How Depeche Mode Used Emax Samples to Create Their Iconic Sound
Depeche Mode is one of the most influential bands in electronic music history, with a career spanning over four decades and dozens of hit songs. But what is the secret behind their distinctive sound? One of the key elements is their use of Emax samples, which are digital recordings of various instruments and sounds that can be played back on a keyboard.
The Emax was a sampler produced by EMU Systems in the mid-1980s, and it was one of the first affordable and accessible devices of its kind. It allowed musicians to record any sound they wanted and manipulate it in various ways, such as changing the pitch, filter, envelope, and effects. The Emax also had a built-in sequencer that could record and play back multiple tracks of samples.
Depeche Mode's keyboardist and main songwriter, Martin Gore, was an early adopter of the Emax, and he used it extensively on their albums and live shows from 1986 to 1994. He was especially fond of sampling Mellotron, Clavinet, and other vintage keyboards that gave their songs a retro-futuristic vibe. He also sampled vocals, drums, guitars, and other sounds from various sources, such as movies, TV shows, radio broadcasts, and even his own bandmates.
One of the most famous examples of Depeche Mode's use of Emax samples is their 1987 hit \"Strangelove\", which features a sample of Alan Wilder's voice saying \"There'll be times when my crimes will seem almost unforgivable\" at the beginning. The sample was taken from an interview Wilder did with a Polish radio station in 1986, and it was processed with a pitch shifter and a delay effect to create a haunting intro.
Another example is their 1990 song \"Enjoy the Silence\", which features a sample of a harmonium playing a chord progression that Gore recorded in his home studio. The sample was looped and layered with other synth sounds to create a lush and atmospheric backdrop for the song.
Depeche Mode's Emax samples have become so iconic that they have been released as official sound banks for fans and musicians to use. In 2011, Alan Wilder auctioned off his Emax collection, which included over 800 disks with original samples from Depeche Mode's albums and tours. The disks were also converted into digital files and made available online by EMXP, a software package for EMU sampler products.
Depeche Mode's Emax samples are not only a testament to their creativity and innovation, but also to their lasting impact on electronic music culture. They have inspired countless artists and genres, from industrial to techno to synth-pop. They have also become part of the musical DNA of Depeche Mode, who continue to use samples in their songs to this day.
One of the challenges that Depeche Mode faced when using Emax samples was how to recreate them live on stage. They had to rely on Alan Wilder, who was not only a keyboardist but also a sound engineer and programmer, to manage the complex setup of samplers, sequencers, and mixers. Wilder had to load the right disks for each song, trigger the samples at the right time, and adjust the levels and effects on the fly. He also had to deal with technical issues, such as disk errors, power failures, and feedback loops.
Wilder was often praised by his bandmates and critics for his skill and dedication in performing live with Emax samples. He was also admired by other musicians, who were curious about his methods and equipment. In 1988, he gave a demonstration of his Emax setup at a music convention in Frankfurt, Germany, where he showed how he allocated samples across the keyboard and how he used the sequencer and effects. He also played some of the samples from Depeche Mode's songs, such as \"Behind the Wheel\", \"Strangelove\", and \"Never Let Me Down Again\".
Depeche Mode's Emax samples have also been a source of fascination and inspiration for fans and collectors, who have tried to identify and recreate them over the years. Some fans have even managed to obtain copies of Wilder's original disks or digital files, either through auctions, online downloads, or personal contacts. They have also shared their findings and discoveries on websites, forums, and social media platforms. Some fans have also created their own versions of Depeche Mode's songs using Emax samples or similar sounds. 0efd9a6b88