Depeche Mode are the most successful electronic band in music history, selling over 100 million albums and singles sold worldwide. Still, their blend of synth-pop and alternative is difficult to replicate, as the wide range of idiosyncratic atmospheres lead songwriter Martin Gore was able to construct is daunting. Many bands influenced by them are not obvious audible replications as a result. Instead, they are more influenced by their mode of songwriting, which allowed ambition to flow freely; it encouraged artists to pursue darker territory as they saw fit.
The infectious synth-pop duo are staples of the ‘80s, as are Depeche Mode. It speaks volumes about Depeche Mode’s legacy that a group like Erasure regarded them as an immediate contemporary influence. Vocalist Andy Bell called Violator, in particular, a “very good album” and one that they were “deeply jealous of.” And while Erasure’s vein of synth-pop is often more upbeat and danceable than Depeche Mode’s rollercoaster of moods, ambitious Erasure efforts like “The Circus” show that the band’s influence was not so subtle after all. Erasure member Vince Clarke was an original Depeche Mode member, before he left to pursue other projects. So it only makes sense that the two groups had mutual respect for one another.
Brandon Flowers’ most prevalent influence may be to Bruce Springsteen, and his quivering narrative approach, but The Killers’ instrumental backdrop is highly influenced by Martin Gore’s work with Depeche Mode. When Working Class Magazine conducted an interview with Flowers and Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan in the same room, Flowers was star-struck – despite the fact that his songs have climbed the charts, and Gahan showed mutual respect for his work. “Before I even thought of myself as a musician, I was affected by Depeche Mode as a person,” he said. “I think about Some Great Reward or Songs of Faith and Devotion and they shaped me as an individual before I even wrote a song.” While he’s not an immediate Depeche Mode sound-alike, there’s little doubt that Depeche Mode’s powerful lyrics and synth-laden songs have a prominent effect on Flowers’ songwriting.
Depeche Mode helped international pop sensation Shakira discover her love for music. “Enjoy the Silence” was one of the first tracks where music provided her a pleasant bodily interaction, like chills traveling down a spine in reaction to a certain moment in film, music, or art. At 13, she told her mother: “Every time I hear that guitar riff I feel this weird thing in my stomach.” What she experienced could have been an Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, an interesting sensation that about half of listeners experience when encountering certain relaxing or emotionally impactful sounds. Whatever it was, it certainly aided in Shakira’s ascent and love for music. It makes one wonder how belly dancing would flow with “Personal Jesus”. As long as Shakira’s doing the dancing, viewers and listeners can’t go wrong.
Gary Numan, most popular for his 1979 track “Cars”, was influenced by Depeche Mode similarly to the Pet Shop boys; it made his music darker and packed more emotional depth. He told Mojo earlier this year how his music “became much darker” after experiencing Depeche Mode, along with a different perception of him altogether. “At school I was excused from religious instruction because I had no faith and Songs of Faith and Devotion suddenly gave me something to write about and something to be bothered about.” Although one can’t spot the influence on his earliest and most reputable works, quality later releases like Metal Rhythm and Outland flaunt a gothic-funk tinge that reminds of Depeche Mode’s immersive style, at least in the aspects of gothic synth-pop.
Linkin Park is another high-profile group whose Depeche Mode influence isn’t exactly easy to spot. Their specialties lie in hard-rock and rap-rock, and it’s safe to say Depeche Mode isn’t known for either. But Depeche Mode has always influenced Linkin Park, especially members Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda. “Depeche Mode are one of the most influential groups of our time. Their music is an inspiration to me,” Shinoda said, who released a remix of “Enjoy the Silence” in 2004. The dark, murky atmospheres inherent in Linkin Park’s songs can likely be attributed to mutual admiration for Depeche Mode, whose synth-laden alternative continues to influence a new generation of artists.