Gahan compensated for the loss of his father by becoming something of a "real wild boy with a chip on my shoulder, a real yob". His crimes as a youth included stealing cars, vandalism, and spray-painting graffiti on walls. As a result he had visited juvenile court three times before he was 14.
Within six months of leaving Barstable School in July 1978, Gahan found and lost something in the order of twenty jobs, from selling soft drinks, working in a green grocers in Basildon Bus Station, cashiering in Sainsbury's Petrol Station in Savacentre, to working on a construction site. Dave also applied for a job as an apprentice fitter with North Thames Gas. He was told by his probation officer to be honest with the interviewer, and as a result, he admitted his criminal record but claimed he was a "reformed character". Of course, he did not get the job.
Eventually, he earned a place at Southend Art College, which he enjoyed immensely. After three years, he gained the British Display Society Award, which allowed him to get jobs doing displays in shop windows and shopping centres.
In March 1980, Vince Clarke, Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher formed the band Composition of Sound, with Clarke on vocals/guitar, Gore on keyboards and Fletcher on bass. Clarke and Fletcher soon switched to synthesizers. The same year, Gahan joined the band after Clarke heard him perform David Bowie's "Heroes." The band was soon renamed Depeche Mode, a name suggested by Gahan after he had come across a fashion magazine by the name of Dépêche-mode.
Since then, the band has continued to explore new musical directions, and their sound has remained immensely diverse since their inception. They have released eleven studio albums, four greatest hits compilations and a remix album.
Summer 2008: the band are currently recording their next album in Los Angeles, USA and is due for release in spring 2009.
In 2003 he released his first solo album, Paper Monsters (which he co-wrote with guitarist and friend Knox Chandler), followed by a world tour (including a performance at 2003's Glastonbury Festival), singing both his new solo tracks and Depeche Mode fan favourites. His touring band included Knox Chandler on guitar, Martyn LeNoble (Porno for Pyros, Jane's Addiction, The Cult) on bass, Vincent Jones (Sarah McLachlan, The Grapes of Wrath) on keyboards, and Victor Indrizzo (Beck, Macy Gray) on drums.
The album was a moderate success. The first single "Dirty Sticky Floors" became a Top 20 hit on the World Singles chart selling over 200,000 copies, as well as hitting the Top 20 in the UK. The album itself became a Top 10 hit on the European album chart and a Top 40 hit in the UK. This success was backed by a world tour and a live DVD titled Live Monsters which was released in 2004. A year later, he also appeared as model and spokesperson of the Swedish mid-range fashion retailer J. Lindeberg and its S/S 2006 menswear line. The ads featured both him and seemingly random quotes like "What would happen if we all told the truth", "You can tell he's lying because his lips are moving", etc. These ads appeared prominently in international fashion press.
In the past, Dave had expressed some resentment about never writing songs for Depeche Mode. In 2004, he said that if he did not get to write half of the songs on the new Depeche Mode album, there would not be one. Eventually there was a compromise, and Dave wrote three songs on 2005's Playing the Angel. The three songs, "Suffer Well" (nominated for a Grammy award), "I Want It All" and "Nothing's Impossible", have had mixed opinions from fans. Depeche Mode have won the "Best Dance Artist Group" award at the 22nd Annual IDMA Awards in March 2007, sponsored by the Winter Music Conference.
In 2007, Dave Gahan announced he was working on a new album via a video greeting for Depeche Mode's official website recorded at the 2007 MusiCares Charity event on May 11th. The album, titled Hourglass, was accompanied working by Andrew Phillpott and Christian Eigner. According to Dave, they were to be producing it together. The material was recorded at Gahan's 11th Floor Studios in New York City, Gahan's hometown for 10 years now. The material will be mixed in July by Tony Hoffer, best known for his work with Beck, The Kooks and Air. According to Gahan, "Hourglass" will be more electronic-sounding than "Paper Monsters".
In July 2007, Side-Line Magazine revealed that Gahan has been working with a new project called MIRROR, which is produced by Vincent Jones. Along with Jones, who played with Gahan's touring band and mixed the live DVD Live Monsters, MIRROR features another Gahan collaborator, Knox Chandler (Siouxsie And The Banshees, Psychedelic Furs), as well as piano by Bowie favourite Mike Garson, and a monologue by Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro. Gahan sings vocals on the track "Nostalgia".
The first single to be pulled from Dave Gahan's second solo record "Hourglass" is "Kingdom". The single comes in the following versions: a download-Single, a CDsingle, a Maxi-CDsingle and 12" vinyl besides a 7" picture vinyl.. According to the second press release for the second album, the release day for the single "Kingdom" was 8th of October but a download will be available way before on August 27th so Side-Line Magazine informs. The magazine also reported that a first preview for the song has been leaked online. August 21st Second studio clip on Dave Gahan Dot Com has "Kingdom" playing throughout the clip.
End of September it became clear that presspeople had leaked the material on various p2p sites despite audiomarks.
Gahan performed at the Apple Store, SoHo in New York City on October 23rd in support of his new album. The set has been recorded and will be sold exclusively via iTunes in a later stage.
The next single from the Hourglass album will be a double A side "Saw Something / Deeper and deeper", due for release on 14th January 2008. The accompanying video was artistically shot in the Chelsea Hotel, New York, famous for the death of Sid Vicious' partner, Nancy. Sid Vicious of course was one of Dave's idol's in the late 70s.
On December 17th iTunes released the iTunes exclusive live EP "Live from SoHo" holding the 7 tracks played during an instore set at New York's Soho Apple store on October 23rd.
He was then admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Beverly Hills, California and released shortly after. On May 28, 1996, Gahan overdosed on a heroin and cocaine 'speedball' in a Los Angeles hotel room. On the way to the hospital, he was pronounced clinically dead for two minutes, but was revived by paramedics, then again taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was arrested upon his release two days later, and ordered by the court to complete a 9 month rehabilitation. The drug charges against Gahan were eventually dropped in September 1996, and Gahan has now been clean ever since. Amanda de Cadenet is one of the people he credits with helping him make that climactic step towards sobriety, after his wife Jennifer, and manager Baron Jonathan Kessler.
Gahan currently lives in New York City, with his third wife Jennifer, their daughter Stella Rose (b. July 29, 1999), and Jennifer's son Jimmy. He also has a son, Jack (b. October 14, 1987), from his first marriage.