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Dave Gahan's Clean Slate (interview)

foto Tomáš Martinek

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler presented Dave Gahan with the Stevie Ray Vaughan award at the seventh annual MusiCares ceremony in LA this week, in recognition of the Depeche Mode singer’s 15 years abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Announcing the award, Tyler (also a recovering addict) paid tribute, describing staying clean as ‘harder than being a musician, it's harder than being a rock star, it's harder than selling more than 100 million albums worldwide’.

Dave Gahan responded in kind, recalling how Tyler had helped him start his recovery in the 90s as he came perilously close to death on four separate occasions. During the last near death experience in 1996, his heart stopped for over two minutes, after he overdosed on a speedball (heroin combined with cocaine) at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles.

“Stephen accosted me in a bar one night somewhere like Chicago; He wasn't drinking and I was,” Gahan began. “I was tying one on and this guy was sort of annoyingly talking to me. Apparently it was Steven Tyler f--king with my drinking. Anyway, that was a long time ago and I'm blessed to be here." (Hollywood Reporter: )

One year after he finally quit, the hugely popular alternative rock star chatted to Jonty Skrufff and was extremely frank abouthis descent into drug addiction.

“If God had a drug and alcohol allowance for each person I had used up my fair share, much to my regret, to be quite honest,” he admitted.

“For me it was my everyday thought. Everything would be about getting sorted. Because the drugs weren’t working, I was overdosing all the time and waking up in strange places. I’d never feel high. I was flatlining . . .

“I came out and used again and the insanity struck me. It (the addiction) wants me dead, I thought and that’s when I reached out to the handful of people who had constantly been trying to stop me from using because they would say where it was going to end.”

“One of the problems I had in particular with drug addiction was that I had an endless supply of fucking money. The dealers came to me. It wasn’t until the end that the dealers started cutting me off because of the attention that was around me. I had been followed by the police and I was a time bomb waiting to be busted,” he recalled.

“Clubs in LA started turning me away because I was bad news. So then I found myself in parts of LA where I would never have gone: like the shooting galleries with all the other crack-heads and smack-heads.”

Jonty Skrufff: Did people recognise you in the crack-houses?

Dave Gahan: “Not really, no. Before I got clean I weighed about 110 pounds and looked very different. I looked just like another junkie. I saw a different side then, I was really desperate.”

Jonty Skrufff: Did you have guns?

Dave Gahan: “I used to walk around my apartment with a .38 down the back of my pants. Sometimes I would shoot hole in the walls because of my own shadow, literally.I remember coming out of jail . . . I was sitting at home with a .38 by my side and that was the first time I really thought about blowing my head off. That’s when I picked up the phone and said ‘I know I’ve fucked up, can somebody help me?’ That’s when things began to change. I remember phoning Stephen Tyler in Boston and crying to him over the phone, what the fuck am I gonna do?’ He was actually really cool.”

Jonty Skrufff: What other guns did you have?

Dave Gahan: “I had a 12 gauge shotgun, a .38, a little Ouzi (machine gun) just because of my paranoia. For a period of time I used to go out in Los Angeles with a 9mm that I actually had down my pants when I used to score drugs because everybody carries guns. I did get hit in the face with the butt of a gun a couple of times by dealers who wanted my money without the stuff.”

I found myself being a product of LA. I used to have this seven feet tall stuffed Bugs Bunny and I chained it to the wall. My thinking was ‘OK, this is fucking Disneyworld and if I’m stuck here, he can be too.’ I had the Tinman, the lion from the Wizard of Oz and they were all chained up. Believe me, I had many conversations with the Tinman.”

He was also philosophical about why he became addicted.

“I’ve always been an alcoholic, right from a very early age. I’ve always liked the feeling of not being myself and that’s where it all begins. No matter how far back, that’s always been the motivation: I don’t wanna feel like I’m feeling right now.

“There’s nothing cool about being a heroin addict, it’s a really painful, sad existence. Give me a mattress, a needle, a spoon and my dope and I was happy. People die from this disease every day.

“Many friends died and when I was using I didn’t think about it. If I junkie died in my hotel room, I’d think ‘Get them out and fucking throw them on the lawn, then dial 911 and say ‘someone has had a heart attack on the lawn’.

“That’s the life, the only thing you care about is yourself. It’s like ‘Fuck everybody else, as long as I have my drugs I’m OK’. You don’t even think that you’re affecting anybody else. It’s not until you’re clean that you realise.”

Depeche Mode will release Remixes 2: 81-11 on Mute in June, a triple CD collection of classic remixes plus a bunch of brand new ones by producers including Eric Prydz, Roland M.Dill and former Mode members Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder. (Dave Gahan TV interview [from 1995, when he was still drinking])

Jonty Skrufff:

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