Ever since Rolling Stone US published an article exploring Depeche Mode's influence on heavy metal earlier this year, people have been asking the group's frontman, Dave Gahan, how he feels about groups like Marilyn Manson and Metallica. "Once it's written, it must be true," he says with a laugh. "It's flattering that some of these bands call us an inspiration."
The singer, dressed in head-to-toe black, including a very metal-looking leather jacket, recently sat down with Rolling Stone for a soon-to-be-published article about his new collaboration with moody, gospel-inspired soundscape artists Soulsavers, but he also discussed his feelings about heavier music.
As it turns out, the singer is a fan of groups like Tool and Rage Against the Machine. "I've always liked Tool," he says. "Even when I was living in Los Angeles, when they were just coming up. In fact, the guitar player [Adam Jones] used to come over to my house a lot. His girlfriend was a roommate of this girl that was living with us, so he used to hang out with us when they were just coming up. I got to see them in a lot of little clubs, but you knew immediately they had something really special."
As for Rage, which he calls a great band, he says he was always impressed with Tom Morello. "It's just great innovative guitar playing, using the guitar in an unconventional way," Gahan says. "It's in the same way that years and years ago, people like Jimmy Page were playing the blues, but much louder." He laughs. "I have a great respect for heavy rock stuff."
Gahan is able to hear a musical correlation between some metal bands and Depeche Mode. "Metallica are a heavy-sounding band, but they write pop songs," he says. "They've got their dark moments, just like Depeche Mode have, but deep in there is a tune with a catchy chorus or a pop arrangement. Certainly bands like Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, though I wouldn't necessarily call those metal bands, but Metallica really do their own thing and always have."
The article, which featured interviews with Manson, Deftones, Rammstein, Ghost, H.I.M. and Converge, found artists expressing admiration for Depeche Mode's introspective lyrics and moody atmospheres. "I think it's just music that you put on because it's got sex appeal to it," Manson said. "That's what inspired me about it. That and it has a hypnotic feel."
Beyond the music, though, Gahan sees a connection between his band and the way metal bands tour. Depeche Mode were early trailblazers in journeying to places like East Berlin, Poland and Czechoslovakia, "where nobody was going," because they knew they had fans there and could slowly build a following. He's impressed with metal bands who tour the world doggedly.
He also feels a kinship with a band like Metallica, since both bands have endured internal tests. Gahan ran into that group's frontman, James Hetfield, in an Indian restaurant in London when the metal group was on their Big Four tour, and they had what Gahan called a "nice chat." "They've been through a lot," the Depeche Mode singer says. "Through it all, you stay together, because at the end of the day, it's the music."