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Depeche Mode's Martin Gore monkeys around on new solo EP: Q&A
By Gary Graff
email@example.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte
Posted: Friday, January 29, 2021
See more SOUND CHECK
It's understandable to think of Martin Gore strictly in terms of Depeche Mode.
The British-born multi-instrumentalist did start that that band, during 1980 in London, and has been its primary songwriter throughout its career -- which includes a virtual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction during November. But Depeche Mode hasn't contained all of Gore's ambitions, and he's indulged in a side project with Mode co-founder Vince Clarke (VCMG) as well as releasing a pair of solo albums and a trio of EPs.
The latest of the latter, "The Third Chimpanzee," comes out Jan. 29. The five-track set, which Gore, 59, recorded in Los Angeles, where he resides, find him at his mad scientist best, creating and manipulating sounds with determinedly primate power. He even got a capuchin monkey from Canada to create the cover art.
With that in mind, then, it would be fair to say that even in quarantine Gore isn't just monkeying around and looking at his Rock Hall trophy...
So the last we saw you was during the Rock Hall induction ceremony. Congratulations -- and how did it feel to be inducted?
Gore: I think it's very ironic that we managed to get inducted during a year when there's a pandemic. But of course it's a great honor. I've been saying for years that I discovered music through the original rock 'n' roll, through my mother's record collection, and I used to play it to death. So to actually get inducted with all of those people I used to listen to, those heroes, it's incredible.
It gives you a bit of pause, too, to think about all these years of Depeche Mode.
Gore: Yeah, of course. And also it happened during our 40th anniversary; We started in 1980, so you realize you've been doing it a long time. You also realize you're getting a bit older. (laughs)
You have "The Third Chimpanzee" EP coming out. Have you been creative in quarantine?
Gore: Yeah. I love going to the studio, and it's something that keeps me sane. I feel guiltily fortunate that I can isolate and still get to work, 'cause I know that so many people can't. It's something that does keep me sane; Even on days I go over and don't feel particularly creative, it's just a relief to in there and even try and do something. I don't go on weekends; I only go over for five or six hours in the afternoons, Mondays through Fridays. But that's enough to keep me, like I said, sane and productive.
So how did "The Third Chimpanzee" come about?
Gore: The first track that I recorded for this was "Howler," and I did that before COVID hit. I recorded some vocals on it and manipulated them and resynthesized them and they came back sounding not like me and not very human at all. I thought they sounded more like monkeys. I go down to Costa Rica quite a bit, and there are a lot of Howler monkeys down there. You can hear them for miles, and this reminded me of that, so I called the first track "Howler." And then as America went into lockdown, I decided maybe I should do a few more instrumental tracks.
And you stayed with the simian theme.
Gore: That's right. I came up with this theme of resynthesized vocals on each track and renaming each track after a different monkey. I thought it would be quite fun. I just wanted to blur the lines, really, between humans and monkeys -- which seemed quite fitting for the times. Sometimes we think that we're so much more evolved than monkeys and, y'know, I really don't think that we are. We're a danger to the planet. Just put the monkeys in control and I think the planet would stand a much better chance. Without saying that explicitly, that's what was going on in my head.
You also gave a monkey control of the album art.
Gore: That was another way to blur the lines between the species. I was struggling to come up with a concept for the art. I was just lying in bed one night thinking about it, and I remembered there are actually monkeys who paint. So I started a Googling frenzy and eventually found Pockets Warhol and the (Story Book Farm Primate) Sanctuary in Canada and wrote and asked them if they would be interested in getting Pockets to do the artwork for me. And they were really into it so I was really pleased.
Has the EP been played for Pockets and the other monkeys at all?
Gore: (laughs) No. It was obviously earlier in the process, so I wasn't really giving out the music to anyone at that point. Maybe when it comes out someone will play it for them.
What was the musical intent as you constructed these tracks?
Gore: For me these weren't so much about melody, as things usually are. I really wanted capture more of a kind of primal power, especially with "Howler" and "Mandrill," even with "Vervet." They're more about a power, really, than actual melodies.
What are you working on now?
Gore: I've been writing some songs with a friend. We don't really know what the plan is for them, really. We're just writing for the sake of it 'cause it's fun, and we havenít' discussed even when or how it's going to come out yet. Apart from that, I really think it's a question of waiting to see what happens with the world, to see when the world starts spinning again and then kind of make plans. Right now everything's so up in the air. With the vaccine everything is promising, so let's hope it all goes well.
What's ahead for Depeche Mode?
Gore: Well, everything's too up in the air now to really say. I suppose at some point we could think about at least talking about what we're going to do. I think maybe that's the next thing. But it seems kind of almost irrelevant to be doing that right now, when everything's so unknown. We might as well wait 'til there's a better idea of what's going to be happening.
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