than the Nite Club, but it was by no means massive. The Smiths, New Order, Simple Minds, Soft Cell all played there are I recall those all being sold out. I think I was lucky to get in, because it was really busy (again).

Blancmange were support - I wasn't sure about them at the time, I was more into the up tempo pop Depeche Mode offered then. Subsequently liked them well enough, and saw them at the Nite Club (and there was virtually no one at that - 27 March 1982). I seem to recall DM being more 'suited and booted', although I think Martin had a commando hat and white t-shirt on - distinctly non-corporate. Vincent came on before the gig started (after the support) and made sure everything was in tune - I believe analogue synthesizers have a tendency to go out of tune quite easily. They had a proper stand up reel-to-reel tape machine that made the band seem more complete - not like the one that Dave had to muck around with at the Nite Club.

I distinctly remember Tora! Tora! Tora! because it was somewhat at odds with the rest of the tunes - more a precursor of DM's subsequent career; darker music and subject, delivered by Dave with some passion. Anyway, everyone went home happy (. . . .although a friend of mine, a young lady, stayed on to ahem, 'party'; it would be libel to suggest what went on as I don't really know and I was too shy to ask the next time I saw her - namely the next day. I suspect not much). I think also the band knew Vince was leaving by then. There was a certainly an air of professionalism, lets get the job done. Much more than the more 'informal' nature of the earlier gig. I think they also realised that this could fly or crash and burn.

. . . one remnant. I bought a Moog Rogue in a music shop in Home Street in Edinburgh in 1982, which is just round the corner from Coasters. When I was talking to the geezer in the shop, he said that Depeche Mode had been in when they played Coasters to 'buy a Moog Source'. I don't know if he was spinning me a line because he knew I liked Depeche Mode but Andy Fletcher did have a shiny new Moog at the Coasters gig on 2 November. It may have just been bought that afternoon!"

Coasters ticket courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos And Videos

Sadly, there's no confirmation that I can find anywhere of what setlist was played that night. DM Live Wiki confirms that the gig the following night in Manchester saw them play:

Any Second Now
Photographic
Nodisco
New Life
Puppets
Ice Machine
Big Muff
I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Just Can't Get Enough
Boys Say Go!
What's Your Name
Television Set
Dreaming Of Me

and the following night in Birmingham saw the same set played so it perhaps wasn't too far off that. If anyone can remember what was played or has a recording stashed away then do get in touch.

Excerpt from Speak And Spell tour poster courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos And Videos

So that was 1981 and Depeche Mode Live in Scotland. 3 gigs with two on the one day and each one in Edinburgh. They weren't going to stay away for long though as 1982 would see them not only return to Coaster's, but also play their first gigs in Glasgow. I was only 7 at that point so I didn't go, but I've tracked down some people that did. Their story will be told next time.

Thanks very much to Trevor, all the people that do the hard work at Depeche Mode Classic Photos And Videos, Deb at Depeche Mode Information Service 1981 on Facebook and Matthew at DM Live Wiki.




Friday, 3 February 2017

DEPECHE MODE - WHERE'S THE REVOLUTION


After months of near frenzied anticipation among the Depeche Mode fanbase, the band are back with the release of their new single Where's The Revolution. Go on any Depeche forum, Twitter, Facebook and more and you'll see thousands of different views on the song ranging from the "IT'S THE BEST THING EVER!!!!!" to "This is why Alan HAS to come back" and covering all points in between. Is it Depeche's BEST THING EVER? No, it isn't. What Where's The Revolution is however is a storming return by the band, marking a return to the politics of Construction Time Again and showing that there is a lot of life left in these old electro dogs yet. 

Martin's lyrics haven't sounded as relevant in years. Gone are notions of universes, souls and knees and being down on them, with these themes replaced by a fire that hasn't been seen often enough in recent years. I mentioned Construction Time Again above and on my preview a couple of days ago and I think that's a genuinely relevant comparison. The naive socialism of that album sought to suggest that better times could be around the corner ("All that we need at the start/Universal revolution/That's all")  but that naivety is no more in Where's The Revolution. Instead we find Martin writing about the fact we've all been had ("You've been kept down/You've been pushed round/You've been lied to/You've been fed truths.") before demanding that someone springs to life and starts the revolution. In the post Brexit times we're living in in Britain, the lyrics strike a particular chord following the manipulation of facts and truths that led to the catastrophic result of the 2016 referendum. Reference in particular to "patriotic junkies" in the song seems particularly apt when you consider what's happening in Government here now. Similarly, the current plight America finds itself with the Clown In Chief in charge seems to be present here. Ok, the song wasn't written last week, but lines such as "They manipulate and threaten/With terror as a weapon" seems incredibly accurate given what's happened in American in the last 7 days.

Seem to have a got a bit political there which I usually avoid in these reviews but, do you know what? The fact that my favourite songwriter of all time is back with a song with lyrics that strike a chord with me is a beautiful thing. Who'd have thought that it would be Depeche Mode of all the "big" bands speaking out for the masses after all these years? It's great to see.

Anyway, what of the actual music? Since James Ford was announced as producer, I've been really keen to hear how he's contributed. Musically, we're not a million miles away from Delta Machine with layers of bubbling and droning electronics flying all over the place here. The production seems to be much crisper however, with each sound distinct from the other, unlike places on Delta Machine where it became a bit muddled. The pace of the song is very close to The Sweetest Condition from Exciter and the slide guitar parts in that song are echoed here in Where's The Revolution's chorus. I first listened to the song on headphones and that allowed me to hear most of what was going on. If you're a bit uncertain about it having heard it on the Polish radio preview last night or on BBC6 Music this morning, stick on your headphones and give it a go. 

After two rounds of verse/verse/chorus, the song takes an unexpected turn (3 minutes 6 seconds in) to a section with almost ambient textures behind it where we're told "The train is coming...So get on board"  in an almost lullaby like way. That part seems to have irked some people this morning, but it all fits for me. If we're not having a revolution just now, one can't be far away, so Martin's suggesting we all get ready to join that. Again, it's more of an aggressive call to arms that we had in And Then all those years ago ("Let's take a map of the world/Tear it into pieces.")  but that fits the song's theme.

So what does all the foregoing over analysis tell us? Well, firstly Depeche Mode are back and that's only ever a good thing. Where's The Revolution sees them return with a relevance they haven't had for a while and whilst it may not be a necessarily obvious lead single for an album, that's never been an issue before. Usually, that means there's even better to come on the record itself. 

Is it THE BEST THING EVER? No, no it's not. But it's an intriguing track and a very, very good one. And when Depeche Mode are very, very good, they're better than most other bands you can think of. 37 years in, still fighting and still pushing themselves. Welcome back Depeche Mode. It may be that you've returned at just the right time.




Wednesday, 1 February 2017

EXCLUSIVE - MARNIE INTERVIEW & ALPHABET BLOCK



Helen Marnie's solo work to date is a wonderful thing with her debut album Crystal World and standalone single Wolves both must haves in anyone's collection. Her new solo album Strange Words And Weird Wars, released under her solo guise Marnie, is due out on 25 March and it's been preceded by the gorgeous single Alphabet Block.  The track is as fine an examples of synthpop as you'll hear at the moment, showing the many artists who have been influenced by her solo work and, of course, her work with Ladytron, just how this type of music is done.

Mixing a new poppier direction with shoegaze and dream pop influenced electronics, Alphabet Block is a powerful, mesmerising track that demands repeated plays. The verses and the chorus juxtapose perfectly with the former's darker feel giving way to the shimmering space of the chorus magnificently. As you can hear below, Alphabet Block is a special track and one you're going to love. It's a great taster for the album too and that record is going to be one of the must hear releases this year. You don't want to miss it - once again, Glasgow proves itself to be the new home of electronic music.





I had a quick chat with Marnie to find out a bit more about Alphabet Block.

APA: Welcome back Marnie! Alphabet Block is quite a way to announce your return. Tell us a bit about the song.

M: Thank you. It's great to be back! The song is a co-write with producer Jonny Scott. He produced the album Strange Words And Weird Wars and I've been working with him since I wrote Wolves in 2014. I thought Alphabet Block would be a good album opener, a little sneak peak at what to expect. That being said, the album is quite different to Alphabet Block. AB is a wordy little number, which i would describe as shoe-gaze electropop. I love all the swirling guitars and arpeggiators. Lyrically, it's actually really dark. I wrote it at a time of personal uncertainty. However, I think it does come across as warm and that is due to the instrumentation.

APA: The song has a real classic synthpop feel to it. Does the song represent a move towards a poppier sound generally?

M: I would agree with that, yes. It's funny, when I did my last album Crystal World, a few people advised me not to move in that direction. As in, I'd be wrong to do that. So, this is basically my 'fuck you' to them. Nobody should ever tell me what kind of music I should make. I can make my own decisions and create whatever I want.



APA: Were there any particular influences in mind when you wrote the track? The chorus has a real dream pop feel to it for example.

M: Because the verses are so lyrically full, it was important for me create some space and depth with the choruses. And I did that be introducing that dreamy vocal feel. Elongating the words. Creating more breath and layering the vocals. The guitars also give a sense of space. I like that the song enters like a club track, but then completely changes and transforms into something different.

APA: Looking forward, your second solo album Strange Words and Weird Wars is out in March. Can we expect a similar, more pop focussed approach?

M: I can't tell you how excited I am to finally have the album coming out. It will be over 2 years in the making. And, as seems is usual with me, not everything went as smoothly as i would've wished. It's definitely a pop effort, there is no denying that. But I think there's also a lot more to it than that. It's intelligent, it's melodic, it's not overly produced, it's guitars, it's synths, it's my voice, and it's a good ride. I'm hoping people will be pleasantly surprised.

Thanks very much to Marnie for taking the time to have a chat. As I've mentioned earlier, Strange Words and Weird Wars is destined to be an album that a lot of you are going to love this year. Alphabet Block is a wonderful way to reintroduce yourself to Marnie.

Strange Words and Weird Wars by Marnie is released on 25 March. Alphabet Block is out now.

(c) Almost Predictable Almost 2017. Not to be reproduced without permission.