Forced To Mode (http://www.forcedtomode.de) are a Depeche Mode tribute band from Berlin and, like Speak & Spell (http://almostpredictablealmost1.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/an-interview-with-speak-spell.html), they are playing a special Black Celebration show which takes place on 29 April as part of the Sin City festival. The band are a three piece, comprising Christian Schottstadt (vocals), Matthias Kahra (guitars) and Thomas Schernikau (keyboards) and, as well as the Black Celebration gig, they are about to embark on a series of gigs where they'll play their full Depeche repertoire. As you'll see from the video later on, they know how to put on a show and it's no surprise that their reputation is growing every day. I caught up with Thomas to talk Depeche Mode, music and, of course, Black Celebration.
|Forced To Mode - L to R Christian, Matthias, Thomas|
TS: We started as a DM tribute band in 2011 because of a very demanding and convincing concert promoter who wanted us to perform a DM set at his EBM festival just because he had seen some footage of our original band "ForcedMovement" performing 2 DM covers at a special event just for fun. We never had planned to become a DM cover project or intended to play more than just the occasional gig with a cover version, hence the tongue in cheek band name ;-). But as our own career was on hold we decided to have a go at it and it went surprisingly well, and now almost 5 years later we look back at approximately 80 successful gigs and have a repertoire of more than 60 DM songs… And it gets bigger and bigger!
Forced To Mode are:
Christian, our frontman, who sings / sounds just like Dave, we even had playback accusations because he is so close to the original voice ;-). And he knows how to move and interact with the audience, that's for sure…;-) Additionally he produces a lot of the backing tracks and does a huge amount of studio work, and last but not least he's sort of our manager. He organises most of our gigs and communicates with the technicians at the venue and so on… So he's a real all-rounder ;-)
Then there's Matthias our guitar hero, the only "professional" musician in our band, who has spent a lot of his life "on the road" with a lot of different guys & styles. He brings in another dimension sound-wise, because there are a lot of DM tracks which really benefit from his guitar work and do sound more modern and richer than some of the original recordings. So, he and his guitar are key elements of the typical F2M live sound!
Inevitably there has to be a keyboard-player in a DM tribute band and that's my part. I play 2 samplers and 1 synthesizer, triggered by 2 keyboards, adding a drum-pad from time to time and of course doing most of the main backing voices. Over the time I even started to sing the occasional Martin ballad like The Things You Said live, but it's still a rare thing. We don't have a strict "role-splitting" in the band that means I have to sing all Martin tracks or that we have to dress like the original band. We try to concentrate on the sound and feeling, that once made DM unique for us, that's all we try to capture … the masquerade and role acting we leave to other cover bands! In pre-production I share the studio work with Christian, sometimes spending 50-60 hours per track till the songs sound "perfect" to our ears and are ready to be played to the audience.
Finally there is Ronald, our sound engineer and technician, who really helps us to concentrate on the performance and not being distracted by logistical or technical problems. He helps in building the stage and packing everything plus he's the driver of the band bus after the gig, when the rest of us is too exhausted to be still able to drive!
APA: Tell us about your forthcoming gigs and the Black Celebration show on 29 April in Berlin.
TS: This year looks very promising for us and we have some very big gigs ahead of us. Some highlights are 2 SinCity gigs in Berlin with 2 completely different setlist, then a gig at Festung Königsstein, that's an old castle on a hill in Germany, a secret gig at a special event and place directly connected to DMs history and then in November we'll be playing together with a full orchestra at the famous Gewandhaus Leipzig. This will be very special! We'll be playing more than 40 gigs this year, the demand in Germany and abroad increases everyday!
Regarding the gig on the 29th of April in Berlin, it's the first of our 2 exclusive SinCity gigs (a small festival, organized by Nik Page, former Blind Passengers) and we'll be playing most of the Black Celebration album, scattered across the evening. Wait, most? Yes, we've had mixed reactions and feelings towards "special" album gigs in the past, like in 2014, when we've played almost all of Some Great Reward live and then last year, playing Violator 3 times in its classic track order with all interludes, adding four B-Sides and some other tracks from World Violation. In comparison to "normal" F2M gigs with mixed set lists, the audience was a bit short-spoken and it was a lot harder for us to get things going, you know?
We've learned our lesson and with a ballad heavy album like Black Celebration we decided to concentrate on the key tracks adding some ballads and B-Sides here and there. I can't reveal which tracks made the cut yet, but it will be a great party, with some fitting DM songs from the 1980ies added to a hopefully great and flowing setlist.
APA: Depeche have never played Sometimes live and have only played a full band version of Here Is The House twice. Do you look forward to playing the rarer or less often heard tracks?
TS: Yes, of course, we always like to play songs, that DM rarely or never played live before. For instance, songs like Dangerous, Sea of Sin or To Have and to Hold always get a warm welcome from the DM fan base and we're curious to see how they will react this time. It's always a challenge in pre-production and then it's sometimes quite surprising which of those rare songs are working in a live environment.
APA: What's your favourite Black Celebration tracks?
TS: I asked the whole band to answer this one:
Matthias: Fly on the Windscreen
Thomas: It Doesn't Matter Two
APA: Finally, how important an album do you think Black Celebration was for Depeche Mode?
TS: That's a tough question, maybe even DM themselves would struggle to answer this! All we know, it's loved among the fan base and it was a big milestone in their career for sure. They still seem to love this album a lot, judging by the comments they made in the last years and given the fact that DM regularly play at least the singles from this album up to this date.
We are very excited to play (almost all of) the album and looking forward to see you at one of our gigs!
|Forced To Mode live (c) Ronny Hoffman|
Thanks very much to Thomas for taking the time to speak to me. If you're anywhere near Berlin on 29 April, you should definitely get along to the gig as it's going to be great. Keep an eye on Forced to Mode's website for other tour dates and follow them on Facebook too.
Forced to Mode Facebook https://www.facebook.com/forcedtomode/