Exhibiting the pallid complexion of Alaskan Vampires, wardrobes clad with more leather than the Hell’s Angels remake of the Matrix, and the sort of haircuts that could remain unscathed in a wind-tunnel carwash—it is no wonder that when Depeche Mode first arrived on the scene, folks in the British pubs that they first played were utterly flummoxed. A band like that needed to be big, and they were big, huge in fact.
However, it perhaps equally doesn’t come as that much of a surprise that they had to leave behind the baffled faces in British boozers to achieve this. Their star soared overseas, particularly in mainland European countries like Germany, and eventually, they ended up selling over 100 million records worldwide. For context, that’s 25 million more than Oasis, The Police and Robbie Williams and it’s 50 million more than Black Sabbath and T. Rex. With that sort of stardom and their unapologetic iconoclasm, it is also no surprise that some heady times lay ahead of them. However, there were more than a few oddities spawned along the way.
They were wild, young and formidably different, and it would seem that many thought they were fated for a blaze of glory. “We were a boy band, basically,” keyboard player Andy Fletch told The National. “We were kids. When we first started our accountant did a tax plan for us to last three years,” that is as long as he thought would be needed. But somehow, despite a slew of trials and tribulations, they’ve “outlasted that by ten times now,” as Fletch happily concludes.
However, the happiness within his conclusion is certainly not without a touch of self-confessed amazement. In fact, it is even rumoured that the excesses of the band scared Primal Scream into sobriety seeing the extremity of debauchery that lay ahead should they have matched them stride for stride while supporting them in the States.
And this excessive heathenry would manifest in the strangest of ways when it came to the group’s frontman Dave Gahan. All the leather, Alaskan milk skin and macabre overtones to their music led many at the time to dub them some sort of sonic vampires. When you haven’t slept for days in a cocaine stupor, suddenly the joke that you read about yourself in the paper seems highly plausible. Just as 20 years earlier, David Bowie had believed his swimming pool was possessed by the devil and began storing his own urine so that Jimmy Page couldn’t put a curse on him, Gahan began to believe that he might actually be a vampire.
In fact, he believed this so much that the journalist Andrew Perry claims that Gahan tried to curse him by chowing down on his neck. While Gahan can’t remember the incident, he is quick to add that it is highly possible, owing to the fact that at the time he essentially identified as some sort of underworld spawn.
“I definitely could have been a vampire, in my own head,” he told Uncut in 2001. “Even the bed I slept in in Los Angeles was in the shape of a coffin—a huge double bed shaped like a coffin! My whole life was Spinal Tap at the time.” As it happens, fellow excess fiend, Ozzy Osbourne, never once laughed at Spinal Tap because he genuinely thought it was a documentary.
This ghoulish bed didn’t just remain in LA either! The shocking rocker actually had it shipped to South America apparently as a sort of pre-gig meditative space to get into the right frame of mind and induce awe like a new wave lucifer. It also came with the added bonus of terrifying the backstage crew, which shows that the band may have lost their way, but they never lost their sense of absurdity.