Sunday 15 March 2020


The fourth guest blog of the month comes from a man you probably all know - Dicken Schrader. Dicken is one of the stars of Spirts In The Forest and, along with his children Milah and Korben, is DMK, the quite wonderful Depeche Mode cover band.  I'd originally envisaged a DMK related blog, looking at the Violator songs they had covered, but that idea changed once Dicken started writing. As you will see, he's written this tremendously personal blog that looks at the impact Violator has had on his life. I'm sure you will agree that it is a fantastic contribution to this month's Violator celebration. Personally, the fact that Dicken and I both discovered Enjoy The Silence in the same way - sitting in our mother's cars - is a beautiful thing.  Thank you very much indeed Dicken.

Violator. The pinnacle of Depeche Mode’s career in terms of creativity, artistry, sound, innovation and emotion. The album with the most iconic cover, imagery and music videos. The one that catapulted the band into worldwide mainstream, and their best-selling and most-acclaimed record to date. Personally, I’m still amazed at how after 30 years I still find something new in it every time I listen to it, some meaning in its lyrics, some mysterious sound, something I had never heard before. 

Violator is truly a timeless piece of art that never grows old and sounds as fresh today as it did 30 years ago. It certainly is the one that I prefer.

But, beyond these trivia facts and personal assertions that you’ve probably heard before from many people, to me, this album brings back some very special memories. And that’s the story I want to share with you today: the one you haven’t heard before.

At 46, there aren’t many memories that I can remember vividly. I can’t remember very well the day I graduated from high school, nor the day I was drafted into the Colombian army. To be honest, even the day I got married for the first time is kind of hazy at this point. But I can certainly remember in perfect detail the day in 1990 when I heard Enjoy the Silence for the very first time. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Bogotá, and I was riding with my mother, María Eugenia, in her white Renault 9 through the hilly streets of the Suba neighborhood. We were driving back from my high school after enrolling myself for the upcoming 10th grade. As always when riding with her, I took control of the radio and was turning the dial back and forth from Superestación 88.9 to Radioactiva 102.9, the two local stations that would play American and European rock and pop music. Most of the time, their music selection would go from mainstream pop (Michael Jackson, Madonna) to mainstream rock (Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n Roses), but once in a while, they would play one or two songs from what they called “alternative” music: The Cure, New Order, and yes, Depeche Mode. 

It was in one of these stations where I heard their music for the very first time a few years back, an event that led me into buying my first DM vinyl (Music For The Masses), my first DM Compact Disc (the 101 live double album), and eventually collecting their entire back catalogue and wallpapering my room with their posters. By 1990 I was a hardcore, full-fledged devotee --although back then, obviously, we still didn’t use that term to define ourselves. I was just one of those weirdoes who liked New Wave music and dressed accordingly. My mom didn’t understand where that fascination for black clothes and moody lyrics came from. She was more into soft rock bands like Chicago and Air Supply, so there were a couple of DM songs that she enjoyed: Somebody and A Question of Lust. “Now, those are nice,” she’d say, “Why can’t all their songs be like that?” But even though she didn’t precisely share my musical tastes, she did respect and even encouraged them. My mom was always supportive of me. “One day I’m going to buy you a keyboard so you can play Depeche Mode in it, if that’s what you want,” She’d say. “Follow your dreams, Gatico,” she used to tell me all the time. “My dream is simple, mamá. I just want to meet Depeche Mode someday.” She had the most contagious cackle in the world that made everyone around her laugh along with her. She was lovely, beautiful and kind. María Eugenia was a true lady.

That day in her car I was brimming with excitement about the news of a new DM album hitting the stores soon. A few days earlier I heard in one of those stations the back end of Personal Jesus, and listening to this song for the first time with its thumping guitar riff --an unusual feature for Depeche Mode’s sound at the time-- made me even more anxious about getting this new album, which by then it was rumored to be called Violator. Just by its name alone I knew it would be something special. Back in the day in Colombia the only way you could buy music was on record stores that sold imported albums on CD, vinyl and cassette, for an absurdly high price once translated into pesos, and their selection was very limited: There was no way you could find a single for sale anywhere. So with the album still unreleased, my only chance to hear Personal Jesus in its entirety was to catch it on the radio. That’s why I was turning the dial endlessly and hoping to God I’d get lucky. “Gatico, you’re gonna break my knob,” my mom said, laughing her catchy laugh. “I just gotta hear their new song, mom,” I replied. “They have to play it, sooner or later.” 

Suddenly, the DJ in one of the stations dryly announced it, without the fanfare it deserved: “Now, here’s new Depeche Mode song from their upcoming new album, Violator.” I started yelling as if I had won the lottery. “Here it is, mom, here it is! Pull over, pull over!” I cranked up the volume expecting Personal Jesus, but something else came up, something I had never heard before in my lifetime but with the first few notes I just knew it would become my all-time favorite song and would by my side until the day I died. The trance-like bassline. The hypnotic chords. The sweet guitar melody. Dave’s moody crooning. And the lyrics… Oh, my God. The lyrics. I got wild goosebumps as soon as the song started, and by the first chorus I was already crying my eyes out. Witnessing such an emotional response on her only son, and somehow understanding the transcendence of the moment, my mom did pull over to allow me to listen to the song as cleanly as possible. Then, feeling the need to comfort me, she hugged me the way only a mother could:

“All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here, in my arms, 
Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm…

That was the first time in my life in which those lyrics made perfect sense to me, the first of many to come. By the end of the song, we were both crying… That song orchestrated a bonding moment between us. I felt so proud of my boys from Basildon. I knew right there and then they had created a masterpiece, and, in a way, I felt a bit jealous because I knew that they would no longer be my band; from that point on I would have to share it with the rest of the world. I knew that after Enjoy The Silence, Depeche Mode would be huge. When the song ended, the DJ announced the release of Violator on March 19th, and my mom made me realize it would be on the same week she’d get married to her second husband in Florida. “Maybe you can buy it in Miami when we’re there for my wedding,” she said, and I realized what a great idea that was, considering that it wouldn’t be available in Colombia for weeks after its official release. Suddenly, the prospect of a Miami trip that featured my mom marrying a guy who’s not my dad became less uncomfortable to bear for me.

My parents separated when I was about 2 years old, and I grew up without knowing my father. I was raised by my mom, who was always dedicated to me, sometimes putting aside her own happiness in lieu of mine. She renounced her dreams of being an architect and took a job as a flight attendant to be able to provide for me, a job she kept for her entire life, jumping from airline to airline, first Braniff, then Eastern, then American Airlines. That’s where she met Michael, an American customs agent based in MIA. I remember her having a few suitors throughout the years, but none of them serious, nor lasting. Michael was the first man who seemed like a possible companion for my mom for the rest of her life. 

My mom and I arrived in Miami for her wedding on the last week of March, 1990, and went straight to her new home in the suburb of Kendall, where she had recently moved in with Michael. I had been to that house before as my mom took me there a couple of times to meet the guy she was dating. Michael was an OK guy, but the whole situation was a bit awkward for 16-year-old me, as I guess it was for him as well. He made an effort to connect with me, but it was difficult because we didn’t have much in common. He had never heard of Depeche Mode and his favorite musician was Jimmy Buffett, for crying out loud. But, evidently, he made my mother happy, and that was reason enough for me to at least try to like him. 

I enjoyed visiting him in Miami because he would take us out on a small boat that he owned into the ocean to do snorkeling, and also because he had MTV at home, something I didn’t have in Colombia, at least not until 1993 when MTV Latin America launched. I turned it on as soon as I got home, and one of the first music videos they played was Enjoy The Silence, which, to my surprise, was in heavy rotation: They would run it at least once every hour or two. That’s when I grasped the magnitude of Depeche Mode’s newfound popularity in the United States. The ironic joke they played on the title of their previous record, Music For The Masses, was not a joke anymore. Now they were truly massive. It was weird seeing my favorite band on TV for the first time. Obviously, I had seen some of their music videos before, but mainly from VHS tapes that I had purchased in Colombia, never in a situation when I knew that millions of other people were also watching them at the same time. It was a surreal experience. I loved the Enjoy The Silence video since the first time I saw it, and I knew Anton and the band had created their best collaboration yet. MTV was also playing the video for Personal Jesus, which I also thought was absolutely genius. Now I just had to get the album and listen to the whole damn thing!

These were the last few days before her wedding day, yet still my mom took some time out of her hectic schedule to drive me to the Dadeland mall. I was almost running through its halls, my mom keeping up with my accelerated pace. When I walked into Sam Goody, that was the first time that I saw Violator’s cover with its iconic red rose, plastering the walls in the form of huge posters. My excitement couldn’t get any higher. I went straight to the CD racks looking for the “D” on the Rock & Pop section. Finally, after so much anticipation, there it was: Violator. When I grabbed the CD by its plastic theft-protection case, my hands were shaking. Next to it were the CD maxi-singles for Enjoy The Silence and Personal Jesus, which I also convinced my mom to get for me. After she paid for all three, we left the store as quickly as we came in. I couldn’t wait to listen to Violator. When we got into the car, I unwrapped its cellophane very carefully, as if it were a delicate jewel --spoiler alert: it was. “Don’t you want to wait until we get home so you can listen to it properly?” my mom asked. I just gave her the look like saying “Seriously, mom?” I popped it into the CD player. This was it. No more waiting, no more dreaming, no more hoping that some DJ at a Colombian radio station had the hunch to play some of it. This time, I was the DJ, and there was nothing else to prevent me from listening to Depeche Mode’s new album in its entirety. I cranked up the volume again.

All that expectation was finally over with the first bass notes of World In My Eyes. What a sensation that was, even being listened through a shitty stereo like the one we had on that rental car. I remember opening the booklet, sniffing that glorious new CD smell, and going through the lyrics one by one. I loved each and every song on that record. The sexual energy of World In My Eyes. The anguish of Halo. The melodic beauty of Waiting For The Night. I was entranced on how each told a separate, meaningful story, but also how they all worked together, morphing one into the next, telling a larger story, the story of Violator. When I listened to this album for the first time, it was the absolute confirmation that I had chosen the best band in the world to be a fan of. 

My mom and Michael got married a few days later, and in 1994 I moved to Miami to live with them and attend college at FIU. To drive to school from our hew home in Pembroke Pines and back, I bought a used Toyota Corolla, which I painted black and pimped with the vanity license plate “VIOL8OR” --I could only use 7 characters, so I had to improvise-- and with a giant red rose sticker on the back of the car that I made with Con-tact paper. On my first Christmas at my new home, my mom finally gave me the keyboard that she had been promising me for quite some time, a Yamaha PSR-150, along with a Violator book that included all the tablatures for its songs so I could start practicing them right away. Of course, that’s what I did. I learned Enjoy The Silence, Personal Jesus, World In My Eyes, Policy Of Truth, and recorded them using a little Tascam 4-track mini-studio that I bought with my own money after I got my first job working at a record store. I had always loved listening to music, but this present from my mom is what got me started in understanding it and playing with it and making it my own, something that would eventually become my passion in life. I will always be grateful to her for that. 

A few years later, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was ravaging to me to witness the body of such a strong woman begin to crumble in the way that it did. Her will to live didn’t falter, though, nor did her positive outlook on life. In 2003 she received a burst of happiness and another reason to keep living with the birth of Milah, her granddaughter. From the first moment she saw that baby she devoted all of her energy and attention to her. She loved Milah so much that her cancer began to recede, and at that point she promised to be by her side for many years to come. Sadly, the cancer came back and broke that promise for her. 

Maria, Dicken and Milah
María Eugenia, my mother, died on October 25th, 2005, at her Pembroke Pines home, as hurricane Wilma was outside ravaging her beloved flower garden. Just a few months earlier she gave away another keyboard as a present, this time to her granddaughter on her second birthday: a bright blue toy keyboard with keys that lit up when you played them. “Now you can teach your kid how to play Enjoy the Silence,” she told me before bursting into laughter. She was always happy, even when the cancer was eating her alive. I did teach Milah how to play that little keyboard, and a few years later I also taught her brother Korben, the grandson that my mom didn’t have a chance to meet but would have surely loved with all her heart. My mom had a great imagination, but she would have never guessed, not in a million years, that the PSR-150 that she gave me and the bright blue toy keyboard that she gave Milah would become the instruments of a Depeche Mode tribute band formed by her progeny who would play those keyboards on viral videos and stages around the world. She would have loved to have seen DMK’s Enjoy the Silence cover, and to have witnessed Martin L. Gore saying how much he enjoyed it. I know she would have been very proud of us, and also very proud of herself for what she had created. With her unconditional support, love and dedication, she gave me the tools, the right advise and the direction that eventually helped me develop my passion for music --a passion that now I share with my own children--, and to turn my dream into reality: Not only did I meet Depeche Mode, but my story ended up being intertwined with theirs. That’s beyond the stuff that dreams are made of.

If she were still alive, this month my mother would be celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary. 

But even though she’s not here with us, at least we are celebrating and remembering her life through the 30th anniversary of the release of Violator, because that album, to me, is intrinsically woven with her memory. And that’s the power of music, and the reason why we love to listen to it, collect it and cherish it the way we do: like nothing else in the world, it can take us back in mind and spirit to relive some of our happiest moments. And that, my friends, is true magic. Happy birthday, Violator. May you live forever with us like the memories you help us keep.


  1. Very pleasing read! I would have to apologize, I only learned about Dicken Schrader a few weeks ago, after watching The Spirits :) I'm not a very devoted fan :D I just buy everything DM produce :D
    After reading this article, I also find it curious how people got hooked on to DM after they heard Enjoy the Silence. My experience was similar in general (not in the car however) but different in a way. My introduction to DM started with total rejection. I was in a year 6 and lived in Lithuania, at the time still Soviet Union. So many kids at school and in my class were obsessed with Depeche. Don’t know why but I was opposed to them from the very beginning. I have never heard a single song, but I was certain DM is a total crap :D Probably simply because I didn’t feel like I wanted to be with the crowd. To be honest, to this day I’m not a huge fan of DM fans :D
    A friend of mine, he literally forced me to take a mix tape, that he made for me (it was Violator) and insisted I must listen to it. I agreed, but I wasn’t excited at all.
    So it took me some time. Maybe 3 or 4 times I played the tape and I couldn’t get it why people are going nuts about DM. I pretty much grew up with Soviet mainstream music and then I was introduced to Bony M, then Pink Floyd, Queen, Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, Genesis and Tears for Fears. I was in love with Sinead O’Connor then 😉
    But you know, something clicked in me when on that third or fourth play I realized I can sense that nice guitar tune and the melody, and I felt something like people call Stendhal's syndrome. Mind you my English was as good as I my Latin, almost none. It got into me purely through music. It got me! But after Enjoy the Silence I knew my second best DM song was Sweetest Perfection, even today I’m not sure which one is the No 1 for me.

  2. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  3. Very well written and very moving. I actually started to sob!