Depeche Mode are in Europe with their ‘Global Spirit Tour’ until the end of July. This is the story of their charismatic singer coming back to life…
It was May 28th 1996. Twentyone years on and Dave Gahan (born in Chigwell on 9th May 1962) was still among us in the world of the living. On that day, he nearly died barricaded inside his room in a famous LA hotel. Dave, in those day, was feeling down, at an all-time low.
The frontman (having already made a suicide attempt in ’95) decided to inject a potent speedball as his ultimate desperate cry for help. When they found him, his rescuers feared that his emaciated body was already a corpse. Gahan’s heart had stopped beating three minutes before, but a paramedic refused to give up on him and managed a last minute resuscitation.
The singer came out the other side of his overdose and continued to officiate over his ‘Black Celebration’ with his role of rock messiah, somewhere between Iggy Pop and an electronic shaman in the vein of Gary Numan.
By that tragic day, Gahan demanded more for his existence: a life less debauched, to start with. Some sort of emotional stability which his previous partners (Joanne Fox and Theresa Conroy) had been unable to give him, something other than the hedonistic climate of California – where Dave embellished his body with traditional and religious tattoos and listened over and over to Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana, Temple Of The Dog, and the rest.
And then, along came Jennifer Sklias, a complete stranger who didn’t even know anything about Depeche Mode and worked long hours in the detox centre where the singer signed himself into for fear of losing his permit to stay in the US (never mind losing his life). And it was love at first sight, and this time it would last. Dave and Jennifer got married on St. Valentine’s Day in 1999 and have a little girl (Stella Rose) who would keep Gahan anchored to his responsabilities as a family man.
Sklias also helped him understand what he had really been missing – a tad more consideration in a group up to then dominated by the main songwriter Martin L. Gore – so much so, that Depeche Mode would never be the same again afterwards. Then 2003 saw the surprise ‘Paper Monsters’, Dave’s first solo album. It was a catharsis, a liberation, the spark to start the fire. To be sure the record was nothing so exceptional and he would do far better with the next one, ‘Hourglass’, in 2007, but it gave Dave the confidence to challenge his “rival” Gore.
Hard words they were, but needed: «Martin, if you don’t let me contribute to the songwriting in Depeche Mode, I’ll leave the group right now». Gore was no fool and accepted: three songs of Gahan’s ended up on 2005’s ‘Playing The Angel’ (including the notable ‘Suffer well’) and a further six would come out on ‘Sound Of Universe’ (2009) and ‘Delta Machine’ (2013). In ‘Spirit’, the fourteenth DM album released last March, there is even a collaboration between Gahan and Gore in the track ‘You move’. So, Dave is definitely back on track.
Maybe the ghosts of yesteryear have not entirely left him in peace («Sometimes I fight with my wife and I wonder what would happen if I went a shut myself up in a dark closed room… But then five minutes later it passes and I’m happy with her again») but Depeche Mode need him like never before. And it’s up to Dave to not to disappoint them any more. As the song says, “Never let me down again”.