Depeche Mode Tribute Suitable For The Masses

God Lives Underwater, the Cure and Smashing Pumpkins are among contributors to forthcoming tribute album.

God Lives Underwater guitarist Jeff Turzo considers Depeche Mode a major influence.

But there's more to Depeche Mode's impact on his band than meets the ear.

While critics have often compared his band's sounds to those originally crafted by the '80s techno-pop pioneers, few could ever realize how much Depeche Mode have meant to Turzo and his music, the guitarist said. That said, it seems fitting that the 26-year-old Turzo is one-half of the team behind arranging For the Masses, the much-hyped Depeche Mode tribute album.

"Dave [Reilly, GLU cohort] and I have always been into Depeche Mode,"

Turzo said recently from Los Angeles. "We were playing 'Stripped' live,

so we decided to get a whole bunch of people together to do an album of

all-Depeche material."

The end result, a 16-track opus co-produced by 1500 Records founder Gary

Richards, includes tracks from early British mope-rockers the Cure, the last studio recording from the now-defunct Veruca Salt and a previously released rendition of "Never Let Me Down Again" (RealAudio excerpt) from the Smashing Pumpkins.

And even though the project doesn't hit shelves until Aug. 4,

a massive amount of hype has begun surrounding the project, fueled by

months and months of rumors concerning which artists would be covering

which songs on the record.

As it stands, Turzo said, For the Masses represents years of planning

and studio time, from the inception of the project until last week, when Los Angeles modern-rock station KLLY-FM leaked a few tracks from the record. The leak prompted a swift cease-and-desist order from 1500, as well as a reported promise to never again do business with the station.

Nevertheless, assembling For the Masses was a difficult task, Turzo said, from finding the right bands to actually convincing acts to get involved. The entire project took three to four years to put together, he added. Now that the disc is finally complete, Turzo said there are still bands that he would have liked to have perform on the album.

But the end result, he added, is sweet nevertheless.

"It was hard at first," he said. "Failure, our friends from L.A.,

decided to do a cut ("Enjoy the Silence"). Then, (A&M labelmates)

Dishwalla got involved ("Policy of Truth"), and finally the Cure came in. Once the Cure decided to go in ("World in My Eyes"), everyone wanted to do it. In

time, we could have made a double record."

But with this tribute album, at least, Turzo said he is emphasizing quality over quantity.

"Our goal was always to make a good record, not a mockery of Depeche

Mode music," he added. "We wanted to make a cool record that you could sit down and enjoy. And I think we've done that."

And despite Turzo's incomplete wish list of participants (among them Nine Inch Nails and Bjork), the album collects a veritable dream team of obvious Depeche Mode influencees.

There's the necessary mix of core alt.rock artists -- ranging from the

Smashing Pumpkins to the Cure and the Deftones. But there's also an

appropriate smattering of contemporary electronic performers. Rabbit in

the Moon offer a trippy slant on "Waiting for the Night," Gus Gus take

on "Monument," Apollo 440 launch an intense working of "I Feel You" and

Hooverphonic breathe through "Shake the Disease." Meat Beat Manifesto

blast through "Everything Counts."

But each of the 16 songs, whether extremely bizarre (Rammstein's first English effort on "Stripped") or jarringly dramatic (Veruca Salt's sublime,

effeminate take on "Somebody"), offers a unique tribute to the sound of electronica's forefathers.

"The main thing is that Depeche Mode is one of our favorite bands of all time," co-producer Richards said. "Usually when a tribute album comes out, a record company is just trying to make money off one of its capital artists. For us, granted, it is a business, but we wanted to show how good Martin Gore's songwriting is and how influential Depeche Mode has been."

Rather than issue a standard single, 1500 Records will allow radio stations to decide which tracks work best for their market, Richards said.

"Of the bands we approached, every single one of them wanted to contribute," he said. "We called Gus Gus and they wanted to do four."

Music wasn't the only influence Turzo wanted represented. It's that "other" element of Depeche Mode -- the oft-overlooked songwriting talent of Gore -- that Turzo says makes Depeche Mode such an important act.

"Aside from being the first band to really explore electronic elements

in their sounds," Turzo said, "Depeche Mode has written some incredible

songs."