The band consist of vocalist Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher, and have been a trio since 1995. That being said, session musicians often feature at live performances.
Depeche Mode have sold over 100 million records around the world. Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993) and Ultra (1997) earned them UK number one albums, with SoFaD also taking the US number one spot. Their latest album Sounds of the Universe (2009) reached no.2 in the UK, showing they're still hugely popular today. The band have not had any number one singles in the UK or US, but are still regarded as one the biggest and most influencial bands to come from the UK for a considerable time. Songs such as Enjoy the Silence, Personal Jesus and Just Can't Get Enough are just three of their biggest hits.
Due to the length of their career it is understandable that Depeche Mode's musical style has changed. They were originally part of the New Romantic movement in the UK, with their debut album Speak & Spell often classed as "synthpop". Notably this was the only album featuring Vince Clarke as chief songwriter, which would explain the dramatic change in sound. Their later releases are much more industrial sounding than previous tamer efforts. There is much dispute about Depeche Mode's genre even between their own fans, as seen here. Gahan's lyrics signify a gothic side to the band, and it is undeniable they are a much darker band than they used to be.
For a great link to all of Depeche Mode's music videos click here.
They have so far had 57 music videos, and wikipedia has a good entry listing them all here.
Just Can't Get Enough [Speak and Spell]
- Depeche Mode's first music video and the only one featuring Vince Clark. It was directed by Clive Richardson.
- Lots of close ups of the keyboard signifying the bands focus on electronic music and synthesisers. It also helps establish them as a synth pop band. The fact that the camera focuses on the synth for such a length of time also connotes that riff is a large part of the song, and iconic of the song.
- Our first shot of the band at all is of the singer at 0.24 when the vocals come in.
- The band are all dressed in leathers and in truth the video has a very "camp" feel - like a lot of 80s pop videos. Not lease by singer Dave Gahan's dancing... They are signified as a rebellious but fashionable pop group eg. wearing aviator sunglasses. Woman dance around them.
- The set up is best shown in a long shot at 1.18 revealing the band consists of 3 synth players and the singer - notice at this point the band do not play instruments such as drums or guitar. The singer is also the focal point in this shot and the whole video. They are in one room throughout the video, and it simply has a grey background with a shadow of a fence. Little colour is seen.
- Interestingly Dave Gahan (singer) avoids looking in to the camera (something we normally expect from pop group videos). In some ways the band are signified as being quite shy throughout especially in the none performance footage.
- A succession of two shots with the band looking through notes happens at around the 1.30 mark. Strangely these shots seem almost out of place but show the band in a different light - just normal people. Likewise is the outdoor long shot of the trumpeteers at 1.45. A similar shot takes place at 2.58 with the band in the foreground.
- At this point the band are signified as leaning towards a young female audience.
Stripped [Black Celebration]
- Last video to be directed by Peter Care. Depeche Mode by now were starting to gain a much darker sound than previously, and the video follows this change. They were now classed as "darkwave".
- The video uses very dark lighting, and more gothic aspects such as smoke are included to match Gahan's ever more gothic lyrics.
- Lots of shots use overlay transitions which works well with the smoky appearance given to the video.
- Like with JCGE our first shot of a band member is of the singer when the vocals come in, at 0.21. We pan down to see Gahan again wearing black leathers, but here is much more gothic in appearance with black gloves, pale skin, no sunglasses.
- Blue filters have been used to further signify that almost horror style of film. This is further connoted with shots of band members holding flowers as if it were a funeral almost.
- The band are shown destroying a car with sledgehammers. No performance is shown apart from them lip syncing to the lyrics. This further signifies them as being rebellious but now with much darker tones.
- Interesting projections are used such as at 1.21 and 2.36. These very often are distorted almost as if signifying the distortion in the band's new sound.
- Lots of shots feature some sort of destuction or distortion. This video in many ways acts as a transition towards their new sound, so old aspects are featured such as Gahan's dancing, but they are clearly trying to move away from their past. In contrast to their earlier shy portrayal, they name seem miserable but confident.
- This video appeals to an older, more male audience. They have tried to include old aspects to keep old fans but a lot of the video seems to signify destroying their former image. The video is perhaps what you would expect from a rock band if there were more performance aspects.
The Anton Corbijn Years
A Question of Time [Black Celebration]
- Their first video to be directed by Anton Corbijn. Many more followed...
- The video is performance/concept based, and though being his first with the band many of the techniques seen even here would be carried through all their videos.
- Opening shot is of a crowd before we cut to a close up shot of a man's face. The fact that this video features performance aspects, is a continuation from the change to more of a rock band style that I discussed about their video for stripped. If it shows they peform well live, they can tap into that audience too.
- Corbijn's trademark black and white with high contrast is seen here. This creates much darker shadows to match the dark vibe of the song.
- The narrative/concept side to the video is left ambigious so the audience can interpret it for themselves. This suggests an older, more sophisticated audience. The concept of the video is very often strange when directed by Corbijn, and this is no different.
- A technique seen here by Corbijn is to blend the concept side of the video with the band side, such as at 2.56 where Gahan and the band are seen holding the baby.
- This strange sequence with the baby acting as clock hands at 3.18 again shows Corbijn's abstract nature. It also though relates to the lyrics ("Time"). In this sequence, we also see the band posing as they lip sync. This is something we wee in other Depeche Mode/ Corbijn videos.
- The use of shadow is important as when mixed with black and white, creates some very varied tones, making it visually interesting.
- Also important is the way he combines very long takes with very quick cuts, to keep it entertaining. He also at some points cuts to the beat.
- This video shows Depeche Mode's continued efforts to disassociate themselves with their past.
Personal Jesus [Violater]
- This was Corbijn's first colour music video for Depeche Mode. Even then most of the scenes are in sepia, and colour does not feature prominently.
- It also the first Depeche Mode song to centralise on a guitar riff. This could be the reason that guitars are featured at many times in the video such as at 2.34.
- Saul Austerlitz desrcribes in Money For Nothing: "Corbijn favored stark, resonant imagery for his Depeche Mode work, often invoking deserts, empty rooms, Western flavored setups, and other markers of classical muscluar individualism... Corbijn turns the Wild West into a sexual wonderland."
- Unlike many earlier Depeche Mode videos, this one does focus a lot on the woman that feature. They are now a much darker, adult orientated band focusing on sexual obsession rather than the innocence of Just Can't Get Enough and See You.
- This video has a very dirty, grainy look to it which links to early Western films.
- Lots of use of shadow again. This is most clearly seen at 0.58 with a shot of the four band members silhoutted in an arch way.
- Lots of looking into the camera both from the men and women. This could signify the video is aimed at both men and women. There are lots of suggestive shots such as just the bottom half of a woman at 1.21 and also Martin Gore's suggestive mouth movement (which MTV cut out) at 2.17.
- Interesting jump cuts of same movement at 3.16. This is not cut in time to the beat here which is something we might expect. There are a few sequences similar to this throughout the video.
- Each shots has an artistic quality to it. Lots of use of symmetry and creative framing, and you can see how being a photographer has influenced his work. Shots such as those at 3.20 and 0.56 act almost as portraits.
- Whereas the start reflects a classic Western, once the band are inside the brothel you see the much darker side coming through. It still has Corbijn's strange quality as an auteur throughout, and the vibrant green of the car at 0.19 signifies the bizarreness that Depeche Mode and Corbijn bring to the Wild West.
- This signifies the way in which Depeche Mode have used the classic acoustic guitar in a much more modern, dance orientated way, and there desire to break boundaries.
- The video was also parodied in The Killers video for "All These Things That I've Done" which was also directed by Corbijn.
Enjoy The Silence [Violater]
-Was the next single after Personal Jesus, so there are similarities in the music videos style. Was released in 1990 and is now the band's signature song.
- Wikipedia says the band originally rejected the video idea until Corbijn explained how the King represents ""a man with everything in the world, just looking for a quiet place to sit"; a king of no kingdom."
- The video is based on the bizzarre story and themes of the children's book The Little Prince.
-From 0.00 to 0.17 we have black and white shots of the band posing until one by one they all disappear leaving just singer Gahan. They are all looking into the camera. Like in most of their videos, they all wear black leather jackets. Quickly intercutting this section is an image of a rose (which links to the album artwork for Violater and single cover).
- Lots of long shots which show the protagonist's isolation. Other than the posing band shots, the singer is alone throughout the whole video. A prime example of the is at 1.08 where a large frame, with the singer small at the bottom of the screen.
- Again aspects of lip synching are used such as at 1.00. Corbijn blurs the gap between concept and performance often in his videos.
-Like Personal Jesus, this video makes use of colour. On that topic Austerlitz says in Money For Nothing: "Corbijn favors the texture and grain of black and white stock footage for most of his videos, and when shooting in colour, often depends on an over processed, supersaturated stock that makes individual colors (like the red of Gahan's kingly robes in "Enjoy The Silence" ) pop off the screen."
- More linking the of concept part to the band section is used with the shot of Gahan posing as the king at 2.10. Again this video is all about Gahan, anchoring him as the focal point of the band.
- Use of black, contrast and shadows is again vital to the video with many silhouettes used but also in the posing sequences they give it that photographic appearance.
- Makes use of natural lighting for creative purposes. The sunset for example is used to great effect.
Importantly they shot on location rather than simply in a studio.
- Filmed in the Alps, Portugal and Scotland we can suggest that this video had a fairly large budget. This was around the band's peak of success.
- Again Corbijn and this time Coldplay pay homage to the video in their video for "Viva La Vida".
- An alternate video for the song was shot by French TV with Depeche Mode performing on top of the WTC in 1990.
- Austerlitz continues to say in Money For Nothing how "his Depeche Mode videos often empahasise the archaic (kings, cowboys, shacks, lanterns, even old cars) out of a desire to frame the band's timeless qualities and the cinematic scope of their songs' landscapes."
Suffer Well [Playing the Angel]
- Depeche Mode's first music video since Useless to be directed by Corbijn again, after a 9 year gap. It turned out to be his last (to date anyway)..
- A concept music video focusing on Dave Gahan's drug problems. Gahan and his wife (who appears in the video) seem to be reflecting on the life he would have had if he had continued using drugs.
- The video is one of the few exceptions to Corbijn's black and white schemes. The video instead uses pale blues until the disco scene which features a vibrant red (link to Enjoy the Silence?). This scene also links to the album art for Playing the Angel. As does the angel at 0.57.
- There a few instances of lip-synching such as at 2.51 when backing singer Martin Gore sings along whilst dressed as a bride. Andrew Fletcher is also in this scene but for the most part this video just focuses on singer, Gahan. This shows how he has now become the focal point of the band, in the same way a singer is in a rock band.
- There are a lots of still, steady camera shots mixed in with panning shots with movement. Very often the still shots are long shots, whilst Corbijn opts for a moving frame in close ups/ mid shots. Similarly the speed of editing varies throughout.
- The video is a continuation of Corbijn's strange concepts. Like many of his works with Depeche Mode, he has the band dressing up and acting out parts.
- We can suggest the video had a fairly large budget as it is clear a set has been built for filming. Depeche Mode at this point are a huge band worldwide.
Below is a short interview with Corbijn discussing his work with Depeche Mode. Press the CC button in the bottom right of the video for subtitles unless you can speak Dutch.
I also found a lengthy interview with Depeche Mode here in which they discuss their music videos and working with Corbijn. They discuss their general disappointment when working other directors in compared their partnership with Corbijn. I have picked out some of the key parts below...
- "Øyvind Holen (interviewer): I’m finished with the B.AC. era now. So why did you start cooperating with Anton Corbijn?
Martin Gore: We had been trying to work with Anton for quite a while, but he wasn’t interested in working with us, because he felt we were too much of a pop band, and he didn’t really like what we were doing. It was probably the third attempt when we sent him the single “A Question of Time”, and asked him if he was interested in doing a video for it. And finally he actually liked something we were doing. There was also some coincidences going on as well, because Anton’s been really important for the visual output of the band. But we also did change drastically musically around 1986 anyway, and that’s why he decided to change and work with us."
"Øyvind Holen: Do you feel he helped you with making the transition from 80’s to 90’s in a way?Andrew Flecher: A combination of Anton’s input into the artistic side, combined with the way the music was progressing. Before Anton, we made the decision to start wearing black."
- " Today, if Anton did a video and wanted us to go on spacehoppers we’d do it, because we would know he would make it look cool."
Post Corbijn Videos
Wrong [Sounds of the Universe]
- Directed by Patrick Daughters in 2008, in the previous interview Depeche Mode discussed how they were happy with the outcome of the video. It was their 46th single.
- Nominee for "Best Short Form Music Video" at the 2009 Grammy's. Time magazine said it was the second best video of the year.
- It's a concept music video focusing on a man trapped in a car going backwards. It links to the themes of the lyrics but not directly.
- The video is shot in colour which could signify the director's attempts to seperate his work from that of Corbijn. The lighting is that typical inner city lighting with vibrant blues and yellows.
- The opening shot is an abstract shot possibly of the top of the car window. This instantly suggests the polysemy of the video. Music videos are often polysemic as they are intended for multiple viewings.
- The second shot is a long shot of the car probably edited in reverse. A lot of the video will have been filmed in reverse to make it play back normally, if you watch the video you will understand what I mean.
- Because of the dark lighting we believe at first that there is no driver of this car. At 0.50 it becomes apparent he has been tied up and is currently unconscious. The reason for him being trapped is left as narrative enigma.
- No performance aspects are included in the video although the band do make a cameo appearance at 1.38 as people walking down the road.This in itself a big departure from previous especially the earliest ones which we nearly all performance centralised on the band. As they are now older could it be that the music is more important the band? This video in itself is a short film rather than simply a music video.
- Two main shots reoccur. One is a POV shot looking out the windscreen from the "driver"'s perspective. The other is the shot of camera going backwards. This shot has a very surreal feel to it, and in truth reminds me of the effect that a snorricam creates.
- The mask makes our protagonist unknown until the very end of the video where he breaks free (just in time to get hit by another truck!). This scene could signify that video had a large budget behind it. The mask not only distorts our view of the driver, it makes his identity irrelevant, as well as supporting the video's bizarre vibe.
- The artistic styling of the video continues where Corbijn left off. The video is strange both plotwise and visually, which fits with the themes of the actual band these days. Importantly this video is very clever and sophisticated, showing that even though Corbijn doesn't direct their videos any more, his influence is seen through the successful ones that have followed his departure.