Drugs, blackouts and broken ribs: the story of the tour that almost destroyed Depeche Mode (and why Chile was key)

It was a sign. A wake-up call that something was wrong on the Devotional Tour, in which Depeche Mode sought to capitalize on their rise as one of the essential bands since the late eighties. On October 8, 1993, during his show in New Orleans, singer Dave Gahan felt unwell. “At the end of the concert I couldn’t get back on stage for an encore. Martin [Gore] he had to do a solo while the doctors took me to the hospitall. I overdosed and had a heart attack. But the next day the episode was already archived, ”recalls the singer in the book Depeche Mode, the biographyby Steve Malins.

That tour, which began in May 1993, is recognized as a critical moment for the band. Tensions flared between them, especially over Gahan’s drug abuse. But there was a previous antecedent; the difficult recording sessions of the album Songs of Faith and Devotionin which the group reunited after two years without seeing each other, after the promotional tour of rapistone of the band’s most popular albums. The pressure to repeat the success, and the difficulties of daily coexistence, opened a flank that the music could not silence.

Songs of Faith and Devotion It was a difficult and tormented album until the end, with Walking In My Shoes mixed in three different versions, only to be scrapped as the opening single due to discrepancies between the band members. They decided on I Feel Youthough Gahan reluctantly gave up on condemnation as the first excerpt,” writes Malins.

Worse yet, they were under pressure to meet industry-imposed deadlines. “The last few weeks have been overshadowed by a lot of tension., as everyone realized that they were behind on the record and that there would be a short hiatus before leaving for a lengthy world tour. The LP was finished on December 31, 1992″, details the biographer.

Precisely in those days, Gahan was totally addicted to drugs. When his companions saw him, they had a hard time recognizing him; he had very long hair, was thinner than usual and had tattoos. “Dave would lock himself away for days and days, painting. allan [Wilder] he was not in a good mood, he just ate apples, he did not communicate with anyone”later recalled the late Andy Fletcher, the musician who balanced the egos in the band.

Years later, in a 2003 interview with Uncut magazine, Dave Gahan recalled that period of addiction and debauchery. “This was at the height of our success – I completely lost my sense of humor. Along the way, it was crazy, there were maybe 150 people working for us, and I couldn’t tell you the names of ten of them.. People fell off platforms, died… there was always some drama. So I anesthetized myself. I became dependent, and I was not aware of it. It was a constant party for a couple of years. We were all losing control, it wasn’t just me.”

Perhaps to shake off the tensions and pressure to achieve good sales, after the start of the tour in Europe, the band dedicated themselves to enjoying their star status. Thus, they did not forgive a free night to go on a spree in the local bars. “For us, more work means more mess once we’re done. I know it’s a cliche but everywhere we went we found fans who assaulted us, wanted to photograph us and take us out. For that night we were the owners of the city”, details Martin Gore in the biographical text.

Soon the addiction of Gahan – who had prepared for the tour with a demanding physical preparation of three hours a day of running, martial arts and stationary cycling – became problematic for the operation of the band. That’s how they put it, bluntly.

“We had a discussion with Dave about his drug abuse, which was now overt,” remembers Alan Wilder. We had meetings where we said, ‘You have to clean up and recover, Dave, otherwise the tour is going to be a catastrophe.’ And he responded with, ‘Yeah, I know, I know.’ But we don’t talk much about it. After all, there is not much to say.”

For the tour, the band brought a huge entourage that exceeded 100 people, including technical staff, private assistants, an accountant, and even a personal doctor. Such a level of attention, added to the stress and the applause of the respectable, generated a difficult combination to resist. “From the moment you start the first day, until you get home, it feels like you are living in a fantasy world Martin Gore details. I personally try to accept it, to have as much fun as possible in this fantastical world, and then put my feet back on the ground when it’s over.”

Because of this, Gahan became distant. “He probably couldn’t get in touch with us,” recalls Alan Wilder in his biography. He must have felt alienated from the rest of the gang, because none of us used heroin.. And nobody understood at all the stage he was in, so he was uncomfortable with us, and many times during the tour he isolated himself from others. He had created his own little private world.” So much so that he decorated his room with candles and curtains, and he used to stay there after shows.

However, Gahan’s addiction and Wilder and Gore’s nights of excess began to take their toll on internal relations. “There were strong divisions about it -recalls music producer Daniel Miller in the biography-. I had been to many concerts where Dave was inaccessible because he locked himself in the dressing room, Martin drank a lot without having much fun, Fletch was very uptight, and Al was very distant. They used three limousines. They were forced to butt heads on stage and occasional dinners with the record company, but that was it. Really something unpleasant”.

So the anecdotes began to happen. In June, during their time in Berlin, the band was expelled from the hotel where they were staying. “Someone had thrown a party in his room and things were a little out of control, but nothing serious had happened. Steve Malins details. Suddenly a police patrol appeared in riot gear: helmets, batons, and shields. They were quite embarrassed to realize that it was just a party, as the hotel management hadn’t been able to catch the spirit of fun.”

The excesses also affected Martin Gore. In Denver, he was arrested by the police after being reported for rioting at the Hotel. And in Los Angeles, he vanished. “We were all sitting around a table when Mart suddenly got up and He started acting strange. He had started to tremble, his eyes glazed over, and the next moment he fell to the ground convulsing. Wilder recalls. I realized that this was not the first time something like this had happened. A few weeks earlier he had complained that he had lost his memory. He came down from his room saying, ‘I don’t remember anything about this afternoon.’ And we said, ‘Come on, shut up Mart.’ He was bad again. And of course he must have had a blackout in his room. Gore regained consciousness within an hour and was told by the doctor that it was a crisis caused by stress and alcohol abuse.

After the dates in Asia, a critical moment arrived; Andy Fletcher reached a limit and decided to leave the tour. “It was very difficult. Andy was my best friend since I was 12 years old,” recalls Gore. But for the others it had become unbearable. I justified it by thinking that it would be better for him to go to his house to be treated”.

On his return home he had to be hospitalized because of the crisis he was going through. Then, cleaner, he decided to change his habits. “Since then I have recovered. I started doing yoga and relaxation exercises. I think I’m a much stronger person now. I am convinced that this will not happen again, ”he detailed later. To fill in for Fletcher for the remainder of the tour, the band contacted Daryl Bamonte, who prepped for a week with Wilder in Hawaii.

Andy Fletch

Around 1994, the band began the South American leg of their tour, which brought them to Chile for the first time, managed by the production company Providencia Televisión. They appeared on April 10 at the Velodrome of the National Stadium, with some tension in the environment after incidents in a Superclásico between Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile. Nevertheless, they dedicated their concert to the guitarist of La Ley, Andrés Bobe, who had died in an accident during the early hours of the morning. In addition, only five days had passed since Kurt Cobain’s death, which had also shaken the group, especially Gahan. “I remember when I heard the news that Kurt had blown his brains out, my first reaction was anger. Dave tells in an interview quoted in the biography. I was pissed because it seemed to me that he had stolen the idea and that he had won me in time. This is to show how crazy he was.”

That night in Santiago, Gahan and Gore had a talk. “It was in Chile, the same night that the Kurt Cobain thing happened. It was very late and we had been drinking a lot – details the singer-. I don’t know if Martin was drunk too, and he doesn’t even remember it, but he stuck with me. He told me that he felt like he could write his songs as some kind of divine gift, but he was wasting all the drinking and stuff. For some reason, he felt he had to get his message across through my voice, and I think this is the best thing he’s ever said to me. Let’s get it, we were both in a pretty sweet mood, but it still stuck in my mind like he really was meant to be the bearer of some kind of message.”

The excesses continued until the end of the tour, in July. During one of the last shows, in Indianapolis, Gahan decided to throw himself into the crowd, rockstar style, but he miscalculated and fell squarely into a barrier in the front row. “My body had landed on the dividing barriers and I broke two ribs, but I was so drunk I didn’t hear a thing for twenty-four hours. The next day the pain was unbearable. remember. The tour’s 180 shows had taken their toll; Upon his return home, Gahan had dramatically lost weight, down to 50 kilos, and his addiction was at its worst. “I was completely gone. Completely… when the concerts ended and all the people disappeared, I was left alone with the drugs”.

For his part, Wilder decided that he had had enough and after the extensive and chaotic tour he left the band. Thus began the most difficult era, in which the now trio did not get back together until 1996, and without the certainty of knowing if they would continue together after months of excesses and accumulated tensions. The healing album was Ultra (1997), which they barely presented with two shows in London. The highway was no longer a fun place.