Depeche Mode’s Secret Gig in LA – An interview with attendee Attosa Tavallai
(Photos by Attosa Tavallai, text by our correspondent Janos Janurik) Before embarking on an extensive world tour, Dave, Martin, and Co of Depeche Mode held a secret concert in Los Angeles. A select group of fans had the opportunity to see their idols perform live in a well-hidden rehearsal room in the “City of Angels” before the regular tour began.
The band performed at SIR Studios in Los Angeles on March 16th, but tickets were not available for purchase. Fans had the chance to win free tickets in a radio quiz hosted by KROQ. Before the highly anticipated tour commenced on March 23rd in Sacramento, participants had the opportunity to see and hear the band in an intimate concert setting. Attosa Tavallai, a familiar face to Depeche Mode fans, especially in the U.S., was among those selected and agreed to answer a few questions from our correspondent Janos Janurik before the tour officially began on March 23rd – one day before the album release.
SL: Attosa, we’ve known each other since the COVID-19 pandemic when you had some interesting Zoom conversations with friends and fans from around the world. Sometimes famous musicians, such as Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb, were guests on these online conversations. Please tell a few words about yourself for those who don’t know you yet. Since when have you been a fan of Depeche Mode? Where and when was your first concert experience?
A: Ah, those Zoom conversations were brilliant, and I still do them to this day. Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb is one of my favorite people on earth, and it was so lovely to have him spend an afternoon with us, singing, laughing, answering fan questions. I am a musician, and I play synths and theremin for an electronic-rock band called Former Human Beings. Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb are why I got into music when I was younger. I have been a fan of Depeche Mode since I was eight or nine years old, listening to their hits on the radio. However, it wasn’t until my cousin Neema gave me a cassette tape of 101 that I truly and deeply fell in love with Depeche Mode. My first concert was World Violation in 1990 as a 12-year-old. It was my first concert ever. Nitzer Ebb opened the show, and it blew me away. I still remember the sounds and the feelings to this day.
SL: Have you ever won anything related to Depeche Mode? Have you met the band in person?
A: I have previously won tickets to their Exotic tour. I sent a fax to my local radio station using the Depeche Mode Devotional font on my computer, begging them to give me two tickets to their concert because I was a kid with no money! They were so impressed with the font that they sent me to the show with plus-one access! I was pretty young and had just broken up with my boyfriend, so I had to take my mom. It was weird but fun! It became the beginning of a great relationship with her.
SL: Please, tell us a bit about the current quiz! What kind of questions did you have to answer? Was it hard for a long-time fan?
A: The contest was put on by KROQ, and we had to name 10 Depeche Mode songs in under 10 seconds. I timed it; it was 7 seconds. I found it very easy, even though the other callers had so much trouble with it. I dialed the radio station 39 times, sweating, but the line was constantly busy. I finally got on, carefully named the songs, and won the prize. The songs were: Personal Jesus, Precious, Strangelove, Just Can’t Get Enough, People Are People, Everything Counts, Never Let Me Down Again, Blasphemous Rumours, Enjoy the Silence, and Policy of Truth. You can hear the clip of me winning the contest at https://www.youtube.com/attosa
SL: When and how did you receive the winning notification?
A: The radio station told me right on the phone after the game, and then Sony and KROQ both contacted me with congratulatory letters. They were both very kind to me, knowing how very excited I was. I had mentioned on the radio that I had been to 38 Depeche Mode concerts, so they were excited they were providing me show number 39!
SL: Then the whole story sped up, I guess. Please, tell us about what happened last Thursday at SIR Studios! We already know the setlist, but more details are most welcome! We already know the live version of “Ghosts Again” thanks to TV shows. What can you tell us about the other classics that you could hear live at this rehearsal concert?
A: I can tell you that we walked in during the middle of their rehearsal, so we could hear some of the other songs, old and new, through the walls. They didn’t let us have anything brand new on stage, but we got to hear some of the classic songs a bit slowed down. It was nice to hear John the Revelator. You can tell Dave really loves performing this song, especially since he added it to all the Soulsavers sets this last tour. The boys were joking with each other a lot during the set, and Dave was very playful with me, which made me very happy. I wish someone could have recorded it, but phones were taken away before we walked in. Dave and Martin’s vocals were so fresh and perfect. It was fascinating that we could hear their voices from their mouths instead of from speakers. The room was very small, only about 40 of us in there. You could even hear Martin’s nails on his guitar. They were about 8 feet away from us.
SL: Did you have a chance to meet the band members in person? How was the whole atmosphere one week before the tour start?
A: I met up with Martin and Peter; we had such a lovely chat. Dave seemed locked away from beginning to end. I heard some fans tried to bug the band for autographs when they were trying to go to dinner and it didn’t go over well. It’s no surprise fans will try to do that. Everyone is incredibly excited about the tour. However, this show’s audience was basically 6 of us fans and 40 music industry people. The vibe was very different. Six of us screaming in the front row, and 40 people quite silent. It was interesting.
SL: There is a rumor circulating about the expected setlist for the upcoming tour. Can you comment on that, or are they really trying to keep everything a secret? Do you have any idea what the stage set will look like?
A: It’s hard for me to trust the circulated setlist because many of the songs they performed for us are not on it. It was difficult to hear the rest of the set behind the closed door, so I can’t comment on what the other half sounded like. When we left to eat after they ushered us out, they were eating and then resuming their rehearsal. Only the walls know what’s on that setlist. I think it’s nice not to know, and I really hope they bring back some of the true classics like they said they would. The stage will probably have Dave in the front, dancing around, Martin on his usual left with synths and guitars, Peter on the other side with synths and bass guitars, and Christian with the huge drum set in the middle. I know there’s a catwalk for this tour, so Dave will have fun dancing for more of the crowd.
SL: When and where are you going to see the band live on the upcoming tour?
A: Sacramento, San Jose, Las Vegas, London, and Los Angeles… so far. Always happy to add more!
SL: Taking photos or recording by any other means was, of course, strictly forbidden. Nevertheless, you shared with us a few photos you took after or before the gig. What are the stories behind these photos?
A: I got to talk to Martin and Peter before the show. I asked them if they remembered me because Martin invited me to his after-party 20 years ago. I told them I was the “Phillpott So Hott girl” (you can Google it), and they laughed hard, saying they definitely remembered me. It made me so happy that they knew who I was. We talked for a bit, then took photos together. I think Martin looks happier than he usually does in fan photos because I made him laugh a lot. They seemed refreshed and happy, and they definitely seem ready for the tour!
SL: Thanks for the storytelling. What would be your message for Depeche Mode fans in Europe?
A: Enjoy the shows no matter what you hear on the setlist. These guys have been a gift to us for over 40 years, and they are incredibly hard-working. Give them the loud appreciation they deserve; get up, dance, and thank them as loudly as you can. We never know when it will be our last show.
Join Attosa’s Facebook group “Depeche Mode Collective” to connect with other fans you may know.
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