Alan Wilder has released solo material as Recoil since 1986. A keyboardist, songwriter, arranger, and producer, Wilder was a key member of Depeche Mode for well over a decade, throughout the band's most successful years. At first, Recoil was a platform for lengthy, experimental, and electronic-oriented pieces, but Wilder later gravitated toward shorter, more dramatic tracks -- typically around six minutes in length -- that often incorporated spoken word artists and guest vocalists, as well as inspiration from blues, gospel, dub, film music, and hip-hop. Stylistically, Wilder's output was difficult to pigeonhole, though the slow, wrenching nature of much of his output since 1992's Bloodline evoked comparisons to the likes of Massive Attack and Moby -- when, in fact, those acts owed much to Wilder's work with Depeche Mode.
A late-'70s job as a tape op and occasional session keyboardist at London's DJM Studios led Wilder to membership in a series of short-lived bands, including Dragons, Dafne & the Tenderspots, Real to Real, and the Hitmen. Most notably, Wilder played on the Korgis' 1979 number 13 U.K. hit "If I Had You." Wilder's brief journeyman stint ended after he noticed a Melody Maker ad from an "established band" seeking a synthesizer player. After two auditions, he joined that band -- Depeche Mode -- effectively replacing the departed Vince Clarke. Initially, Wilder was on board for touring purposes. Studio-wise, he didn't make his debut until the January 1983 single Get the Balance Right!, which featured an instrumental B-side he composed with the band's Martin Gore. That song, "The Great Outdoors!," was used as introduction music to some of the band's performances on a tour for A Broken Frame (Depeche Mode's second album, recorded with neither Clarke nor Wilder).
Wilder's creative involvement coincided with the band's development of a darker, more complex sound, as well as a gradual increase in popularity. Beginning with 1983's Construction Time, each Wilder-era Depeche Mode studio album went either gold or platinum in multiple countries. 1990's Violator, a triple-platinum release in the U.S. alone, was most popular of all. On June 1, 1995, following the release of Songs of Faith and Devotion and a grueling tour, Wilder announced his split from the band. This naturally allowed him to concentrate on Recoil, a project that had been sporadically active since the mid-'80s.
Like Depeche Mode, Wilder's Recoil was signed to Daniel Miller's Mute label. The first Recoil release was 1986's 1+2, a 33-minute release consisting of two sparse and winding electronic tracks. Hydrology, a three-track release anchored by another pair of lengthy, suite-like pieces, followed in 1988. The CD version added 1+2 in its entirety. Released in the wake of Violator, 1992's Bloodline featured vocals from Moby, Diamanda Galas, Curve's Toni Halliday and, returning the favor for producing his band Nitzer Ebb's Ebbhead, Douglas McCarthy. Bukka White was sampled for one of the more affecting tracks, "Electro Blues for Bukka White." Unsound Methods, the first post-Depeche Mode release, came in 1997. Along with a return from McCarthy, several new vocalists were added to the mix, including spoken word artist Maggie Estep and former Miranda Sex Garden member Hepzibah Sessa (to whom Wilder was married).
The following decade brought two Recoil albums. 2000's Liquid was Wilder's most intense release to date and a refinement of the '90s albums. 2007's relatively atmospheric Subhuman, however, reduced the number of vocalists to two: blues musician Joe Richardson (who also provided guitar and harmonica) and singer/songwriter Carla Trevaskis. An anthology, Selected, followed in 2010, along with a 52-city Recoil tour described as an art installation rather than a standard series of performances. Wilder subsequently remixed Depeche Mode's "In Chains," put together the Blu-Ray Recoil release A Strange Hour in Budapest, and served as executive producer of The Spirit of Talk Talk, a two-disc tribute to the synth pop and post-rock pioneers. Two appearances were featured on the 2012 release: "Dum Dum Girl" (featuring Shara Worden, aka My Brightest Diamond) and "Inheritance" (with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Paul Marshall). ~ Andy Kellman
- Hammersmith, London, England
- 1 Jun 1959
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