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Music

The shocking story of Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode's resurrection

Electronic pioneers and Basildon natives Depeche Mode are one of the most influential outfits of all time. Their work has had a great effect on a giant range of genres ranging from pop to industrial, showing just how dextrous their sound is. Whether it be, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Personal Jesus’ or ‘Enjoy the Silence’, there are many stellar moments within their expansive back catalogue with a timeless essence and a universal appeal.

Whilst we could spend all day discussing the brilliant music of Depeche Mode, there is another significant part of their incredible career, the excess. They were one of the hardest partying bands of the 1980s and ’90s, and unsurprisingly, the group diced with death regularly. Although each of the band members pushed their bodies to the limits at different points in time, frontman Dave Gahan was undoubtedly the one who took it too far.

A recovering heroin addict and prominent speaker on recovery, Gahan’s story has many lessons to teach. Notably, he has had multiple brushes with death, which earned him the nickname ‘The Cat’ from paramedics living his nine lives to their most extreme in Los Angeles. In 1993 he survived both a drug-induced heart attack whilst performing and a suicide attempt, but this was just the beginning.

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However, the most infamous occasion came on May 28th, 1996. Gahan overdosed on a speedball, a mix of cocaine and heroin, at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles, which resulted in his heart stopping for a full two minutes until paramedics eventually managed to revive him. When he awoke, he asked one of the paramedics if he’d overdosed yet again, to which they responded frankly, “No, David, you died”, as he later told the Chicago TribuneThe paramedic clarified to him, “You flatlined for a couple of minutes. You were actually dead.”

This was to be a turning point in Gahan’s life. The gravity of his situation dawned most heavily after the incident, when a friend told him that it took three attempts to revive him. Up until that point, Gahan had been clean for a number of weeks, as he’d been in New York working with the band. However, when he returned to Los Angeles, he was pulled back in. “I went out and shot a speedball one time. The dealer left, and I went green. Luckily, there was someone to call 911”, he later recalled in the Los Angeles Times.  

Since that moment, Gahan has maintained that he had an out of body experience. He told Q in 2003: “All I saw and all I felt at first was complete darkness. I’ve never been in a space that was blacker, and I remember feeling that whatever it was I was doing, it was really wrong. Then the next thing I remember was seeing myself on the floor, on the steps outside my hotel bathroom, and there was a lot of activity going on around me… In some ways, it was very liberating. Then I came to and a cop was handcuffing me. It certainly wasn’t a place I’d like to visit again.”

After his brief death, Gahan was arrested and forced into drug tests and counselling, which set him on his path to sobriety, and he’s been clean ever since. 

This frightening experience influenced the band’s return to form, 1997’s Ultra, and in a weird way, breathing new life into them. They returned from the brink with a second wind that has carried them right up to the present. Against all odds, Dave Gahan and Depeche Mode would live to fight another day, and this time, they had a completely different outlook on the world.

Watch Dave Gahan discuss his death below.

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