It sounded too good to be true: the unveiling of a New York restaurant the Bitter Apple, with a menu featuring Dirty Sticky Ribs, Fusilli on the Windscreen, and the house specialty, A Question of Lunch, wherein the chef chooses your entree for you.
If you didn’t get the allusions to synth-rock supergroup Depeche Mode, a press release spelled it out: Not only would band members Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher be at the opening party, so would the Apple’s owner, tattooed frontman Dave Gahan, who said, “I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant — now is the time.”
There was just one hitch. Gahan, 45, had no clue about his culinary career. The Bitter Apple was merely an elaborate April Fool’s Day prank perpetrated by Depeche Mode’s webmaster, who’d even posted a logo and panoramic photos of the joint.
“The first I heard of it was when a friend walked up to me on the street and said ‘So you’re opening a restaurant now?’” Gahan laughs. “And when I got home my wife, as well, mentioned it to me. And pretty soon, a ton of people were asking me about it, asking when it was opening. And let me tell you, opening a cafe is probably the last thing I’d want to do. It is not one of my ambitions.”
The artist, who just issued his second industrial-strength solo set, “Hourglass,” says he’s a mess in the kitchen. “I can throw spaghetti in a bowl, and I do a good mac and cheese, but that’s about it.”
If not cooking, what occupies Gahan’s free time?
“It seems at the moment that my hobby is making music,” he says. “I love it, and I’m having a great time doing it.”
Inspired by the serious work ethic of fellow musician Nick Cave — who punches the clock at a studio/office — he rented a separate room and stocked it with instruments, a computer and a Pro Tools recording setup.
“I’m pretty disciplined about it, and I really get a lot accomplished there,” he says.
It’s where “Hourglass,” featuring guitarist Andrew Phillpott and drummer Christian Eigner, coalesced.
Tone-wise, the set is “pretty filthy,” Gahan admits. But lyrically, cuts like “Kingdom” and “Miracles” find the grave-timbred crooner tackling larger themes such as faith and spirituality.
“I’m at that place in life where I’m asking ‘What the hell is it all about?’” he says. “And I’ll be damned if I don’t die trying to find out.”
The seeker hasn’t found any solid answers yet, even though he’s pored over the recent Rhino remasters of the entire Depeche Mode catalog, “Violator” and “Black Celebration” in particular.
Looking back on their curious creative process — Gore’s sinister dirges are uploaded to synthesizer for Gahan to intone — he did reach one firm conclusion.
“After all these years of singing these songs for Martin, his creepiness is now definitely a part of me,” he says. “But what I’m finding out with ‘Hourglass’ is that I’m just as creepy, if not more so. And I’m OK with that. Because the truth of it is, I couldn’t have had a better template for my own life than Martin Gore’s songs.”