Back in the 80s and early 90s, many metal and rock kids were merciless in their disdain of Depeche Mode. The language they used to describe them–“fags,” “pansies,” “poofters”–was downright offensive. With their reliance on synths, sequencers and drum machines, this wasn’t real music, anyway. DM fans found themselves spending far too much time defending their favourite group.
But a weird thing happened on the way to the 21st century: Depeche Mode became a secret influence of many metal and rock bands. They’re now considered gods among a surprising number of extreme musicians. How the hell did that happen?
When Depeche Mode titled their 1990 album Violator, it was supposed to be taken ironically. The previous year had seen smarmy hair-mongers like Bon Jovi, Bad English and Poison scoring Number Ones with saccharine power balladry, and the leather-clad, synth-pop group had understandably “gotten enough.” So they exacted vengeance on their album sleeve. “We wanted to come up with the most extreme, ridiculously heavy-metal title that we could,” the band’s chief songwriter, Martin Gore, told NME at the time. “I’ll be surprised if people will get the joke.” His skepticism was warranted.
In the 25 years since Depeche Mode officially became a phenomenon with a string of Violator singles like “Personal Jesus,” “Enjoy the Silence” and “Policy of Truth,” the band has inspired a strange, surprising cult following among headbangers and hard rockers. Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, Converge and even Mr. Power Ballad Himself, Sammy Hagar, have tackled Depeche Mode covers – most of which cull fromViolator. Their love of the band is genuine. Singer Chino Moreno, who alternates between throat-shredding screams and Dave Gahan–like crooning with alt-metal group Deftones, even has Violator’s cover flower tattooed on his bicep.
In hindsight, though, Depeche Mode’s influence on the most extreme of music genres makes some sense.