Sound studio

How to sound like: Depeche Mode 1987-1990

Depeche Mode St. Petersburg, Russia – February 16, 2018

Source: Shutterstock/Taya Ovod

Depeche Mode: One of the most legendary synth-pop bands to conquer the charts. On today’s episode of ‘sound like’, we take a look at their 1987-1990 period. Often called the Alan Wilder era, it encompasses two of their most revered albums: Music For The Masses (1987) and Violator (1990).

Like the previous album black celebration (1986), Music for the masses digital sampling used extensively throughout its production. Still in its infancy, sampling was very much in vogue at the time and Depeche Mode built its sound around the unique digital texture of the E-mu Emulator II and many other classic samplers.

Instruments used by Depeche Mode

Besides their own choice of instruments, the choices of Daniel Miller, David Bascombe and Mark “Flood” Ellis played a big part in the resulting sound of Depeche Mode records of this era.

Sequencers

At that time, pre-production was done using a combination of a UMI Sequencer and a first version of Cubase. Martin Gore’s demos were written with a Cubase system which was then synchronized with the HMI provide a solid basis for monitoring.

In some cases, the preservation of sensation was significant and impossible to recreate on other systems. songs like wait for the night revolve around the use of the ARP Sequencer used with the 2600.

The SynclavierThe sequencer was also used in the same way, while albums were still mostly recorded on tape.

Synthesizers

Since the Vince Clark era, ARP 2600 has always been a regular on leads, basses and even drums. His undeniably clean yet very outspoken and direct sound has been featured on many Depeche Mode songs.

Additionally, analog synths like the EMS VCS3the Minimoogthe Oberheim Matrix as good as OB-8 were also used extensively in Depeche Mode recordings in the 80s and early 90s.

Digital synths like the Korg’s Prophecy also came into play around this time, and later the Roland JD-800 too. Even the guitar part on Never disappointed me was filtered through the ARP 2600 before being sampled and retriggered with the Synclavier.

Samplers

Depeche Mode made extensive use of sampling throughout the 80 years and early 90s. From Synclavier to Emulator IIwho was a favorite, the band sampled Carmina Burana and even the famous When the dike breaks trap.

Various AKAI samplers like the S1000and later the S1100have also been used especially in cases where sample trigger was necessary, because it was not the strong point of the emulator.

Alan Wilder also used the Emulator IIIwho had more sampling rate and bigger sample memory. However, the Emulator II was still often preferred for its unique sound quality.

Other Instruments

The now famous William Tell Workshop was opened in 1986 in France. He was first chosen for his amazing collection of instruments by the band for the recording of Music for the masses.

This included timpani and orchestra bass drumas well as a Steinway grand piano all of which were used throughout the album. The studio itself had been converted from an old cinema, which gave it a certain aesthetic appeal.

Many of these were played live, but one of the most iconic sampled instruments was the stomps on personal jesus which were created with some flight case hanging around the studio.

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