Happy New Year everyone!
I am happy to announce the release of my first tribute EP Under the Influence: A Tribute to 40 Years of Depeche Mode. Not only was this project a tribute to my favourite band; this project inspired my new sound. Gone is the sound of the bluesy acoustic rock singer/songwriter and here comes the new sound which is a mixture of post-punk/80’s new wave and electronic dance. To put another way: lots of electric guitars, keys, synths and drums! Click here for links to the various streaming services to have a listen.
You might be wondering why I chose my first EP release as a tribute to one of my favourite bands. Well, here it goes….
As you may recall back in 2020 I was working on recording songs and creating videos for my friend Matthew President’s Youtube show “World is Watching” and there was a request submitted in the chat box by a viewer to do a cover from Alternative/80’s artist like Depeche Mode or The Cure. So, based on the request I took it upon myself to cover one of my favourite songs by my favourite band…“Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode (see the blog post Covering a Depeche Mode Standard: “Enjoy the Silence”
When the World is Watching series ended it’s first season in the summer of 2020 I decided to focus my energy back on evolving my sound, reworking my original songs and releasing my first EP. As 2020 came to a close there was yet another lockdown in Germany and at that point all I could do is hope for a better 2021…
The year 2021 is significant to many New Wave music lovers because is was the 40th anniversary of all the GREAT music that was released in 1981. For example: The remaining members of Joy Division reformed with the addition of Gillian Gilbert as New Order and released their debut single “Ceremony” in January 1981, Duran Duran released their self titled album in June and Depeche Mode released their first album “Speak & Spell” in October. The musical significance of 1981 gave me an idea… I could do a tribute to 40 years of Depeche Mode!
Even though I had covered “Enjoy the Silence” in 2020 I still had to choose songs from my favourite band that are seen as pioneers in electronic music with 14 studio albums and countless B-Sides. This was not going to be an easy task for this project. Since I am an independent artist I realized that I could not spend a lot of money on the project, I decided to go in the direction of a 6 song EP rather than a full album.
I then realized in order to make my song choices I had to figure out the most important criteria so I could narrow my song choices easier and that criteria was my vocal range.
I had already done my research on Dave Gahan’s vocal range when I covered “Enjoy the Silence”. As a refresher he is a Baritone. A Baritone possesses a vocal range between G2-G4. I am a “mezzo-soprano” and my range is between G3-F#5 so, I can comfortably sing the Gahan vocalized songs that I can push into my range for example: if Gahan is singing a song in the range of C3-D4 I can sing the song in the range of C4-D5 without transposing the melody up or down.
While I was researching Martin Gore’s vocal range I found out that he is a Tenor with a range between C3-A4. I found this discovery incredibly interesting because Gore’s range makes the dynamics, harmonies and layers between his highs and Gahan’s lows incredibly rich. In comparison I have found it easier to sing most songs where Gahan is the lead vocal and more difficult for me to sing al lot of songs where Gore is the lead vocal. Gore’s range is so close to mine and unfortunately his lows are too low for my range. If I want to cover songs like like: “Somebody”, “Home”, “It Doesn’t Matter Two” and “It Doesn’t Matter” I would have to transpose the melody up a step or two from it’s original key (FYI – I am not a fan of transposing most songs. I find most songs that have been transposed to fit a range sound (kind of) funny to me. I feel some of the emotion from song is lost when it’s transposed-up from original key the song was written in). So, my criteria in regards to choosing songs that are sung by Martin Gore that I would have to be able to sing the song without having to transpose the melody to fit my range.
The songs I chose for the tribute EP based on my vocal range are:
- Puppets (Speak & Spell – 1981)
- Black Celebration (Black Celebration – 1986)
- The Things You Said (Music for the Masses- 1987)
- Sweetest Perfection (Violator – 1990)
- Dangerous (Personal Jesus Single – 1989)
- Enjoy the Silence (Violator – 1990)
Every song I worked on evoked emotions, feelings, events and reminders of people I have known throughout my years or made my imagination create a theme out of thin air. Below are some insights as to what went through my mind during the creative process for each song.
As this EP is a retrospective for a body of work I felt I needed to cover a song from Depeche Mode’s first album “Speak & Spell”. When I was evaluating tracks on the album the song “Puppets” called upon me to include it. I must say I had the most fun working on it’s composition because my imagination went wild and the theme of the song evolved into a Sci/Fi short film. As I was working on the composition I imagined that I was the sole organic life form on a ship in outer space and the only companion on the ship is a robot/puppet that I would have to program. I wanted this song to be a mixture of synthetic and organic with the synthetic side coming through from the synth parts plus a robotic-affected vocal and the organic coming though the layered electric guitar tracks.
For years the album Black Celebration was my favourite Depeche Mode album before they released Violator. I felt the title track “Black Celebration” would be perfect to include because the song reminds me of my “Mall Rat” friends that I used to hang around with in Downtown Winnipeg, Canada. This song totally takes me back to the teen night clubs where we would dance in the winter and the bush parties we would frequent in the summer time. As I was creating the composition I wanted the synth sounds to reflect Winnipeg’s cold winters and guitar would reflect it’s hot summers.
The Things You Said
This is one of the few songs sung by Martin Gore that I can sing without transposing up a step or two. The lead and backing vocal melodies fit my range perfectly. I admit my composition did not stray far from the original song but, I feel I took the song in a different direction with the passion in my vocals. This song reminds me of my life as a somewhat awkward teen, you know the crap in high school…
This is one of my FAVOURITE songs on the Violator album. The vocals were a challenge at times and it pushed my range but, I am really happy with the result. When I was in my younger years I thought the song was about an obsession of a romantic relationship but, in my older years I feel the song is about someone’s drug addiction. I feel this song really allowed me to vocally express pain, desperation and anxiety.
I LOVE Depeche Mode’s B-Sides! Back in the day I could not wait for Depeche Mode to release their singles because there would always be great B-Side songs included. I have read that most of the B-Sides were songs that didn’t make it on to the album’s release which is too bad. I have always felt that songs like: Fools, In Your Memory, Dangerous, Happiest Girl, Sea of Sin, My Joy, Surrender and Ghost should have been on album releases (note: Ghost was limited released on the deluxe edition of “Sounds of the Universe”). For years I have wanted to cover a Depeche Mode B-Side and song that really fit my range is “Dangerous” from the “Personal Jesus” single. Creatively I wanted to approach the song in one of two ways. I was either going to slow the song down and turn it into a piano ballad OR I would speed the song up and give it a classic disco beat. Since I already had two slower Martin Gore song choices on the EP I decided to give “Dangerous” a disco beat. When I was finished composing the melody I asked my friend Matthew Presidente to lend me his voice to give the choruses sex & depth and I think he did a WONDERFUL job! 🙂
Enjoy the Silence
This song made it on to the EP for more than a few reasons:
Reason #1: This is my FAVOURITE song by Depeche Mode FYI-I have the Violator rose as part of my tattoo art on my back in honour of the album (yeah we DM fans are a bit over-the-top at times)
Reason #2: It’s a Depeche Mode standard
Reason #3: This song it was the catalyst to create this EP
Reason #4: I really loved the cover of this song I did for the “World is Watching” Youtube series with Matthew Presidente.
I felt the “World is Watching” version was good but the composition needed a little improvement. The EP version has a more punch with the drums, has more edge with the added electric guitar and vocal diversity with my vocal lines and the spoken lines. I asked Matthew to add backing vocals to the choruses to add depth and dimension as well as his amazing piano playing.
The home studio is a wonderful place to create and work on projects without the need to book time, travel and spend money by the hour. My partner Don and I have created quite the studio that takes up most of our apartment in Berlin. With the ever changing Corona rules and lockdowns our home studio allowed us to constantly work on projects and saved us from going insane for the past 19 months. I would compose and arrange the tracks at my workstation, add drums, MIDI keys and hand off the Logic project to Don for live recording and mixing. He has a workflow that allows us to work with Matthew Presidente who lives in Vancouver, Canada that supports our creativity seamlessly. Vocals were recorded in our “booth” that takes up a good part of the space in out bedroom… After 6 months we were done and the EP was ready for release. Many thanks to our friends who listened to prerelease tracks and provided feedback. I wanted an amazing EP and their critiques really helped!
Depeche Mode spent many years in and around Berlin. Fans all know the now famous “Before and After Berlin” meme photo. For anybody who lives here we completely get it. Don is my tireless creative director and he suggested the door that was used in the video “Walking in My Shoes” that was projected during the “Global Spirit” tour. Perfect! Now would could have done the shoot any time in the fall or summer but we had to procrastinate and it was a cold wet day in December when we shot the cover art.
I hope you enjoy this EP as much as I enjoyed working on it! 🙂
You can check out a review on SnoozeControl.BE:
Please stay safe and stay healthy.
Tara C Taylor