Unbeknownst to even his most ardent followers during Depeche Mode’s world tour in support of 2005’s Playing the Angel, Dave Gahan began a journey inward, exploring corners of his mind that he’d previously not dared go, excavating emotions and fears that centered around accepting his own mortality, divine intervention, miracles, parenthood and unconditional love.

And it all started with a little tune called “Saw Something,” – Gahan’s latest European single – a heartfelt, stately gem that gave him “the confidence” to proceed, and was “the key that went in the lock to open the door to record the rest of Hourglass,” he says.

Gahan’s skin glows with middle-aged, hard won vitality these days. The famous tattoos are still there on that famously sinewy, yoga-toned body, as is the raven black hair, now peppered with salt. No more floor-to-gurney transgressions for the wayward gothic rock star god who had some kind of inner hell to raise at the height of his success and excess.

He is now 45, very much alive, and slowly finding peace enough to accept himself, to open up and admit his faults, not hide from them. When asked on a stormy late autumn afternoon what’s been the most surprising discovery he’s made about himself as he’s gotten older, he wastes no time replying. He doesn’t even need to think about the answer.

“I’m pretty overly controlling, to the point of exhaustion. [Laughs] And also, I’m a lot more moody than I really thought I was. But you know, it’s like anything…after awhile, as you get older, you learn to sort of accept that, and some days, I just don’t function well. And other days, I can be like the most helpful guy around. I’m lucky to have a very supportive family who have put up with a lot. I certainly wouldn’t be able to live with me!”

The man lives in New York City. Downtown, as it were. Impossibly hip, but nevertheless far from the madding crowds that can tempt a recovering addict. But of course, all of that nonsense and glittery excitement is “just a cab ride away.”

“There’s something about the city that is kind of like my life, it’s a love/hate thing. There isn’t much in-between there. I’m either sort of fighting against myself or I’m just going with the flow. And the going with the flow part seems to be growing larger, which is a great feeling. But New York has definitely been instrumental in doing that. It’s forced me to participate in everyday life.”

This new willingness to eat some humble pie and attempt to do some much needed soul-searching and necessary evolving is exactly what Gahan aims to express with “Saw Something,” and the majority of his phenomenally poignant second solo release, Hourglass. Within, the “Personal Jesus” star/moody bastard with an internationally beloved baritone sings, “I sit, and I wait, and I stare/Still wishing for a divine intervention/to lift me from my chair.”

“I definitely believe in divine intervention, and more often than not, if I take the time to slow down and feel what’s going on with me, or going on around me, these things get given. They’re opportunities, and they’re choices, and you can either take them, or you can just choose to ignore them. I find that when I choose to ignore those feelings that come up, and not express them in some way, I get trapped. I feel like I’m stuck. So I’m finding through writing that I’m able to somehow find this voice that is my own,” he says.

Not that Gahan will be found on bended knee at St. Patrick’s anytime soon, intoning scripture and hymnals with the faithful, but he does indeed pray. Not for his place in the hereafter, mind you, but for his life, (and the lives of his loved ones) in the here and now, where immediate salvation and gratifying absolution await. If this all sounds like remarkably familiar territory for the Depeche Mode vocalist don’t be surprised; he finds wisdom and guidance in those songs, too.

“There’s been records and songs that have carried me through times when I’ve felt stuck, or you know, that I’m not moving forward. I’ve certainly felt that for many, many years, and continue to, when Martin [Gore] gives me a song, sometimes it’s just one or two songs from any particular album, but they’re the key songs for me that somehow enable to me to move on in my life.”

Gahan points to Depeche fan faves such as “Condemnation,” “I Feel You,” [from 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion] and “Personal Jesus,” [from 1990’s Violator] as tunes that have been particularly inspiring to him in times of crisis. He also considers two Hourglass songs, “Kingdom” and “Miracles,” as shining examples of his newfound mental clarity.

Of “Kingdom,” Gahan relates, “I think it’s being aware that on some deeper level that sometimes there is a lot more to life than me. [Laughs] That I really want to be part of that more, and the fear stops me from going there. It’s experiencing all those feelings. It’s being in a partnership with somebody. It’s experiencing love, allowing it to flow. Not being afraid of it. Not worry it’s gonna go, and all that kind of stuff. I guess what I’m really talking about is faith. I wouldn’t say it’s a religious thing, but it’s definitely something I believe in.”

Next to exploring issues of faith, another long-running issue in Gahan’s life is love. What do with it, how to keep it, how to express it, how to accept it. “Miracles” is a tender ballad that finds the man at his most vulnerable; his most achingly honest, stating that he doesn’t believe in Jesus, but “I’m just afraid of losing you.” “You” being his family or himself, depending upon how you want to take it.

“It’s me recognizing my disbelief in faith, and at the same time acknowledging it. And just really trying to embrace the fact that my life seems to be a constant contradiction, [but] that at the same time, I’m right where I’m supposed to be….It’s about love, and it’s about accepting that, and being able to give it, and at the same time feeling it come back, and not being afraid of what comes back. I think that’s the hardest thing…to accept that you’re loved. That somehow it’s gonna get taken away.”

Gahan’s current state of peacefulness and reflection is evident in the tone of his voice, his frequents laughs, his chattiness, his candor. He considers the best version of Dave Gahan “one that keeps his mouth shut,” but is quick to mention his most important role in life: being a father.

“Well you know, when I’m singing and performing, I think that’s one of the best versions [of myself] because I feel connected to who it is that I am. Also when I’m around my daughter for some reason, it’s definitely beyond me, and one of the reasons why I definitely want to stick around is to see what happens to her. She brings the best out of me.”

Of his performing career as a solo artist, no world tour plans are in place for Hourglass at press time, although he’s “not ruling it out” and thinking about doing some one-off shows in 2008 with his nimble backing band, the Jupiters.

For fun, I ask Gahan to reword Forrest Gump’s famous “box of chocolates” phrase to his own life. Laughing, he entertains the thought, but then says, “He sort of coined it really well, didn’t he? I don’t think I could say it better than that, to be honest! It is kind of like that, isn’t it? You never know what you’re gonna get. When I show up, I get surprised, and if I’m left to my own devices, to be quite honest, nothing really happens!”

Today, Gahan walks the city streets as one of us, taking in the cooler air, exhaling and allowing himself to be present and ready for the future, whatever that might hold, no longer allowing fear to be his compass and most favored companion.

“I’ve always been that type of guy that’s like …’okay, what’s next?’ And I think in the past, kind of missed what’s really going on, and now that seems to be changing, like I’m desperately trying to be where I am,” he says. “I think at a very early age I learned how to be quite self-sufficient. My mother raised four children on her own, which I know was very difficult. And she did the best that she could, with the tools that she had, if you like. So I realize that now, but I also realize that at some point, that’s where I disengaged from myself, and in the last 30 years it’s been sort of a struggle to reengage. I think I’m in a pretty good place right now. I’m able to see that and not be so afraid of it.”

–Carrie Alison, Photos by Anton Corbijn

http://www.davegahan.com

 
  1. Great article! I always knew that Dave Gahan is a very wise man, a kinda of a philosopher, who always reflects his own life… He keeps on developing himself in any area as in his relationships with people, with his family, with himself… He’s very wise ‘cause he never denies his past – he learns from his own mistakes… But Dave always keeps on learning! I understand when he says about faith:…”I wouldn’t say it’s a religious thing, but it’s definitely something I believe in.” but he does indeed pray…And his presence in the life today, his acting in every days life is the most hardest thing his did! And I think that Dave came to his own KINGDOM!

    Lena, St-Petersburg, Russia

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  2. This is a really interesting interview. As a lifelong Depeche Mode fan, what I find so fascinating about Dave Gahan is that he is a man full of contradictions. Congratulations to Carrie Alison, and good luck to everyone at sentamentalistmag.com!

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  3. [...] Be sure to check out our January 2008 feature interview with Dave Gahan on his second solo record Hourglass right here. [...]