Halo - the Violator book

Halo – the Violator book – the review

David and Kevin needn’t be introduced among us hardcore fans. Contributors, original content creators about depeche MODE. I got the privilege to access their book a few weeks ago and exchange insights about the milestone in depeche history called the Violator album with the authors. Please say Hello to Halo and enjoy my book review.

Dear non-English-speaking reader. This review/interview at least I tried to make it in English 😉 but if you’d like to read it in your native language or have the pleasure of reading Google-translated interviews. You may easily click on the green button in the bottom-left corner. There you’ll find a variety of other languages. Maybe one of them will be yours.

Before I will go deeper into the foxhole, a short q&a I gave to Kevin and David:

Your favourite song from Violator?

David: Enjoy The Silence
Kevin: Halo

The least favourite song from Violator?

David: An impossible question to answer! I genuinely don’t have one I would say I dislike more than others...
Kevin: Sweetest Perfection

The most favourite remix from singles?

David: Personal Jesus (Pump Mix)
Kevin: Policy Of Truth (Capitol Mix)

A Favourite live version of any Violator song from any tour?

David: World In My Eyes (Devotional)
Kevin: World In My Eyes (Devotional)

OK, guys, I think we’ve got the warm-up behind us, to the topic.

Martini: The first info I wrote about the book was in 2015. So, my question is, why that long? 😉

Kevin: Ha! There’s a lot of life that goes on alongside trying to write a book, sadly. I was a journalist when I started out on this project and, disappointingly, faced a string of difficulties with my job after about 18 months of starting Halo. I then had a very serious mountain biking accident, which completely knocked my physical and mental energy levels for about a year. Then COVID happened, giving us all various challenges in our lives. These are all valid excuses – but I do appreciate that it’s taken far too long, and I’ve tested the patience of many fans. Thank goodness David agreed to help out when I asked him as he has been the enthusiastic and wonderful partner I needed to get this over the finish line.

Martini: In my country, we have a saying: „You know a man not by how he starts, but how he finishes.” And you did well. Congratulations!

Kevin: Thank you.

Martini: I will pretend to be a novice 😉 Why Violator? Black Celebration or Music for the Masses is fantastic too. 😉

Kevin: It’s a landmark album for many reasons, not just the songs. Everything came together at the same time, such as mainstream crossover, artwork, videos, the tour, and of course, the high quality of the production on Violator.

Martini: What was the initial idea to write the Halo book?

Kevin: For the reasons noted in my last answer, I just felt that there was a really interesting story based on the narrative of an era for a band covering the creativity required to produce such a masterpiece, recording, marketing, design, visual output, and lots more.

Martini: We know you as a blogger and journalist. I still remember your Violator series written to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album. When I read it for the 1st time, I thought immediately that it could be a fantastic contribution to Kevin’s project at that time. What was your reaction when Kevin approached you with the offer of co-writing the book?

David: My reaction was to say yes straight away! Kevin and I had of course gotten to know each other by the time he asked me, and I was aware of the Halo project. I was very surprised to be asked to join in with Halo, but I was hugely enthusiastic, to say the least. Kevin had written something for Almost Predictable Almost’s Violator month so he knew the album was a favourite of mine.

Violator is a milestone in the history of the band, it is the milestone in the history of our subculture, and it is finally the milestone in the history of music and pop culture. I am a child of the Violator too (how it sounds ;-P). If not for this album, probably I wouldn’t dive deep into the in depeche MODE’s music as much as it happened after 1989. That’s why I strongly supported the Halo – the Violator book project from the beginning.

These types of books are written for at least two reasons – to discover the undiscovered… yet and to describe unknown facts for the first time. The book itself is secondary to the discoveries. The second reason, equally important, is to collect all the diffused pieces of information, sometimes trifles, so that they are finally in one place. Such books are very necessary because allow the gathering of known knowledge in a specific moment. Then subsequent authors, who come after, can deepen their knowledge and move studies further.

Martini: Have you ever heard or witnessed any bad opinions about Violator from fans in 1990 or in the present time?

Kevin & David: We’ve not seen any firm opinions from fans saying, for example, that Violator is a bad album or something they don’t listen to. Everyone has a favourite album of course, but Violator seems to be generally thought of as a fan favourite.

There is a third aspect that is often overlooked. Over the years, records have been covered with various legends. The perception of a work of art that is a piece of music changes over the years, sometimes to such an extent that we lose the original understanding of a recorded piece or other artistic work. The initial thought is lost in the darkness of the ages.

1990.06.13 Filadelfia
1990.06.13 Filadelfia

The Halo book is something in between. It is closer to a compendium of knowledge about what could be called The Violator Era. It is not only a documentation of the album creation, but it goes back to the origins of the band and the other way around too. The book shows us the influence of the Violator in the history of depeche MODE and pop culture. Because the story of Violator began when Martin bought the book by Priscilla PresleyElvis & I – during MUSIC FOR THE MASSES TOUR. Factually The Violator Era ends with the Brit Award for Best Single of the Year, presented in February 1991.

It is not a book for everyone. If your love/sympathy/interest in the depeche MODE is limited to occasional listening to their music, you know albums, but you don’t collect every color of the vinyl… then sorry, but this book is not for you… yet. I can provide you with a list of books or articles to read before. Then it is worth taking up the challenge entitled Halo the Violator book. The book is written very well in terms of technique and 4-5 hours of communing with the item pass quickly.

One paradox in this is that Dave, Martin, Andy, and Alan aren’t the main characters in Halo’s book. Their role is at times very secondary. Halo is primarily a tribute to the people without whom Enjoy The Silence would still be a ballad, not to mention the history of changes in Clean, Policy Of Truth, and Halo that took place in the tracks after the appearance of François Kevorkian. And depeche MODE at concerts could only play on combs, on the squares, in front of the halls where they performed.

The book by David and Kevin is, after all, an attempt to capture the moment and time when everything merged into a perfect formula, as the authors saw it and wanted it then, not as we thought. Because often a contemporary view of work even disturbs the original understanding of the record. The guys perfectly reflect the spirit of the times and the intensive production process of Alan, Flood, and François as well as other great professionals who appeared from the demos to the final sounds of the tour in November 1990 with the band.

The undisputed heroes of that period are François Kevorkian and Flood. It was fantastic to read the stories describing the process of making covers, where Richard Smith from Area studio is the undiscovered hero of the second plan. While reading this fragment, I was simultaneously browsing Mute A Visual Document From 1978 -> Tomorrow (pp. 152/182 – 193). Moreover, in the book, there are many references to external sources that are worth reaching to complement the explored issue. I will not spoil your reading pleasure, so without details. Nevertheless, the stories of Pino Pischetola, Paul Kendall, and François Kevorkian are pearls.

David & Kevin: We all know the impact the album had on the band’s fans, but it clearly had an impact on everyone involved in the project. When we read the interviews that each of us had carried out, we certainly learned a lot. There is a lot of new insight and information that we think fans will love.

Many times, I caught myself reading a piece, and in my mind, I’ve been saying – WTF! – but why didn’t they mention something?! This happened at the same time or right after that. Then I turned a page or two and, in my head, I heard again – Ooooh they wrote it. 🙂

1990.06.16 East Rutherford
1990.06.16 East Rutherford

Martini: What amazed/surprised you during the writing proses? What didn’t know and was eye-opening for you?

Kevin & David: One thing that we found very interesting was the fact that so many people we spoke to could remember so much about that time (although ask them to identify a particular synth or software used and they often scratched their heads a bit!).

Martini: Over the years the main topic, except why there is no video from World Violation, is why this tour was so short. How do you think why they did only 88 gigs? They could easily tour the whole of 1991. As you mentioned in the book: This gap was calm before the storm of mammoth tours of giants like Metallica, Guns & Roses, U2, and others that followed. Do you think that could have been possible to have the scale of Devotional Tour in 1990-1991 era?

David & Kevin: The lack of a WVT video/DVD is certainly a fairly large and obvious gap in Depeche Mode’s output and it is a shame that they have never released anything from that ear. That said, it does help add to the mystique that surrounds the band at that time. An extended tour as they did in 93/94 would have been interesting but we imagine the band was keen to build on Violator’s success and so decided the shorter tour was better as that would allow them to rest and then record again.

I will not hide that the period of recording the album in the studio was not very familiar to me. I am declared a concert freak, but studio not that much. That’s why I read the stories from the studio a bit like a freshman… purposely. It was different in the case of the concert part of the book. There were fewer surprises here, or not at all. In a few places, I would personally devote more pages to certain concert issues. And here we come to a point where I must mention the very few minor weaknesses of this book. Several times I had to read the book in parallel with other items, dig out photos or check the WORLD VIOLATION section on my page. This is by no means a disqualifying accusation, it only added to the feeling of dissatisfaction that I get 98-99%, and I could 101% 🙂 In a few places devoted to the tour, Kevin and David skim the subject smoothly and quickly. Too smooth for me, but I explain it with my bias on the subject of touring. Most of you will probably raise an eyebrow of incomprehension. I would add a few detailed grains to the details they provided. No worries… I’ll save it for future blog entries on the 101dm.pl.

1990.06.16 East Rutherford
1990.06.16 East Rutherford

Martini: The setlist – how do you see the setlist of the World Violation tour over the years? I’m 50:50. On one hand many of the arrangements were fantastic – Everything Counts or Never Let Me Down Again, on the other hand so many songs got the arrangements that didn’t work properly, like Enjoy the Silence (at least didn’t age well). I have a theory (over many years) that for depeche MODE remixes from the B-sides were (? still are?) the reservoir of unused ideas and sound banks for future tours. Tim Simenon’s version of Everything Counts to give again as a prominent example. Enjoy The Silence or Personal Jesus had the arrangements glory during Devotional Tour. World Violation was pioneering on the visual, stage aspect, or setlist setup, but less on the arrangement level.

David & Kevin: You made a good point about arrangements. It’s funny you mention Everything Counts as I’ve never been a fan of the arrangement on that tour – it seems like it tries too hard to fit with the prevailing dance culture of the time. A lot of the songs come across well however and the Violator tracks work terrifically with the strange exception of Enjoy The Silence which just seems a bit weak.

It is also worth mentioning the historical and subcultural aspects of the Violator album. I really liked the portions about the album in the context of changes in our part of the world in Central Europe after 1989. I smiled at the excerpt about the disappointment of East German fans who could not officially buy tickets for the fall tour because the sale of tickets started even before reunification when there were two German states. However, the tour in Germany took place after the reunification. What’s even funnier in all of this is that the Berlin concerts were the first concerts in history for many Polish fans. I know from the stories that buying tickets was not a problem for my natives mainly because many Poles traveled frequently to West Berlin at the time, unlike East German citizens.

Martini: Now I’d like to know your opinion. I did find only a short mention of the presence of drugs during the World Violation. I have the theory that World Violation was as full of drugs as Devotional Tour but using different substances. Mostly pills (as you wrote extasy). Everybody is blaming the Devotional Tour because of the drugs but the presence of the drugs during World Violation was on the same level. In the end, the message didn’t come to the public; only Devo had a sticker of a drug rollercoaster. Everything bad and wrong during Devotional had its beginning in 1990 – infamous romance and then divorce, drugs, atomization of the band, and some other less important things.

Kevin & David: As for the influence of drugs on WVT, we can only really speculate.

1990-07-16 extatic Vancouver
1990-07-16 ecstatic Vancouver

After reading the book, I might risk saying that ZooTV was born on the WORLD VIOLATION tour. U2 fans should read this book too. Definitely. They will understand where the album Achtung Baby came from. There are also many references to The Cure, REM, and Pet Shop Boys. I will not mention Kraftwerk, Nitzer Ebb, Electronic, and Front 242, because it is obvious.

depeche MODE ended the 1980s with the big bang – the Violator. They made an opus magnum album with almost no weaknesses. When it seemed as if they had reached the top, it turned out to be just the ceiling they had kicked out. Just as U2 chopped the Joshua’s Tree in 1991, depeche MODE violated the Red Rose album in 1993, full of sacred and religious ecstasy. Songs Of Faith And Devotion the first album of the 90s was on the one hand a departure from Violator, and on the other hand a continuation of this album’s course of departing from the image of sleek three guys behind keyboards and a vocalist running everywhere with a sleek look. However, this is a completely different story.

Martini: And the final question is: When do we see the World Violation live video or audio released commercially 😀 <lol>

Kevin & David: We hope that our book prompts the band to release a WVT DVD! We would happily take the credit for that.

Martini: Aaaand that’s what we wish for. Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to review your book.

David & Kevin: Thank you too.

Finally, I strongly recommend listening to the conversation by Glen from Breathing in Fumes Podcast with Kevin and David, where we could find the North American perspective of the Violator. Also, I recommend watching Vaughn George’s conversation with Pino Pischetola about the history of the Violator album in Milan.

Review: Halo – The Story Behind depeche MODE’s Classic Album Violator
Authors: Kevin May & David McElroy
Publishing house: Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd.
ISBN Catalog No.: 978-1-80381-225-0
Premier: 29.09.2022

Where to buy the book? Więcej na stronie halotheviolatorbook.com

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