The story behind DE/VISION’s superb new soundscapes on “13”

DE/VISION 13

Last month, I declared DE/VISION’s new album, 13, to be one of their best ever! What contributed to the creation of this stellar album? I recently interviewed Thomas Adam and learned that there’s more going on than meets the eye.

Frey: 13 sounds like an evolution of the DE/VISION sound, but I can’t quite put my finger on what’s different. What’s new about its sound and style?

DE/VISION 13Adam: I agree, 13 is definitely an evolution of the DE/VISION sound. I remember the first time I listened to the final version. I just thought: “Wow, this is better than anything we’ve ever done before.”

The whole production is fantastic, very powerful and the sound design is absolutely outstanding, giving each song its very own character… and in my humble opinion the song-writing is very good too.

I think that most of our releases have been very well produced but 13 is different, to me it marks not only a new sound standard for DE/VISION. What worries me a little bit is the fact that it will be very difficult to top this one.

By the way, when I talk about 13, I mean the whole experience, not only the 10-track album. For me, 13 contains 17 songs, the bonus tracks are a very essential part of the production, they make 13 complete. I feel almost sorry for people who only buy the 10-track version because they miss a lot. I think each one of the bonus tracks is able to keep up with the high quality of the regular album.

By the way, it was a pleasure to read your review of 13 because you particularly underlined the sound design. Too many music critics and bands seem to forget that at times but good sound design is essential when it comes to electronic music. I think there are too many electronic bands out there who seem to believe that one or two dozen sounds are enough to make an album, but that’s another story.

Frey: It looks like you used different producers for 13. Please tell me what they contributed to this album.

Thomas Adam - DE/VISIONAdam: There has been a major change for us, for DE/VISION: For many years we had a very fertile collaboration with our producers Arne Schumann and Joseph Bach and we are very thankful for everything they’ve done for us. They had a great impact on the DE/VISION sound and also wrote a couple of songs for DE/VISION. Nevertheless, we somehow felt that this collaboration was running out of steam. We needed a change.

That’s why we decided to work with a new producer this time: Ken Porter, a friend from the USA. We know Ken for quite a while…born in the USA, he grew up in Germany and is a DE/VISION fan since the early nineties. Later he moved back to Phoenix, Arizona. He speaks English and German fluently, which is perfect when it comes to lyrics.

Ken is a member of the american synth-pop band INTUITION, which supported DE/VISION a couple of years ago in Germany. Ken told us right away that he would not make this production on his own and got his friend Stan Cotey on board. We haven’t met once during the production, we’ve communicated via e-mail and Skype.

Ken and Stan are fantastic sound engineers. I can’t tell you in detail what they did or what kind of instruments and Plug-ins they use, but I do know that Stan owns an old modular synthesizer, which was used intensively. Most of our demo-versions already sounded pretty good but Ken and Stan got the most out of each song…the time, effort and expertise they put into 13 cannot be too highly praised.

The production of 13 took about a year, including the song-writing. It’s been a stressful year but the hard work and passion everybody put into 13 absolutely paid off. Ken and Stan produced, mixed and mastered the album.

Frey: I noticed that you incorporated guitar into several songs.

Adam: The funny thing is, when we started working on 13 we also talked about guitars and we all agreed that we wouldn’t need them this time. But it turned out that things never turn out as planned, because very soon this agreement was thrown overboard.

Frey: Backing vocals seemed to get much more emphasis on 13. What was the thinking behind that?

Adam: Compared to earlier DE/VISION releases we focused much more on the backing vocals this time. I’m a rather bad singer, that’s why Steffen used to sing most of the backing vocals in the past (since former DE/VISION member Markus left the band), which was fine, but to be honest, it gets a little bit boring after a while, when both, the vocals as well as the backing vocals are sung by the same person.

Of course Steffen also contributed some backing vocals this time but we also asked some fellow musicians if they would like to do backing vocals for some of our new songs and they all agreed. These musicians/vocalists are:

  • Geoff Pinckney from TENEK (“Who am I”, “Gasoline”, “Morphine” and I think “Their World”, although I’m not sure if that’s Geoff or Garrett, I asked Steffen, he wasn’t sure either, neither was Ken…),
  • Garrett Miles (not to be confused with the american country singer of the same name), INTUITION’s vocalist, whose solo single “Save Me” was released on our label “Popgefahr Records” about two years ago (“Read your mind”, “Essence”), and
  • Last but not least, a guy called Thomas Schernikau, keyboardist of FORCED TO MODE, probably think he best DEPECHE MODE cover band in the world, where he’s also singing the Martin Gore vocal parts (“You Don’t Mean Anything”).

I also mustn’t forget to mention Ken’s daughter Eliana. She contributed backing vocals to “Starchild. They all did a great job and add a lot of variety and atmosphere to the songs. I especially love Geoff’s vocals on “Gasoline” and absolutely agree with Steffen, who said the harmonies resulting from both voices are so Queen-like (2nd verse).

Frey: I love the variety of songs on 13. Yet it’s also a very cohesive set of music. Kudos to you, Steffen and your producers!

Adam: Thank you! Like many DE/VISION releases, 13 is a very diverse album. It combines different styles of electronic music and includes everything from soft to edgy tones. Although the songs are quite different, they somehow go together. Songs like “Their World”, “Essence” and “Morphine” for example are straight pop songs, “Who am I” and “Gasoline” are rather industrial-like. Among the new songs there are also two instrumentals, “In the Cold Light of Day,” which sounds almost like an homage to Kraftwerk, and “Transit”, a rather dark song with elaborate sound design and an intense atmosphere. “Transit” sounds like a movie score to me.

Frey: What were your goals creatively for this, your 13th album?

Adam: We always try to reinvent ourselves one way or the other but it is not necessary and not our intention to reinvent the wheel. We’re still DE/VISION and we still make electronic pop music. Our goals are very simple, we try to write good, interesting music that touches the listeners hearts…

Frey: Is there a unifying theme to this new collection of songs?

Adam: Our music is always a reflection of the world we’re living in and right now we’re living in very dark and dangerous times. International political issues had a strong influence on the music and lyrics of 13: Terrorism (that includes State terrorism), religion, war, the expansion of the surveillance state, the huge number of refugees Europe is facing and the thousands that have died along the way, how we deal with that situation and what it means for the people here in Germany/Europe and in this context the upcoming nationalism in Germany/Europe.

There was so much to write about, but there are also a few lyrics that are rather personal and have nothing to do with politics at all, “Who am I” and “You Don’t Mean Anything,” for example.

Frey: Who wrote the lyrics for the songs on this album? They’re very evocative.

Adam: Garrett Miles, I mentioned him earlier, wrote the lyrics for two new DE/VISION songs: “Their World” and “Morphine.” Steffen wrote “No One’s Land” and I wrote the remaining lyrics.

1 comment

  1. Mariya - December 2, 2016 9:02 pm

    Chuck, thanks for the interview. I think that Thomas is quite right in worrying about the next album. Unlike Depeche Mode, De/Vision have never released an absolute, universally acclaimed masterpiece album against which all their following works would be tested, but ’13’ may well be their ‘Violator’. So, good luck to them in the future )

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