An Interview with Dicken Schrader of Depeche Mode's SPIRITS in the Forest (Part 3 of 5)

Depeche Mode's David Gahan @ SAP Center - Oct. 17th, 2017 (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan @ SAP Center - Oct. 17th, 2017 (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Depeche Mode's last appearance here in the Bay Area was back on the 2017/2018 Global Spirit Tour during which they played both the Oakland Arena and SAP Center in San Jose in October 2017. During that tour, Depeche Mode set out to create a new type of concert film to document not the live concert experience, but instead, a selection of fans and their relationship to the music of Depeche Mode. Through the deeply emotional stories of six special Depeche Mode fans, the film shows not only how and why the band’s popularity and relevance has continued to grow over the course of their career, but provides a unique look into music’s incredible power to build communities, enable people to overcome adversity, and create connections across the boundaries of language, location, gender, age, and circumstance. Artfully shot and expertly directed by Anton Corbijn, Depeche Mode: SPIRITS in the Forest weaves together exhilarating musical performances, filmed at the final shows of the Global Spirit Tour in Berlin’s famed Waldbühne (“Forest Stage”), with intimate documentary footage filmed in the fans’ hometowns across the globe.

To celebrate the release of Depeche Mode: SPIRITS in the Forest and the band's recent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, SF Bay Area Concerts teamed with Columbia Records to offer four of the Bay Area's top Depeche Mode fans the chance to interview 5 of the SPIRITS featured in the film in this 5-part series. We'll post a new part of the series every two weeks leading up to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, May 2nd periodically leading up to the Blu-Ray release on June 26th! (Ed. note: We had every intention to release these every two weeks until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The R&R HoF induction has been postponed to later this year.)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (below) | Part 4 | Part 5

Our lucky Bay Area Depeche Mode fans included:

Anne C. (Petaluma)
Jason E. (Fremont)
Nolan E. (Sacramento)
Vince F. (Cupertino)

Our third part features Dicken Schrader from Bogota, Columbia & Miami, FL.

Jason E: ¡Hola Dicken! ¿Como estás? ¡Mucho Gusto! I remember when DMK's Everything Counts video first came out and I was one of the many millions who loved every minute of it. I was really happy when watching the film to see and make the connection that it was indeed you, Milah and Korben. What you started almost 10 years ago was so endearing, special, creative and unique that it's wonderful a whole new audience of dM fans get to discover and experience it now. You have probably answered these questions 1,000 times in other interviews, but how do you go about creating the DMK versions of songs (for example, your process in finding the various instruments or common household items that could get you the desired sounds you needed for the song, the length of time it usually takes to come up with the new musical arrangement, amount of practice that goes into getting that final video performance for each song, the process/criteria in choosing the songs, etc.)? In the film you talked about how you and the kids are more apart these days and they are growing up and moving into other interests and passions. Even if it does not happen as much in the future, I hope you, Milah and Korben continue to find a way of bringing your spirit and music to the masses! Muchas gracias por su pasión y creatividad para dar "nueva vida" a estas canciones, celebrarlas con sus hijos y aportar algo positivo y bueno a este mundo. ¡Espero conocerte en Colombia (o si visitas San Francisco) algún día!

Dicken Schrader: Our first step is, of course, choosing the song, and that is a decision the three of us always make together. Milah and Korben have listened to Depeche Mode since they were babies and they know all of their tunes. As they were growing up, and began to understand the lyrics in a deeper way, some of those songs became their personal favorites.

We also decided together which instruments to use depending on the song. Our instruments were my old Yamaha keyboard and their toys. Sometimes, we tried to find the ones that sounded closer to the original track, but other times we went for the ones that sounded sweeter, like when we decided to let our ukulele carry the melody on “Just Can’t Get Enough.” We also went around the house banging on everything, trying to find the right sounds to use for percussion like bottles, cans, rattles, water spray bottles. Even cheese graters became our musical instruments. Coming up with the new musical arrangements can take a few weeks, and then learning them may take up to a few months of practice.

Nolan E: I’m a bit “top 5 list” guy. What are your top 5 Depeche Mode songs and why?

Dicken Schrader: “Enjoy the Silence” – It is not a very surprising option, since this song tends to be on everyone’s top 5. Every time I hear it, I get the same goosebumps that I got the first time I heard it in 1990. It is a masterpiece.

“Precious” – This song relates to me on a very personal level. It makes me think about my kids and the difficult moments they went through when their mother and I separated. I cry every time I hear it.

“But Not Tonight” – This is possibly Depeche Mode’s most underrated song; its powerful lyrics have the perfect balance of moodiness and positivism.

“Strangelove” - This was the first DM song I ever heard on the radio. It was the song that attracted me to the band in the first place.

“Personal Jesus” - This song shot Depeche Mode into the stratosphere and redefined their sound.

Nolan E: How did Depeche Mode “find” each of you for the film? Being in a tribute band that has viral videos, I understand, but where there other media events for the rest of you that caused similar popularity? What was your reaction when getting asked to be in the film? And how has it affected you since wrapping up the project?

Dicken Schrader: It all began with the Fan Takeover campaign, in which Depeche Mode surrendered their Facebook page for a year to their fans, one fan per day. Out of thousands of fans who sent in their stories from around the world, 365 lucky ones were chosen, and from that short list, six were hand-picked to be featured in “Spirits in the Forest”. When I received the email inviting me, as soon as I read the subject “Depeche Mode Film Opportunity”, I started shaking. In that precise moment, I thought of the scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in which Charlie finds the golden ticket in his Wonka bar. Receiving the film crew at my home in Bogotá, travelling with my kids to Berlin to watch the show, meeting Martin backstage, and then going to the movies to see myself in the film was the most amazing and gratifying experience of my life. It still is, as I answer these questions for you.

Nolan E: I love your videos; I’ve been a fan of them long before seeing you in the film. What came first — your kids listening to Depeche Mode with you, or was creating the videos the catalyst that got all of you into enjoying the band together?

Dicken Schrader: Milah and Korben have been listening to Depeche Mode since before they were born. In fact, Korben enjoyed his first DM show inside his mother’s belly in 2005 during Touring the Angel when she was pregnant. When they started to fool around with my keyboard, the first melodies they played were Depeche Mode’s. Making the videos was just a natural next step for them.

Nolan E: Now that your kids are getting older, what do you see happening in the future with your tribute band?

Dicken Schrader: Although the cuteness factor of seeing little kids on stage is waning down as the kids are getting older, we still enjoy playing together on stage, and crowds really seem to still enjoy it. We still have some history to write as DMK. In fact, we have a European tour planned for the summer of 2020. Maybe there will be a new song; who knows? There may be a next stage for our band in which Milah and Korben will be playing music with their own kids, and I’ll be the grandpa playing the maraca in the back. Everything about this project has been so magical and unexpected that I guess anything is possible.

Nolan E: Out of curiosity, do you know if Depeche Mode have seen your videos? Have you heard any feedback from them about your work?

Dicken Schrader: For many years that was the question in the back of our heads until we saw the video of Martin calling out his favorite entries for the Takeover campaign, and he announced that “Dicken and his kids” were in his top three. He had seen our “Enjoy the Silence” cover and loved it. We later met him backstage at the Waldbühne in Berlin before the final concert of the Global Spirit Tour and he told us in person how much he enjoyed our videos. We haven’t heard anything from Dave or Fletch, but now that we’re in their movie we’re pretty sure they have seen our videos as well, or at least portions of them.

Nolan E: Are there Depeche Mode songs that you and your kids disagree on? Have there been any big divides where, for example, you really want to cover a specific song but the girls can't stand it or vice versa?

Dicken Schrader: We are usually pretty much on the same boat. The songs we have chosen have been our overall favorites. There haven’t been divides about it, but there have been a few covers that some of us have wanted to do that the others did not felt right about. For example, Korben has always wanted to do “Behind the Wheel” but it hasn’t happened because every time we’ve attempted to do it, another song has felt better at the time for us to recreate with our instruments. One of Milah’s favorites has always been “Blasphemous Rumours”, but I’ve felt it is not appropriate to have kids sing about suicide on YouTube.

Vince F: What is your favorite dM album and video and why?

Dicken Schrader: Album: “Violator.” No doubt about it, this album has been the pinnacle of their career. It’s flawless.

Video: “Wrong.” In my opinion, it is one of the most creative videos they have ever done. It makes you feel uneasy, powerless and claustrophobic. I love everything about it.

Vince F: Who is your favorite member of dM (from current and previous lineups) and why?

Dicken Schrader: I have always loved Martin Gore, even before I met him, because he’s been the creative force behind the band throughout the years. Then, when I did meet him, it corroborated why I liked him so much. He’s just a humble, down-to-earth, approachable, funny, wonderful human being. His hands are warm when you shake them.

Vince F: 2020 is the 40th anniversary of dM, what might be your top three wishes for them in light of this major milestone and why?

Dicken Schrader: Get inducted in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame (wish already granted). Perform at least a couple of songs with Alan Wilder. Have them collaborate with DMK (that’s actually a wish for me).

Vince F: Do you have a most beloved dM piece of merchandise? If so, what is it and why?

Dicken Schrader: Unlike most fans who have huge collections, I don’t own much of their stuff. I try to be as light as possible, especially now that I’m moving around, so everything that I own fits in a couple of bags. I do have all of their records and singles in CD format, but since I now listen to them on Spotify, they are stored in a box at my grandmother’s house in Bogotá. I guess my most precious souvenir is my metallic all-access backstage pass from the last concert of the Global Spirit Tour in Berlin because it is unique and it will always bring me back to that special day.

SFBAC: Thanks for your time Dicken! And thank you for reading! Learn more about Dicken and his love of Depeche Mode in SPIRITS in the Forest -- now available on streaming services! And be sure to follow us across our social feeds for more pictures, concert announcements and news here: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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