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CASH FOR QUESTIONS: DAVE GAHAN
[
Q, June 2003. Words: Paul Stokes. Pictures: James Burns.]

" When I get up onstage I'm in a world of my own, but that's nothing to do with me: it's because the technology is too in time. "

Summary:  Dave faces a round of questions from readers on all kinds of subjects and all aspects of his life and career. Plenty of unexpected comments and tidbits, and Dave's much loved cheeky swagger comes out to play. This article has the famous picture of Dave peeing all over the floor (before going on to describe accidentally peeing on an autograph-hunter). [2207 words]

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Try also:    "Bat's Life" [Smash Hits, 1st April 1982]
   
             "Intimate Details" [No. 1., 12th September 1987]   
                "The Uncut Questionnaire: Dave Gahan" [Uncut, July 2003]
                

    Running, if Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan is to be believed, is a great way to fill the void left by heroin. "When I first got my health back I used to go running every day," he says in an accent that blends Greenwich Village New York with Town Centre Basildon and, bizarrely, sounds South African. He looks a little sheepish. "Though these days I don't go as often as I used to."

    Today is definitely not a running day. Gahan surveys the splendours of London member's club Home House before returning his attention to the discussion: What vices does a man who died for six minutes after an overdose in 1996 enjoy? [1]

    "Smoking," announces Gahan who, though slender to the point of fragile and with ancient track-marks faintly visible among his tattoos, emits an aura of well-being. "But I'm working on that. I don't say, I'm never doing something again. But I'm good at saying I'm not going to do it today, so I plan to stop smoking when I get back home to New York."

    He has good incentive. His first solo album, Paper Monsters, is about to be released and, with touring to follow, Gahan explains that it will do his vocals good. So what will he do for indulgences then?

    "I buy loads of magazines," he says. "There's this shop I go to in New York that stocks all the British stuff, so I know what to expect from Cash For Questions - I bet there's some mad stuff in here, isn't there?"

    Don't you just know it, Dave...

When you died for a few minutes after overdosing in 1996, were you bound for heaven or hell?
Julie Latchford, via e-mail

All I saw and all I felt at first was complete darkness. I've never been in a space that was blacker, and I remember feeling that whatever it was I was doing, it was really wrong. Then the next thing I remember was seeing myself on the floor, on the steps outside my hotel bathroom, and there was a lot of activity going on around me. I tried to shout out "I'm up here!" from wherever it was I was floating but nobody could hear me. In some ways it was very liberating. Then I came to and a cop was handcuffing me. It certainly wasn't a place I'd like to visit again.

Have you won any competitions in magazines lately?
Bernie O'Hagan, Ripley, Derbyshire

No, but I was just in Germany and I was given an award by a magazine. It's a gold chocolate Easter bunny with a little bell on it and it's for the best album so far this year, so I was quite chuffed, even though it is a chocolate bunny.

Do you get a free subscription to Depeche Mode, the French mag you stole the name from?
Michael Jones, Birmingham

I don't, but they once wanted to do a photo session with us. Years before that there was a period of time where there were lawsuits flying around because we'd copied the name. Once we became more successful they let it go because we probably helped them to sell more copies. I always see it in the shop where I buy my magazines in New York and it's funny because it's similar to House and Garden.

Does writing your own stuff for Paper Monsters mean you'll be taking over songwriting duties from Martin Gore on the next Depeche Mode album?
Lee Walmsley, via e-mail

I won't be taking over from Martin, but I'd like to think that as I'm moving forward in that way I'll be contributing my own songs and exchanging ideas. I don't think I could do it any other way right now. Has Martin heard Paper Monsters? He called me and said [puts on weedy voice], "I've just got back from holiday and I've got a message that there's an album at the post office which I'll pick up, but what I'm ringing about is have you got a number for a chiropractor?"

Is it true that a few years ago a bloke approached you for an autograph in the toilets while you were having a piss and you turned round and pissed all over him?
Christoff Platts, Sheffield

Yeah, that is true. I can't remember where it was though. I don't mind signing autographs but when you're at the urinal and someone's standing next to you shaking with a pen it's a bit strange. I actually gave the guy an autograph, but I was still pissing so it splashed all over his feet and he didn't notice because he was just so hell-bent on getting me to sign his bit of paper. I think now I'd just say, "Fuck off".

Si se les rompe algo en las casa, o hay que arreglar algo, lo hacen ustedes o piden ayuda al primero que se els cruce?
Jesica Cichero, via e-mail

No idea! Wait a minute, there's a bit I understand...Your new album is the best thing I've ever heard, do you agree? Yes.
[Actual translation: When you break things around the house do you fix them yourself or do you get someone in to do it for you?]

Do you realise your "dancing" is completely offbeat?
Ana Jeremic, Ottawa, Canada

[Laughs] Yeah! When I get up onstage I'm in a world of my own, but that's nothing to do with me: it's because the technology is too in time.

Dave, my partner's six year-old daughter has grown up convinced I'm you. Any tips on how I can let her down without breaking her heart?
Ian Cook, via e-mail

The most important thing is to be yourself. What I've learnt from my kids is there's no rulebook to being a father. I don't teach them that they must do this or that, they teach me. So I hope he'll learn from his daughter it's OK to be yourself. Please don't rely on me.

Do you ever regret the whole bleached blonde, eyebrow-plucking phase you went through?
Caroline Khachatoorian, Glendale, California

[Laughs] Yes, I do. For a long time I guess I was trying to find a look for myself because at that time my band never really followed any trend. We were a mishmash so I was pleased when [photographer] Anton Corbijn came along and styled us because it took the visual aspect away from us. I stopped plucking my eyebrows a long time ago.

Is it annoying having people mispronounce your name for 20 years?
Elaine Carr, Glasgow

I'm kind of over it. I thought for a while of releasing this new album under the name Ga-Han and calling the album Essex.

Being a bit of a lad, did you ever try to hide Martin's skirts?
Zoe Andrews, Reading

No, but Andy [Fletcher] and I - and I confess to this now - often hid his hats. He'd buy these fucking awful things, similar to what court jesters wear. We did actually talk to him about it all, but if you tell Martin not to do something he'll go to the extreme just to piss us off. [2]

Do you miss heroin?
Mario Herrera, Mexico

No, I don't. What I sometimes miss is escaping from myself - my own feelings or what's going on in my life - but I find much more positive ways to direct that energy nowadays. Heroin is a drug you don't mess with. Initially there's an instant euphoria and a sense of invincibility but that turns on you pretty fast and I certainly don't miss the physical dependency.

Do I use anything now? Nothing. For me, if I was to open that door again I don't know where I would go to. It took a long time to be able to walk into a bar with my mates and not even think about drinking. I wouldn't recommend heroin. You'll wake up with a horrible hangover the next morning and believe me, it's a joy now to be able to wake up rather than come to.

Is it true that Primal Scream are a bunch of Scottish lightweights who couldn't keep up with the mighty Mode?
Stephen Brown, via e-mail

They kept up pretty much. It was a weird, long tour [in 1994] and Primal Scream only played with us for the last three months, so by that time everything was off the hook. Put it this way: there were a lot of little knocks on my dressing room door before they went on stage when they needed something to help them up there. It would be [does Scottish accent] "'Ere, Mr G, have you got a little something?" [laughs] We got on really well, I hung out with them more than I did with my own band at the time, but I don't think I was in Depeche Mode's good books. Recreationally, we certainly weren't using the same substances.

Is Andrew "Fletch" Fletcher's keyboard ever plugged in?
Gary Sullivan, Dartford, Kent

Yes, it's plugged in, but I couldn't honestly say what you get from it. He performs with us live but he seems to spend more time out in front, waving his arms in the air than playing the keyboards. All I know is that when he goes back to his kit, I look round and I know there ain't anything happening there.

What's the wildest thing you've ever done on tour?
Terry Hancock, Stoke-on-Trent

Really stupid stuff like getting really drunk and climbing out of hotel windows and walking along the ledge to someone else's room to watch whatever was going on in there. We did some really nutty, dangerous things that I can't believe now. We also threw things out of windows at other bands which the hotel staff weren't pleased about.

Any regrets that Alan Wilder left the group?
Frank, via e-mail

Yes, because I didn't respond to his leaving as much as I now realise I wanted to. I really miss Alan's input on everything we do musically, but I miss him as a friend. He was probably the person in the band I felt supported by the most and I wish I'd fought harder for him to stay.

What Alan really wanted was for Martin to turn round and say, You've really contributed something great, but Martin's not someone who hands out compliments very often. I think Martin said he realises now how much Alan contributed, so it will be interesting to see what will happen in the future. I've not spoken to him for a couple of years, although I've heard he was thinking of moving to Spain.

How did you get rid of the bags under your eyes after your drugs episode?
CiarĂ¡n Savage, Dublin

I wasn't aware that I had bags under my eyes. It took a long time to recover physically, to be honest, and I didn't realise how battered I was. My liver, kidneys, everything was damaged. I felt like an old man and I'm still dealing with that today, but it's so much better. Bags under my eyes were probably the least of my worries.

Do you think Depeche Mode would have been as massive if Vince Clarke hadn't gone off to form Erasure?
John Sutting, via e-mail

That's a good question. I think actually no, because when Vince left we never thought for a second about not making another record. We just had to go into the studio and start working on stuff that was fairly experimental, we had no choice. Vince was fairly driven in a direction, he was clear about what he wanted and I think that he couldn't do that by playing with three other people who all had an opinion.

He's had a lot of success by himself. But I'm glad that happened because every time the band has changed - when Alan joined or when he left, for example - it's forced us to rethink. We need to do that again, to shake it up, if we're to make another record.

Was there ever a time when you looked at Martin on stage in the mid-'80s and thought, "What the fuck?"
Brian Webb, via e-mail

I still do that. Sometimes I wonder how we get away with it.

What possessed you to get your willy pierced?
Mike Blaney, Ontario, Canada

It wasn't actually my willy. It was that bit of skin that men have between the balls and ass - that really thin line. Supposedly you get more sexual energy from it, but it was the most painful thing I've ever done. As it was being done I was in stirrups for half an hour with this girl staring at my ass, lining the needle up. I don't think I touched my dick for ages afterwards, I couldn't even sit on a hard chair for six months, although I showed everybody. I took the ring out a few years ago, but I've still got the holes - you can have a look if you really want [laughs]. [3]

Can Depeche Mode last longer than Status Quo?
Ian Fox, Norwich

We're pretty close, ain't we?

[1] - With every year that goes by, it seems, the amount of time the press claim Dave was clinically dead creeps higher. The more commonly quoted figure from nearer the time itself is two minutes. Six minutes would have left him brain damaged. [continue]

[2] - Pratting about with people's clothes and belongings in the studio was pretty much par for the course in the early years. Martin regularly caused mayhem by hiding Andy's glasses, and when Alan took to wearing a long scarf, the entire band conspired to steal it and chuck in the studio's rubbish bins. [continue]

[3] - In this interview Dave's description of the process is even more detailed, and hysterically funny. [continue]

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