After all these years of being a musician, what made you decide now to do a solo project?
Before I even thought about the idea its been building up inside me. Needing to challenge myself more, actually really express some of the feelings going on inside of me more instead of living vicariously through somebody else's feelings musically, which has been great and has worked for me for a long time. I think increasingly especially over the last couple of records I made with Depeche Mode I felt like something was not so comfortable with me anymore. I know what I contribute to Depeche Mode and have done but I really felt the need to express myself more and put myself in a place that made me have to stretch. A new beginning somehow ya know, working with different people, feeling those nerves again, not being comfortable and feeling the fear and being ok with that and saying, "ok I'm scared what's this about, it means I'm supposed to be doing something." I guess I kind of like stumbled along and somewhere deep down knew what I was doing. I guess there were a few things that happened that were key to me making Paper Monsters, which was of course writing the songs with Knox Chandler, finding someone I could sit with and we communicate musically, that's a big plus. Not to say we didn't have struggles musically cause we always do but that's healthy to have disagreements and work around them.
I always knew lyrically and melody wise what I was responding to Knox was either playing on cello or guitar had to be coming from me, I was pretty sure of that however naive it was and he was very encouraging and that was really the first step for me and then gradually other people started to become supporters. My wife Jennifer has been supportive right from the very beginning when I first started writing, and I'd play her some things I wrote a long time ago or play my harmonica to her and she's always been encouraging.
It's hard to step out from something that's been very successful and also to try not to compare yourself to someone like Martin Gore whose written some fantastic songs over the years and to be part of those and bringing some identity to some of those songs, and I guess I was sort of setting myself up. I'm very happy doing this and I'm having to work a lot harder and that's a good thing right now. Like I said it's a challenge, it feels like a new beginning to something, I don't know where it's going. I know there's going to be a Paper Monsters 2, I'm going to continue doing this and writing. The only big plan I have for next year is spending time with my family which they need and I need very much. Just to be here in New York and hang out with friends and family and write and take piano lessons and I realized you gotta keep learning and trying new things. I don't know everything and that's kind of a relief.
Did you have a specific mentality or philosophy when you were going into this record with the writing and recording process?
I said to Knox in the beginning the rules and regulations that I set for myself over the years with Depeche, the walls get bigger and bigger and you don't cross over each others boundaries. That can be healthy and very unhealthy in a creative environment. So I wanted to make sure that was not something that I brought into the songs. I wanted them to be freer and go wherever musically they went without being guided by instrumentation, by electronics or technology. Once I got into the writing and more so once we got into the studio that we didn't limit ourselves to even once again what we'd done with the demos. I'd say to Knox a lot and to myself as well; let go of what we did there. What we're doing now in the studio is different; we've got different people working with us and if you're gonna work in a creative environment with other people, what I've learned from being in a band for 20 years is that you have to be open otherwise the reverse happens and you shut down. You may have an idea and things you wanna express but you just sit until it's your time to get up and sing and then you'll do your thing. I don't want it to be like that, I wanted there to be an openness and willingness to explore, that I could break the rules I'd set for myself within my songs.
When I sung it like that on the demo, that's the melody that resonated in me when Knox played those notes. That's the thing that came into my heart from somewhere when I was walking down the street. Once we got in the studio different things happened. We had a string quintet or Doug Perry came in to play piano, when they played different things it inspired me to do different things and I really liked that. I mean there's a point where you have to say that's it we're finished now, enough experimentation. It's never over til its over, if you get too attached to things you're gonna lose them anyway. In some ways my attachment to Depeche Mode over the years has become so intense and when your identity is wrapped up in something so intensely you're gonna lose it anyway, in some other way its gonna break down. I'm very proud of everything I've achieved with my band and I'm not saying its over or anything like that who knows, certainly something I've learned is that you never say never to anything, but right now its not something I'm thinking about. I can't actually imagine myself being in the studio with Mart and Fletch working in the way we used to work. If there's a difference and everyone has a willingness to try new things and be open I think things could happen but it would be impossible for me to go backwards. It's a freedom thing.
I was talking with Kenna, the guy from the band opening for us on this tour, and he said to me, it must be amazing to be performing your songs cause they resonate differently, and I know what he's talking about cause he's a vocalist and a performer and the songs come from him, there's something that happened that I didn't realize until I was in the studio and these things were going through me and I was hearing back and hearing my voice in a very different way then I had before, like a honesty coming through.
Even watching you from the crowd you see the genuine side of it. You see and hear Dave Gahan in the music
I feel like I'm not doing this for someone else, and I'm doing it because I want to and because of the feeling that I get from doing it. Like I'm really giving something of myself. I've always felt like that performing but I've never really felt like that except a few times when actually singing in the studio, but I never knew any different so it was ok. Now I know something different and I just want to grow from there. I've just begun really writing songs and allowing that to come through me. I've always kind of toyed with the idea and written things over the years but I'm not intimidated to work with anybody, to express my ideas and for those ideas to be supported and vise versa. Whoever I'm working with I'd expect to have the same support as what I've given them and that's all I'm asking for.
Have you played the album for Martin [Gore]?
Not for him, I sent him the album and I know he's heard it.
What kind of feedback has he given you?
I heard through the grapevine that it was not what he expected. I don't know what he thought it'd be, I guess maybe heavier or rockier. Martin's always misunderstood me in that way. My kind of Rock 'n' Roll has always been like the Stones, Stooges, Clash…
Recently you started getting into the Blues a lot right?
I first got introduced to what I call real blues from Daniel Miller when I was listening to stuff when I was a teenager in the beginning when I first started with the band he asked what I was listening to and it was like the Doors and whatever and he told me if I like that sort of white boy blues I should check out John Mayer or Blues Breakers or Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and stuff that Clapton was involved in earlier on and Jimmy Page and I got into that and started reading stuff with these guys and they'd mention Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy and I started checkin that out. There is something really guttural that appeals to me. The honesty in it and there's a lot of humor in blues that I think people miss. Jen, my wife's a big fan of Billie Holiday, and I hear this woman who's able in all her pain to be able to sing a song like she was singing it just for you. She'd get up there and sing her heart out and she'd be singing shit that was really painful but choosing melody's and ways to put those words into places that enabled you to be sucked in. A lot of that is what I was trying to do with Paper Monsters. I wanted there to be this space and atmosphere and certain words to come through that enabled you the listener and myself to have a loose imagination and maybe reflect on something within yourself. I also wanted there to be some humor and irony and almost poking fun at my own shortcomings.
I definitely picked up on the humor on the first single, "Dirty Sticky Floors."
Yeah and there is in stuff like "Black And Blue" as well for me and when I perform that song live it just burns through me.
You can definitely tell.
It feels awesome, I get a chance to exercise something every night and see my part in it because I'm fully aware in my part in all the damage I cause and I'm still very capable of causing a lot of damage around me.
What are songs like "Bottle Living" and "I Need You" about?
"I Need You" partly is about needing life much more than I'd really care to admit. It's important to me to learn from it and learn from my own mistakes and not hide from them. I guess part of it is a little dig at Martin, some nights it turns into that, even at my band. It takes on different personalities depends who I'm pissed off with. "Bottle Living" is my alter ego, that guy that's inside of me that's only one drink away from sitting right there on that bar stool talking bullshit all night with some complete stranger, just feeling really weak acting like I'm all that. That dark side of you, living for something that's really meaningless, trying to find something at the bottom of a bottle, some answers to life, or sticking a needle in your arm or whatever it is you do. Any of the sex, drugs, the things that we use to ignore the voices that are really going on inside of us telling us the right things to do. And that's great, believe me I'm no angel but I find it like a weakness to be in such a fantastic position and be given so many gifts and kind of throw them back in people's faces. I did that for a long time and I'm trying hard on a daily basis to not do that anymore. I want to give something to life that's got love and affection and pain in it but you get something from it, that I can enable myself to turn things around about myself that are not working anymore. I can't afford to hang out anymore with people that are not on that same path with me, it's just too difficult, and I can only do it for so long. I really have nothing to complain about in my life. My life is really what I make it. I was pissed off this morning, I woke up I was tired I didn't get much sleep, I really enjoyed the show, it was the New York show last night, pressure, family, friends, I'm like, "these people know me."[Laughs] I woke up this morning sort of hung over like I'd been sitting at the bar all night but I hadn't it was just kind of emotional. And going off on my wife, which I feel bad about but sometimes it's like that and its ok, I'm lucky I have the chance today to go back and do something different. I'm not going to find those answers in those things that I sung about like in "Dirty Sticky Floors." I can reflect on that stuff and I can certainly use it to my advantage today and it was fun to sing about.
This tour brings you back into the smaller, smelly, sweaty, grimy, dirty sticky floors that you haven't been in for quite a few years. How does that feel?
In Europe we did a lot of different kinds of gigs. Some of them we were in arenas like in Moscow and St. Petersburg and Prague and Budapest. Then we were in tiny little clubs and then like stadiums doing festivals with different bands and that was a lot of fun, doing Glastonbury, I've never done that before, playing on the same stage with Sigur Ros was really cool. Over on the big stage are Metallica and Moby and Queens of the Stone Age. It was great hanging out with all these different bands doing different kinds of music it's a great experience. What I'm enjoying is the freedom of being able to do that kind of stuff. I want to be playing to big audiences I love that too. Last night [New York City] was amazing because you're right there with the people, you can see people's faces and you can feel the heat and energy coming from the audience. In fact a couple of big gigs we did in Europe were kind of weird going back on a big stage. We just did shows in Philly, Washington D.C., and Atlanta and they were pretty small and they were great, they were really good. And my band is really playing well together and we're getting looser now because we got real tight and now we can really sort of play together we're really starting to gel together. I wanted that to be different too. I know what kind of energy I put into a show, I've always known that and I want that from the people that are on stage with me. It's not all about taking it from the audience. You gotta put it in there, and you get it back, and you give it and it comes back.
This might be a little too personal and if it is stop me, but you've referred to and I'm sure it's on the album as well, but back in the late 90's you had a very dark time in your life. Looking back, what got you through that people-wise or things or your own mindset?
It certainly wasn't my mindset. But bottom line it was the willingness to believe there was something I could change and if I changed maybe that could be better than the way I was living and there was a long time that I didn't actually believe that but there was a lot of people that really helped me and gave me a lot of support at the time. Victor, who plays drums with me, is one of those people. So we have a connection together that I can't really describe to you. We lived together for a while in this small house with a bunch of other guys for a few months, and I got to know them as well, there's something between us that I can't really explain. Certainly the support of people and finding people that you identify with and then being willing to go along for the ride. I'd be lying if I didn't say it took years for me to really come to some kind of belief that life can be ok without booze and drugs and hiding. Because I'd got to that point where I didn't have a choice, that's all I was doing. I'd like to believe I was doing a lot of other things, like traveling around the world with my band but I was full of shit. I was lying to myself mostly and hurting a lot of people around me. Jonathan, who's my manager, he was one of the guys that stuck by me almost to the bitter end. There was a point when he was ready to give up on me and he let me know that cause he was honest with me, it made me trust him a lot more, and he said "I'm not gonna do this anymore with you, it's not worth it, I don't care about your band, I don't care about anything, I don't want to see you kill yourself with this bullshit." That was a really honest thing, cause I lived in Los Angeles at the time and there were a lot of people around me that were not so supportive and I think they would rather have seen me keep the party going for them for a bit longer.
I'm assuming that was your son sitting on the side last night that you dedicated one of the last songs to.
He must have been an inspiration as well.
Yeah. Jack, my other son is in England. Yeah both of them. And meeting Jennifer and spending time with her. Jimmy is my stepson, but being with him has definitely taught me a lot. Living with him and the experiences that he's had to go through himself has really taught me a lot.
After all your years of living so far what's some of the advice you'd want to pass down to them?
I'm trying to do it on a daily basis. Just trying show up and do my best and try. Listen, you have to listen to your kids and sometimes it's hard, they ask a lot of questions, and I'm glad about that because when I was growing up I didn't ask any questions and I think that backfired on me in my teens and certainly carried it through. I think that's really important, just to listen. You can't have all the answers for your kids, we're not supposed to mold them into what we are, they have their own higher powers and their own universe looking after them too, you just have to be there for them. They're growing up way too fast that's for sure.
What are some of the things in your day-to-day life that influence you the most?
I think just to be here, really, just to feel like I'm part of life again and be ok with that, be comfortable in my own skin. That is an amazing feeling to not be sitting here crawling through my skin. I didn't think I could feel like that again, just be ok, I'm totally taken care of. I have to learn to speak up for myself a bit more, that could be good, the things that I want in life. I've got nothing to complain about really, life's great.
I heard you like living in New York too.
Oh yeah I love it here. It's my home. We drove back from Philadelphia after the show, and just coming back into town seeing the city, driving down 9th Avenue was so good. I just walked around a bit the next day, had a cup of coffee on the corner, just sitting there watching life go by, watching all the characters and the people, I get so much inspiration from that. Listening in on conversations, I love that, I'm a voyeur like that.