Depeche Mode's Martin Gore finds inspiration in monkeys for his solo record, The Third Chimpanzee

Reta Lee
·Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
·8 min read
Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. (PHOTO: Travis Shinn Photography)
Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. (PHOTO: Travis Shinn Photography)

For most of us, 2020 seemed like a blur; but for some artists, the global pandemic didn’t stop them from releasing new material. These uncertain times paused the world, giving artists like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and even Martin Gore of Depeche Mode a chance to reset and release some of their best works yet.

Co-founding member and main composer Gore chalked out the idea of an instrumental EP and used the isolation time to record in his studio in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, where he is currently living with his family.

His solo record named The Third Chimpanzee is a five-track soundscape of groans, layered synth beats and no vocals. Gore shares with Yahoo Lifestyle SEA in a phone interview, that while he “didn’t feel very creative lyrically,” it made more sense to “create an instrumental project instead.”

We crowdsourced questions, and this came from a fan in Malaysia named Haziq. For someone who’s had a penchant for brooding lyricism, and being at the forefront of darker crop of albums, will your new project take on a similar pessimistic tone?

Well, this EP that I’ve done; a lot of people have said that it is quite dark, though not dark lyrically because it’s an instrumental album. I think most of it was recorded during the isolation of this pandemic, and it has taken on quite a dark field.

Why did you choose to go with an instrumental EP?

I think partly because, again, I had one track finished before the pandemic started. But it was something that was just put aside, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. After we went into lockdown, I didn’t feel very creative lyrically, to be honest. And I sometimes think if you’re just at home all the time, and not going anywhere, or meeting many people, it’s quite hard to get stimulated. I think it makes it harder to write lyrics. So I thought, I’m going to use my time; it makes sense to do an instrumental project.

I mean, politics has been very crazy, especially over here in America over the last few years; and everything that’s been going on with, you know, social media and the Internet. You start thinking like, how do people believe this stuff? Where is it coming from? And why are there so many people following this path, like a cult? I’ve definitely felt like I’ve been living in a crazy universe, at times.

And all this was recorded in your home studio in LA?

Yeah, I live in Santa Barbara.

I’m guessing, and you’re probably spending more time in your studio as compared to like, the other parts of your home during the pandemic.

Well, I have a three and a four-year-old (at home), so you know, I go to the studio, probably Monday to Friday, for like five or six hours in the afternoons. But it’s good; it’s a sanctuary. Even if I don’t work, it’s quite nice to escape for a little while or get into a different headspace.

Do you ever listen back to your tracks and feel like the entire arrangement feels something different to you, then and now?

Yeah, that does happen. When I started this whole project, I had no idea where I was going with. Obviously, I didn’t know it was going to be called The Third Chimpanzee. I didn’t think it was going to be so monkey-orientated. And I would get a monkey to do the cover (Gore commissioned a monkey named Pockets Warhol to create the EP cover). I didn’t know any of that when I first started it. I’ve heard, more than once, a few people have said to me that they feel like it’s somehow very fitting. Maybe I just tapped into something, but not that it was something I had intentionally set out to do. Listening back to it now; I can see how it may fit with the times quite well.

It’s probably something that’s been burrowed in your unconscious mind?

You pick up on things. Even though like I said, I didn’t feel creative, lyrically. You know, you probably do kind of like, draw in all this kind of stuff that’s going on?

SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Martin Gore (l) and Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode perform at SAP Center on October 8, 2017 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by John Medina/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 08: Martin Gore (l) and Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode perform at SAP Center on October 8, 2017 in San Jose, California. (Photo by John Medina/Getty Images)

You mentioned that you didn’t expect the whole thing to be monkey-themed. And the title itself was based on a book that you’ve read. So are you happy with the entire process?

This is the most I’ve ever got into – a concept for the whole album. I’ve enjoyed the whole journey as it was interesting.

Was it a conscious effort to synthesise your voice?

With the first track that I did, however, it was just an experiment. I didn’t know how it would turn out, and I just ended up liking the result. When I started working on “Mandrill”, I thought, maybe I should try something like that again. And that could be a good theme with the instruments that I’m using.

In an interview with Clash Magazine, I read that you said you’re not going for worldwide domination with this EP. So I was wondering, are you okay with just niche fans enjoying it?

Yeah. I haven’t read that; I remember doing that interview route. I like the idea of putting it out on Mute Records, which is my friend Daniel Miller’s record label. I don’t mind, it’s not all about sales; it’s about putting out something that I quite like. And it’s about artistic output, and just doing something.

It’s so interesting to read about the journey of recording this album, and how it kind of ties back to evolution in a way.

Yeah, I just really wanted to blur the lines between humans and monkeys. And question how evolved we are. There’s been a lot of times over the last few years where I’ve questioned that.

Oh, yeah, in what sort of ways? With the whole political changes in the world and things like that?

I mean, politics has been very crazy, especially over here in America over the last few years; and everything that’s been going on with, you know, social media and the Internet. You start thinking like, how do people believe this stuff? Where is it coming from? And why are there so many people following this path, like a cult? I’ve definitely felt like I’ve been living in a crazy universe, at times.

It’s interesting because you’re allowing your creative process to flow.

Yeah, it’s what we’ve been talking about; I go to the studio, you know, five days a week, and I sit down, and I do stuff. And if I end up liking what I’m doing, then it’s just nice to put it out. And if people like it, they like it.

I wondered if there were extra tracks that you’ve recorded, but didn’t make it to the EP?

I decided to do an EP and not a full album because I thought that I’d wear down the concept with 15 tracks named out of monkeys.

Yeah, might be a bit much.

Yeah (laughs).

So here’s my last question: yourself, Dave, Andrew, and the rest, you’re all living miles apart. And you’ve not performed on stage as Depeche Mode for a year. So I was wondering, what’s the dynamics of the group now? Will your different experiences and outlook of life, shape the band further in the near future?

Very good question. I don’t know what the answer is, though. Because when we work, we are together, seven days a week, and we spend God knows how many hours a day together. But when we’re not working together, we all live in different places.

We stay in touch minimally, but we don’t keep in touch over time. And we haven’t made any plans at all because the world is so uncertain at the moment, yeah, so we can’t even plan, you know, simple things at the moment.

Do you have any advice for budding musicians who are making music during this lockdown, because like, my boyfriend’s one of them?

One advice I always give to people, and it’s probably not that helpful, but I still think it’s important to try and be unique. I think for a lot of people when they’re first starting, try to emulate other bands. It’s great to take influences from different places, but try not to be exactly like anyone. Maybe take influences here or there and like 1,000 other places – mix it and then do something completely different.