Depeche Mode and the story behind one album by Kevin May

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Depeche Mode is the band that needs no introduction. Many stunning lines have been created throughout the long history of the band and even more were dedicated to them. The correspondent of dived into “folk art” and talked to Kevin May - British journalist and author of “Halo” book, which is the biography of DM according to Kevin “during what most consider to be the most creative and important period in their history.”

MH: First of all – how did you come up with the idea of writing a biography of DM?
KM: Purely by accident. I was travelling home from London, rather late one night, when World In My Eyes came up on “Shuffle” on my iPod. I hadn’t had the chance to listen to Violator for what felt like a long time, so I thought I’d make the most of the train ride and listen to the rest of the album. It’s always been my favourite Depeche album, but as I listened, I realized I didn’t know much about it, as a piece of work, a piece of history for the band. By the time I got home, I decided I would spend some time over the next few evenings doing some research, just to satisfy my curiosity. I noticed, apart from a few articles and the DVD documentary from the mid-2000s, there is very little information about Violator in the public domain. For better or worse, I decided to do something about that…

MH: Is it going to have the status of the official one? How did the band meet your idea?
KM: The band does not authorize or collaborate with biographies. I spoke to their management team and publicists in the early phases and made them aware of what I was doing.
Depeche do not work directly with the authors of biographies – something I knew from the outset. Rather than be put off, I identified a long list of others (some are obvious, many are relative unknowns) who I hoped would allow me to piece the story together from multiple angles, rather than just from Dave, Martin or Fletch’s point-of-view. As a result, I have also collected both on-the-record and private interviews from a wonderful cast of characters, ranging from studio engineers, producers and designers, to tour personnel and publicists.

MH: Why do you think you have the right to create a book such as Halo?
KM: I don't! I'm sure many fans feel they have a book about Depeche in them somewhere, with many wanting to share their love of their favourite band and their experiences of seeing them (the recent DM Facebook takeover project is a micro example of that [DM is handing over their official FB page to their fans for a day for the next year so that one could tell smth interesting about DM as the band. - Author's remark]). I'm also sure that someone could spend a lot of time finding contacts and sources, interviewing and researching, writing and editing another book about Depeche Mode. I wanted to take a different approach to the other books and focus specifically on one era in their history - something that hasn't been done before. I'm just lucky that I've had the support, help and enthusiasm from hundreds of fans - that's a good enough endorsement for any "right" required to produce Halo.

MH: True, for 37 years the band has been around and one could write a series of books... Which milestones of the biography of DM did you set up to focus on?
KM: In the book, my story begins as the band come off-stage at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in 1988 and ends about three years later, in the year following the World Violation Tour.

MH: What was your "compass" that guided you through the ocean of the information you had to process?
KM: A steely determination to make sure I captured as much information as I could from as many sources as possible.

MH: I guess each band has at least one fan, which is like walking encyclopedia knowing practically each step of one's idols and is touring with them like another ghost member of the band. Can you name yourself such a guy?
KM: Despite being about to recall a specific period in Depeche Mode’s life more easily than many parts of my own (there’s probably something not very balanced psychologically about that!), I have met many people who know a lot more than I do about Depeche Mode in general. I have been blessed throughout this project with countless people who have shared stories, bits of information, articles, TV clips and much more. Depeche fans will literally talk for hours about their favourite band. In particular, a number of forum admins (such as the wonderful people behind the Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos page on Facebook or the guys at HOME), have been extremely supportive and helpful.

MH: You characterize your book as the one that "celebrates a quarter of a century after the release of the band's landmark album, Violator". Why this particular album?
KM: Violator is not just a collection of incredible songs and timeless production – it’s the embodiment of a period in Depeche’s history when they pushed the boundaries of what they wanted to do, how they were received, and sealed their legacy as one of the most important and influential bands of their generation (and beyond).

MH: There's always a story behind an idea. How much of your own story is included into the book? Or on the contrary you tried to stay impartial?
KM: I can imagine it is easy to slip into making the narrative in the book a fan-led one. But I’ve been a journalist for over two decades and therefore my natural approach is to be analytical and objective. My primary research is from dozens of hours of interviews with key people involved during the Violator era. The opinions in the book come from them and the fans that I got involved by way of some wonderfully written testimonials.

MH: You've been working on the Halo book for about 3 years now. What was the most challenging and time consuming part in this process for you?
KM: Finding the time has been my biggest issue – something I admit now that I didn’t really factor in to the extent that I should have at the beginning. I am a working journalist covering the travel industry, often overseas at conferences and things like that; I also have two young children and a house to maintain. Unfortunately, an untimely variety of professional issues and health concerns over the last 18 months had severely affected my ability to get the book out. Annoying and extremely frustrating - but mostly elements beyond my control.

MH: Were there any remarkable discoveries made by you so that you could say you'll show the unknown side of DM?
KM: Many. Mostly little bits of detail around the recording of the record (especially the mixing), as well as the work that Anton and his team did with the videos and also by those involved in the artwork.

MH: Your favourite song from Violator?
KM: Halo ;)

MH: If you had to make a playlist of 10 songs maximum for the one who never heard of DM (hard to imagine, but still...), which songs you would include?
KM: Get The Balance Right, Halo, In Your Room, Black Celebration, Behind The Wheel, Freelove, Going Backwards, Blasphemous Rumours, Judas, Never Let Me Down Again.

MH: What do you feel now when the book is almost there? How do you think people will meet it?
KM: Relieved and excited. It’s an interesting time to be involved in producing something Depeche-related, especially given the extremely positive reaction to the Spirit album and current tour. I hope existing fans will appreciate and enjoy the analysis and interviews that I have collected, plus I hope new devotees will see it as a guide to understanding why Violator is so revered and considered such a milestone in their history.

Follow the updates about the release of Halo book on its official website and the Facebook page. The book will be available in both print and e-book formats sooner than soon.

Interviewed: Gella Inspired

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