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Dave Gahan at 53: 'I'm Doing the Best Work I've Ever Done'

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On Monday, Oct. 19, at 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live stream Dave Gahan & Soulsavers’ concert from the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Tune in HERE to watch!

“It amazes me, actually, that I’ve gotten away with it for this long,” laughs iconic Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan, sitting with Yahoo Music, as he reflects on his 35 years in the music business and discusses his epic second gospel/space-rock album with U.K. production duo Soulsavers, Angels & Ghosts. “When I first began as a teenager, when I was like 18 or 19, I thought maybe at best by 25, it would all be done. And here we are today. I’m still making music – and making the kind of music that I want to make. That’s more important than anything else.”

Angels & Ghosts, the searing, psychedelic follow-up to 2012’s Gahan/Soulsavers collaboration The Light the Dead See, is a departure from Gahan’s work with his legendary synth group, but Gahan’s brooding, booming baritone is unmistakable. And there’s no doubt that the project will inspire Gahan when he reconvenes with Depeche Mode to begin work on their next album in 2016.

“When I work outside of my band… it really challenges me. That’s not to say that Depeche Mode doesn’t challenge me; it really does,” says Gahan. “But it’s different… I think when I work outside that relationship and then I come back, it really enhances what I do with Depeche Mode. It enables me to stretch as a musician and as an artist, out of my comfort zone, and to do things that I wouldn’t normally do.”

Religious imagery is common in Gahan’s overall body of work – think Depeche titles like “Personal Jesus,” Songs of Faith and Devotion, and Playing the Angel, as well as the band name Soulsavers itself – and Angels & Ghosts’ evangelical sound definitely continues this theme. It’s an interesting direction for man who survived heroin addiction, a suicide attempt, a several other near-brushes with death in the ‘90s, and who eventually experienced his own salvation and redemption.


Soulsavers’ Dave Gahan and Rich Machin

“That does come into it, that sort of imagery that’s around religion – and religions,” Gahan says of his musical inspirations. “To me, it’s more the sort of spiritual side of things, this feeling that there is something else. I sort of jump between the two things – that there isn’t and that there is. That there’s a force out there in the world that is calling out to us to do something about everything that we’re doing here on our planet, but we seem to ignore it. We seem to choose to ignore it, because, you know, we’re human. But I think it kind of creeps on the songs and into the music… when I’m writing songs, if I allow it, I think that force, whatever that is out there, which I try and sort of listen to, it comes through the music… It’s music that will make you feel something, and when that happens, it’s kind of magical.”

As for the Soulsavers’ album title, Gahan explains: “The angels and the informers, there’s stuff that’s around you all the time, and we get these sort of messages. We get informed of the way we should be leading our lives, but we choose to do something else… And ghosts are memories, and it’s all we really have. It’s the only thing we get to leave this place with. It’s the only thing that matters, really. Memories inform us. So that’s really what Angels & Ghosts means to me.”

After everything he’s been through, incredibly, at age 53 Gahan is still brimming with energy and enthusiasm for his art (and for other people’s art, whether it’s film, the paintings he encounters during his museum visits, or one of his current favorite bands, Algiers). He admits, “I don’t feel like my age, if that makes any sense. Physically, I do sometimes… But [I try to] keep youthful, if that’s the right word, in my mind, and in my dreams. And in my imagination. To me, that’s where I spend a lot of time – in this fantasy world.

"I feel I’m lucky to do this, I really do, after all these years. I feel very fortunate. I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I’m actually doing the best work I’ve ever done. I don’t know when that’s going to end – and it will come to an end at some point – but right now I feel like I’m on some kind of roll.”

(Video interview conducted by Lesley Zimmerman)