Life Style

Depeche Mode and the day that changed my life

The 16th of October 1984 is a date that literally changed my life… forever!

I stood in a queue outside the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow waiting to attend my first gig. Stood with two school friends, all underage for this over 18’s gig. Holding onto the tickets as though my life depended on it; hoping for all it was worth that the security would let us into the venue.

Depeche Mode were riding the crest of a wave and tonight they were playing Glasgow; my home town. I had heard their records and I had seen them on TV but tonight they were here to play just for me and my friends… little did I know they would become a huge part of my life; a life that would take me all around the world to see them play live; a life that would see me amass every conceivable item relating to the band.

It goes without saying that I loved the first gig because more than 70 gigs later I’m still a huge fan or Devotee as their amazing but sometimes mental fans are known. In the early days of my obsession I would skip school and travel to smallish venues around the UK; travel by bus or train to anywhere I could afford to go. I was fortunate to see some cracking support bands along the way and spend time with a few in often small backstage areas. 

One of these support bands went on to become very influential in their own right and I have been lucky and grateful to see them on numerous occasion supporting Depeche Mode and in their own right as a headline band. 

That band is known as Nitzer Ebb and last year they visited Glasgow to play a show at St Luke’s in what was my gig of the year. Nitzer Ebb are classed as an EBM band (Electronic Body Music) and are generally recognised as one of the most influential in the genre. EBM is, for the most part, electronically driven hard-edged music. It’s almost impossible to stand still when EBM hits as it is usually driven by hard-hitting surging beats.

The reason I make a connection with Depeche Mode is due to one particular night in Los Angeles. In August 2009 I had made my usual pilgrimage to the United States for the Depeche tour. LA was pivotal in the huge success of Depeche Mode and gigs in the city are almost Mecca like for the fans. On the second night at the Hollywood Bowl I was fortunate enough to be invited backstage along with some friends.

As is usual at such big backstage areas involving big acts access to the headliners is pretty tightly controlled but we managed to exchange pleasantries with the band members and, of course, indulged in the food and drink on offer! I should say, the pleasantries involved Martin Gore of Depeche Mode ripping us as the Scotland football team had just been hammered 4-0 by Norway!!

Now, unknown to me, the singer of Nitzer Ebb was standing behind me with his wife (Nitzer Ebb weren’t the support act so I had no thoughts that he may be there). Once this was pointed out to me I asked for a quick photo with him and he kindly obliged but on hearing my accent he quickly decided that I deserved a decent photo. 

I will let the photo speak for itself but safe to say that not many folk will have such a photo with a musical hero!!

I am the one wearing an Analog Angel t-shirt

The saying “Never Meet Your Heroes” couldn’t be further from the truth on this occasion as he spent the rest of the evening with us until the staff had to throw us out as we were the last people in the venue!! 

Mr Douglas McCarthy certainly put the old never meet your hero adage in the garbage that night as he couldn’t have been nicer to us. As we were leaving he invited us all back to his house in LA to continue the party however as we are all sensible Scotsmen we declined — or was it because we had to drive to Santa Barbara the next morning for the next leg of the Depeche Mode tour?

As an aside, I was also introduced to the owner of Depeche Mode’s merchandise company that evening and, noting his Scottish accent, I obviously enquired into his roots. Turns out he stayed in the next street from me as we grew up!! Same age but different schools; its a small World indeed.

In the years since that night, I have bumped into Douglas McCarthy a couple of times and he has always had time for a chat and has a particular affection for Scotland due to family roots.

The other mainstay of Nitzer Ebb is Mr Bon Harris. Bon is the instrumental backbone for the band and continues to work on the production of his own music as well as collaborations with various other musicians; he has also moved from his Essex home to the warmer, arty climate of LA.

My only ‘Meeting’ with Bon was when, out of the blue, he sent me a friend request and follow request on social media and being a tech and synth kinda guy I like to keep tabs on what he is up to so I agreed to be cyber friends!

The fact that I ventured into electronic music is mostly down to my love of these two bands and has given me many great memories of playing live alongside some of my other musical influences such as Heaven 17 and REPUBLICA. I have made many great friends throughout the World through the music of Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb and, I hope, through some of the music of my band.

As I said above, Nitzer Ebb played Glasgow last year and I was lucky enough to be granted a photo pass through the joint effort of one of Glasgow’s top promoters (at COG Promotions)  and the band’s people.

It was such an honour to see them at such close quarters and be to able to shoot them to make the night even more memorable. They were on top form and were easily the best I had seen last year.

If you are in any way into electronic music with an edge you should definitely check them out and another good thing about them is you get to see them in intimate places like St Lukes and not in the huge stadiums and arenas you need to endure to see Depeche Mode!

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John Brown - Contributing Editor

On my travels with trusty Nikons and iPhone. Live music to Landscapes and everything in between. Lover of electronic music but willing to taste the rest. Spread the PCN Magazine love with your friends!
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