Exclusive interview – Alan Wilder (ex-Depeche Mode/Recoil) talks on synths, music creation and his upcoming auction
Steelberry Clones got a talk with none other than the synth legend Alan Wilder (ex-member of Depeche Mode and now front man of the electro/synth experimental act Recoil). Few can match the track record of Alan Wilder and few have had such an impact on the synth scene for the past 30 years, or so. Alan Wilder´s Recoil continues this tradition into the 21st century exploring the boundaries of electronic music, and since Alan now is in full preparation of delivering probably the world´s biggest Depeche Mode memorabilia auction at the Zion Arts Centre, we simply had to pose some questions to him regarding his music creation legacy, gear and plans moving forward.
“Collected” is the name of Alan’s big auction on Saturday 3rd September, for detailed information on how to join please follow this link:
So in just a few weeks time, over 400 lots will go under the hammer as Alan Wilder sells a large selection of musical / studio equipment and memorabilia at auction. Many items are very collectable and hold special value having been used extensively in the recording sessions for classic Depeche Mode and Recoil albums, as well as live performances on the ‘Black Celebration’, ‘Music For The Masses’, ‘World Violation’ and ‘Devotional’ tours.
But for most synth/electro fans this is truly not just any ordinary auction, but a clear reason why we needed to pose some questions to Alan about the auction in general and about his music making legacy in particular.
Why are you running this auction? is it for charity, or something else?
It’s for the charity of Alan Wilder unfortunately. Let’s be honest, divorce is an ugly thing and the record business has been in crisis for some time now. I’m not over sentimental about retaining every little detail of my musical history. In fact I still have a large collection of essential items, all the releases I have played on, many photographs and unique personal things. But really, I need more space (and peace) in my life and this goes part of the way to achieving that. Indeed I found it an evocative and cathartic experience to sift through all the collectables – the actual sorting and cataloging process brought back great memories and I was able to re-live some key moments which I had inevitably forgotten about, reminding me of how lucky I have been to have enjoyed such a career, doing something I’m passionate about.
Will it not be hard to let go of many of these unique items – any particular items that are special to you, that we should keep an extra eye on at the auction?
Yes – many do hold wonderful memories of course but I don’t find myself actually using most of the equipment for example. One of my new year’s resolutions for 2011 was to start streamlining my set-up at The Thin Line Studios. My needs have altered since laptops, soft synths and plug-ins have come to the fore, and therefore passing on some vintage gear and historical items seemed like a good way to start. The Steinway grand piano and the ‘Devotional’ drum kit are two things I’m letting go with a heavy heart. Thankfully I have a second piano, and can’t really justify having two at the moment. And if I feel like picking up drumming again, I guess I can easily find myself another (cheaper) kit. As for something to keep an eye on in the auction, I think the unreleased box set known as DMBS 1-4 is likely to spark major interest. Known as the ‘Holy Grail’, these are the 4 extremely rare white labels from the Depeche Mode boxset that was never released. It was recalled at the last minute for unknown reasons. The Emulators with my own sound samples, the guitar used by Martin Gore for the ‘Devotional’ tour, and my touring wardrobe & stage clothing should all prove very popular. We have art proofs and one-off posters, and already we can see that album acetates are extremely desirable, being so rare. Only one or two are ever produced for a record release and I have quite a few of these iconic records. A few selected teaser items are currently on sale via eBay, and more will be added as we approach the auction. (http://shop.ebay.com/depechemodeatomegaauctions/m.html?_trksid=p4340.l2562)
Will you be joined at the event by any of your old band mates (DM)?
Not a chance:)
How can you part with your first synthesizer, the Minimoog?
I guess you could say that the mini-moog does hold particular value as it’s been with me for such a long time, throughout my career. It was the first synthesiser I bought around 1977, pre-Mode, when I was a member of Dafne & The Tenderspots. It was a big deal for us at the time as it was quite expensive and we couldn’t really afford it until we secured our record deal. It is still probably my all-time favourite synthesiser due to the famous fat 3-oscillator sound, and of course it’s an absolute classic. I continued to use it for many years on early Mode recordings such as ‘Construction Time Again’ and ‘Some Great Reward’ and even had a midi update added during the eighties. However, I also own a ‘midi’-moog, which is the rack-mount version of the original mini-moog. It pretty much sounds the same and serves my purpose in the studio. I found that I wasn’t using the original moog any more, and like many of these items, it has been sitting around gathering dust. Much better then that all these old synths should be cleaned, restored, repaired and passed on, to people who will dote on them, use them again – individuals who will fully appreciate their history and the symbolic (as well as practical) value they hold. And, the moog will no doubt increase in value, like most vintage gear. These synths are like old cars that need to be driven. The way I feel about most items in the auction is how I feel about the gold discs for instance – I never wanted to display them on my walls in some ostentatious way, and I think often the musicians themselves are not too bothered about those things. Gold discs mean a lot more to those who are more peripheral or outside of the original experience, but who are very passionate about what they represent.
Regarding the patch discs for the Emulator’s and Akai’s – have you made some backup of those sounds somehow?
Yes, of course, I have a copy of the sounds for myself.
The sequencer EDP Spider, was that your first sequencer? And does it work? It’s not clear on the web page – they are prone not to work.
I believe it does work but I didn’t have the unusual connecting cable to actually try it out. I guess it was my first and only non-computerised sequencer! Not that I used it much – although it was used to create the bass sequencer part for the Aggro mix of DM’s ‘Never Let Me Down Again’.
Conclusively, if you are Depeche Mode fan or collector of vintage synth gear this is the one event not to miss out on. Now moving on to the music creation side of things we wanted to ask Alan all those questions about his gear, music creation and plans for the future, that comes when having the opportunity to talk a guy that has been a part of shaping the modern synth scene.
Recoil has been on quite an extensive tour recently, can you let us know how it was received and what your forthcoming plans are?
The European shows went really well at the start of the tour, particularly in eastern parts and Germany, Hungary, Poland, France etc. The US shows were a bit up and down, but generally quite successful I would say. I do think USA is the most difficult territory to tour, and it was a bit of a relief to follow that down to South America where the fans are so passionate and the crowds always wild, excitable. It was quite an experience there.