Interview with Depeche Mode (1992, Studio Madrid, SOFAD Era).
Songs of Faith and Devotion was recorded over eight months in a rented villa in Madrid during 1992, as well as later sessions in Hamburg and London. Following his work on U2’s seventh studio album, Achtung Baby, producer Flood suggested the idea of building their own studio in a rented house where the band would live and work, the same process having yielded huge successes for U2. A studio was set up in the basement of the villa, with two drum kits using different spaces to achieve different sounds. The recordings from the kits could then be processed through synthesizers, such as the large Roland System 700 the band had installed in the studio. The band had become aware of getting caught in easy routines in the studio leading to boredom and thus wanted to change as many aspects to their approach to the recording as possible.
One new approach to recording was performance. Wilder recalled on Violator the band had relied heavily on sequencing; though the album used a great deal of live recorded audio than previous Depeche Mode releases, the audio had been programmed to the exact beats of the bars, resulting in a slick but sequenced feel. For making Songs of Faith and Devotion, the band wanted the sound to be looser and less programmed. Tracks such as I Feel You, included drums performed live by Wilder which were then sampled and sequenced to form drum loops using Cubase, in a different structure to how they were originally performed; keeping all the dynamics and inherent mistakes of a human performance. Embellishments like reversed cymbals were added later at the behest of Wilder, who often suggested such experimentation.
Further techniques used in recording included the reversed piano on the outro to the track Mercy In You. The introduction of the track Judas has uillean pipes recorded with reversed reverberation mixed into the sound, to achieve a haunting, atmospheric feel. Walking In My Shoes included a piano part which was processed through a guitar processor to add distortion. A harpsichord sample was then played and recorded over the top, giving a unique, layered sound to the riff. Early demos for Condemnation included all four band members performing in the same space—Andrew Fletcher bashing a flight case with a pole, producerFlood and Dave Gahan clapping, Alan Wilder playing a drum and Martin Gore playing an organ. The sound produced was very embryonic, however it gave the band a direction as to how the track should sound. Guitars were processed through devices such as Leslie tone cabinets, originally designed for organs, to achieve different sounds.