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[NME, 18th January 1997. Words: Keith Cameron. Pictures: Stefan de Batselier - page 2 of 3]

    "It wasn't really apparent to me at the time, but I had become a complete cliche of myself. I remember in Chile, when I got the news that Kurt had blown his head off, my first reaction was that I was angry. I was pissed off. I felt like he'd stolen my idea, like he'd beat me to it. That's how f---ed up I was. I really was that gone."

    The tour finally wound up midway through 1994. Dave Gahan's excuse to act like God day after day had gone, but not his heroin addiction. By Christmas of that year, he had decided to go into rehab. Checking himself into a clinic in Arizona, he stayed there for six weeks and sobered up. On leaving, he met up with his wife. Over lunch he informed her of his intentions to stay clean.

    "That's when it really dawned on me - 'I'm talking about the rest of my life here.' So of course, it wasn't long after that that I started using again, but in secret. Gradually, she got sick and tired of picking me up off the floor, and she decided to split."

    The break-up of his second marriage appears pivotal to Gahan's subsequently rapid journey to rock bottom. Each attempt to get clean would result in a progressively more intense relapse back onto heroin. Alone, either at home or at the Sunset Marquis, he vented his unhappiness upon himself.

    "Trust issues have been going on all my life, so when Theresa left I was then give the excuse to go out and get even more f---ed up. I was hellbent on going the whole hog. My wife had left me, friends were disappearing and so I was left surrounded by a bunch of junkies. And I knew exactly what was going on - y'know, I had the money, I had the drugs and that's why they were around. I knew it, and that fuelled my anger even more."

    Still he went to clinics, yet still he always checked out and then checked in again at the Marquis.

    "I didn't know whether I wanted to get clean. It was becoming very apparent that the party was gonna be over pretty soon. I was either gonna die or I was gonna get sober."

    In August 1995, Gahan attempted the latter before opting for the former. Returning from a detox unit, he discovered that his house had been burgled. Everything was gone: TVs, recording studio, two Harley Davidsons, even cutlery. On leaving, the robbers had reset the alarm code. Seeing as the only people who knew the code were himself, a few close friends and a couple of workmen, Gahan assumed it was an inside job, that his 'friends' had extracted revenge on him for trying to clean up.

    "It all seemed very sinister, like this f---ed up LA movie that I was actually in. And I thought, 'I'm not really supposed to f---ing be here. And perhaps if I'm not around everyone else could get on with their lives.'"

    He went to the Sunset Marquis and phoned his mother to tell her he'd just come out of rehab again. His mother, however, said she had just been told he'd never been to rehab in his life. The fact that his mother didn't even believe him was the final excuse Gahan needed to make his most dramatic artistic statement thus far. He shot up, went into the bathroom and slashed his wrists, "knowing that somebody would come by in the end". Which they did. His bloody arms wrapped in towels, Gahan was on the verge of unconsciousness by the time a friend dropped by and dialled the emergency services. He was brought round by the searing pain of his wrists being stitched; there wasn't time for an anaesthetic.

    "The paramedic said to me, 'You silly sod, not you again!' The same team of paramedics in West Hollywood came and picked me up quite a few times. They were starting to call me 'The Cat'! Like, 'You're running out, Dave, you're running out...' Anyway, I woke up the next morning in a psychiatric ward, strapped up, the full padded cell. First of all, I thought I might be dead, then this psychiatrist came in and informed me that it was a felony to take your own life in California - so I was busted for trying to kill myself! [1] Hahaha! I'm glad I can laugh about it now."

    The Cat talked himself out of the straitjacket and went back to his old tricks, first at the Sunset Marquis, then a rented pad in Santa Monica, from where he "got into some serious using" - yes, the mind does boggle - and hid from the world behind increasingly black mental drapes.

    "Things went from worse to worse. There were loads of other occasions of overdoses, waking up outside dealers' places downtown, on the lawn with no clothes on, robbed. But there were always people to pick me up. I'd go to these meetings and be f---ing high as a kite among all these sober people. And you can't imagine a worse place to be when you're loaded! I used to go to the bathroom and shoot up then come back and raise my hand and say, 'I got 30 seconds clean!' I was taking the piss, really, but I was doing it to myself."

    In the midst of all this, work on the next Depeche Mode album was under way in London. In the spring of last year, they all met in New York, a halfway house location - "to give Dave a boost," as Fletch remembers it. The intention was to spend six weeks there, during which Dave would record his vocals. After six weeks, only one usable vocal was completed.

    "I was going through the motions," he admits.

    By this point, Gahan was shooting up heroin and cocaine, because neither was working individually any more. But for that matter, neither worked together either, much to his annoyance.

    He returned from New York with a plan: "To go f---ing mental. The definition of insanity is repeating the same action but expecting a different result. I'd been told this so many times, but I was like, there's nothing wrong with me, I can handle it, I can kick it...I couldn't! I was definitely on a death wish. I wanted to know what it was all about, if I had the chance to go somewhere else and get away from myself. Which, of course, was all a fantasy. That was the first time it hit home what a junkie I was.

    "I went through a phase for a little while, if I couldn't get dope I'd be virtually shooting water. Just squeezing out the cotton, getting whatever was left, just for tying off and banging off. I was definitely into the ritual side of things. In fact, now I think about it, the naughty boy excitement stuff of going and getting it, when the drugs weren't working any more, that was the big thing. Scoring without having me head blown off - that was it."

    David Gahan duly went f---ing mental, then managed to stay off drugs for two weeks. Yet his downward spiral led him back to the Sunset Marquis where, early in the morning of May 28, 1996, he OD'd once more. His partially cleansed system was unable to withstand the dosage and underwent cardiac arrest. A friend dialled an ambulance. He was turning blue. His heart stopped for a couple of minutes. Dave Gahan was officially dead for a short while last year.

    "They gave me the full Pulp Fiction treatment and got a beat on the way to the hospital. The first thing I remember hearing was a paramedic in the background saying, 'I think we lost him...'"

    So, er, what's it like to die?

    "All I remember about it was it was really black and really scary, and I remember feeling that it was wrong. This was something really not supposed to be happening. I was thinking I could control this, I could pick the date when Dave was gonna die. That's how f---ed up my ego is. So I woke up and I was handcuffed to a cop and he was reading me my rights." [2]

    Dave Gahan spent two nights in LA County jail. He might yet get the chance to reacquaint himself with that establishment. Currently he is on parole, awaiting trial and sentencing in February. He is required to take two urine tests a week, and will be for the next two years. If he stays clean, then the chances are the charges will be dropped. Were The Cat to fancy his chances once more, however, and give a positive urine test, he would face two years in prison. When he says it's a "sobering" thought, one is indeed inclined to defer to his formidable experience on the subject.

    "In California, they'll work with junkies. You're breaking the law, but I mean, I was in a cell with f---ing murderers, people who'd blown people's heads off. I was a menace to myself, sure, but not society!"

    Gahan has been clean ever since that day he picked up the phone and asked for help. He saw through the recovery programme at Exodus, the detox unit that both Kurt Cobain and Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon walked away from. The first five days were the worst, he says, strapped down, watched 24 hours, having seizures every hour so hard was the withdrawal. Then the meetings, just like the ones he'd attended before while whacked off his gourd.

    "For the first time I was listening. That was the difference. An addict thinks the world ends at them, and that you're completely alone in this world. And you find there's a lot of people from different walks of life that are exactly the same as you. When I went to Exodus I was making the admission that this shit had destroyed my life. It had taken away my soul and left me f---ing empty. It was fantastic for a couple of years. I'd be lying if I didn't say I thought I was f---ing God! I felt brilliant - nothing mattered, man, I was high! And then it stopped. It stopped overnight, and then I was always chasing that first high.

[1] - In the years since this, Dave has been at pains to point out that by slashing his wrists he was more concerned with drawing attention or making a plea for help than literally killing himself. [continue]

[2] - In another article Dave's version of the story is that when the paramedic says "I think we lost him", Dave springs bolt upright and says "Oh no you fucking haven't!" Personally I find this version hard to believe... [continue]

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