Synth pop wasn't intended to have a soul. Pioneered by German techno wizards Kraftwerk in the '70s, electronic pop music became a haven for chilly detachment.
Without the hollow baritone of vocalist David Gahan (born David Callcott), there wouldn't be much fire in the synthetic grooves of Depeche Mode. When Gahan joined Depeche Mode in 1980, he was the group's missing puzzle piece, a charismatic, stylish singer. In the beginning, Gahan sang in an icy yet upbeat fashion, milking the hooks from early Depeche Mode hits such as "Just Can't Get Enough" and "Dreaming of Me" with boyish abandon. However, as keyboardist Martin L. Gore's songs darkened with the 1986 LP Black Celebration, Gahan matched the bleakness in Gore's lyrics by singing in a grimmer tone; it turned Gahan into a major influence on future industrial, gothic rock, and synth pop acts.
By 1993's Songs of Faith and Devotion, Gahan was living in Los Angeles and, inspired by the look and sound of grunge bands, grew his hair long and started sporting a beard. The dramatic shift in image shocked many of Depeche Mode's older fans; they became increasingly concerned that Depeche Mode was turning into a mainstream rock group. In addition to adopting a grunge look, Gahan became seduced by the drug of choice among several rock musicians in the early '90s: heroin. In the mid-'90s, after a failed suicide attempt, Gahan kicked his heroin addiction at a drug rehabilitation clinic. In 1997, a rejuvenated Gahan recorded Ultra with Depeche Mode, followed by Exciter in 2001.
In 2003, Gahan embarked on a solo career for the first time in Depeche Mode's 22-year history. He made his debut as a full-fledged songwriter for the June release of Paper Monsters. He also set out on the road in North America and Europe in support of the sultry rock record in July. After recording another album with Depeche Mode (2005's industrial-tinged Playing the Angel), he released his throbbing second solo album, Hourglass, in 2007. In between the next two Depeche Mode albums (2009's Sounds of the Universe and 2013's Delta Machine, both of which included more songwriting credits for Gahan), he recorded his first album with U.K. producers Soulsavers, writing all the lyrics and singing on The Light the Dead See. His second effort with Soulsavers, the blues- and gospel-inspired Angels & Ghosts, was released in late 2015. ~ Michael Sutton, Rovi