SXSW: 'I'm an Overpaid Stripper,' Declares Depeche Mode Frontman Dave Gahan

Depeche Mode 2013 PR P

The influential band's first major interview in advance of new album "Delta Machine" (out March 26 on Columbia) is a standing-room only affair at South By Southwest.

Depeche Mode’s first major interview in advance of new album Delta Machine (out March 26 on Columbia) was a standing-room only affair as the band -- comprised of frontman Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy “Fletch” Fletcher -- took the stage at the South By Southwest Music conference in Austin. The moderator, KCRW music director Jason Bentley had the floor for half of the session, which was billed as a “featured interview,” using most of that time to discuss their latest (and 13th) release.

The good-natured Brits threw out a few doozies: like how there are only a handful of subjects to write songs about -- among them love and death. Cracked Gore of the latter category: “And we’re closer to that!”

The topic of songwriting came up a lot, with Gore humbly shrugging common band sentiment that he’s “written the same song over and over again.” Added Gahan: “But he does it really well.” The band members also talked about instrumentation. “We use a lot of virtual stuff,” said Gore, adding that he tries to listen to “all kinds of new music – not just electronic music, gospel and blues … I’m just a fan of music.”

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The more enlightening chatter came out of a question Bentley directed at Gahan, recalling a meeting at the Sunset Marquis in 1995 when Gahan was, in the radio personality’s words, “in a very bad place” and “a mess.” Now sober, Gahan recalled those times blurrily: “It was quite a whirlwind up until that point. Everything in my life,” he said. “Getting better was an obvious means to an end. … [It came with] a lot of help and friends and people who support you. It’s slow and you’ve got to want to change. I have very little memory, fortunately, of some of those experiences, and the last 15 years in my life has progressively gotten better. I feel like I participate in it in a different way. I love the challenge that goes with working on being a dad and a husband, and the fact that we’re sitting here celebrating our 13th record together in 30-plus years.”

“And you’ve still got your hair,” Gore interjected, with Gahan nodding in agreement.

“We’re very happy that you survived,” added Bentley.

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With the Q&A open to the public, several international attendees took the microphone, one of whom was a female from South Africa. Gore turned the tables on her, saying: “Can I ask you a question? Was Rodriguez really that popular in South Africa?”

The Searching for Sugar Man fandom got a rousing laugh and a snappy reply. “We’re very proud that we could reintroduce him to America,” she said.

Another fun topic was that of Gahan’s rock star swagger, now perfected after three decades fronting the band. Describing a typical show date, Gahan said he’s usually “a ball of anxiety” before taking the stage. “But I feel comfortable out there. I always said, 'I’m an overpaid stripper.'”

Gore and Fletcher elaborated that it takes more effort than Gahan was letting on – he goes to the gym daily to stay both healthy and disciplined. Added Gahan: “It doesn’t just happen. As hard as you play, you’ve got to work, too. When I get out there and there’s people who bought tickets, I’m going to give it my best.”

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin