The Mode Man. Alan Wilder returns with Recoil12.07.2007
Ask any club-goers about Depeche Mode and you'll receive a response about an '80s night. But Alan Wilder — former lead keyboardist for Depeche Mode who has been going solo with his project, Recoil — is currently one of the most influential electronic musicians. On July 31, his album subHuman will be released in North America.
Wilder was known for transforming the Mode's sound from New Romantic piffle into dark synth-pop, which was attributed to his classical training. The same can be said about Recoil.
"Aside from the fact that I would use classical instrumentation," Wilder says, "and instruments of the orchestra, within what I do, I think, more importantly, the actual orchestration of how everything is put together is something very much derived from my classical background." This begins the creation of any of Recoil's albums. "When I start off an album, I haven't got a clue what I'm aiming for," he says, "and really I don't know what direction the whole thing is going to go in. I know from experience what it's likely to be like and it'll probably be quite dark and atmospheric, but apart from that, I kind of try to just work intuitively and let the experiments flow until something kind of hits me and I think, 'Yes, that's a direction.'"
With its pulsating electronics blanketed with guitars and strings, subHuman creates an apocalyptic scene of confusion. Wilder collaborates with bluesman Joe Richardson and singer Carla Trevasakis. While Richardson's voice has a dark quality that moves with the instrumentation, Trevaskis's hovers above with an ethereal tone and trembling vibrato.
For Depeche fans, the album is a continuation of the complex keyboard textures and production Wilder brought to the band, minus the pop of Martin Gore and David Gahan.
Wilder hasn't done any recording in six years. Before any work could begin, he had to update all of his equipment.
Samples — live, old, or new — make up a portion of Recoil's sound. "I manipulate them or reprocess them in different ways, so that, quite often, they turn into something completely new, although sometimes they are recognizable," says Wilder. For live sounds, Wilder takes them and chops them up. He keeps on file the sounds he's used for decades.
Wilder returned to the studio for the re-releases of Depeche Mode's albums as executive producer. "What we were trying to do was re-create the original sound," he says, "remember how a lot of the effects and processing was done at the time, and re-do in a kind of better way." Although his former bandmates continue to tour, Wilder has no plans to tour with Recoil any time soon. "It's just not something I'm driven to do, really," he says. "I would never rule it out completely & it can be done one of these days, although it wouldn't be an easy thing to do."