Steve Lyon (Interview)

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We had the honor to talk with Steve Lyon, a vastly experienced producer, engineer and mixer who worked with Depeche Mode between Violator and SOFAD era.

We asked him 13 different questions, which he kindly answered. These are divided into four different categories: the Violator era, the SOFAD era, the Devotional/Exotic Tour, and another extra question.

Photography from Steve Lyon's website

He was very kind to us, and we're infinitely grateful to him for accepting this interview.

  • Q = Question, A = Answer

Violator Era

Q: You started working with Depeche Mode in 1990. How was your first impression?

A: I didn’t know the guys at all but I admired Flood very much. They took me into their close circle straight away and immediately gave me their trust regarding workflow and some ideas. I remember at the end of the first few days we had a weekend off and Alan gave me copies of the PJ single on CD. They also let me take home an Akai sampler to mess around with and learn, a totally new adventure. To be honest I only have positive warm memories about my time with the guys.

Q: Which was the most difficult song, in producing terms?

A: On Violator? I don’t remember a particularly tricky track, they all seem to grow naturally, it was exciting for me as the songs were just so good and the vibe so positive, I felt I had a lot of freedom to express myself and learnt so much from Alan in particular.

Q: What's your favourite song from this album and why?

A: Tough question, maybe “world in my eyes”, it’s a rock song without all the cliche’s, live it’s fantastic.

Q: Do you have any amusing anecdotes of working with DM?

A: Haha so many, some I can repeat others stay in the friendship 🙂 Enough to say it was a fun, hard-working positive time.

Q: Do you recall which was the most prominent synth on this album? Were there any influences of synths of the era, like the Korg M1?

A: I remember Floods 900 series I think it’s called, the mini moog and the Emu sampler… all were used to their extreme and created timeless original sounds in the hands of Alan and Flood.

SOFAD Era

Q: Alan said that this album was the most difficult of his career with DM to produce. Do you think the same? Why?

A: It had its tough moments, but for me personally I loved what we were doing adjust found it an enjoyable challenge. I was learning all the time and the “studio” in Spain to me was a unique experience where the record to its initial shape. It’s not for me to comment on the band’s internal challenges, they were there but we were working hard and creating some great sounds for the tracks, I had a great time.

Q: How did you felt when you knew about Dave's drug addiction? Did this directly alter the production of the album?

A: I can't recall a “sit down” chat about it, but obviously was there to hear conversations not only about that issue but the album development as a whole. I felt part of a great team and being in that team for me was significant. The way to support the band was to be available, to be reliable, creative and not get into the inner band issues that did not concern me. Hamburg was a really fun time for me and again the songs were just so good I loved every day.

Q: What was your favourite b-side? Were you involved on its production?

A: We did a few “b-sides” and remixes, hard to name a favorite as they all contributed in some way to the overall feel of the collection that is SOFAD.

Devotional Tour

Q: There were some songs planned for this tour which finally weren't played, as Strangelove, Leave In Silence and Nothing. Did you have the opportunity to hear them in a rehearsal?

A: I worked extensively with Alan on the Prep for the tour, it felt a little like making another record. I did go to a few rehearsals in London and TBH I couldn't say if I was there when those tracks were being rehearsed 🙂

Q: How were the banks created? Did the sounds come from the multitracks?

A: The process was very detailed, from the original multi-tracks to remix edits and parts… very detailed and it all work musically so well.

Q: Which was the most complex soundbank?

A: The whole process was done in-depth, I don’t remember one sone being especially tough to work on for the tour.

Q: If the band asked you to recreate the banks exactly as the Devotional tour, would you be able to do it?

A: If DM asked me to do so? well yes as I have the original DATS tapes 🙂

Extra

Q: One of the things which impressed me when I was listened to this album for the first time was the distorted piano intro of Walking In My Shoes. Why did it change so much in the live version?

A: I think it was all in the work to create versions of the tracks that moved on from the standard way of simply repeating them live as they were on the album. Alan, as you know, was the central fulcrum in all of the sound design and feel of the SOFAD live tour. I’m biased but for me it’s immensely powerful and gripping along with Anton’s visuals.