Depeche Mode's Fletch talks ahead of forthcoming gig
It’ll be the most glorious of homecomings.
Essex boys Dépêche Mode will descend on London Stadium on June 3 to celebrate the release of their new album, Spirit, alongside 37 years of hits. It’s the only on-sale UK date of the year and follows an earlier intimate warm-up show at Glasgow Barrowlands, in spring.
Synth man Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher says the band are on form and loved being able to play Barrowlands.
“That gig was amazing. I mean, to be honest, that’s always been good even when we played there in the early 80s. It was like a proper gig but we only had to do an hour because it was being broadcast live on radio.
“But we’ve never minded the size of the venue. We started playing in living room before moving into pubs and clubs. A stage is a stage. We get the crowd going in the San Siro as well. I think we’ll do more British shows later in the year. We’ll do stuff in a winter tour, with five or six cities.”
Spirit is the band’s first album since 2013’s Delta Machine. It was recorded with new producer James Ford, who hails from Leek, in Staffordshire, and became Dépêche’s 17th top ten UK album. It also debuted on the US Billboard chart at number five, continuing the band’s love affair with the USA.
Fletch, singer Dave Gahan and songwriter Martin Gore were pleased to take some time out following the rigours of Delta Machine. These days, they work in four-year blocks, spending a year to record, a year to tour and then a break of one-and-a-half years, before continuing the cycle.
“What normally happens at the end of that break. Martin and Dave will start writing. Then we meet and think about a producer. James Ford’s name came up and we were very impressed with the sound of his albums.”
James best known for producing Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons and is also a member of electronica duo Simian Mobile Disco. He’s also worked with Foals, Mumford & Sons and Mystery Jets.
“The fact he’s in an electronic duo, as well, was very appealing. He turned out to be a fantastic instrumentalist and plays drums and bass. We got on very well. What was amazing was that he really works fast. We actually finished the album in three sessions, so we had a couple of months off, which is normally not the case.
“This album’s a bit more minimal than recent stuff. Every sound is a key sound. It’s not cluttered. You have to remember we’ve heard each track a thousand times, so to be honest, you’re not sure if you made a good album or not, it’s normally six months on that you know.”
Dépêche Mode are truly one of Britain’s great bands, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide and had 50 songs in the UK singles chart. They are ranked by Q in the list of 50 Bands That Changed The World and have headlined football stadia around the world. They’ve survived ups and downs, with Ultra being released in 1997 at the height of Dave’s near-fatal drug abuse, Martin’s alcoholism and seizures, and Fletch’s depression. And yet they’ve survived it all and 20 years on are at a new creative peak.
Fletch says: “I think our career is like a dream come true. It’s just incredible today we seem to be as popular as ever and releasing a new album. There’s just so much music in our career. It’s just good that we’re still around and making.
“I don’t know why we’ve managed to survive. I think one of the reasons is the decision we made in our career, the key one, in the beginning, when we were being offered lots of money by major labels but went with a guy offering no money at all, Daniel Miller at Mute. We liked the music on his label and they didn’t want to milk us. Daniel produced all our early albums and really kept us growing in a gradual way around the world. We were able to put out records that we liked, not that we had to.
“We are lucky to be one of the most popular bands in the world but in our normal lives, we are completely normal. We lead normal lives. My life is in London, Dave’s is in New York and Martin’s out in California. We walk around and do things that are normal and we don’t get mobbed. I don’t think we could face that. And part of that is down to Mute. We always made a thing of not going for the tabloids, so part of that is Mute. The one great thing is that we’re not celebrities. We are famous musicians. All the terrible stuff that comes with celebrity isn’t for us.”
Fletch rejoices in the fact that he can walk around London – a city where they’re soon to play a 66,000-seater gig – and rarely be recognised. He’s also thrilled that fans have stuck with Dépêche and allowed them to create consistently good music.
They’ve repaid that investment by putting all of their effort into their live shows, giving fans the best of gigs.
Fletch adds: “Our audience is good everywhere. I can’t just pick out places. Our American tour has just been announced and has done really well. One of the things I always say is I’ve travelled around the world four times but I haven’t actually seen the world, it’s all airports and hotels.”
And so, in his downtime, he works as a DJ. That gives him time to meet fans face-to-face and see the places he’s visiting.
“With Dépêche Mode, when we go to Berlin, we’re a big machine and there’s thousands of fans outside the hotels. But I’m dj’ing, it’s just me and the system. I go into a town quietly. It’s almost anonymous.
“But that’s why the band works in these four year cycles. It’s so we can get a lot of time to spend with our families and our children.”