Photo by Anton Corbijn

DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL are acknowledged as being one of the best acts of their kind with performances at DM fan events and gigs in their own right throughout the world.

One of the reasons is SPEAK & SPELL’s front man Paul Wood whose enjoyable performances of DEPECHE MODE favourites, both vocally and visually, are held in very high regard.

SPEAK & SPELL’s place in the DEPECHE MODE fan community has been to authentically keep within the concert consciousness, many of the songs that the real DEPECHE MODE either no longer play in their live set, or now ruin with the unnecessary rockisms of drumhead Christian Eigner!

So with DEPECHE MODE’s debut LP ‘Speak & Spell’ highly unlikely to ever get a full live airing from the current incarnation of Da Mode, SPEAK & SPELL will honour thy name and oblige with a full performance of that seminal synthpop album on SATURDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2014 at Hertford Corn Exchange.

It all forms part of TEC003, an evening of electropop also featuring VILE ELECTRODES and special guest DJ SARAH BLACKWOOD. Paul Wood kindly talked to The Electricity Club as to what it is like being Dave Gahan…

PaulWood-S&SHow did you first discover you could actually sing like Dave Gahan?

I simply used to sing along to the songs and try and sound like him, even now I don’t think my take on it is spot on… so I’ll keep practising !!

What are your own favourite eras and songs of DEPECHE MODE?

Most of the eras I favour tend to be the earlier years up to ‘Songs Of Faith and Devotion’. For me it was DM at their absolute best, each album and tour seem to get stronger as the years went by.

But I think it’s probably the ‘Violator’ era for me; so many good songs on that album and my all time favourite ‘World In My Eyes’ which is just perfect… good times 🙂

How do you prepare for being Dave Gahan?

I’d say my prep work has formulated over many years having watched numerous videos, DVDs and more so live. So you get an idea of what kind of stage presence you need to do or wear an outfit and even try some of the moves, there are lots of Davisms *laughs*

It’s all pantomime to a degree but when you get it right and it is recognised by an audience, there’s nothing better.

S&S1-Chris Fraude

Photo by Chris Fraude

What is your mindset when being Dave Gahan?

Mindset? I think before we go on I like to make sure I look the part as we have become more fine tuned for gigs. My confidence has grown and I know what I have to do, so no I don’t look in the mirror and say “you look like Dave Gahan” and get in to hypnotic state… *lol*

Which DM song have you found the biggest challenge vocally and why?

I think songs from the ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ era as back then his vocals were (in my opinion) outstanding, very powerful and deep. It’s the lowest scale I tend to have trouble with.

The singer of the NEW ORDER tribute act RE:ORDER went as far to get the haircut, fluff cues and snarl like Bernard Sumner… have you ever adopted a Dave Gahan mannnerism and then thought “oh-oh, this is going too far!”?

There are certain Davisms as I like to call them when performing live ie crotch grabbing, gyrating, arm waving etc and of course certain lines his uses during songs or passing the mic to the audience for them to sing. Naturally I have adopted these and the crowd expects it, but I would never go as far as a stage dive!!!!!!!!!!


Photo by Anna Wirz

Are your tattoos a consequence of an authenticity quest or would you have got them anyway?

I did want tattoos and they are most definitely inspired by DG although they are not the same, I have had them done in the same parts on the body.

Have you ever attempted Dave’s full ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ look with the hair etc?

I did a half arsed attempt years ago and basically it didn’t suit me, I looked more like a musketeer!!

‘It’s Called A Heart’ is DEPECHE MODE’s worst single… discuss?

I hated this song with a passion when this song was released, although I have mellowed towards it somewhat. But let’s be fair, there are far worse songs in their catalogue. A couple of the S&S guys like it and have threatened to programme it.

And ‘Halo’ is possibly DM’s most under rated song?

‘Halo’ – Again a song from the best album and to me such a big song, I guess it had a lot of competition with ‘Policy Of Truth’ and ‘World In My Eyes’, yet I think its just a beautiful, tragic and uplifting track… its powerful live, and I love the chorus… just genius.

You performed that last year with harpist MICHAL MATEJCIK in Hamburg?

Working with MICHAL MATEJCIK for me was a massive honour, he is such a genuine and thoroughly professional man. When we had the chance to perform ‘Halo’ live in Hamburg with him, we jumped at the chance, but for me it was one of those hair on the back your neck moments. Bearing in mind we had one run through at sound check and then the performance on the night, yeah it was pretty special.

Have you ever met any members of DEPECHE MODE and if so, and what was it like?

I have only met Alan Wilder and that was only recently during the RECOIL events. The nearest to Dave was an acknowledgement from him during the Oxford Road Show years ago; I was in the audience and when it went to a break he turned round and let on to me. But no I have never met him… they say never meet your idols.

Is there a song which SPEAK & SPELL haven’t yet performed that you’d like to do?

The list is endless of songs to do as we all have our favourites. We tend to look at tracks that haven’t been done or performed for years like ‘Told You So’ which has turned out to be one of our most popular choices of song. People seem to prefer songs from the days gone by and that suits me fine.

As someone who has performed a fair number of DEPECHE MODE songs, what’s your favourite DM cover version by another artist?

I would say my favourite cover is by RÖYKSOPP and their version of ‘Ice Machine’; its just brilliant… almost as good as ours *tongue firmly in cheek*

And ‘Personal Jesus’ by JOHNNY CASH… just having a legend like that covering DM is an honour.

The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Paul Wood

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd May 2014