'Nothing was left unsaid': Marta Salogni on the making of Depeche Mode’s Memento Mori

Award winning, mix engineer and producer Marta Salogni tells Headliner about the making of Depeche Mode’s critically acclaimed new album Memento Mori, the harmonious relationship between Dave Gahan and Martin Gore, and her collaboration with producer James Ford.

Released earlier this year, Memento Mori has been widely praised as one of Depeche Mode’s finest records in decades. Released in the wake of the death of founding member Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Memento Mori is an album that tackles familiar themes of death, loss, and love. And while such themes have been at the heart of much of the band’s work over the past four decades, here they are explored with a sense of musical reinvigoration. Sonically, they have rarely sound brighter or sharper, with lead single Ghosts Again already edging its way into vintage Depeche Mode territory, and album tracks such as My Cosmos Is Mine and Speak To Me treading new, otherworldly terrain.

Produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Haim, Gorillaz) and engineered and mixed by Salogn (Bjork, Black Midi)i, it’s little wonder the record sounds so refined. Headliner joined Salogni via Zoom from her London studio to talk all things Memento Mori, from the tight knit relationship between herself, Ford, Gahan, and Gore, to creating the sounds that made it one of the most lauded releases this century…

Memento Mori has been one of the best received Depeche Mode albums in decades. How does it feel to have the album out and to see the reaction it’s been getting?

Well, it’s really good to see all the love. There was a lot of love put into this record so to see it coming back is a joy. I look forward to that with every record I make but this one especially has been wonderful. Not just love from the listeners but also Martin and Dave. They were saying during the sessions how wonderful it was to be making music together again, and it shows. It comes across in the tracks, all the care that has been put into it. People can really hear it.

How did you become involved in the record?

It was a journey that felt quite natural. I used to have a studio with Mute Records, and it was Mute who drove Depeche Mode to success in their early days, and on top of that, 10 years ago I was the assistant for the Soulsavers record Angels & Ghosts. I was making tea and coffee and doing session preps, but then in 2020 I got a call asking me to mix the Soulsavers Imposter record. That was when I got to work on Dave’s vocals, and he really liked how I made his vocals sound. His vocal is one that has been in my history as a listener for a long time. His voice has been part of my life, so to work on it first-hand was a real honour. I felt like instinctively I knew what to do and felt familiar with it. It’s an interesting feeling.

We got along very well, the mixing went very well, and then James Ford called me last spring. I’ve worked on projects he’s produced multiple times but we hadn’t met in person. And while I was mixing one of the records he’d produced, he asked me if I’d like to come and record the new Depeche Mode record with him. I said I’d be honoured. That wasn’t long before Andy unfortunately passed away. I didn’t know if the record was going to happen anymore, so I took a step back and waited to see what was going to happen. But the record carried on. The preparation carried on and James and I flew to California in July last year and started working on the record with Martin and Dave It was a very small team compared to what I heard about the previous record where there was quite a few more people involved in terms of engineering assistants and programming assistants, but this time it was just me, James, Martin, Dave.

Most of the record we did at Martin’s place, which is an incredible studio with everything you could possibly desire from a studio. Even the layout was so well done. If I ever build another studio I’ll definitely take inspiration from there! It was super inspiring and a very comfortable place to work from.

We started by taking a look at the demos, which were really well developed. Martin and Dave did a great job with the demos. I started exporting their Logic stems and creating a Pro Tools session. That’s where we started building from, recreating sound, restructuring, and things like that. We progressively built up the record.

It's a pleasure being in the studio with artists of that calibre. Marta Salogni

What are the benefits of working with a smaller team?

I prefer it. It makes the session very focused, and you can be very direct and very specific. And the record is a very personal one, so it allowed us to explore that realm in the comfort of it being just us. We experimented a lot and everyone was absolutely free and open to search and find something new, deep, and meaningful. It was an absolutely precious experience, and I was delighted with how everything went. They are lovely people. I took home a lot from that session as a professional and a person.

What were your initial thoughts on hearing Martin and Dave’s demos?

They were excellent demos, that was my first thought. We were starting from a very strong point. Some songs changed a lot and some songs haven’t. For example, Speak To Me changed massively. We built it from scratch around Dave’s vocal and it went from a quiet acoustic track to this wall of synths and drones. It was really varied. Sometimes we would explore a song and take it apart and then rebuild it just as it was, but it’s always interesting to do that just to see if there is anything new that can be done with it.

How was it collaborating with James Ford in person for the first time?

James Ford is an incredible producer and I felt we were on the same page from day one. I feel very lucky we got to work together on this project and to witness how talented he is. It’s a joy to see, he really makes a session flow so seamlessly. He’s an incredible musician and can play virtually every instrument you can imagine.

Musically we were also very much on the same page, because we like a lot of the same records and have a lot of the same references. And together we can work out how to create certain sounds. It was an enriching experience. We were in harmony with each other,

How enjoyable is it to mix Dave’s and Martin’s vocals?

It’s an honour and a pleasure. We didn’t have to do many takes; they are excellent performers. We did a couple of takes of vocals with Dave and that was it. Dave really puts a lot into his performance when he’s recording and you can feel it. And so does Martin. It’s a real pleasure being in the studio with artists of that calibre and it really shows in the recording.

What was the atmosphere in the room like on these sessions? Dave and Martin’s relationship has been famously quite tempestuous down the years?

It really did feel harmonious. I worked on this record only so I can’t compare it, but my experience was of harmony, and it was very brotherly. There was real deep respect and care. They have known each other for so long they might as well be brothers. When relationships go that deep there can be highs and lows, but I found it really special to see them coming together and looking after each other. There weas nothing left unsaid, nothing that felt like an elephant in the room. And they mentioned that too, that they felt differently in these sessions. And of course, they were dealing with the loss of a long term friend and collaborator. I think that brought them together and allowed them to be closer and to face whatever needed to be faced with honesty and brotherhood. There was deep understanding, patience, it was all very positive.

You can listen to an extended version of this interview below.

Depeche Mode photo by Anton Corbin