I have been through some dark times. I have those midnight moments of the soul where I have really grappled with what I have, at times, perceived as the complete futility of existence. Those moments where you can only think “Why Bother?”. This is the reality of depression. Everybody else around you can be filled with the fun of flinging little balls of compressed snow at each other in an almost ceremonial celebration of the child-like – and you can be stood in the middle of all that fun and joy with nothing but the nagging though that you are wasting everybody’s time by being there. It is not a pleasant place to be. It makes me an unpleasant person to be around (just ask my wife). There is nothing worse than the feeling that the whole world is just fucking shit.
Therefore, when I have heard of people like Chris Cornell from Soundgarden or Chester Bennington from Linkin Park take that move of expressing their helplessness and hopelessness in the ultimate way, I can understand that moment. I can place myself in their shoes. I have the empathy to understand what it might take to take that next step. I know the darkness.
I have a collection of music that is my dark music. This is not a hipster inspired attempt at an ironic understanding of some new “dark-wave” movement in a misguided attempt to adopt the angst of a different generation. Oh no, this is music that somehow captures or expresses those midnight moments of my soul. It features a music from the likes of Nine Inch Nails (particularly “The Fragile” album) and Marilyn Manson. It also features one particular album from Depeche Mode.
This week I have mostly been listening to Depeche Mode’s dark masterpiece album, “Songs of Faith and Devotion” which features “In Your Room”. I’m not going to discuss what has caused this crisis moment in my life but I’m writing this blog because I want (or indeed need) people to understand that there is nothing quite as frightening as a mind that does not behave in the way that you think it should. I’m not certain that “In Your Room” really reflects this in terms of lyrical content, but it somehow manages to musically convey the mood and feeling of depression.
The version of “In Your Room” featured in the above video called “The Zepher Mix” was used for the single version. It was a radically different mix of the original album version, nearly completely rerecorded by producer, and Garbage band-member, Butch Vig who had also produced Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album. The remix features more of a traditional rock sound than any previous Depeche Mode single, with Alan Wilder’s thumping live drum sound (which became central to the world tour that managed to break an already broken band), alongside squalling feedback and chiming guitar sounds. Any synths are buried so low in the mix that it sounds utterly unlike the Mode that made synth music so epic.
The music video for “In Your Room” (using the Zephyr mix) was directed by the person who came to be famous for creating the unique visual imagery for Depeche Mode amongst several other big name bands (“Achtung Baby” era U2, and Joy Division). Anton Corbjin directed a video that features references to the videos for several famous Mode tracks: “Strangelove” (a model strikes poses in rubber style underwear), “I Feel You” (a woman dressed in the same style pinstripe suit that Dave Gahan wears in the original video, throwing very similar rock star shapes), “Walking In My Shoes” (the haunting walking bird costumes that walk with arms outstretched like some demon vulture), “Halo” (the jugglers wearing clown make-up), “Enjoy The Silence” (a woman dressed in the same king regalia, walking slowly whilst holding a traditional seaside folding chair), “Personal Jesus” (a woman wears the same cowboy style outfit as worn by the band in the original video), “Condemnation” (a woman wears a white dress festooned with white ribbons), and finally “Never Let Me Down Again” (tea drinking in the desert). Corbijn described the video as a retrospective of the work he had done with Depeche Mode, made at a time when it looked like either the band was going to split up or individual members of the band were going to die… yes, that’s you Dave Gahan that we’re talking about.
In your room
Where time stands still
Or moves at your will
Will you let the morning come soon
Or will you leave me lying here
In your favourite darkness
Your favourite half-light
Your favourite consciousness
Your favourite slave
The video was not shown much on MTV, primarily due to the partial nudity of Alexandra Kummer, who recreates the famous scenes from the various Depeche Mode video clips. Therefore, the song was not a massive success in the USA where the Mode had been massive since the release of “Music For The Masses” and then the even more massive success of “Violater”. Both albums marked out Depeche Mode as the pioneers of stadium electronica.
However, this is not the version of “In Your Room” that I play in my dark times. That honour goes to the album version that can be found on “Songs Of Faith And Devotion”. It is a bleak monolith of swirling desperation. It typifies those feeling of being lost and confused and numb and angry and hopeless and everything else that comes with the dark times.
I don’t remember if there was a specific event back in 1993 that created such a deep connection with “In Your Room”. I don’t think so. I remember life being pretty fine back then as I was married only in 1992, and indeed started my first full time drama teaching job in September 1993. Life didn’t start to fuck me up until I was made redundant in the third year of my teaching career. That experience was unpleasant, and it is a fear that haunts me until this very day. However, I don’t even think that holds the distinction of being the cause of my depression and anxiety – I’m not even sure that a single event can be a cause. My understanding of depression and anxiety is that it is as likely to be a combination of different events that could be said to lead to the development of mental health problems. Indeed, I now know that there might not even be an identifiable cause as current theories indicate that depression is as much a chemical and physiological imbalance in the brain.
For your entertainment, here is the version taken from their live tour, called the “Devotional Tour”, that adds another little element of self-destruction:
When watching this clip, I always wait for the moment when Mode front man Dave Gahan leaps into the audience, perfectly in time with the video projection – a face of a woman who seems to look down either in disappointment or disgust. Dave Gahan has originally appeared as an unlikely front-man, being rather gangly whilst blessed with a deep baritone-ish voice that seemed particularly mismatched with the bleepy electropop of “Just Can’t Get Enough” and other early Vince Clarke penned hit singles. If you look back to their first singles, they are a lightweight synth-pop band who sound like a bit of fluff and nonsense. They do not sound like a band who could soundtrack the darkest moments of the soul, let alone be the physical embodiment of them in real life.
By the time of the “Devotional Tour”, Dave Gahan had transformed himself into the very parody of a long-haired, bearded, tattooed grunge rock-star complete with a serious and very life-threatening drug addiction. Indeed, it was the “Devotional Tour” where the mighty Mode scared Primal Scream with the level of drug taking and associated madness during their time as support band, and put them back on the path of being indie art provocateurs rather than wannabe Stones imitators.
Yes, it was that mad – and I think you can catch that mood in the song.
In your room
Where souls disappear
Only you exist here
Will you lead me to your armchair
Or leave me lying here
Your favourite innocence
Your favourite prize
Your favourite smile
Your favourite slave
The fact that Dave Gahan is alive after the mess that he got himself into offers me hope. The fact that Depeche Mode have continued to record and tour, especially after losing Alan Wilder who left the band after the tour, is also hopeful.
So sometimes it is important to not so much as wallow in the darkness but to accept that it is there. I have come to the conclusion that it will always be there. I have to learn to live with my depression, and I have been doing so with some degree of success. However, when things don’t go right… indeed, when things go very wrong due to forces that are simply beyond your control, then you also have to trust yourself that things will get better.
I hope they will.
In your room
Your burning eyes
Cause flames to arise
Will you let the fire die down soon
Or will I always be here
Your favourite passion
Your favourite game
Your favourite mirror
Your favourite slave
I don’t think I’m being brave by discussing this. In fact, there is still enough of a stigma about openly discussing what depression actually means for people in the cold light of day that part of me thinks I’m being utterly stupid by putting this post out there in the world. However, I want people to understand that this is real. This is how people really feel. This is the reality of the struggle when you have depression (and let’s not even start about anxiety which in my humble opinion if the real head fuck).
Recently, a group of my friends have started to go out on a minimum twelve mile walk every month partially to raise awareness of the linked issues of mental illness and suicide prevention, jolted into action by events such as the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington (to name only two). However, perhaps the more important reason to encourage people to talk and share their experiences or worries – I have a walk coming up very soon, and I’m looking forward to getting out onto the South West Coastal Path with a group of friends to walk and talk. Yes, it really is as simple as that.
If you have a spare tenner, and if you feel generous, it would be amazing if you could make a contribution to my Just Giving fundraising page. I have included the link below:
So there we go.
Now I need to get out of this mood and find my angry and pissed off playlist.