You are here

Inside Track: Depeche Mode 'Memento Mori'

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Marta Salogni By Paul Tingen
Published June 2023

Inside Track

Analogue tape played a key role in the production of Depeche Mode’s Memento Mori album — even though it was recorded to Pro Tools.

Marta Salogni’s unique approach to music production has seen her recognised three times by the Music Producers Guild, with the 2018 Breakthrough Engineer of the Year Award, the 2020 Breakthrough Producer of the Year Award, and last year with the UK Music Producer of the Year Award. As well as a wide range of leftfield electronic, alt‑pop, art and punk rock acts, Salogni has made her mark on the mainstream with credits like Björk, Bon Iver, Black Midi, Sampha and Animal Collective. Prior to going it alone, she also worked with David Wrench on mixes for Frank Ocean, the xx, Goldfrapp, FKA Twigs and David Byrne.

Inside TrackThis Spring, Salogni achieved her most significant mainstream success to date when Depeche Mode’s 15th studio album, Memento Mori, went to the top of the charts in a dozen countries. Salogni recorded the entire album, and mixed it at her Studio Zona facility in East London.

Zoning In

The studio is a hybrid of the traditional and modern, with a prototype 22‑channel Studer console from 1974. Its most striking feature is Salogni’s collection of a whopping 12 quarter‑inch tape recorders (see box), the result of a slightly unorthodox career trajectory. Growing up in Italy, close to Milan, with a keen interest in art and music, she moved to London in 2010 to attend a course at the Alchemea Music Production College. Around that time she became interested in synths and tape machines as ways of expressing herself musically.

“I love the fact that on a synth you can create sounds that didn’t exist before. I love traditional instruments as well, but it takes a lot of time and patience to learn how to play one. Whereas, with synths you can switch them on and immediately experiment with sound in a way that’s instantly personal. Plus they are intuitive and creative. It’s the same with tape recorders. I became fascinated by them, and all the different things you can do with them, even though they’re originally built to record.”

After Alchemea, Salogni spent several years in several different studios in London, including at Dean Street, RAK, Strongroom and Mute, and assisted producer Danton Supple and mixer David Wrench. For a while she had a studio at Mute, but since the beginning of 2018 she’s been working at her first completely independent facility, Studio Zona. While most of her work now consists of mixing and/or producing, Salogni also uses tape recorders on the live stage, performing alongside other musicians or alone.

Marta Salogni: I always try to make gear do stuff it was not designed to do.

In The Studio

The roots of her involvement with Depeche Mode go back to 2015, when Salogni assisted Danton Supple on the album Angels & Ghosts, by Soulsaver and Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan. In 2020 she mixed the follow‑up album Imposter. In recent years, Salogni has also mixed several projects for producer James Ford, known for his work with Arctic Monkeys and Florence + the Machine.

Following the death of Andy Fletcher, Depeche Mode are now a duo.Following the death of Andy Fletcher, Depeche Mode are now a duo.Photo: Anton Corbijn“James called me in the Spring of last year, and asked me, ‘I know you do mostly production and mixing these days, but would you be interested in recording Depeche Mode with me for a new album?’ I love Depeche Mode, so of course I said yes. But then, Andy Fletcher [the band’s keyboard player] passed away, and all we could do was wait for updates. In the end the decision was made to move forward with the album, also in honour of Andy.

“So in July of last year I travelled to Martin Gore’s Electric Ladyboy studio in Santa Barbara. Martin’s studio is exceptional. It has everything you can possibly need, all the synths that you can imagine. It’s like a playground and a place in which I felt very inspired. It’s also really well laid out from a technical point of view, with a U‑shaped, custom‑made rack of gear, with preamps, dynamics and distortion on one side, effects on the other side, and then there are all the Euroracks, old Moogs, and the Roland System‑500, and so on.

“There are Barefoot monitors, and the desk is an SSL Nucleus, so not analogue, but we had enough analogue gear to make up for this. All the polyphonic synths are in a second room, where we built an improvised vocal booth. In the first half of the sessions it consisted of some mic stands and rugs that we found, and in the second half Martin got someone in who built a proper heavy curtain booth. There’s also another room with more synths and keyboards, and pedals, guitars, basses and amps. We had everything we needed!”

Super Sessions

The core team at Electric Ladyboy consisted of Gore, Gahan, Ford and Salogni. “We were really tuned in,” she says, “and had a beautiful time together. We experimented a lot. They were really open to experimentation, and excited whenever I suggested something new. On one of our days off I said, ‘I’m really missing my tapes machines because they’re fundamental for my creative process. Do you mind if I find some?’ They were up for that, so I made several phone calls, and I found some at Wiggle World, a brilliant studio in Los Angeles.

“The studio kindly let me borrow three tape machines: an Otari MX5050, an Akai and a Sony, all two‑track quarter‑inch. I felt like my best friends were back! I started experimenting with them and making loops and realised that there was a lot of scope to use them on this record. The others also really liked it, and so when we returned for the second set of sessions, which began in September, Martin had bought two Revox A77 tape machines for his studio.”

The tape machines were used alongside many other sources of effects. “I recorded Dave’s vocals with a Neumann U87, which went into an API preamp, an LA‑2A, and finally a Massive Passive EQ. On top, Dave loves to sing with effects already set. So before he came into the studio I set up a few chains of effects, some of them quite extreme, and he loved that. He was like, ‘I can project into these spaces.’

“A lot of these spaces came from the tape recorders, but in addition I also used effects units like the Eventide H3000, the Eventide Eclipse, the Mu‑Tron Bi‑Phase phase shifter, the Publison IM90 Infernal Machine sampler, an Overstayer MAS, a Roland Dimension‑D, the Ursa Major Space Station, and AMS RMX16 and Lexicon digital reverbs. We used the Dangerous Liaison to line some of them up in a chain, and this also allowed us to mix them up. I’d then record his vocals dry in Pro Tools, and printed all the effects separately.

“We created similar chains, again also using tape recorders, for the synths, drums, guitars, and also the strings. There are no dry strings in the record. We went to Shangri‑La [Rick Rubin’s studio] to record the strings with Davide Rossi, as well as some drums played by James, and more vocals. We brought a lot of gear, including tape machines, to add effects, and I used the bathrooms in Shangri‑La as echo chambers on the strings. In general, we recorded everything through a lot of effects, because we wanted to make it sound interesting and different.

“I also was honoured to receive a writing credit on one song, ‘Speak To Me’. It was written by Dave, and James and I literally locked ourselves in the studio one day and completely remade his demo, and presented it to him. He loved it, so much that he gave us a writing credit on it. We changed key, changed tempo, and took out all the instruments, and built the arrangement back up from the vocals....

You are reading one of the locked Subscribers-only articles from our latest 5 issues.

You've read 30% of this article for free, so to continue reading...

  • ✅ Log in - if you have a Subscription you bought from SOS.
  • Buy & Download this Single Article in PDF format £1.00 GBP$1.49 USD
    For less than the price of a coffee, buy now and immediately download to your computer or smartphone.
  • Buy & Download the FULL ISSUE PDF
    Our 'full SOS magazine' for smartphone/tablet/computer. More info...
  • Buy a DIGITAL subscription (or Print + Digital)
    Instantly unlock ALL premium web articles! Visit our ShopStore.

Claim your FREE 170-page digital publication
from the makers of Sound On SoundCLICK HERE