Depeche Mode's Andy Fletcher talks reviving old classics, new remixes, Europe vs. America and more
After a tour of stadiums in Europe, a vacation in Barcelona and a week at home in London, Andy Fletcher has no great desire to dive back into rehearsals for a tour of the States.
“We’ve played three months in Europe,” Depeche Mode’s founding keyboardist said by phone recently. “We’re pretty much where we should be. We’re excited, though. The European audience is different from the American audience.”
And how’s that?
“The fans in Europe, it’s a bit more like a football-chant-type thing, very 'Whoot Whoot! Whoot!’ and clapping. Where in the States, it’s more screaming and whooping. Sometimes it takes a couple of shows to realize you’re on a different continent.”
Only a band of Depeche Mode’s stature would be able to tell the difference. Over 33 years and 13 albums of dark, propulsive electronic rock and pop, the group has performed for untold millions of fans around the globe. Singer Dave Gahan and guitarist-songwriter Martin Gore and Fletcher remain staples on FM radio thanks to giant hits like Personal Jesus, Enjoy the Silence and People Are People; their music has influenced artists as diverse as the Killers, Linkin Park and Arcade Fire.
Depeche Mode comes to Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Saturday in support of their latest album, the well-received Delta Machine (tickets start at $29; click here to get them). Fletcher recently called to discuss the history and current mood of the often dysfunctional band. Here are excerpts.
This year you guys appeared at South by Southwest. Did you feel at home, or was there a point where you were like, “Man, when did all these kids get so young?”
It was absolute madness. There were bands playing in the hotel, thousands of people around. Not many places to go for a bit of peace and quiet.
Is there a comparable festival atmosphere in Europe?
There’s quite a few. There’s Popkomm used to be, and Sonar. The only slight difference is, they’re slightly more electronic-based, where South by Southwest is kind of a rock festival, isn’t it?
It’s everything. It’s become pan-cultural, not just music, but technology, TV, everything.
It’s crazy. If you’re not playing at that festival, people think you’re over. We did a short set. It was good.
Was it terrifying? It was like an 800-seater you guys played, right?
No, it wasn’t terrifying. You have to remember, we’re a band that came up through the traditional rock 'n’ roll roots. We started out playing our living rooms, then went on to small pubs, to big pubs, to small clubs, to big clubs, to theaters, to big theaters. We’ve done it all before. We hadn’t actually toured for four years when we did that gig, so it was a bit frightening. It was good, though.
When Depeche Mode started, did you think of what you were doing as “electronic music?” Or did you just see yourself as a rock band?
In the beginning, we were sort of a pop band. When we went on our first American tour, we said we were a pop band. They go, “You’re not a pop band, you’re a rock band.” They use the term “pop” differently. Pop is like bubblegum over there, right? And rock is more serious. But in England, you’re sort of proud to be a pop band, certainly in the old days.
How did you think of traditional pop music at that time, like disco, or top 40 pop?
Well, we’re quite lucky. The first place we ever played was at a friend’s club. On a Saturday night, we became the resident band, and it was actually a dance club, so it was quite good, really, learning how to get people to dance. You had to keep them on the floor. That was good experience, actually.
Depeche Mode has always been a band that tends to push forward with each new album. Are you, Martin and Dave ever tempted to look back and pay homage to artists that influenced you?
I think at the moment, we still feel we’re making good albums. We’re so recognizable as a band. You’ve got Dave’s voice and Martin’s songs; as soon as a record comes on the radio, you know it’s us. But we do actually take things from the past. Sometimes it might be a bit too subtle. But the thing about the live concert is we’re actually playing music right from our early days to now. So you really get a history of Depeche Mode in one concert. I think that’s good.
Are there influences from back in the day that appear on Delta Machine?
Delta Machine’s a hard one, really, because it’s much more bluesy. I suppose if anything, you could say Personal Jesus might be a song that might have gone on this album. This album is much more bluesy-electronic, which of course is the same as Personal Jesus was.
How long after a song is done do you start to think about how a remix might sound?
In the old days, we would do the remixes ourselves. But we don’t do that now. It’s a shame, really. I think we got a bit bored with spending all that time on a track and having to cut it down. But some of our old mixes were really good, though.
You haven’t been tempted to try your hand at a personal remix of any of new songs?
I don’t usually have time, because when we finish, there’s a bit of time off, then you go into promotion and rehearsals. But When I DJ, I edit a lot of these mixes together, and spin it ’round.
How often do you DJ in America?
America’s actually handled by my colleague, Mr. Gore, since he lives in Santa Barbara. I do the rest of the world. I did an amazing tour to China, to Australia, to India.
Were you ever part of any rave scene in Europe? Or was that after your time?
The rave scene was in the ’90s. We were into it, and a lot of our tracks were played, and obviously I went to a few raves myself. I’m a lot older and wiser now.
Do you have a hit that plays better in America than it does Europe?
The big numbers work in Europe and America. Just Can’t Get Enough, Enjoy the Silence, Personal Jesus. They go down really well on both continents.
How’s everybody in the band getting along these days? How are Martin and Dave getting along?
It’s been a great leg. Everyone’s in a good mood, everyone looking after themselves. Really good performances. Crowd’s great. It’s really one of the beset legs we’ve done in a long time. The last tour, we had a lot of bad luck with injury and deaths and things like that. It’s a struggle to get through. But so far, this tour’s very smooth.
How do you guys keep the mood light?
I don’t know. We just happen to be getting on at the moment. We’ve had tours in the bad old days where there was drugs and drink, and everyone hated each other. Thankfully that’s over now.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*