Music History

A quarter-century has passed since Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan (briefly) died

Back in the early 90s, Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan was totally out of control. Heroin, mostly, but he’d apparently try just about anything. It got so bad that Primal Scream, who opened much of the 93-94 Devotional Tour, was scared straight by Dave and the rest of DM’s debauchery.

The tour had both its own drug counselor and drug dealer. There were run-ins with the cops. Martin Gore ended up suffering from seizures brought on by drugs, alcohol, and incessant partying. Andy Fletcher had to be checked into an institution. Alan Wilder quit the band forever. And Dave? He was in the worst shape of all of them.

Dave managed to overdose a couple of times during the tour, including one occasion where a bump between the main set and the encore knocked him cold. When the tour ended, he couldn’t stop with the drugs. He became paranoid, watching the weather channel for hours on end. He began to have conversations with his collection of stuffed animals (they apparently spoke back, too). He’d take a gun with him even for a trip out to the mailbox. There was a suicide attempt.

Things came to a head on May 28, 1996, when Dave, strung out and depressed, checked into the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles. He took a speedball–a mix of heroin and coke–and he was out. VERY out.

An unknown person called 911. Paramedics were able to revive him not one, not two, but three times. When he finally regained consciousness, he ask the EMTs if he’d ODed again. “No,” the guy said. “You were clinically dead for two minutes.”

From Ultimate Classic Rock: “The singer has been candid about his death ever since. ‘When I died, there was only darkness,’ he told The Guardian in 2007. ‘In the two minutes my heart stopped, this humungous voice inside of me went: ‘This is wrong.’ Like I don’t get to choose when this is over. It scared the shit out of me.'”

From “In 2013, Gahan discussed the infamous Los Angeles incident with Bild (via NME), and he made it extremely clear that he doesn’t particularly recommend the experience. ‘The first thing I realized in the hospital was that I exited my body,’ is how the singer described the situation. ‘I was floating underneath the ceiling and could observe exactly what was happening underneath me: Paramedics were running around my body and tried to save me.’ But wait, it gets creepier:  ‘I believe it was my soul screaming which had already left my body and became a witness of what happened to my body. At that point I was clinically dead, my heart wasn’t beating. These seconds seemed like hours to me. And suddenly, there was a complete, frightening darkness around me.'”

The next thing that happened? Dave was arrested on drug charges.

He ended up on a one-year rehab trip. It was either that or spend two years in jail for drug possession. The good news? He’s been clean and sober ever since.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “A quarter-century has passed since Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan (briefly) died

  • Remarkable story about a remarkable man and artist. Thanks for covering it! I love how he later poked fun at his personal demons on his first solo album, Paper Monsters (which turns 18 today, by the way!) . Interviewers love to bring up this particular event time and time again and he always responds in a classy way- willingly open about it but not overly preachy. Hard to believe this happened that long ago.


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