Masters Of The Universe


By Michael Martin

As the primary songwriter for Depeche Mode, Martin Gore is the architect of some of the most darkly beautiful and sexually interesting pop music ever. When the band hit in the early '80s, they were groundbreaking, taking their synth-driven tales of kinky sex and near-spiritual romance to the top of the charts. Provocative phrases in songs like "Master and Servant" and "People Are People" -- and the band's judicious use of leather pants and eyeliner -- made the band extremely gay-interesting, if not gay-identified: though Gore is married and has two kids, he never made noise about correcting assumptions. Meanwhile, his intensely romantic lyrics provided enough electricity for the band to top the album charts in the grungy '90s (more than ten years after their debut), steer them past a rough patch that saw frontman Dave Gahan attempt suicide and enter rehab, and continually re-emerge with major hits. DM's brand of electropop has become classic, and much-copied: as the airwaves fill with acolytes, their sound is as fresh as ever. Their new album, Sounds of the Universe, comes out today. This summer, the band embarks on their first stadium tour of Europe. Gore spoke from his Santa Barbara, California, home.

Out: Why'd you come back?
Martin Gore: We never really go away. We have a hiatus of about three to four years between albums. Not because we're lazy. I got back to songwriting in 2007 and wrote through that year. We had a band meeting around February 2008, where we decided to get back in the studio. During that time Dave put out a solo record, so he was busy with that.

When you first arrived on the scene, your songs were a kind of pop-chart solace for sexually ambiguous and generally kinky-minded people. As the primary songwriter, do you take credit for that?
The whole process of songwriting and the way you're able to communicate with a mass of people globally is an amazing concept. I've had people come up to me saying, "You've changed my life." A little idea you get in the room on your own, doodling away and go out there and affect so many people's lives.

Did you ever feel like you were getting away with something?
I like the idea of doing something different. Early on, somebody somewhere called it "perverted pop" and noted you could get way with murder if you dressed it up in the guise of pop. [Laughs] We were very aware of what we were doing.

As a songwriter, are you still interested in the same themes?
I think that there are certain things that are recurrent. Recurring nightmares, maybe, that keep coming back. Dave sometimes laughs that I've made a career out of five topics.

Such as?
Obviously a general relationship theme. Love, lust, sex, power. They're all kind of interlinked, really. Maybe it's one topic.