MEXICO CITY (AP) – In an age when many say they suffer from Impostor Syndrome, Dave Gahan and Solsavers put themselves in the shoes of other rockers on “Imposter,” an album of songs by PJ Harvey and Elvis. Cat Power, Fleetwood Mac, and Jeff Buckley, among others.
The Depeche Mode singer adds with this third album with Soulsavers, duo producers, DJs and remixers of Rich Machin and Ian Glover, with influences from rock, gospel, downtempo and R&B. The songs on the album released on Friday are for them a reflection of their personal history. The key to covering it was to move away from the original version.
“Sometimes there are highlights that are best left untouched, but we approached this from a different point of view as we wanted to create an album that seemed to be my own and felt real and honest,” Gahan said in a recent interview. By video call from New York. “The singers who performed these songs are very important to me… (but) I didn’t listen to the original shows anymore; I was singing from my own voice.”
On the album, which was produced by Machin and Jahan, there are tracks written by Bob Dylan (“Not Dark Yet”), Neil Young (“A Man Who Needs a Maid”) and Charles Chaplin (“Smile”) and performed by Presley (“Always On My Mind”) or Aretha Franklin and Elvis Costello (“The Dark End of The Street”). Most of them are male artists except for PJ Harvey’s “Desperate Love Kingdom” and Cat Power’s “Metal Heart”. Gahan emphasized that Harvey’s song accurately talks about impersonating someone else.
“Polly (Harvey) is one of my favorite singers. I’ve been listening to PJ Harvey since the first album.” I wanted to perform the song to honor her entire version from a female perspective, but also from a male perspective…what I hear in this song is this young man who just doesn’t fit her . It does not fit and take a special character or imitate another person. In my case it was David Bowie. Growing up, I used to sing Boy songs and fantasized about him when I was little. I hear her sing about preserving this character.”
The first single, “Metal Heart,” released in October, features a video in which Gahan and Machin can be seen in the studio with backup singers Wendy Rose, Janet Ramos and TJ Cole, who printed a touch of gospel throughout the album. It elevates these songs and gives them a direct feel to the concert.
“I’m a huge fan of Cat Power,” Machin said via video call from outside Manchester, England. “I thought it was really fun to give Dave two songs written by women to absorb and I think he did a really good job translating them. It still sounds feminine to me and has that quality. She’s a great songwriter, we’ve already recorded two songs from Cat Power, I picked Metal Heat and chose Dave is also Manhattan, and we recorded both. We’ll use Manhattan for something, she’s the only one who has two songs (on the project).”
Another highlight is the song “I Held My Baby Last Night” written by Jules Behari and Elmore James and originally performed by Fleetwood Mac, and in his version, Gahan manages to stir spirits as if on a stadium at a concert.
“Dave gives it a touch of Elvis,” Machin said. “His performance is one of the best I’ve seen in the studio, he spoiled the song. He was in the recording room making it sound like she was performing on stage. It was amazing to watch.”
It was so much fun for Gahan to record: “It’s a totally live performance and you can feel the energy in the room.”
At the other end is James Shelton’s “Lilac Wine”, a difficult 1950’s song because, in addition to being a sad and slow song, it was immortalized by two great artists: Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley.
“I honestly haven’t heard Jeff Buckley’s novel. It was my daughter who suggested we do Nina Simone’s ‘Lilac Wine’, and that’s the version I knew,” Gahan said. “When I finished recording, I sent a copy of the album to Anton Corbijn to hear him and see what he thought of the album and he said, ‘I especially liked the version you did of the Jeff Buckley song.’ And I said, ‘The Jeff Buckley song?’…Then I did more Research and listen to it, it’s a beautiful copy.”
Gahan said working with Soulsavers is very different than working with Depeche Mode.
“And I wanted it, I wanted to do something that was challenging in a different way,” he said. “The process is very different. It’s more about when the song is written, in this case other people’s songs; it’s about having the right musicians in the studio at the same time and then playing it as if we were on stage. Depesh doesn’t really do that in the studio. It’s great to try that and bring Peter Giordino and Christian Aigner and do some interpretation, I think it’s going to be fun.”
For Soulsavers, this is their seventh album. On two previous shows, “It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s How You Fall” and “Shattered”, Mark Lanigan, whose “strange religion” is included in “Hustler,” featured as guest vocalist. Will they make one with Gahan and Lanegan together?
“I don’t know, those are a lot of singers for me. You probably never know,” Machin said with a laugh. “Mark is one of my best friends, we talk three or four times a week. We’d like to do something together soon. If we all do something together, who knows? But it will be wonderful.”
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